President Henry B. Eyring

“The Spirit of BYU-Idaho”

President Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor, First Presidency
September 19, 2017


Elder Oaks, members of the Board of Trustees, Commissioner Clark, past presidents of this educational institution, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, and President Henry J. Eyring: It is an honor to be here with you today.

I mentioned Henry's name last because I knew he would prefer it. He inherited that desire from his grandfather, Professor Henry Eyring, who routinely put his name last on the list of authors of the hundreds of scientific articles to which he contributed. He put above his own the name of every colleague, every graduate student, and once a struggling college physics student who happened to be his son.   

President Henry J. Eyring knows what his grandfather knew: great joy comes from building confidence in others and seeing growth in their ability to think and to do. It only takes a few teachers with this understanding to transform a little school into a great university. And those they lift go out in an exponential process of transforming others to build institutions across the world.    

I saw that once when I was asked to lecture at a great university in Korea. I expected only a few people would come to hear me. To my surprise, the great lecture hall was packed with professors and students.    

I asked my host why there was such a crowd. He said quietly, "These are the students of your father's young colleague, who became a great professor in Korea. These are his students, and their students, and their students' students. They came in gratitude. I think some of them saw your name and came because they thought you were him."    

President Henry Johnson Eyring's grandfather passed on to him, and to me, a sense of how great universities are built. They are communities of people with an insatiable thirst to know what is true and what is good. They work so hard that their ears ring. They miss meals, and they get up at night to write down ideas that came in their dreams.    

But it takes more than hard work and personal achievement to satisfy them. Those real builders of universities cannot fully enjoy their accomplishment until they help someone else learn as they have learned. We know that from our own experience. Like you, I have marveled that a master in some field would take time to help me understand what he had learned and how he did it. He gave me confidence and created in me the desire to, in turn, teach someone else. Those builders of great universities draw others around them as colleagues. They find joy in giving others confidence that they can do more than they thought that they could.    

Those of us who have taught, learned, served, and led in this school have seen that miracle many times. It is more frequent here because of the faith of the people who have gathered into this school. They share a faith that every child of Heavenly Father is potentially perfectible. And they believe that joy comes from helping someone move toward that perfection. You have seen this happen in the variety of experiences that make up the curriculum of a student here.    

I have felt it myself in the Tetons with two professors of geology, in the classroom with my co-teacher in a religion class, and in the students coming to the home of my neighbor, a professor of biology, where, in the evenings, he tutored and encouraged them to believe they could become physicians.    

A great college and university are communities of such people. There is a spirit of optimism that comes from an assurance that every person has remarkable potential to learn and to become better. There is an intense determination to learn what is true and good. And the people in that community find more joy in helping others learn than in getting something for themselves.    

Those feelings exist in people in many colleges and universities. But here at BYU-Idaho, it is realistic to expect that those feelings will be more intense, more widespread, and more enduring. Here we take the Savior as our model and mentor in all our service.   

Just as I have given President Eyring his charge as the president of this university, the Lord has given all of us a charge, accompanied by a promise. It seems to apply particularly in this special university community:

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms--   

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you. (D&C 88:78-80)

Such a charge and so great a promise tells us something of the destiny of this university. In those three verses, the Lord paints a marvelous picture of what will happen in His school as we qualify with our faith and work for His grace. And we have the advantage of knowing the Lord's purpose. It is that we will be instructed and prepared in all things to magnify every opportunity God will grant us.   

With this scriptural charge in mind, I think I understand better the charge I received at my inauguration as president of Ricks College. On that day, after my father gave an address, President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency praised the accomplishments of the faculty and staff in lifting the students to meet the standard of secular learning the Lord has set for us. Then he added what I felt was a prophetic declaration about the destiny of this school:

Her accomplishments in these secular fields, which concern worldly things, do not . . .  fulfill her destiny. Her destiny lies in spiritual things, with respect to which there is a different measure of achievement.1

I learned from President Romney that the spiritual dimension of our destiny would be measured in the lives of the teachers, the students, and all who serve here. He referred to these words from the Doctrine and Covenants:

Blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.   

For behold, the Lord shall come, and his recompense shall be with him, and he shall reward every man, and the poor shall rejoice. (D&C 56:18-19)

President Romney then quoted another revelation describing the time when the Lord will make that accreditation visit to His university here:

When I shall come in my glory, ... they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived--verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation.   

For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver. (D&C 45:56-59)

I pondered President Romney's charge when it was given. I knew that every school in the Church had been charged with teaching both secular and spiritual truth. Why, then, would the Lord want the spiritual dimension to be preeminent here?    

I came to believe that the Lord knew what this school would someday become. He knew there was a spirit in that little college, and He wanted that spirit to be preserved as He lifted it to become a great university. In those days, the students and faculty spoke often of the "Spirit of Ricks."    

The spirit was not in the buildings or the campus, though you could feel it there. Rather, it was in the hearts of a community of people who thought of themselves as poor by worldly measures--who were pure in heart, had hearts that were broken, and whose spirits were contrite. It was a place where people lifted up each other's hands when they hung down because they had received the truth of the Savior's gospel and had taken the Spirit as their guide.    

I now see more clearly what President Romney meant as he gave assurance that if we work to preserve it, the spirit for which this school has always been known would continue and flourish. As we become a great university community, the Lord would have us retain that same spirit and magnify it in the hearts of those who gather here.    

That spirit will continue to draw people here as it has in the past. You will not have to recruit faculty or advertise for students if you continue to build and nurture the spirit of BYU-Idaho. If you build it, they will come. And they will come because in their hearts they want to be part of this community.   

And then, in some future day, when the Lord comes, you will receive His thanks. You will come to know that He has been smiling on the little things you have done so faithfully to prepare this university community for that great day.    

I testify that Jesus Christ lives. He guides and blesses all who lead, study, teach, and serve Him here. The Holy Ghost has lifted and comforted us today and will in the days ahead. Our Heavenly Father has heard our prayers and has sent the Holy Ghost to give us courage to move forward and upward as the Lord builds this university in our hearts. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Hide Footnotes

  1. Marion G. Romney, "Address for the Inauguration of Henry B. Eyring as President of Ricks College," Dec.10, 1971.