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The BYU community gathered in the Marriott Center to hear the first devotional of the semester, traditionally given by the university's president and his wife. President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy S. Worthen encouraged students to believe that they can succeed this semester and in other future endeavors.

President and Sister Peggy Worthen speak at Tuesday's BYU Devotional
Photo Credit: 
Nate Edwards/ BYU Photo

Sister Peggy S. Worthen

Sister Worthen encouraged students to not give up when classes are difficult, saying that gaining an education is worth the sacrifice.

“There will be times when you may become discouraged while striving to obtain your education,” she said. “When those times come, please remember that what you are doing is praiseworthy.  You are seeking to improve yourselves as well as the kingdom of God.”

Sister Worthen said she learned this by taking intermediate algebra through Independent Study while she was working toward her English degree. Family members and friends tutored her, but she failed the final test by only one point.  Discouraged and frustrated, she looked for other options to avoid needing the class to graduate, but after a friend nudged her, she decided to retake the test. The second time around, she passed. 

“Now when I think about my ordeal with algebra, I am grateful I had the experience — even though it was, at times, very unpleasant and difficult,” she said. “It was definitely a time of growth for me.”

President Kevin J Worthen

President Worthen urged students to fear not, a commandment he said is often overlooked. When we can avoid fear, he said, we will be more productive and joyful.

He defined fear not as the emotion that protects us from danger, or the reverence for God, but as an irrational fear or fear of the unknown. He said this kind of fear is often defined using the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real.

“It is this kind of fear that is debilitating, sometimes paralyzing and almost always soul- and energy-sapping,” he said.

President Worthen acknowledged there are many types of fears students feel at the beginning of a semester, noting that the adversary uses despair, hopelessness and fear against us.

“When any of these false thoughts appear to be real to you, when such satanic lies cause you to lose hope in the future, and maybe even the present — please remember that God has repeatedly commanded us to ‘fear not.’”

Choose faith in Christ

LDS leaders and scripture have taught that faith is the cure of fear. Faith is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . . which are true."

President Worthen urged students to increase their faith in Jesus Christ through daily prayer and scripture study.

“These simple acts of daily scripture study and prayer — especially with the intent to know the Savior better — will do more than almost anything else to strengthen your faith in Him, which, in turn, will decrease the amount of irrational fear in your life, no matter the particular cause of that fear,” he said.

Serve others more to decrease your fear

Since faith is a principle of action, acting to serve others turns your focus away from your worries, said President Worthen.  

“When you find yourself overcome by fear, I urge you to look for others who need your help.  Focus on what you can do for them, on what they need,” he said. “If you do this, I promise your fears will decrease because your love for God and His children will increase.”

Recognize you make a choice of fear or faith

Faith is a choice, and President Worthen said that when we recognize the moment to choose between faith and fear, it will help us to choose faith.

“He will also bless us in the interim, in the short run and the long run, if our choices are directed by our faith in Him, rather than our fears about ourselves,” he said.

Remember you already chose faith in Christ

President Worthen reminded students of the war of concepts in heaven in the pre-earth life. This war was won by believers who had faith in Jesus Christ even before the Atonement was performed by him.

“Fear not. Whatever the circumstances you find yourself in, know, with assurance, that you can succeed," he said. "You are more capable, more talented and more faith-filled than you realize.  More importantly, you are more loved by God than you realize."