Hello, My Friend.
April 18, 2017
President and Sister Eyring
Henry Johnson Eyring became the 17th president of Brigham Young University-Idaho in April 2017.
President Eyring and his family have had a long association with Rexburg and BYU-Idaho. He first came to the area as a child, when his father, President Henry B. Eyring, served as president of Ricks College.
He returned to Rexburg and the relatively new BYU-Idaho in 2006. Over the ensuing 11 years at the university, he has served as Associate Academic Vice President over Online Learning, Advancement Vice President, and Academic Vice President.
Previous to his work at BYU-Idaho, President Eyring worked as a strategy consultant at Monitor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and as MBA Director at BYU in Provo.
President Eyring has served in various callings in the Church, including full-time missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission, bishop, Mission President in the Tokyo Japan North Mission, and President of the Rexburg Idaho YSA 6th Stake.
President Eyring earned a bachelor's degree in Geology, a Master of Business Administration, and a Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University. While attending BYU, he married his high school sweetheart, Kelly Ann Child.
Sister Eyring graduated from BYU with a bachelor's degree in English. She has served as a stake Young Women president, Primary president, and is currently serving as a Laurel adviser. President and Sister Eyring are the parents of five children. Their three oldest children are graduates of BYU-Idaho, and their younger two children still live at home. They also have three grandchildren.
We invite you to study and ponder on the scriptures and other preparation resources below previous to attending devotional. As you come more spiritually prepared the Spirit will have greater power to inspire you, teach you, and to testify to you of the truthfulness of the principles that will be taught.
We invite all students that are enrolled in on-campus or online classes for spring semester to complete a small assignment in preparation for this devotional, and then to share your experience on the Devotional Discussion Board. The assignment is simply to say "hello" to everyone you meet during one day between now and the devotional on April 18th.
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship...There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal."
PRES. EYRING: It's wonderful to be with you at devotional today. Sister Eyring and I appreciate the preparations you've made. More than 22,000 of you have accessed the devotional I-Learn site, and more than 800 have commented on your preparation. That will help us to enjoy a deeper learning experience. It has also allowed Sister Eyring and me to select two students, Sierra Schaefer and Howard Saavedra, who will join us at the pulpit of the BYU-Idaho Center auditorium today.
SIS. EYRING: Our topic is the expression of friendship. Together we'll explore our power to lift one another. Each of us has the ability to bless everyone we meet, even if that meeting lasts only for an instant. It is a great opportunity and a spiritual duty.
PRES. EYRING: Each of us is a daughter or son of God, created in the image of our heavenly parents. We are spirit brothers and sisters, with a common spiritual heritage. We are all destined to be powerful and radiant beyond anything we can now imagine.
SIS. EYRING: Yet our mortal frames differ dramatically. Some are more attractive by mortal standards and fashions than others. These physical differences often cause us to be treated differently.
PRES. EYRING: That is too true. I have experienced differential treatment throughout my life, particularly so in recent years. I look very different today than I did when Kelly first met me.
SIS. EYRING: It was at the back-to-school dance at Bountiful High School in 1980. Henry had spent the summer lifeguarding, and his sun-bleached brown hair was thick and golden.
PRES. EYRING: Luckily, Kelly fell in love with me and consented to marriage before I lost my hair. It was a monumental case of what salespeople call "bait and switch."
SIS. EYRING: As a child, Henry occasionally experienced partial hair loss due to a condition called alopecia. At times of emotional stress, such as the move from Rexburg's six-room Lincoln Elementary School to the comparatively gargantuan Madison Junior High School, his hair would fall out in spots. Fortunately, when the stress subsided, his hair grew back.
PRES. EYRING: But in 1995, when I was 32 years old and living in Utah, worries about my professional challenges and Kelly's loss of two pregnancies caused my hair to fall out completely--not just on the top of my head, but from head to toe, eyebrows included. The loss was gradual and patchy. When there was only enough hair left to make me look as though I had stood a little too close to a nuclear reactor, I asked Kelly what to do.
SIS. EYRING: Henry really did look unhealthy, and his friends and business associates were worried. I invited him onto our back porch and used an electric razor to shave his head. To help him feel better, I saved what was left of his hair in a small plastic sandwich bag.
PRES. EYRING: Friends quickly grew accustomed to my new appearance, though the lack of eyebrows worried strangers, who wondered about my health. The real problem, though, was a persistent and emotionally painful case of mistaken identity.
