BYU President Worthen: Joy the key to spiritual survival

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President Kevin J Worthen at the BYU devotional on Tuesday, Jan. 7. (Preston Crawley)

President Kevin J Worthen kicked off a new semester with a devotional address that emphasized the importance of having joy during difficult times.

“Joy is the key to our spiritual survival in the trying times in which we live, as well as the trying times that lie ahead of us,” President Worthen said. “When we experience opposition, anxiety, heartache, pain, disappointment and sorrow — something all of us are likely to face in this coming year — how are we to survive? By tapping into the power of joy.”

He said one of the purposes of this life is to develop capacity for joy both in this life and in the world to come. 

“Even though we may not experience a complete fulness of joy until the next life, it’s very much in our interest to do what we can to experience all the joy we can in this life – both because it will make our current lives better and because it will better prepare us for our ultimate destiny to experience the fullness of joy that God wants to share with us,” President Worthen said.

He told students that their ability to have joy is not dependent on external conditions. He also warned that enduring, constant joy does not mean uninterrupted bliss and a life free of challenges.

He then emphasized that students can find joy through keeping God’s commandments, that repentance is a critical part of experiencing true joy and that joy is a principle of power.

He concluded by telling students that joy is possible only through Jesus Christ and encouraging them to focus on Christ.

Sister Peggy Worthen addressed the challenges of starting a new semester by retelling the Chinese folktale called “The Empty Pot,” a story that emphasizes the honesty and character of a young boy who is selected by a wise emperor to become the next heir of the kingdom. 

“The most important purpose of the many tests you face this semester has less to do with the subject matter you are studying than with the skills and character you are developing,” Sister Worthen said. “The real purpose of your education is to help you become more like your Heavenly Parents.”

Sister Worthen said she hopes students will not only remember the lessons from the story of the “Empty Pot,” but will also draw upon the lessons found in the gospel teachings and experiences recorded in the sacred scriptures.

“I promise that as you do, you will find the true meaning of your education and pass the ultimate examination of life with great joy,” she said.  

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