President Kevin Worthen and Peggy Worthen give first 2015 BYU Devotional

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Elliott Miller
Matthew O. Richardson introduces President Worthen and Sister Worthen at the Tuesday morning Devotional. (Elliott Miller)

President Kevin J Worthen and Peggy Worthen spoke about “successfully failing” and learning from experiences at the first Devotional of 2015 in the Marriott Center Tuesday morning.

Peggy Worthen began the Devotional and congratulated students on their success in the classroom, on the playing field, in their church callings and in their work. She recognized that their achievements were due to setting goals.

“Goals are a very significant part of our lives,” Sister Worthen said. “Goals help us to keep focused. Goals help us plan for and attain the things that are important to us.”

Sister Worthen then described three things one should consider when setting goals.

She asked, “Will this goal help us achieve our own full divine potential?” and she quoted D&C 14:7.

Second, she recommended studying one’s patriarchal blessing before setting a goal. “Patriarchal blessings are our own personal road maps and help us to know what Heavenly Father has planned for us,” she said.

Elliott Miller
Peggy Worthen speaks at BYU’s Winter Semester opening Devotional. Sister Worthen said flexibility is an important quality to recognizing unplanned opportunities. (Elliott Miller)

Finally, Sister Worthen said, flexibility is important when setting goals. She said there are often detours or unexpected events that happen on the road to achievement.

She recognized that this was a difficult task. “However, if we are striving to reach our full potential and setting goals that are in line with Heavenly Father’s plan for us, he will help and guide us,” she said.

Sister Worthen ended by encouraging the audience to be flexible when they encounter detours and to be grateful for unplanned opportunities that help them develop and fulfill their divine potential.

After Sister Worthen spoke, President Worthen addressed the audience.

President Worthen looked out at the sea of students in the Marriott Center and welcomed them back with three words: “You look good.”

He commended students for radiating light and for contributing to the “spirit of the Y.” President Worthen encouraged students to read the BYU mission statement and understand the reality about the quest for perfection.

“We will all fail,” President Worthen said.  “More than once. Every day.”

President Worthen defined the difference between failing and being a failure. He said that many focus on the word “perfection” instead of the word “quest” when reading the mission statement.

“Failure is an inevitable part of the quest,” he said. “In our quest for perfection, how we respond when we fail will determine how well we will succeed.”

He said learning is essential, not only to education at BYU, but also to lifelong and spiritual knowledge. “A lot has been written and spoken at BYU about how we learn by study and by faith,” President Worthen said,  “but we talk much less about how we learn from experience. Yet learning from experience is one of the essential purposes of our mortal existence.”

President Worthen then examined the word “prove” as it relates to the scripture in Abraham that describes the premortal council. President Worthen said “prove” also means “to find out, learn or know by experience.”

President Worthen said he believes there are certain things we can only learn by experience and that we “could not have remained in our premortal condition, memorized all the attributes of godhood and then, after passing a written exam, become like our heavenly parents. We came to earth so that we would learn from our own experience.”

He then related a story about his time working as a tax lawyer in Arizona. After rigorous study of regulations, codes and cases, President Worthen presented a memo to the partner at the law firm. He was firmly told to “go try again” because his approach was incorrect.

Elliott Miller
President Kevin J Worthen speaks at the BYU opening Devotional. He spoke about BYU’s mission statement and encouraged students to focus on the “quest” of learning. (Elliott Miller)

By looking at different angles, President Worthen found a new analysis and redrafted his memo. The partner was satisfied.

“I knew how to acquire abstract legal information; I even knew how to analyze that information in theoretical terms,” President Worthen said.

“The partner, however, knew how to be a lawyer — and there is a difference between those two things, just as there is a difference between knowing the attributes of God in an abstract sense and making those attributes a part of our character, which is what our quest for perfection requires.”

The law partner then said it takes good judgment to know intuitively how to answer problems. The partner said good judgment comes from experience. “And experience comes from bad judgment,” the law partner explained. “In other words, from failing.”

President Worthen tied his remarks back to the gospel when he connected Nephi’s struggles obtaining the brass plates to failing successfully. He said the Atonement helps us add our mistakes to our “perfecting process.”

President Worthen ended by describing three different types of failures. The first failure comes from a lack of precision in routine. The second arises out of complex or uncontrollable situations. The third type of failure happens when researches try to “push the frontiers of knowledge.”

He said we should not avoid trying new or hard things merely because their difficulty increases the risk of failure. “Don’t let concern for protecting your grade point average dictate the courses you take,” he said. “Challenge yourself, academically and in other ways. You may discover skills, talents and joys you would otherwise miss out on.”

President Worthen then advised students to rely on the Atonement, to trust themselves more and to trust God always. President Worthen and Sister Worthen encouraged students to move forward in their quest for perfection and be optimistic.

“You were not admitted to this university on a whim. The process is better than that,” President Worthen said. “And you are better than that. … Remembering what you have already accomplished and understanding your full potential can contribute to the development of the kind of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual resilience that will allow you, in the words of the BYU mission statement, to “meet personal challenge and change.”

Watch the Devotional here.

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