SIS. EYRING: Just six months before, Henry's father had been called to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Dad's new position made him recognizable to all Church members, in addition to many other people in Utah. That meant that strangers often mistook Henry for Elder Eyring.
PRES. EYRING: [To Kelly] Personally, I don't see the resemblance.
SIS. EYRING: Good for you, dear.
PRES. EYRING: For those who didn't know me before, my new appearance and my father's heightened public profile naturally led them to treat me differently than I was accustomed to. And the difference in treatment began to change the way I felt about myself. My sense of self-identity was hard to maintain, and my confidence dropped. Fortunately, over time my eyebrows grew back, and I learned to appreciate the blessing of representing my father to the many people who wish they could meet him.
SIS. EYRING: But Henry's experience has helped both of us think more carefully about making judgments based on the physical appearance of others. Particularly in the case of those we've never met, he and I try to see beyond outward appearance. We try especially hard to avoid drawing negative conclusions based solely on what we can see with our eyes. As Henry learned when he appeared to be sick, an unwelcoming or disapproving look can cause pain even when no words are spoken.
PRES. EYRING: In just the past few months, though, I've learned that a look of approval, even from a stranger, can be a wonderful blessing. Since the announcement of my job change at BYU-Idaho, walking across the campus has become even more delightful than before. Almost everyone smiles at me, and most people say hello. The emotional effect is wonderful. I feel as though I'm being carried on the shoulders of those I meet.
SIS. EYRING: Though my hairstyle isn't as uniquely recognizable as Henry's, I enjoy similarly warm welcomes from you. But he and I know that not everyone enjoys this kind of confidence-boosting welcome. We wish it could be so.
PRES. EYRING: In fact, there's no reason we can't all have such experiences on this campus all of the time.
SIS. EYRING: As Henry noted earlier, each of us is truly a child of God, with inherent spiritual beauty and divine potential. Our physical appearance is the product of earthly factors, particularly genetic inheritance. Unfortunately, judgments of physical attractiveness are artificial and often mistaken relative to spiritual reality. The scriptures indicate that the Savior wasn't notable for His physical appearance in this life. But listen to this description of Him by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple:
PRES. EYRING: "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters."[i]
SIS. EYRING: Given the divine heritage of everyone in this life, we are wise to look beyond the outward appearance of those we meet. Christian scholar C. S. Lewis said it this way:
PRES. EYRING: "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.... There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal."[ii]
SIS. EYRING: Because we know that all of us are children of God with divine heritage and potential, doesn't it make sense for us to recognize them accordingly? Certainly we should make that effort as members of the BYU-Idaho family.
PRES. EYRING: Amen to that. Each member of this educational family is enrolled in a modern-day School of the Prophets, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presided over by President Thomas S. Monson and the members of the Church Board of Education. Here, of all places, we should greet one another warmly and enthusiastically.
SIS. EYRING: In fact, there is a formal greeting specified in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It was given by the Lord to Joseph Smith, who presided over the School of the Prophets. According to this commandment, the teacher of the school was to greet each new student with these words:
PRES. EYRING: "Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen."[iii]
SIS. EYRING: Of course, if we were to stop and give this greeting to everyone we pass on campus, we'd all be late for class. But perhaps a simple "hello" or "hi" is enough to signal our feelings of respect and friendship.
PRES. EYRING: It really doesn't matter what word we use. In fact, even a smile can be enough. The key is simply to signal our recognition and approval of those we meet.
SIS. EYRING: A friendly "hello" is more than just a greeting. To the recipient, that greeting conveys a wealth of pleasant meaning. It says, "I have noticed you. You are my peer. If time permitted, we could be friends."
PRES. EYRING: Such a greeting is a confidence booster even when our confidence is already relatively high, as I've learned in the past two months. Think of how much more valuable it can be to someone who lacks self-confidence, someone who has few friends or is self-conscious of their appearance, as I was when my hair was falling out in patches.
SIS. EYRING: The really good news is that lifting others this way has the effect of simultaneously lifting us. When we outwardly recognize the worth of those we meet, the Holy Ghost immediately conveys to our hearts the Savior's approval and appreciation.
PRES. EYRING: Whatever spiritual and emotional burdens we may be carrying are lightened. As we attempt to build hope and optimism in others, we feel the lift ourselves. In the words of a nineteenth-century American poet, "If thee'll lift me while I lift thee, / We shall go up together!"[iv]
SIS. EYRING: At times of personal difficulty, you may be tempted to think, "I can't lift anyone. I can't even lift myself. In fact, I'm not even sure I belong at BYU-Idaho."
