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President and Sister Worthen welcomed students, faculty and staff to the beginning of the Fall 2015 Semester at the Devotional on Tuesday. Each address focused on the small steps that can be taken now and throughout our lives to focus our attitude and commitment on developing and improving our character. 

Keep Swimming

Facing unexpected situations is a given in this life. But being prepared and choosing to keep swimming, when it might be easier to fall into a whirlpool of doubt and self-pity, is the key to success with the challenges of life, said Sister Worthen. 

"Sometimes, as we embark and proceed on a new journey we find that our expectations are not met,? she said. "What we had anticipated and hoped for in the beginning of our journey has not come to pass. Our ideals are not our realities."

When our expectations are not met, and we become so focused on the things we can't control it is just like being stuck in a deadly whirlpool, Sister Worthen said. 

"When we dwell on the things we can?t control, we often fail to understand the gravity of the warning signs, or simply fail to even see them," she said. "Instead of looking for ways to overcome adversity, we sometimes dwell on things we can?t control. This causes us to murmur and wallow in self-pity. This can be deadly to our salvation."

Instead, we have a choice, she said. We can choose to continue progressing no matter how hard the course. 

"It is important to keep a proper focus even when things are not going as planned," Sister Worthen said. "Instead of being caught in the whirlpools of life... it is important to continue to progress towards our goals, no matter how difficult the situation may be."

Small Steps to Build Character

President Worthen's remarks centered on one of the Aims of a BYU education: a BYU education should be character building.

Admitting that he himself - like all of us - has been guilt of murmuring, President Worthen talked about Lamen and Lemuel, who likely considered themselves followers of God but didn't have a deep, internal conviction. 

"Lamen and Lemuel murmured because they did not understand God's plan for them," said President Worthen. "They did not see the big picture. They couldn?t see ? or they forgot ? that there was a larger purpose and broader reason for doing the things they were being asked to do."

The same can be true for all of us, he said. 

"When we don?t understand the bigger picture - the reasons behind the things we are asked to do - any sacrifice is too great; any difficulty is too burdensome; and any inconvenience is a reason to complain, and we can soon end up like Laman and Lemuel," President Worthen said.

Even the BYU experience and gaining an education will be difficult when we lose site of the bigger picture, he said. Keeping the proper perspective involves focusing on your individual character development.

"We should recognize that our character is usually shaped not by dramatic one-time events, but by small, simple daily decisions," he said. 

While those decisions will be small and likely not directly connected to academic work, he said, they will determine success at BYU. The Honor Code and the Dress and Grooming Standards are just one sign of our commitment to character. 

"I understand that some of those commitments [to the Honor Code and Dress and Grooming Standards] relate to eternal values and others to standards that are more temporal and cultural," President Worthen said. "But let me emphasize that adherence to each of those standards plays a critical role in our eternal character development."  

Following through on the commitments we make shows our character, President Worthen said.

"Having signed the Honor Code, compliance is not a question of fashion or personal expression," he said. "It is a question of integrity."

Measuring how well we are doing in developing character is important in our progression, he said. 

"The development of an innate, inner desire to avoid evil, and the ability to put things in eternal perspective ? can be measured in a very rough sense by how much we are inclined to murmur, particularly when things are going wrong or we find ourselves at odds with those who have the charge to give prophetic counsel," said President Worthen. "At the end of the day, attitude shapes our character."

If you missed the President and Sister Worthen's remarks, the Devotional can be streamed on demand on and will be available on

Next Week's Devotional

The next BYU Devotional address will be held on Tuesday, September 15, at 11:05 a.m., in the Marriott Center.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, the senior president of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the speaker. 

His remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv,, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio.