Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Janet Peterson with Bishop Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Print Share
    Bishop Henry B. Eyring

    Bishop Henry B. Eyring grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. His father, Henry Eyring, a noted chemist, taught at Princeton University.

    Bishop Eyring’s mother was working on a PhD at the University of Wisconsin when she met Henry Eyring, who was doing postdoctoral studies. They married and eventually moved to Princeton. “All the Latter-day Saints in New Jersey at that time comprised only one district,” Bishop Eyring related. “And New Jersey had a very large number of people. There were very few branches, and the Church had not yet built a single building there.

    “Before World War II our branch met in a hotel. My memories of Sunday School classes are of rented hotel rooms, where we sat on the bed. During the war, from the time I was eight until I was twelve or thirteen, church was held in our home because gas was rationed. Mother was the pianist and the chorister. Father was the branch president. The dining room table was both the speakers’ rostrum and the sacrament table. Usually about ten to twelve people would attend. To me, the Church couldn’t have been more lovely. The relationships I felt at church in my home are what I want to have again with Heavenly Father.

    “My first experience of knowing a spiritual truth occurred in the Roger Smith Hotel, where my family had traveled for a conference. I was sitting on a folding chair somewhere near the back, next to my mother. I must have been very young, because I can remember putting my legs through the back of the chair and sitting aft instead of forward. I heard a man’s voice from the pulpit, and I turned around and looked at him. He stood behind a rostrum set on wooden risers. There was a tall window behind him. I remember only that he was tall and bald and that he seemed very old to me. As he spoke, I knew that what he said came from God and that it was true. It burned in my heart.

    “My memories of childhood are inextricably connected with family and Church. I never remember my parents sitting me down to teach me gospel principles because we just always lived in a gospel setting, a family-home-evening atmosphere.

    “Father came home every night shortly after six o’clock, and dinner was always at six-thirty. I remember wonderful evenings at the dinner table. The moment dinner was over, Dad would help clear the table; then we would go into the living room. He would be at one end of the room, totally absorbed in the work he’d brought home. Even so, he always knew what we were doing. If we listened to some good program on the radio, we would keep it down low so that it wouldn’t disturb him. Then, in the middle of the program, he’d look up and smile and say, ‘Turn it up a little. I can’t hear what’s happening.’

    “My father was never anxious about his work; he just loved it. My mother was a very musical person. She played the piano and loved the symphony. Dad would go to the symphony with her, and when the music stopped, he’d stand up and ask, ‘Is it over?’ and Mother would realize that he’d been thinking about molecules the whole time. Chemistry to him was the air he breathed.

    “In the Book of Mormon the prophet Mormon explains that the Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites ‘because of their … steadiness in the faith’ (Hel. 6:1). If I have learned anything from my father, it is steadiness and total absorption.

    “From my mother I learned the lesson of sacrifice. Mother always put the family, the gospel, and the Lord first. She’d say, ‘Don’t complain when things don’t go very well. Life is a test to see whether or not you will keep the commandments.’ When President Kimball spoke at her funeral, he spoke of her illness and said, ‘God loved her, and He was polishing her.’ And that was just the way she saw life.

    “I never knew any other children in the Church when I was growing up, so to me Latter-day Saint youths were my brothers, Ted and Hardan. I just loved them.

    “I remember going to see my grandfather in Pima, Arizona. He and Grandma had a home on a hill. When my family went to see them, Grandma would fix us huge meals, and Grandpa would borrow some horses and take us kids riding. Afterward Grandpa would talk to each child alone, treating us as if we were terribly important. I decided that I was his favorite grandchild. Years later, my cousin Eddie Kimball said he’d decided the same thing. Grandpa had a way of making you feel not just special but truly noble.

    “Grandma Eyring came to Princeton to visit us. She was always busy. If she wasn’t doing something, she’d say, ‘Let’s take a walk.’ Although she was quite short, she could walk faster than anyone I knew. I had to go on a dead run to keep up with her. One time I said, ‘Grandma, it’s raining; we’ll get soaked.’ So we got soaked while Grandma walked through Princeton, seeing the historic sites.

    “My message to the children is this: You really are Heavenly Father’s children. And if you love Him, then you will not be inclined to do things that are wrong. Heavenly Father thinks the world of you. He’s given you many blessings, and He wants to give all His children many more blessings. Don’t do anything that would prevent Him from giving them to you. Don’t do anything that would keep you from going home to Him.”