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Sunday, May 31, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring Celebrates His 87th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am grateful for the opportunity I have to pay tribute to President Henry B. Eyring, who is celebrating his 87th birthday today. There is a lot to discuss about his life, so let's get right into it. Henry Bennion Eyring was born on rhis day in 1933, in Princeton New Jersey, to well-known physicist Henry Eyring and Mildred Bennion. As I previously noted, his father's sister, Camilla Eyring, married Spencer W. Kimball, while his father's first cousin was Marion G. Romney. Young "Hal", as he was known, was generally a very good student. At one point, his father was explaining a scientific concept to him when he noted that Hal seemed to not be interested in it. He asked his son what he thought about when he had nothing else to consider, and told him that he should pursue that subject. This led young Hal to an eventual career as an educator and academic administrator. His family would later relocate from New Jersey to Salt Lake City, Utah. Although he did not serve a full-time mission, he was an active member of the U. S. Air Force, and was stationed in New Mexico, where he served as a liaison between military officers and scientists, where he was responsible for analyzing data from tests done on nuclear weapons. Prior to his military service, he had earned a degree in physics from the University of Utah. He also studied at Harvard, where he eventually earned both a masters' and doctoral degrees in Business Administration. While he was highly sought after by business owners who admired his analytical work, he chose to continue to pursue his education. In the meantime, it was not until 1960 (when Hal was 26 or 27 and serving in a district presidency) that he met Kathleen Johnson at a YSA meeting in New Hampshire. She was born in Palo Alto California, and had studied at Stanford before coming to Harvard. She also spent some time studying at the Universities of Vienna and Paris. Because Hal was serving as a counselor in the district presidency, his district president (Wilbur Cox) adjusted his assignments to accommodate his desire to date Kathleen. They dated over that summer, and continued their courtship long-distance, with Kathleen making several cross-country trips prior to their engagement in the early months of 1961.They continued their courtship for the next year or so, until they were married in the Logan Utah Temple on July 27, 1962, by which time Hal was 29 years old. Their marriage was solemnized by his uncle, then-Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Their family would eventually include six children (four sons and two daughters). Two of their sons are Henry J. Eyring (who current serves as president of BYU-Idaho and as an area seventy) and Matthew J. Eyring (who is a Chief Strategy Innovation Officer with Vivint, a company specializing in home automation, who served previously as an area seventy as well.). Hal eventually became a professor at Stanford University. He continued his career as an associate professor at the Stanford School of Business for 9 years (between 1972 and 1981), and went on to be a Sloan Visiting Faculty Fellow at MIT, during which time he also took courses in human behavior. Sometime between late 1970 and early 1971, his wife asked him if he shouldn't be studying with Neal A. Maxwell, who was serving at that time as Commissioner of Church Education. After considering her question and following a lot of reflection, Hal accepted an offer to become president of Ricks College. Although other job offers came his way during his 6 year tenure at the college, he continued to serve until his release in 1977.. His previous Church callings included being a bishop, serving as a member of the Sunday School General Board, and as a regional representative.

In 1980, Hal was called to serve as the Commissioner of Church Education, succeeding Jeffrey R. Holland. He would continue to serve in that capacity until 1986. When the Church reorganized the Presiding Bishopric in April 1985, Robert D. Hales was called as the new Presiding Bishop, and he recommended that Hal serve as his First Counselor. After serving in that capacity for 7.5 years, he was called in October 1992 to serve as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. When he began his new assignment, he was called for a second time to seerve as the Commissioner of Church Education, an assignment in which he would continue until 2004. Before that time, following the passing of Church president Howard W. Hunter and the subsequent reorganization of the First Presidency in March 1995, new Church president Gordon B. Hinckley called Elder Eyring to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 12.5 years later, following the death of President James E. Faust, who had served as Second Counselor to President Hinckley, Elder Eyring was invited to join Presidents Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson in the First Presidency. The way that came about is an interesting story. Elder Eyring had taken the phone call from President Hinckley and had heard his invitation to join the First Presidency, but because he had occasionally taken calls on the Church's phone system that were meant for some of his apostolic colleagues, he asked President Hinckley if he was sure he was talking to the right person. "This is Hal Eyring." he said. President Hinckley quickly responded, "I know who this is." Thus it was that the first apostle appointed during President Hinckley's administration was called to serve in the First Presidency for an almost four-month period prior to President Hinckley's passing.

