President Worthen focuses on ‘enduring joy’ at BYU devotional

As Brigham Young University students prepare for the challenges that await them this semester, BYU President Kevin J Worthen and his wife, Sister Peggy S. Worthen, reminded them of the eternal purpose of mortal experiences.

“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?” President Worthen asked.

The answer, he said, “is one of the principles that current Church leaders want us to consider more deeply.”

President Kevin J Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020.
President Kevin J Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020. Credit: Alyssa Lyman, BYU Photo

The Worthens spoke Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the university’s first devotional of the 2020 winter semester in the Marriott Center.

Growing emphasis

After noticing three different Apostles having quoted President Russell M. Nelson’s October 2016 general conference address in their own remarks in the recent general conference, President Worthen felt he should devote his attention to it as well. 

“I have learned to pay particular attention to those instances in which more than one (leader) focuses on the same topic or, as in this case, the exact same words, at the same time,” President Worthen said, noting that several other Church leaders, including a General Authority Seventy and the Relief Society general president, have cited President Nelson’s talk in other addresses.

In his talk, President Nelson focused on a gospel principle that he called “key to our spiritual survival” and one “that will only become more important as the tragedies and travesties around us increase.” Lehi in the Book of Mormon, he said, demonstrated this principle in the face of great opposition and taught of its centrality to the Plan of Salvation by declaring, “Men are, that they might have joy.

The power of joy

President Worthen suggested BYU students can survive the difficulties they will encounter this year “by tapping into the power of joy,” and he invited them to “come to view it not just as a mental or emotional concept or feeling of comfort, but as a principle of power.”

President Kevin J Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020.
President Kevin J Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020. Credit: Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

The kind of joy that Church leaders have spoken about, President Worthen said, is “enduring joy.” It is both one’s ultimate destiny — “the state of being that our Heavenly Parents enjoy” — and an essential part of life on Earth.

“This much seems clear from revelation,” he said. “Joy is not merely a temporary emotion, but rather a more permanent and constant condition” that comes from living according to God’s commandments.

Practicing joy

Although one cannot experience “a fulness of joy” during mortality, President Worthen explained that “one of the purposes of this life is to develop our capacity for joy.” Cultivating joy now will result in a corresponding increase of joy in the next life.

Quoting President Nelson’s teaching that “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives,” President Worthen offered six suggestions for increasing our capacity to feel joy:

  1. “We need to recognize, and constantly remember, that our ability to have joy in this life — and in the eternities — is not dependent on external circumstances.”
  2. “We should recognize and remember that enduring joy, constant joy, does not mean uninterrupted bliss and a life free of challenges. Suffering and adversity are part of the eternal plan, a part of the process by which we come to develop enduring joy.”
  3. “Recognize and remember that true joy, enduring joy, … ultimately comes only through keeping God’s commandments.”
  4. “Repentance is a critical part of experiencing enduring joy.”
  5. “Recognize and remember that joy is a principle of power [that] can increase our ability to stay on the covenant path.”
  6. “We begin to have joy when we focus on Christ.”

By focusing on Christ, President Worthen taught, individuals can invite joy into their current circumstances and prepare to “experience the fulness of joy that is part of our eternal destiny if we so choose.”

Even when struggling, one can uplift others by serving them. President Worthen suggested that following the commandment to love one’s neighbors can bring the kind of joy Heavenly Father wants to share with His children: “It is concern for the well-being of others that gives God joy.”

“Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking that you are failing in your quest for joy because you have tough days,” President Worthen said. “All of us do.”

Sister Worthen acknowledged the stress BYU students may feel when facing the tests they will take this term. “However,” she said, “the real purpose of your education is to help you become more like your Heavenly Parents.”

Sister Peggy S. Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020.
Sister Peggy S. Worthen speaks during a BYU devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2020. Credit: Alyssa Lyman, BYU Photo

To illustrate the importance of developing character, she shared a Chinese folktale and spoke of the power of stories to teach values such as integrity. “The Savior,” she said, “taught important principles through parables that teach and enrich our lives if we will read and learn from them.”

Sister Worthen invited students to learn daily from the stories and teachings found in the scriptures in order to “pass the ultimate examination of life with great joy.”

Jesus Christ, President Worthen said, is “the author and finisher of our joy.” Because of Him, all people can experience enduring joy amid earthly trials and perfect joy in eternity.