President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy S. Worthen welcomed students back to campus with the first devotional of the semester. They spoke about gratitude and unity during challenging times.
Gratitude Amid Chaos
Sister Worthen shared a story about Corrie ten Boom from the book “The Hiding Place.” During World War II, Corrie’s family helped hide Jews but was discovered and sent to a concentration camp where, miraculously, she and her sister were secretly able to keep their Bible.
While living in miserable conditions in an overcrowded barrack, Corrie and her sister relied on a scripture in the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, that said to “give thanks in all circumstances.” They began to list the things that they were grateful for, but Corrie struggled to find a reason to give thanks for things like the fleas that infested their barrack. After several weeks of giving thanks in all circumstances, not just pleasant ones, the sisters learned that the fleas truly had been a blessing. Because of the infestation, no guards would enter the girls’ barrack, which is what enabled them to keep their Bible.
Sister Worthen connected this story to today as a reminder of the importance of finding gratitude in all aspects of our lives, even the difficult ones.
“Whether we are right in the middle of a global pandemic, experiencing devastating loss and grief or we are experiencing the joyful moments of life, we must never forget to express gratitude,” Sister Worthen said.
Persevere in Unity
President Worthen spoke about the importance of unity while persevering through difficult times. Unity is achieved as individuals embrace their identity as children of God and come closer to Him as they love one another and value the diverse gifts and talents of their peers.
He began his remarks by speaking about the “seventh-inning stretch” at a baseball game, where the crowd stands up to stretch out, recharge and reengage with new enthusiasm. He connected this late-inning stretch to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. After sitting uncomfortably for nine months of social distancing, Zoom classes and mask-wearing, the community has made it through to the “seventh inning.”
“The seventh inning stretch can not only rejuvenate us, it can also remind us of the need to continue on, the need to persevere,” President Worthen said, referencing that one of the Hebrew meanings for the theologically significant name Israel is “persevere” or “persevere with God.”
“This linguistic connection between “persevere” and “Israel” reminds us that difficult tasks, like persevering through a pandemic, are easier when we involve God in the process,” he said.
President Worthen urged the students, faculty and staff to persevere through challenges by drawing power from unity.
“[Unity] is an eternal gospel principle whose presence or absence determines not only the stability and prosperity of a community but also our own eternal destiny.”
“We are in more need of that unifying power than perhaps at any time in our lifetime, not only to weather the pandemic storm, but also to address pressing issues like social justice, poverty, racism and angry divisiveness and intolerance in political and other matters.”
He explained that true unity does not require people to give up their individuality. While all human beings share a common bond as beloved spirit children of Heavenly parents, each individual has a unique set of personalities, experiences and gifts that can contribute to a greater unity.
“If we want to achieve our full potential as individuals and as a campus community, we need to emphasize both unity and diversity – both our commonality and our individuality. Without unity, diversity becomes divisive. Without diversity, unity becomes stagnant,” he said.
President Worthen suggested two ways to enhance unity and diversity in ways that will help individuals both persevere though the pandemic and lay the foundation for a stronger campus.
1. Avoid contention.
2. Recognize that perfect unity can be achieved only through God and Christ.
“If we strive for true unity by following the Savior’s example to love others, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings or other distinguishing characteristics, we can truly transform both our university community and the larger world with which we interact,” President Worthen said.