BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson and his wife, Sharon Samuelson, addressed students about personal success, failure and finding humor in life at Tuesday’s campus devotional.
Sister Samuelson first spoke on finding humor through life’s ups and downs, an appropriate subject for new freshmen and current students. Ironically, two small birds flew in the Marriott Center during her remarks, helping the audience apply her words on humor.
“The ability to not take one too seriously and use humor in times of mistakes, small and accidental incidents, and stressful situations can help alleviate embarrassment, fear and even discouragement in circumstances,” Sister Samuelson said.
Her address was centered around choosing optimism over pessimism as she spoke highly of BYU students.
“I know of no other people in the world who are happier and more cheerful than the students of Brigham Young University,” Sister Samuelson said. “Amid your daily challenges and struggles, you smile, laugh and encourage others. I so encourage you to continue to do so during your sojourn here and as you ‘go forth to serve.'”
President Samuelson began his remarks with a narrative of his travels to England and his encounter with Andy Murray, who recently won Wimbledon. Murray’s victory, the first British win in 77 years, stirred a sense of nationality. The country lauded Murray as a hero and praised his successes almost as if his missteps during the tournament did not exist.
President Samuelson compared winning a sporting event to succeeding in life or in education. “What I mean by this is, I believe the Plan of Salvation makes it possible for all of us, when we have tried to live our lives the best we can and have worked to overcome our mistakes and repent of our sins, to come to the final judgment or graduation and have the wonderful pronouncement made to us of ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant,'” he said.
BYU students often become overwhelmed with a heavy workload and a competitive peer atmosphere. President Samuelson related to the many anxieties of student life by relaying his experiences in applying to medical school.
“In medical schools there is an honor society named Alpha Omega Alpha, or AOA. For many of us, and this began early as undergraduates, AOA really stood for ‘always overly anxious,'” President Samuelson said.
He addressed this anxiety often experienced by students by presenting Joseph Smith as an example of someone who felt the real weight of mortality.
President Samuelson quoted Smith as saying, “‘I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.'”
President Samuelson told students not to expect more of others than they expect of themselves as well as not to hold themselves to expectations that are too high.
“We want you to do your best, be the best you can be and aspire to perfection, but we also want you to be realistic about the circumstances in which you find yourselves,” he said. “Personal growth comes from being stretched, and you will likely find yourselves challenged in ways you have never previously experienced or expected.”