CEO of a multinational billion-dollar corporation by day, rock star by night—it sounds like the plot of a sitcom or Hollywood movie, but for Latter-day Saint Kevin Guest, it's his reality.
Sharing the stage with country and rock legends like Keith Urban and Ozzy Osbourne would be a lifetime dream for most, but for Guest, it's his weekend hobby. The majority of the time he works full-time as the CEO for USANA Health Sciences, but at night or on the weekends he plays bass guitar with a variety of bands to sold-out stadiums. But Guest's true priorities in life are faith and family—priorities he's been able to testify of internationally through his music and career.
Image courtesy of Kevin Guest
Giving a Priesthood Blessing on Tour
Guest's faith has never been a secret. When he served as a bishop for his local ward while also touring with country singer Collin Raye, Guest says, "He used to introduce me on stage as his Mormon Bishop bass player."
The visibility that came with living his faith provided Guest with unexpected opportunities to share the gospel. And while producing a show called "Turn Up the Volume" and touring with Winger, who Guest describes as "one of the biggest hair metal rock bands of all time," Guest saw an example of someone standing for their faith in a way that allowed him to share his own.
While at a meet and greet, a fan waited hours in line, clutching a special gift for her idol. When she got to the front of the line, she handed the long-haired lead singer, Kip Winger, a Book of Mormon with her testimony written on the inside. Once on the bus, Winger showed his group the gift.
"I'm there on the bus, and the leader of the band holds up a Book of Mormon and says, 'Look what this fan gave me. This is the strangest gift I've ever been given,'" Guest recalls. "One of the other people that was on the tour knew that I was a member of the Church and said, 'Well, he knows all about that book.' And so here I am going down the road with this band and I'm explaining to them what the Book of Mormon is about and why it's so important to me in my life and all because this young girl had the courage, stood in line to see her idol and her star, and handed him a Book of Mormon with her testimony in the front of it," Guest says with emotion. "There have been numerous opportunities for me to share the gospel and invite [others] to church. . . . It's been a great tool to always try and be a positive influence and try and let my light shine—not that I've always been perfect or am, but I've had numerous opportunities in the strangest situations . . . to share my testimony, to share the gospel."
One of those opportunities came in the midst of a family crisis. While touring with Collin Raye, Guest was in the middle of a soundcheck in Colorado when his phone kept ringing. Guest noticed he had several missed calls from his wife and stepped away from the stage to speak with her. "My wife is hysterical on the other end of the phone, and she can hardly talk," Guest remembers. Guest's wife, who was at home in Utah, had received a call from her daughter, who was away at college in Idaho. "My daughter up in Idaho was having a health problem, and she called my wife and said, 'I'm having trouble breathing. My heart's racing. I don't know what's going on,' and then the phone went dead," Guest explains. With tears rimming his eyes, he recalls the helplessness he felt. "I just stopped everything and I went and I prayed—it was all I could do—to Heavenly Father to bless my wife and to bless my daughter to know what to do and to help her."
The Guests were able to get ahold of someone who could check on their daughter, who had passed out, and get her medical help. "Everything turned out okay," Guest says. But in the midst of that terrifying moment, Guest notes, "The band saw what I was doing and, especially the star [Collin Raye], and asked me what I was doing. He's not a member of the Church, but he asked me if he could pray for her."
Months later, when Raye was struggling with a difficult situation in his own life, he asked if Guest would give him a priesthood blessing.
"So here I am on tour exercising my priesthood because of the example he saw and how I dealt with my family when he was having a struggle with his family," Guest says.
Throughout his life, Guest has met with music icons from Ringo Star to Kiss's Gene Simmons to Jon Bon Jovi. In his book, All the Right Reasons: 12 Timeless Principles for Living a Life in Harmony, Guest humorously notes, "I’m pretty sure I’m the only Mormon bishop who has ever been on stage with Ozzy Osbourne."
Kevin Guest and Gene Simmons after an interview for "Turn Up the Volume." Image courtesy of Kevin Guest.
Among these famous encounters, one of the most notable for Guest was meeting Beatle drummer Ringo Star. "When I was a little teeny kid, I used to have a croquet mallet that I used as a guitar, and my mom bought us fake wigs that we pulled on, and we pretended that we were the Beatles," Guest says. While waiting to meet this legendary music icon, Guest recalls people waiting with him beginning to hyperventilate as the tour manager gave a strict list of dos and don'ts for meeting the celebrity. "He’s not going to shake hands because he’s on tour and he doesn’t want to spread germs around. He wants to get in and get out in quick order,” Guest remembers the tour manager saying.
Kevin Guest with Ringo Star. Image courtesy of Kevin Guest.
But when Ringo walked in the room, the first thing he did was approach Guest and give him a hug. "Ringo put his arms out and gave me a hug, and he looked me in the eye and asked me how I was doing and made me feel like he really cared about me and that I was important. Here's one of, arguably, one of the most famous people on the planet, and he was standing there looking at me and having an interpersonal communication with me and treating me like I mattered," Guest recalls. "That taught me a valuable lesson in life: We need to connect with people no matter who they are. The true measure of a man is how they treat people who can do nothing for them."
While Guest's book shares the fascinating life lessons he's learned through his experiences as a CEO, musician, bishop, and father, Guest wants to make one thing clear: "I have made my share of mistakes in my life and I've had to repent and rely on the Atonement, and I would not want to come across as someone who has it all, knows it all, has done it all perfect and right, because I do believe that making mistakes is part of our learning process." As Guest knows, any success in life doesn't come without our "share of troubles, difficulties, and mistakes."
