When President Henry Bennion Eyring reflects upon the unexpected path his life has taken, he smiles at the knowledge that God can work miracles in the lives of His children despite their fears and feelings of inadequacy.
He draws strength from that knowledge as he contemplates what he calls the “momentous responsibility” that has come with his calling to the First Presidency. President Eyring fills the vacancy created with the death of President James E. Faust on August 10, 2007.
While looking forward to increased association with President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, he nevertheless misses President Faust.
“I try not to think about filling President Faust’s shoes because that’s impossible,” he says. “He was a uniquely prepared and accomplished Second Counselor in the First Presidency. He had unique gifts.”
At a press conference following the announcement of his call on October 6, President Eyring recalled being invited into President Faust’s office shortly after being called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 1, 1995. Instead of offering expected encouragement, President Faust pointed heavenward, smiled, and said, “Don’t talk to me. Talk to Him.” President Eyring explained, “Rather than trying to solve all my problems, he sent me to God. He had that gift of being very sensitive and kind—the dearest friend and the best mentor you could have.”
Expressing gratitude to the Lord for His trust and to President Hinckley for his confidence, President Eyring says, “It’s a great … opportunity to serve with people whom I love and whom I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators and as true Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In acknowledging the Lord’s sustaining hand, he adds, “President Hinckley is always saying, ‘Things will work out.’ I have that faith as well even as I face this momentous responsibility.”
Born on May 31, 1933, in Princeton, New Jersey, Henry B. Eyring was the second of three sons born to Henry and Mildred Bennion Eyring. His father, a world-renowned chemist, encouraged his sons to pursue careers in science. President Eyring completed undergraduate work in physics, but after serving two years in the U.S. Air Force, he enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Business, where he earned advanced degrees in business administration.
While at Harvard during the summer of 1961, he met Kathleen Johnson, who was in Boston attending summer school. They dated that summer, corresponded after she returned to her home in California, and were married in the Logan Utah Temple in July 1962. That same year President Eyring became an assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he taught from 1962 to 1971.
President Eyring describes his wife as “a person who has always made me want to be the very best that I can be.” That trait manifested itself in the middle of a night in 1971 when she woke her husband and asked, “Are you sure you are doing the right thing with your life?” She then asked him whether he shouldn’t be working with Neal A. Maxwell, then Commissioner of the Church Educational System.
President Eyring enjoyed teaching at Stanford, being near his in-laws, and serving as bishop of the Stanford First Ward, but he began praying about his wife’s question. The Eyrings did not know Commissioner Maxwell, but within days he called and invited President Eyring to Salt Lake City, where he asked him to be president of Ricks College, now BYU–Idaho. President Eyring accepted the offer and soon moved his family—which today includes 4 sons, 2 daughters, and 25 grandchildren—to Rexburg, Idaho.
He became deputy commissioner of the Church Educational System six years later and CES Commissioner three years after that, serving until his call in April 1985 as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. In September 1992 he was renamed CES Commissioner, simultaneously serving in that position and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to which he was called a month later.
President Eyring, known for his heartfelt sermons and tender spirit, says his 12 years of service in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught him an important lesson about succoring Heavenly Father’s children.
“Because of my experience in the Twelve, I have more confidence that if we can just align ourselves with what Heavenly Father and the Savior want, we can do far better than we’ve done,” he says. “God will touch people’s lives through us more effectively than we could ever expect, and He will make more of our lives than we could ever imagine.”
Despite our fears and inadequacies, he adds, Heavenly Father will guide us. “If you move ahead in faith and if you’re humble, you will hear His voice,” he says.