Former Utah Rep Ken Ivory discusses legacy of service

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Ken Ivory tries to pattern his life after one of his favorite quotes from President Ronald Reagan: “It’s a wonderful time to be alive!”

Ivory, an ex-Utah representative, has spent his life serving others through his roles as a teacher, politician, multi-language speaker, church leader, father and husband. Ken has been an example of how to contribute to Utah and the world with an eternal perspective in mind, according to his wife, Becky Ivory.

Ken Ivory sits with his dogs at his home in West Jordan. (Ken Ivory)

Serving as a seminary teacher

Ken has always had a desire to help others, something that was cultivated during his two-year mission to Guatemala for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born with the gift to truly care about others, which was one of the reasons he used to work as a seminary teacher, according to his daughter Julia Ivory.

“There are sometimes when you are wondering if you have an impact,” Ken said.

When Ken had students who came to the class with no desire to be at seminary he reminded them of the importance of why they were there.

“The key is to believe that they are there for whatever reason, even if a parent made them go. There is something in them that is telling them, ‘I think this is good, I want to do some good,’” Ken said.

In his seminary classroom, Ken had a mirror with a picture of Christ located next to the exit door. This mirror reminded Ken’s students how Christ sees them. As part of his seminary classes, Ivory and his students memorized the phrase, “Christ did what He did because you are worth the price.”

“We all have struggles internally between what we know and what we do. It was hard, but trying to remember that was the best thing I had,” Ken said.

Moving to Japan and political involvement

Ken moved to Japan to teach English in the mid 80s, later returning to Utah to become the first teacher in Provo High School to teach Japanese.

The Ivory Family poses together in Osaka, Japan. (Ken Ivory)

When Ken returned to Utah, he wanted to apply the things he had seen in Japan to help his community.

“I was working in Japan and saw how much the U.S. debt was, and how politicians were selling out the future that made me very concerned for my children and now grandchildren,” Ken said. “That’s something I could not tolerate.”

Ken served as a House Representative for District 47 from Jan. 1, 2011, to Aug. 20, 2019. 

“The people I know and worked with know I stand on principles and believe in self-governance, freedom and property,” Ken said. “I also believe in protecting children and victims. I believe the government should be efficient, and I work hard for those things.”

Ken resigned from the House of Representatives in August 2019 because of his new job as senior vice president at Geomancer, a software company in Lehi. After Ken’s resignation from the Capitol last August, House Speaker Brad Wilson said on Twitter:

“On behalf of the entire Utah House of Representatives, I want to thank Rep. Ivory for his years of service and leadership. He has been an important part of this institution for nearly a decade and it is hard to imagine what the House will look like without him.”

His service went far beyond the Utah Capitol building. Ivory had to balance his life as a politician, church leader and, most importantly, as a father and husband.

“Put the kingdom of God first, then your family. Work hard, do your best to grow your abilities and your talents,” Ken said.

A spirit of service

Ken Ivory paints a wall in San José, Costa Rica. (Ken Ivory)

“God provides. He takes care of us if we are trying to do things that grow His kingdom. I found throughout my life that God is a great partner,” Ken said.

His experiences with his family as a father illustrate how Ken puts the needs of the people before his own needs.

Ken’s daughter, Julia, said her father is an example of honesty to all who know him.

Even though Ken was busy in his different duties throughout his life, he still spent time with his family. Julia remembers how they used to spend time together watching basketball and talking about life.

“When it was basketball season, our tradition was March Madness. We would go to a grill and order a lot of food, watch all the basketball games and catch up with life,” she said.

Ken’s wife, Becky, played a key role in supporting her husband throughout his life.

“It’s been challenging at times, and we had four children at home at the time he started at the legislature,” Becky said. “I made sure to make things move at home so he was free to do those things.”

For the Ivory family, it is important to stay together and to keep an eternal perspective. They have been serving along with non-governmental organizations in Indonesia, Costa Rica and other countries.

From left: Elyssa Ivory, Becky Ivory, Julia Ivory and Ken Ivory. The Ivory family traveled to Peru to pick up Elyssa, as she concluded a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Piura. This picture was taken in front of the Lima Peru Temple. (Ken Ivory)

“We tried to be involved as much as we could in those things. If you feel like something is important, and that’s what you are called to do, then you make the necessary sacrifices to make it happen,” Becky said.

For Ken, the principle to prioritize God and family led him to success and to believe that “it is a wonderful time to be alive.”

“When we are stressed with things, we need to know that He is in charge. He has a plan for my journey,” Ken said. “Some experiences are really hard, but I am going to learn the best out of them and He is going to be there.”

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