February 28, 2017
Writer: Mackenzie Holbrook
During the BYU-Idaho Devotional on Feb. 28, 2017, Anne Papworth, a professor in the Department of English, counseled students to look to find the joy in their hardships.
She said society is constantly trying to help us make our lives "easier," when really, we end up making things harder than they need to be.
"Society considers easy one of the essential characteristics of life," Papworth said. "In its commercials, one company claims shopping with them is like having an ‘easy' button. In fact, you can actually purchase an easy button that is linked to their website. Just push the button and order whatever you need when you need it."
She said students who feel behind in classes sometimes look for an "easy" button by skipping class instead of dealing with the consequences of being unprepared.
"The students who skipped class ... because ‘the assignment was just so hard,' were even more behind," she said. "And now they didn't have the additional information and feedback to help them work through this difficult section."
She said this experience reminds her of the parable of the ten virgins and how, as a child, she struggled with the story because she didn't understand why the five wise women didn't share their oil with the five foolish women.
"As I grew older, attended seminary, and learned more about this parable, I came to understand why sharing wasn't an option," Papworth said. "Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught, ‘The wise virgins could not share their oil with the foolish virgins because ‘the oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared.''"
She said sharing our oil is not an option because of how we fill our lamps.
"President Spencer W. Kimball explains," she said, "‘attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures - each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity - these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can, at midnight, refuel our exhausted lamps.'"
She said students who feel an assignment is too hard and quit, aren't learning how to face difficulties, even though hardships are a part of life.
"Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘I can do hard things'?" Papworth said. "We hear this statement from the time we are small because parents, coaches and teachers know we will be asked to do hard things throughout our lives."
She said doing hard things can be painful as well, but we need to learn how to work through the pain to succeed.
"To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride, ‘Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something,'" Papworth said.
She added Lehi's counsel to Jacob in 2 Nephi 2:2 to remind students that God consecrates our afflictions for our gain.
"It makes sense that Lehi would speak to his children about the value of doing hard things," she said. "They were asked to do unimaginable things. Some of his children accepted these hard tasks with determination ... But Laman and Lemual wanted the ‘easy' button."
She reminded students that the Lord has repeatedly taught us why we must do hard things.
"His apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks reminds us that ‘the purpose of mortal life ... is to provide the experiences needed to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize [our] divine destiny as heirs of eternal life."
In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Papworth gave two pieces of advise for students who are struggling with finding joy in their hardships.
"The first is have charity toward yourself," she said. "If you were hearing your story come from another person, you would have such empathy for them - ‘It's OK, I know you can do it, don't be so hard on yourself,' - but for some reason, because it's me, ‘I'm the worst person in the entire world, everyone else balances it.' Acknowledge that this is a bad semester, this is a bad couple of weeks, I didn't do as well as I know I could have, but that doesn't diminish who I am, it just means I had a bad day."
The second piece of advice she had for students is to choose between good, better and best.
"Sometimes a semester has to be about things outside the classroom," she said. "So, for example, I'll have a student who comes to me and is struggling with an illness, and is not able to give as much as he or she knows they could be giving to the class because they're working on this illness."
She counseled students to make the eternal choice when focusing on our semesters.
"This is one semester, but it will shape and transform eternity," she said. "And so the grade that you know you could have done better in, it's not going to reflect the eternal nature of that semester."
Papworth said choosing the eternal choice does not cancel out the consequences from not doing the good, but what matters is that we make the best choice.
"Sometimes college has to be about more than the classroom," she said. "We accept the consequences, we have charity for our choices and we have that eternal perspective."
Click below to listen to Sister Papworth's full devotional address.