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President and Sister Worthen encourage, welcome BYU students

PROVO, Utah — By “looking at life through the lens of the gospel paradigm” — or through the plan of salvation — individuals are able to find a clearer understanding, comfort and courage, taught BYU President Kevin J Worthen during the first campus devotional of the new semester.

Held in the Marriott Center on campus on Jan. 9, the devotional brought students and faculty — as well as viewers from around the world via BYUtv — together to hear encouraging words from the college’s president and his wife, Sister Peggy Worthen.

“All of us view events through particular paradigms or lenses,” President Worthen said. “If the lenses are accurate, the paradigm enhances our understanding and knowledge; if they are distorted, we sometimes make mistakes.”

Recognizing that there have always been “competing paradigms in every discipline and, more importantly, in the overall cultures in which we live,” President Worthen reminded listeners of the blessing of modern-day revelation to provide “a more complete and accurate framework in which all our life’s events, both individually and globally, can be better understood.”

President Worthen spoke of the plan of salvation’s framework — a premortal life, a mortal experience, death, the Atonement and the ability to live with God again.

“Most of us have heard this plan so many times that we may not fully appreciate how deep and significant it is,” he said. “Moreover, when encountering our day-to-day experiences and trials, we too often take off the clarifying gospel lenses that these truths provide and then complain because the resulting distorted image does not seem correct.”

President Worthen promised listeners that if they will view all of their experiences — big and small — in light of God’s plan, they would experience understanding, optimism and courage. He shared three ways to look at life through the lens of the gospel.

First, looking at life through the lens of the gospel paradigm helps a person more clearly understand gospel principles and teachings.

“Once we understand the overall plan, it is easier to understand and obey the commandments,” President Worthen taught. “Without that larger clarifying paradigm, commandments can too often be seen as arbitrary rules or regulations, which confine and restrict us. With that framework in place, however, we see more clearly and come to understand that God’s commandments are designed to enable us to expand our souls in ways that permit us to become like Him, which is the ultimate goal of His plan for us.”

Second, viewing events through the lens of the gospel paradigm not only sheds clarifying light on the teachings and policies of the Church, it also helps a person respond more positively to the ups and downs of daily life.

“Without an understanding of the plan, even life’s smallest inconveniences can lead to deep discontent and grumbling,” he said. “On the other hand, viewing life’s events through the gospel paradigm can change the entire nature of unpleasant events. … If we will view our daily experiences in light of the gospel paradigm, we will find joy in unexpected ways, and we will discover one reason why God’s plan is called the plan of happiness.”

Third, viewing events through the lens of the gospel paradigm increases a person’s ability to act courageously when life’s challenges seem difficult, if not impossible.

“Viewing our lives and the events around us in the light of God’s plan for us will increase our understanding of gospel principles and teachings; it will help us find joy in life’s daily challenges, and it will enable us to meet the most difficult challenges, even those that seem overwhelming. That is the way God ordained it to be under His perfect plan.”

In her remarks, Sister Worthen spoke of an experience she had while pruning her rose bushes. One year, she waited longer than usual to prune the flowers, and after she was finished, she recognized that she had pruned them back much more than her usual trim. She was pleased with the results.

“Immediately after pruning, I had several people tell me that it was too late in the season for cutting roses and that I had cut them back too much,” she said. “Initially, it didn’t bother me, but pretty soon I began to believe them. I started to feel like I had done something I shouldn’t have. I started to doubt my decision. I was sorry I had cut my roses.”

After a few neighbors commented on her rose bushes, she began to feel terrible, and believed that she had ruined her roses. After consulting with her mother and a book about roses, she realized her roses would survive and they eventually did bloom again.

Sister Worthen shared two lessons she learned from the experience.

First, do “not doubt what you know to be true.”

“Sometimes we allow ourselves to listen and believe things we know that are contrary to what we know to be true,” she said. “When others question our beliefs, we may start to panic and begin to doubt.”

Second, “the simple things are often the most important things.”

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t important how or when I cut my roses,” she said. “All they needed to thrive and bloom were a few simple things, such as water, sunshine and proper drainage for their roots.”

As long as those simple needs were met, the roses were able to grow.

“In today’s world, we are bombarded with so much information about so many things that we may lose sight of what is most important and become overly concerned with things that don’t ultimately matter,” she said. “We may even begin to doubt revelations we have had. It’s important at those times to remember the simple things that helped us develop our testimonies and to trust that focusing on those things will ensure that we stay on the right path.”