PRES. EYRING: But unless the Holy Ghost is telling you to go elsewhere, you know that's not true. Only the adversary would tell you that you simply don't belong here. If you are ever tempted by such thoughts and feelings, cast them out of your mind and heart immediately.
SIS. EYRING: We hope you'll believe that BYU-Idaho can be the right place for you, as it was for three of our children.
PRES. EYRING: And we promise that greeting others as though you were confident and happy here will lift not only them but also you. "If thee'll lift me while I lift thee, / We shall go up together."
SIS. EYRING: I'd like to invite Sierra Schaefer to join me at the podium. Sierra is one of the students who accepted the challenge to say hello to those she met on campus for a full day. Sierra, tell us where you're from and how long you've been a BYU-Idaho student.
SIERRA: I'm from central California, and this is my seventh semester here at BYU-Idaho.
SIS. EYRING: Oh, that's wonderful. Can you describe your experience of saying hello?
SIERRA: Saying hello was definitely awkward at first. I think some people gave me the head tilt and were trying to figure out if they've had a class with me before or why I was saying hello to them. But as I continued to say hello to students, I felt more comfortable and was able to look beyond what they were dressed as and what they looked like, and just say hello to everyone and treat them equally.
SIS. EYRING: Good work. How did your experience make you feel?
SIERRA: It made me feel great, especially the times when people said hello back. It uplifted me, and it made me feel more comfortable in my own skin, which was surprising, since I was trying to serve other people. I feel like I received service in return.
SIS. EYRING: Do you think it made a difference in your life or in the lives of those that you said hello to?
SIERRA: I truly hope so. I love the quote the president said from C. S. Lewis that says there're no ordinary people. I felt as I said hello to others, and as others said hello to me, it made me feel extraordinary, and I hope I did the same for them.
SIS. EYRING: That is wonderful. Thanks, Sierra. Now we'll let the men have a turn.
PRES. EYRING: Those are great insights, Sierra. I'd like to invite my new friend Howard Saavedra to come up. Howard, can you tell us where you're from and how long you've been a BYU-Idaho student?
HOWARD: I was born in Lima, Peru, but right now my family lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
PRES. EYRING: Wonderful. Howard, you had an interesting, unusual experience as you were saying hello to one fellow in particular.
HOWARD: Yeah, so aside from living in Peru and in Utah, I also lived most of my life in Florida, and we bounced around different cities. And it was really hard for me to communicate with my friends that I'd met there. But as I was here and I accepted the challenge to say hello, I actually ran into one of my childhood friends, and we caught up on life. And from that experience, I know how Alma felt when he finally got reunited with the sons of Mosiah.
PRES. EYRING: In your post you mentioned that, in the beginning, you weren't sure that was your friend.
HOWARD: Yeah, I didn't know who he was at first, and so I asked him. I said, "You look familiar. Where have we seen each other?" His mom was actually my Primary teacher growing up, so that was pretty cool.
PRES. EYRING: That makes me think of what it may be like in the next life, that we will see people who, on this earth, appear to be strangers, and we'll realize we knew them before. That's a great experience. What recommendations do you have for having a good experience as you greet people?
HOWARD: Aside from saying hello and just smiling, I feel like a challenge that we students can have is to remember their names. I think that Joseph Smith had a very personal experience when God called him by name.
PRES. EYRING: That's wonderful. I have to say that President Gilbert is so good at that, and it's a gift I don't have. I can't remember anybody's name unless it's Henry. I'm going to work on that. Thank you very much.
Now it's your turn. Please form groups of two or three and share your experiences of saying hello. For those of you joining devotional online, you can either talk with someone you've already contacted or participate via our I-Learn discussion board.
SIS. EYRING: Don't feel hesitant to share negative experiences or doubts. There are no bad responses. Take a minute or two. Here we go.
PRES. EYRING: It's hard to stop such valuable conversations, but we can continue them after devotional ends today. The discussion board will stay live through Thursday night. We hope that you can see and feel the benefit of our greeting one another as friends. Ideally, saying hello to future friends we're just encountering for the first time will become a hallmark of BYU-Idaho. The emotional and spiritual benefits to us all can be vast.
SIS. EYRING: Now, we feel the need to offer a gentle but serious warning to those who may say, "I don't need or want to say hello to strangers when I'm walking on the campus or taking an online class. That's my personal time; it's the only time I've got to myself. Sometimes I just need to relax and take a break."