"My reliance on the Atonement has been very, very real," he says.
Among those difficulties has been battling anxiety and self-doubt. Moments before performing on the nationally broadcast Grand Ole Opry for the first time, Guest remembers experiencing an anxiety attack. "There are thousands of people in the audience and the Grand Ole Opry is one of the most famous stages in the world for country music, and I started having all this negative self-talk. What are you doing here? What if you forget the notes?" Guest remembers.
Collin Raye and Kevin Guest performing for the Grand Ole Opry. Image courtesy of Kevin Guest.
Using techniques he learned in therapy, Guest was able to calm himself and get through the performance, but he admits, "I'm prone to negative self-talk, and I believe the most important conversations we have are the ones we have with ourselves. I think we talk to ourselves worse than we would talk to anybody else, and we say things over and over and what we're saying to ourselves becomes reality."
Guest experienced a new level of anxiety as a father of four. Now as a grandfather of six grandchildren, Guest says, "I’ve realized that when it comes down to it, you have to be able to turn things over to the Lord. and it's easier said than done . . . to truly hand things over to the Lord and have faith that He will take care of us and our burdens and our family." Guest understands faith is a daily process that requires prayer, the help of the Savior, and asking forgiveness for our sins.
"One thing I've learned through all this is I only have control over myself," Guest says. "I've decided to focus on myself. Am I keeping my covenants? Am I praying night and day? Am I partaking of the sacrament worthily? Am I doing the things that I need to do to qualify myself for the promises that I've been given through the gospel?"
During his speaking engagements as a CEO and author, Guest always tries to bring up the topic of anxiety and mental health. "I think we need to first and foremost talk about it," Guest says. "We need to not have it be something that we’re ashamed of if someone has a mental health issue. It's as real as if they had cancer, yet we're willing to drop everything and do everything for somebody who has cancer and it seems like with somebody who would have a mental health challenge that there is shame that's involved, there's secrecy that's involved."
To those who experience anxiety, Guest advises, "Seek professional help." Just as he has coaches and consultants to help him manage USANA Health Sciences, Guest says he relies on others—professionals, friends, and family—to help navigate his mental health.
"Don't discount the power of prayer," Guest adds, "because the number one person we should be talking to is Heavenly Father." There is power in "candidly pour[ing] out our hearts to Him to ask for strength."
Guest needed that personal connection to heaven 11 years ago when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At the time, he was serving as a bishop, and he remembers his stake president saying, "If I were you I'd be worried about what Heavenly Father's preparing you for."
Guest notes how Church leaders and the most righteous people he has observed in his life have endured the most heartwrenching trials. Grief and pain are not a reflection of a lack of righteousness but instead a process to refine us and bring us closer to heaven. "Everything is for our good if we handle it correctly," Guest says.
As he's opened up about his mental and physical health challenges, Guest has seen how his honesty has impacted others. While in Australia, a mother came up to Guest in tears, telling him that after her daughter had read his book and heard him speak, she sat down with her mother and opened up about the depression and suicidal thoughts she had been experiencing. "It's those little things, you know, that you get on your knees and thank Heavenly Father for," Guest says.
On the first day of one of his BYU classes, Guest remembers the professor walking to the front of the room and writing on the board, "Nothing is more important than relationships." At the end of the semester, the professor gave a one-questions, pass/fail final: "What did I write on the board the first day of class?"
Guest knows that lesson, "Nothing is more important than relationships," is true for his life. When asked how he maintains balance as a CEO, musician, father, and Church member, Guest says, "It's understanding and knowing what your priorities are in life, and they should revolve around relationships; first and foremost our relationship with God and our Savior Jesus Christ, secondly our families, and then third our friends and business relationships, in that order. And so balance becomes obvious when you realize that when you say yes to something you're saying no to something else, and so as we say yes to things in our lives, what are we saying no to?"
Kevin Guest with his family. Image courtesy of Kevin Guest.
That balance helped Guest follow a prompting he received in general conference to pursue a career other than music—a choice that led him to his job today. And since that time, Guest has tried to keep God the priority in his life.
"I find myself in the closet here in my office on my knees at times, and mostly they are prayers of gratitude," Guest says. "I don't think I could do it without Heavenly Father's constant guidance and help, and so I feel the hand of God in my life daily."
And with recognizing how much he has been given, Guest tries to also recognize how much he can give. For Guest, a quote by Winston Churchill is one of his mantras: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
"I think if you were to look at the Savior as our example, He wasn't looking at getting anything," Guest says. "All he did was give everything to others. He's our ultimate example, and if we could focus our lives on giving versus getting . . . the more fulfilling our lives will be."
Whether it's donating the proceeds of his book to help children rescued from sex trafficking in Thailand or simply giving impoverished children a soccer ball to play with, Guest feels "duty-bound" to serve where and when he can. "When I was baptized at 8 years old, I made that promise to mourn with those that mourn and to truly love my fellow man," Guest says. "And when I took the name of the Savior upon me, that's an obligation that I believe we have to fill."
As he travels internationally, especially to places where the reach of the gospel is limited, Guest often thinks of a quote by William J. Toms, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.”
Whether it's on a stage, in a board room, or walking down the street, Guest hopes the message others read in him is his desire to come closer to the Savior and bring Christ's perfect, everlasting light into others' lives.