President Worthen urges belonging through ‘knitting hearts together in love’

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BYU President Kevin J Worthen addresses BYU students during his devotional address on Sept. 7. He told the BYU community to knit their hearts together in love during times of division and isolation. (Dallin Wilks)

President Kevin J Worthen and Sister Peggy Worthen discussed how to face uncertainty and the importance of “knitting our hearts together” in love during times of division and isolation.

Sister Worthen opened the first BYU devotional address by sharing a childhood story of an awry rafting trip at Flaming Gorge Dam. During the trip, her raft was thrown into river’s current by a gust of wind, knocking her, her sister and all their equipment into the river. 

“I have reflected upon this incident from time to time throughout my life,” Sister Worthen said. “We had found ourselves quite literally up the creek without a paddle — or even a raft. Although the situation had a happy ending, it reminds me of the many unexpected challenges that inevitably occur in all our lives.”

She gave the audience two items of counsel to help when these unexpected challenges inevitably come. First, one can turn to the Lord in prayer during unexpected challenges.

“Second, we can prepare by acknowledging that in times of uncertainty we will need help — sometimes from others and always from Heavenly Father,” she said.

After Sister Worthen’s remarks, President Worthen addressed audience members, stating how happy he was to see them gathering together, despite the extenuating circumstances of COVID-19.

It is innately human to gather and create community, he said, along with the need to be individually unique. Those concepts are a “swinging pendulum” at times, thus making it imperative to “define and situate” a community.

He shared his vision for the BYU community by quoting President Henry B. Eyring’s appeal to build a vibrant community of “learners and lifters.” 

In the face of the division and isolation that has affected so many in the past year and half,  “more and more people feel marginalized — even on this campus,” said President Worthen, his voice cracking with emotion.

“Thus, there is now a need to focus more specifically on creating and enhancing a community of belonging in which all members realize the full blessings that come from gathering together in a community of learners and lifters,” he said.

President Worthen described BYU’s recent Statement of Belonging, emphasizing the foundational principles of divine parentage and commitment to the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“The strength and support that exist in a community of belonging is characterized as one in which the members’ hearts are knit together in love,” he said. 

He detailed the process of knitting, describing how different loops are brought together to create one single product through reinforcing connections.  He directly compared this to the efforts that are required to bring a community together. 

“Knitting hearts will stretch us in ways that will challenge and test us,” he said, adding that this will require the development of patience and love.

President Worthen gave three suggestions to “secure the knitting that has already occurred and accelerate the pace of the knitting that remains to be done.”

First, there is the need to view others as children of God. Second, the BYU community should think in terms of “we” instead of “I.” “Third, and above all else, we must trust God,” he said. 

Because this process is individualized and involves other people, the results may not be what is expected, President Worthen said. In these situations, “we must allow God to work in His way and on His timetable.”

President Worthen concluded his address with a heartfelt plea to his audience. “I hope that because of our efforts to create a community of belonging, we may one day say to the campus of BYU, the mountains of BYU, the buildings of BYU: how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer as their hearts were knit together in love.”

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