PRES. EYRING: It's natural to have these feelings, especially when our day is already stressful enough with assignments and deadlines and social obligations.
SIS. EYRING: However, the temptation to withdraw from others may be just that--a real temptation. Our purpose in this life is to lift our spirit brothers and sisters. They need us, and we need them, to withstand the constant temptations subtly put forward by our common adversary. To deny the sociality and support of others is to put ourselves at grave risk.
PRES. EYRING: That spiritual reality can be inferred from a passage of the Doctrine and Covenants which describes those who, when this mortal life is over, will receive no spiritual glory. Section 88 explains how each of us will, following the "quickening" of the Resurrection, inherit a kingdom of glory matched to the level of spirituality we sought in this life. Some will be fit for celestial glory, others for only terrestrial or telestial glory.
SIS. EYRING: Section 88 also refers to those who will receive no glory at all. The reference in that section seems to suggest not an externally imposed punishment but rather a personal choice. Consider carefully these words:
PRES. EYRING: "And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received."[v]
SIS. EYRING: This reference to returning to one's "own place" should make us think carefully about our attitudes toward other people. We know through modern revelation that Eve's creation saved Adam from an aloneness that was declared "not good."[vi]
PRES. EYRING: We also know that gathering is a pervasive theme of the Lord's Church, especially in these latter days. It is the reason for BYU-Idaho's existence. This university is made possible by the tithes of all Church members, many of whom will never be able to come to the Rexburg campus, take an online course, or otherwise receive the blessing of gathering with the Saints. BYU-Idaho exists because there is spiritual safety and happiness to be found in what Elder David A. Bednar has called "righteous sociality."[vii] We gather together to share and increase our spiritual strength.
SIS. EYRING: Of course, we all need some personal time during the day, time to reflect and plan and relax privately. That time might include listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a video game. But it is spiritually dangerous to establish a pattern of choosing to go to your "own place" when all around you are potential friends to lift and be lifted by.
PRES. EYRING: When we isolate ourselves from others, even in what seem to be harmless activities, we expose ourselves to the subtle influences and lies of our spiritual adversary. In our isolation we may lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Without realizing, we can expose ourselves to temptations of loneliness and self-doubt. Before we know it, we may fall prey to even more serious sin. Private entertainments in which we hoped to find relaxation and refreshment can turn into emotional and spiritual traps.
SIS. EYRING: A simple but powerful way to avoid these traps is to reach out with love to those around us. That's not just a way to avoid the emotional and spiritual danger of isolation; it's also a way to fulfill the prophetic promise that President Henry B. Eyring has made to the students of BYU-Idaho.
PRES. EYRING: In 2001, just one year after the announcement that Ricks College would become BYU-Idaho, President Eyring said this about you, the future graduates of this great university:
HENRY B. EYRING: You can imagine the joy of an employer or a Church leader when such a graduate arrives. The graduates will be at personal peace by having kept the commandments. They will be natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn. They will have the power to innovate and improve without requiring more of what money can buy. Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become--and this is a prophecy that I am prepared to make and make solemnly--those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve.
SIS. EYRING: Henry and I know that this prophecy about the graduates of BYU-Idaho is being fulfilled. We have seen it in the lives of our children, who are grateful BYU-Idaho graduates. We can see it in you as well.
PRES. EYRING: A simple way to hasten the fulfillment of President Eyring's prophecy of natural leadership in your life is to greet your BYU-Idaho colleagues with a hearty hello. You'll lift them and yourself at the same time. That's natural leadership at its best.
SIS. EYRING: The good news is that every one of us can enjoy the wonderful experience of lifting and being lifted by the people around us. We don't have to become president of BYU-Idaho or look like Henry B. Eyring.
PRES. EYRING: Each of us is truly a child of God, destined to receive all of the power and beauty of our heavenly parents. We can remind ourselves of that truth by treating one another as though it is already true. There is no better place than BYU-Idaho to do that.
SIS. EYRING: Let's do it together.
PRES. EYRING: In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Doctrine and Covenants 110:3. [ii] C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory," Theology, Nov. 1941. [iii] Doctrine and Covenants 88:133. [iv] John Townsend Trowbridge, "A Story of the 'Barefoot Boy,'" The Poetical Works of John Townsend Trowbridge . [v] Doctrine and Covenants 88:32. [vi] Abraham 5:14. [vii] David A. Bednar, "Inaugural Response," BYU-Idaho, Feb. 1998.