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Savanna Richardson, Savanna Richardson/BYU
President Kevin J Worthen and his wife, Pegg, at BYU's first devotional of winter semester, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.

PROVO — Looking at life through the lens of a gospel paradigm can result in increased understanding, optimism and courage, said BYU President Kevin J Worthen in the university’s first devotional of the new year and new semester.

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

Worthen spoke of God’s foundational purpose of life — called as “the plan of salvation” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors the private university. Joined by his wife, Peggy, in addressing students and faculty Tuesday at the Marriott Center, he outlined that plan’s framework of a premortal life, a mortal existence, death 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.”

Worthen promised that if his listeners view their experiences — big and small — in light of God’s plan and through the lens of the gospel paradigm, they will experience understanding, optimism and courage.

“Once we understand the overall plan, it is easier to understand and obey the commandments. 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.”

Of responding positively to daily life’s ups an downs, he added: “Without an understanding of the plan, even life’s smallest inconveniences can lead to deep discontent and grumbling. 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.”

And a view through the lens of the gospel paradigm increases one’s ability to act courageously when life’s challenges seem difficult, if not impossible, he said.

“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, Peggy Worthen spoke of an experience pruning her rose bushes, recognizing one year that she pruned them back much more than usual. While she was pleased with the results, others warned her the rose bushes had been cut back too much.

“Initially, it didn’t bother me, but pretty soon I began to believe them," she said. "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 consulting with her mother and a book on roses, Worthen decided her roses weren't ruined, and eventually they did grow back.

She shared two thoughts from her experience: first, to "“not doubt what you know to be true," and second, "the simple things are often the most important."

She added: “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. 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.”