President and Sister Worthen call for faith and eternal relationships

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Natalie Bothwell
President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy S. Worthen spoke at the first devotional of the 2016 winter semester. They discussed the importance of having faith and loving others. (Natalie Bothwell)

BYU President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy S. Worthen welcomed students back to Brigham Young University with messages about making faith-led decisions and fostering eternal relationships on Tuesday, Jan 5, 2016.

Sister Worthen’s remarks, entitled “The Allegory of the Wedding Cake,” described student’s lives at BYU and abroad.

Sister Worthen said the allegory, in part, tells the story of two young women who made a wedding cake for a friend’s reception. They had prepared to make the cake by taking a class, finding a trusted family recipe and had the courage and faith to engage, according to Sister Worthen.

The wedding cake was dropped and ruined in a moment of distraction, displayed in a humorous video shown to the audience. Sister Worthen said the girls maintained the “proper perspective” and weren’t discouraged.

“At times, your life, including your life at BYU, will be like making a wedding cake. You will have many opportunities to take the things that you have learned and act upon them,” Sister Worthen said. “You will have the knowledge and training you need to succeed. You will have the right ingredients. But, there will be no guarantee that you will succeed.”

Sister Worthen said in moments like this people are presented with two choices: “Proceed with faith, or be brought to a standstill by a fear of failure.”

“Being able to proceed when the specific outcome is not assured is one of the great tests of life,” Sister Worthen said.

She then told the story of a friend that had gained a high level education at BYU and contemplated going to law school. Her friend decided not to attend law school because she had not received a clear prompting from God if she was making the right decision.

“What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of [God’s] trust,” Sister Worthen said, quoting the late Elder Richard G. Scott. “When you are living worthily and you need to act, proceed with trust”

Sister Worthen testified that God will not allow those who seek his guidance to make the wrong choice, quoting Elder Scott.

She said such trust in the Lord fosters faith and gives perspective when acting in faith.

“[T]he cake really isn’t the important thing. The happiness of the couple being married is the most important thing. And the happiness of the couple does not depend on a wedding cake,” Sister Worthen said.

President Worthen then spoke on the secular and spiritual truth that men and women do not flourish in isolation.

He began with a personal story of teaching Chilean law students and indigenous leaders about Chile’s laws regarding the indigenous peoples, primarily the Mapuche. Mapuche leaders would teach the class about the Mapuche religion at the end of the course.

He said the concept of God to the Mapuche consisted of four beings, an older man and woman and a younger man and woman. It was more logical to them to have this God concept because no one is really happy unless that happiness is shared, while the main evil spirit in their cosmology is always and eternally alone.

“Heaven will be heaven because of the other people who will be there,” President Worthen said.

Natalie Bothwell
President Worthen talked about happiness and having joy in the accomplishments of others at the Jan. 6, 2016 devotional. He also said envy and jealousy are part of the “natural man” to be overcome by Christ’s disciples. (Natalie Bothwell)

President Worthen then quoted Dr. Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, in identifying moments when people are most happy.

“When was the last time you laughed uproariously? The last time you felt indescribable joy? The last time you sensed profound meaning and purpose? The last time you felt enormously proud of an accomplishment?” President Worthen quoted. “All of them took place around other people.”

President Worthen said LDS conceptualizations of mortal happiness, salvation, afterlife and possible exaltation involve quality relationships.

“But there is also a warning in the scriptures. If we fail to develop positive relationships in this life, they will not suddenly spring into existence in the next life. We will experience the ‘same sociality’ in the next life as we did in this life,” President Worthen said, quoting D&C 130:2.

President Worthen admitted that although this message appears to apply most to marriage, it applies to “relationships with our roommates, our classmates, our teachers, our other family members and even strangers in the community.”

He advised to be particularly sensitive to those that are marginalized in some way and suffer from loneliness. He said building these relationships ought to deepen our understanding of humanity’s status of children of God.

“You have never spoken with a mere mortal. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit,” President Worthen said, quoting C.S. Lewis.

President Worthen said this understanding of humanity’s true nature as “immortals” will combat the digital age’s propensity for distraction and anonymity that cause people to say or do things they would never do or say in person.

He also said that a “sad task” he has to deal with are the complaints of landlords, store owners or campus visitors who question the university’s discipleship after seeing the bad behavior of certain students.

“The Savior’s response to the lawyer’s efforts was the parable of the Good Samaritan. All those with whom we interact within our broader community, whether they be local merchants, or fans from other schools with whom we compete athletically,” President Worthen said.

He then said that taking joy in the accomplishments of others will deepen positive relations. He described envy and jealousy as a reaction of the natural man.

“God’s greatest joy comes from the accomplishment of others. His ultimate happiness comes through His enjoyment of our success,” President Worthen said.

He warned that truly loving others calls for vulnerability.

“Similarly, implicit in the covenant to bear one another’s burdens and to mourn with those who mourn is the certainty that if we love to that degree, we will more often have sorrow for others,” President Worthen said.

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