President and Sister Worthen say there is strength in gathering

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BYU President Kevin J Worthen and his wife, Sister Peggy Worthen, addressed students during the first campus devotional of the school year Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Sister Worthen began her remarks by highlighting the recent performing arts tour called the BYU Spectacular, which she and her husband attended in China. Sister Worthen explained that though the production was quite “spectacular,” there was also an unexpected behind-the-scenes mishap.

She said some of the performance equipment did not make it to China in time for the first few performances, so the performers had to adjust. Sister Worthen said that regardless, she was amazed by how the performers succeed despite the setback.

“Sooner or later, you will all face unexpected challenges,” she said. “In such situations, remain glued to the mission — to your quest for perfection and eternal life. Remember why you came to BYU — and more importantly, why you came to earth. Do your utmost. Do the best you can.”

After Sister Worthen concluded her remarks, President Worthen stood at the podium and welcomed students to the “first official gathering of the campus community, a campus community that is itself the result of a gathering of students, faculty and staff from throughout the world to Provo.”

President Worthen related gathering to educational endeavors.

He noted that when he first became the BYU law school dean, he came to realize the plethora of resources the Church uses for the purpose of “providing an educational experience to our students.”

President Worthen said he thought the Church might have been more financially well off if they had paid for the students’ individual education rather than using its funds to keep up the law school itself. After reflecting on it, he determined “there must be something more that comes out of the BYU educational experience” than merely providing a reduction in cost.

“As I have begun to understand the doctrine of gathering, the why has become a little more clear,” he said.

President Worthen said a BYU education does not focus solely on acquiring information, but more on the “full realization of human potential,” as stated in the university mission statement.

“Our goal is to provide an education that is ‘spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, and character-building, leading to lifelong learning and service.’ It is that kind of holistic education, which I believe, is greatly enhanced — or made fully possible — by gathering together in one location,” he said.

President Worthen referred to a BYU devotional address given by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who noted the differences between BYU and other universities. These differences include BYU’s dedicated faculty, the opportunity students have to be member of a ward, the presence of a temple and the students’ commitment to the Word of Wisdom.

President Worthen encouraged students to learn from and work with the “unique and dedicated faculty” on a day-to-day basis.

President Worthen then noted the importance of wards and stakes, which he said function as a support system and also provide service opportunities.

“I invite each of you to be actively involved in your ward or stake and to look for other opportunities to serve those around you on and off-campus,” he said. “They have been brought here, and you have been brought here, for that very purpose. It is one of the ways in which your being part of a gathering here will make your BYU education more productive.”

President Worthen then encouraged students to attend the temple, which will “refine and elevate (students’) educational experience in important ways.”

President Worthen noted the impact and strength a community of individuals committed to a promise can make.

“I invite you to encourage your fellow students to keep (the Word of Wisdom), as well as the other honor code commitments they have made,” he said. “The power of being part of a collective commitment to standards is another educational benefit that comes from being gathered into a compact society.”

At the conclusion of his address, President Worthen emphasized the importance of physically attending weekly Tuesday devotionals.

“On a weekly basis, we can hear from inspired members of our own campus community, and with increasing frequency, from general authorities and general officers of the Church,” he said. “I invite and urge you to attend those devotionals in person. There is a different spirit that attends this unique kind of physical gathering, a spirit that can elevate and enhance the holistic education we hope you all experience at BYU.”

Students have the rare opportunity to be part of this gathering, President Worthen said.

“You are not here by accident. You have been gathered here by God. Whatever your background, whatever your talents, whatever your challenges or perceived weaknesses, you are a vital part of this gathering (and have) something to gain — and something to offer — from your interactions with those around you.” 

The next campus devotional address will be delivered by President Russell M. Nelson on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.

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