President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy S. Worthen welcomed students back to campus with the first devotional of the fall 2021 semester. Sister Worthen spoke on navigating fearful uncertainty, and President Worthen explained how we can create a more interwoven BYU community.
Sister Worthen When Sister Worthen was a child, her family liked to spend their summers rafting down the Green River. But once, while waiting for their parents to drop off equipment at an endpoint, Sister Worthen and her sister lost control of the beached raft and its contents in a gust of wind. Luckily, other rafters helped retrieve their belongings, oars and raft and comforted the young girls.
“I have reflected upon this incident from time to time throughout my life,” Sister Worthen said. “The thought of the unexpected can be frightening. And, at times, debilitating.”
“Nevertheless, the Savior has commanded us ‘to be not afraid,’ even when the unexpected storms of life are raging around us,” she stated.
To help us in potential moments of paralyzing fear, Sister Worthen suggested we develop a habit of praying and searching for resources from God.
Prayer keeps us in tune with the Spirit and our Heavenly Father, she remarked. This can bring us comfort in distressing times when we are trying to “gather our possessions and thoughts from a river of fast-moving circumstances.”
Additionally, like the ancient Nephites who endured many fierce and uncertain wars, we must learn to inquire of the Lord. The battles we face in mortality require guidance, and “we should never be afraid to ask for help from the plentiful resources that are available to us in times of uncertainty.”
As we act on faith instead of fear, we will develop a testimony of the goodness and mercy of God.
“Our Heavenly Father, who is mindful of each of us … wants us to be happy and successful,” Sister Worthen testified.
In his fall 2019 devotional address, President Worthen emphasized the importance of community proximity. Unfortunately, as he pointed out in his address today, just six months after his message, the world was forced to scatter and socially distance.
“Talk about a statement that did not age well,” he said.
Nevertheless, President Worthen still believes deeply in his message of closeness.
“Gathering and proximity ... are eternal principles that will remain applicable well beyond COVID and likely well beyond this mortal existence. While we need to temporarily adjust some features of our educational endeavor until the pandemic abates, it is, in my view, more important than ever that we be with one another during this educational process – that we be part of a community.”
As BYU moves into its second century of existence and with the recent announcement of the Office of Belonging, President Worthen reiterated that he is fiercely dedicated to overcoming divisions and helping students progress as unique individuals while simultaneously drawing closer to each other.
As we stretch our minds and hearts to include others, President Worthen suggested three principles to help us “secure the knitting that has already occurred and also accelerate the pace of the knitting that remains to be done to create a community of belonging.”
1. Strive to view all as precious children of GodOnline squabbles, political polarization and social media issues can encourage tribalism and lead us to forget the divinity of every soul.
“Our failure to constantly remember that is the cause of many unnecessary wounds and tears in [our] knitted product.”
However, if we learn to love others as God loves them, we can build a community of genuine love.
2. Replace “I” with “we” A united community celebrates individuality but also recognizes the importance of a commitment to collectivism. Referencing our country's deeply individualized cultural environment, President Worthen asserted that “our ability to create a true community of belonging … would be greatly enhanced if we were to similarly consider the impact of our words and actions on the lives of others.”
As we stop to ponder upon how our agency affects others, we can become more considerate and prioritize decisions that promote belonging instead of division.
3. Above all else, trust God Using imperfect people to build an ideal community can be difficult, especially since “knitting our heart together requires that we trust Him completely with the one thing that is uniquely ours – our will.” But the blessings and unity that this decision brings outweigh any sacrifices.
“In the community we hope to build,” he explained, “students will be stretched and challenged intellectually in ways that may not always be comfortable – but should always be faith filled – to help them realize their full potential as children of God.”
Next Devotional Elder Dale G. Renlund, member of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will deliver the next devotional address on Tuesday, September 14, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.
Elder Renlund's remarks will also be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM and SiriusXM 143.