When the First Presidency was reorganized, new Church president Thomas S. Monson called President Eyring to continue serving in the First Presidency, this time as his First Counselor. While in that capacity, President Eyring has dedicated 8 temples (San Salvador El Salvador, Gilbert Arizona, Payson Utah, Indianapolis Indiana, Philadelphia Pennsylvania (for which he had also presided at the groundbreaking), Hartford Connecticut, Paris France, and Cedar City Utah). The dedication of the Gilbert Arizona Temple was an interesting anomaly. Although President Monson presided at all three sessions, he requested that President Eyring read the prayer during the first session, so that was one recent example of how the dedication duties were shared by two apostles. President Eyring also rededicated seven temples (Ogden Utah, Buenos Aires Argentina Mexico City Mexico, Montreal Quebec, Suva Fiji, Idaho Falls Idaho, and Jordan River Utah Temple). The Ogden Utah Temple rededication is another interesting case. President Eyring conducted all three sessions and presided at the final two sessions, in which he also offered the dedicatory prayer, with President Monson having presided at and offering the dedicatory prayer in the first session. As we also know, around two years ago (on May 23, 2017), the Church announced that President Monson would be stepping back from an active role in the day-to-day administration of the Church.

Following the release of that statement, Presidents Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf assumed oversight of all decisions except for those requiring the prophet's direct approval. Following President Monson's passing last year on January 2, the First Presidency was reorganized on January 14, at which time President Eyring was called to continue his service in the First Presidency, and is serving as Second Counselor a second time, working with Church President Russell M. Nelson and his First Counselor, President Dallin H. Oaks. For the last several years, President Eyring's wife has been in ill health, and he has done a wonderful job of balancing his responsibilities in the First Presidency with his role being his wife's caregiver. Because President Eyring has a familial connection to both Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and Marion G. Romney, who were involved in the 1981 dedication of the Jordan River Utah Temple, President Nelson asked President Eyring to preside over its' recent rededication on May 20, 2018. As noted in an earlier post, President Eyring drew heavily on the original dedicatory prayer in composing the dedicatory prayer for that temple. He went on just one after that (a year ago from today) to preside over the one-session private rededication for the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, since he also has ancestral connections to that temple. Although he is now 87 years old, by all accounts, he continues to be in good health.

His lifelong devotion to education and his decades of committed Church service is an inspiration to all. I had the opportunity to attend a stake conference around 14 years ago, over which then-Elder Eyring presided. His message to us at that time focused on unity. It is a message he has since shared repeatedly in several General Conference addresses, a focus that has since been adopted by the current First Presidency, with multiple efforts underway to unify the Church on a global scale and to streamline and standardize policies and procedures. That message of unity was particularly poignant during the October 2017 General Conference, when he, as First Counselor to the ailing President Monson, served as the de facto presiding authority, since his talks highlighted the important concept that the Lord is at the helm of His work, and that, regardless of the health of His chosen prophet, He continues to move the work forward. To date, President Eyring has given a total of 103 addresses in General Conference.

Of those, 4 were given during his 7 years in the Presiding Bishopric (including his first which, for unknown reasons, is not in the main repository page where his other talks can be found), 25 others during his 12.5 years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the remaining 75 since he was first called to the First Presidency in October 2007. During his apostolic tenure thus far, he has served as a counselor to 3 Church Presidents. Aside from his being the junior and youngest member of the current First Presidency, he is the fifth-most senior apostle and the fourth oldest overall. Among his other fellow apostles, President Eyring has been one who has clearly shown when the feeling behind the message he is giving during each General Conference has had a direct impact on him. We are blessed to see how deeply he wants to convey such ideas, thoughts, and feelings to each of us. I am grateful for the life, ministry, and service of this amazing man, whom I sustain with all my heart, and for the opportunity I have had in this small way to pay tribute to him on this day as he celebrate his 87th birthday. That does if for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly-added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.