President Kevin J Worthen told students to persevere in unity amid COVID-19 and chaos during the semester’s first devotional on Jan. 12.
The power of both unity and diversity is needed more than ever during the pandemic and other pressing issues, he said. President Worthen also reminded students that the pandemic is not over and to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, commending their good work last semester.
“While there is increased optimism because the end is in sight, there is a commensurate need to be more diligent than ever in wearing masks, washing our hands, maintaining social distancing and complying with testing protocols,” he said.
In addition, Sister Peggy S. Worthen gave a message focusing on current struggles. She encouraged students to have gratitude at all times.
There is “power in unity,” President Worthen said, referencing the Prophet Joseph Smith. “We are more in need of that unifying power perhaps than at any time in our lifetime. Not only to whether the pandemic storm, but also to address pressing issues like social justice, poverty, racism, and angry divisiveness and intolerance in political and other messages.”
The presence or absence of unity determines both an individual’s eternal destiny and the stability and prosperity of communities. True unity, however, does not require people to give up their individuality, President Worthen said.
He emphasized both unity and diversity to help members of the campus community achieve their full potential. “Without unity, diversity becomes divisive. Without diversity, unity becomes stagnant.”
He then gave an example of jazz music and played a video from a forum Marcus Roberts and The Modern Jazz Generation gave last February. In a jazz ensemble, individual improvisation often takes center stage, but there is still a need for unity, he said.
“If we strive for true unity by following the Savior’s example to love others regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, political leanings or other distinguishing characteristics, we can truly transform both our university community and the larger world with which we interact.”
To enhance both unity and diversity, President Worthen told BYU students to avoid contention and recognize that perfect unity can be achieved only through God and Christ.
“While diversity is not the opposite of unity, contention is,” he said, adding that avoiding contention does not mean individuals won’t disagree.
Individuals should disagree in a way that focuses on issues rather than making personal attacks. Disagreements should also reflect the truth that everyone is a beloved spirit child of Heavenly Parents, he said.
“So my message to you is simple. Persevere in unity, by coming closer to Heavenly Father and Christ, who never tire and are perfectly united.”
Sister Peggy S. Worthen also addressed current trials and offered gratitude as an antidote. Gratitude, she said, “lifts our souls through its miraculous healing balm.”
“Whether we are right in the middle of a global pandemic, experiencing devastating loss and grief, or we are experiencing the joyful moments of life, we must never forget to express gratitude,” she said.