Kevin J. Worthen, president of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, will speak on Friday, June 22, at 7 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3067 Ooltewah Ringgold Road. Mr. Worthen will be accompanied by his wife, Peggy. All are invited to attend. The event is free.
Mr. Worthen is coming to Chattanooga because of the high number of BYU graduates who live in the area, and the strong Chattanooga chapter of the BYU alumni association that provides more than 30 plus scholarships a year to local youth who desire and qualify to attend BYU. Chattanooga is the only stop on the Worthens’ visit to the South.
Mr. Worthen is the 13th president of BYU, and also serves as an Area Seventy (regional leader) in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He describes himself as “a BYU guy through and through.” He earned his bachelor’s and JD degrees from BYU; graduated summa cum laude with both degrees; taught and served as the dean of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School; and also served as BYU’s advancement vice president.
He was a Supreme Court Clerk for Associate Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White. He clerked for Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit court. He is an expert in Native American law. He studied in South America as a Fulbright scholar, and taught at the University of Chile Law School.
Mr. Worthen served a mission for the Church in the Monterrey Mexico Mission. According to LDS Living, Mr. Worthen does a surprisingly good Tom Jones imitation; he loves basketball and was the Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA for four years; he was co-caption of his varsity basketball team at the College of Eastern Utah where he earned an associate’s degree; and he worked as an underground coal miner during the summer months in 1977 and 1978. He met his wife, Peggy Sealey, at a church dance. They are the parents of three children and grandparents of several grandchildren.
Mr. Worthen would say he is who he is in large part because of his wife. Mrs. Worthen was born in Price, Utah. She attended the College of Eastern Utah. She worked as a receptionist for Utah Senator Jake Garn. She graduated from BYU with a degree in English. Early on, Mrs. Worthen and her husband made a choice to put God first and trust that “Heavenly Father’s plan is the best one for us. We need to learn not to panic when things don’t go exactly as we have planned,” she says. “I have found that life is full of unexpected detours. Be flexible and grateful for the unplanned opportunities Heavenly Father gives us. Trust yourself and trust God. Do not doubt what you know to be true. Choose your response. Set a peaceful tone. Learn from the examples of others. Learn from your mistakes. Follow Jesus.” This is the type of counsel Mrs. Worthen gently and often shares with students, faculty, family and friends.
Like Mrs. Worthen, Mr. Worthen is also kind and gifted. Some describe him as “brilliant yet unassuming; physically towering yet down-to-earth; visionary yet deferential.” He is motivated by BYU’s mission “to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.” The aim of BYU, he says, is to provide learning that is “1) spiritually strengthening, 2) intellectually enlarging, and 3) character building, leading to 4) lifelong learning and service.”
At April 2018 commencement exercises, Mr. Worthen encouraged graduates to “not let pride and riches dictate [their] future decisions…. When we are motivated solely by those two things – or either one of them – we lose the ability to call down the powers of heaven, and our eternal progress comes to a screeching halt. That may seem obvious now,” Mr. Worthen said, “but I can assure you from both personal experience and observation that the allure of pride and riches governs more human behavior than any of us would care to admit, and, when it does, we can easily find ourselves in places where we don’t want to be, both physically and spiritually.”
The antidote, he said, is to “align our hearts, our heads, and our hands [with Jesus Christ] in order to make the lives of others better. I can predict…that there will be many times in your postgraduate life when you will face decisions that will ultimately be determined by whether you are motivated by pride and riches on the one hand or whether you are moved to act consistently with truths that resonate in your heart and in your mind on the other. My simple promise to you is that if you choose the latter over the former, your life will be more joyful, more fulfilling, and more eternally productive.” “I hope,” he said, “that you will never be satisfied to give anything but the best that lies within you.”
As a follower of Jesus Christ, Mr. Worthen does his best to give his best – at all times and in all places. And he encourages all students everywhere, at BYU and elsewhere, to give their best, too. “Make the places in which you stand holy for you and for others,” he says, reminding us that “Heavenly Father wants to build and lift each person further than he or she could ever imagine.”
BYU is about a “community of learners and lifters.” It is about world-class education, character building and service. At BYU, Mr. Worthen said, “we are blessed to have before us the ultimate role model of perfect character – even the Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the true and living Son of the true and living God. “He knocks at the door and waits for us to invite Him into our lives. When we do, we will find…that His way is the path that leads to happiness.”
This is why the message of BYU is “Enter to Learn; Go forth to serve.” Learn about the spiritual and the secular. Serve God and others. Climb. Move ever upward.