President Henry J. Eyring
President of BYU-Idaho
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 14 years at the university, he has served as associate academic vice president over Online Learning, advancement vice president, and academic vice president.
Prior to his work at BYU-Idaho, President Eyring worked as a strategy consultant at Monitor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and as MBA director at Brigham Young University in Provo.
President Eyring has served in various callings in the Church, including as a full-time missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission, bishop, mission president in the Japan Tokyo North Mission, and president of the Rexburg Idaho YSA 6th Stake.
President Eyring earned a bachelor’s degree in geology, a master’s degree in business administration, and a juris doctorate from BYU. 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 and Primary president. President Eyring currently serves as an Area Seventy, and Sister Eyring teaches Sunday School.
President and Sister Eyring are the parents of five children. Their three oldest children are graduates of BYU-Idaho, and their two younger children live at home. They also have four grandchildren.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
What things can we do to make this fall semester safe, spiritually rewarding, and fun?
I am always grateful to follow Sister Eyring when we speak to you at devotional. In baseball terms, she is the leadoff hitter, the top of the lineup. I fully realized that only when we had been married for several years. I was serving in a university ward bishopric. The bishop, Garth Hanson, was one of my professors. I assumed that he had chosen me for my performance in his class.
But Bishop Hanson soon revealed a key reason for calling me. During a bishopric meeting, he made the statement, “You married well.” Taking that as a compliment, I proudly said, “Thank you.” He looked at me solemnly and said, “No, you really married well.”
I was reminded of that in a similar way several years later when we were living in Massachusetts. I was serving as a high councilor in the Nashua New Hampshire Stake, and Sister Eyring, still in her twenties, was the stake Young Women president. Once, when the full stake leadership was meeting on a weekday night, she and I were unable to get a babysitter for our three young children.
I called the stake president, Ned Wheeler, and asked which of us should attend the meeting. He emphatically replied, “Oh, send your wife!” That’s about the size of it, and I’m grateful.
Dear colleagues, it is a pleasure to join Sister Eyring in welcoming you to the 2020 Fall Semester of BYU-Idaho. We have anticipated and prepared for this time for many months. As you know, the global pandemic has changed the nature of higher education, at least temporarily. Happily, though, many important things haven’t changed. And some things are even better.
A Prophetically Guided and Student-Focused University
The most important thing is that this university is guided by prophets, seers, and revelators, as well as other Church officers. Every significant decision, from the hiring of an employee to the renovation of a building, is approved by the members of the Church Board of Education, which is chaired by President Russell M. Nelson.
BYU-Idaho is also laser-focused on our students. Every employee of the university is here for you. That is true not only of professors but also all other employees, including academic advisors, tutors, and organizers of activities. Their level of talent and spirituality is, across the board, first rate.
By way of example, I began to write this address during the week when Harold Rose gave his masterful summer session devotional, titled “Sh, Be Still.” Harold oversees our university bowling and roller-skating activities. His talk was so engaging, not only spiritually and emotionally, but also intellectually, that I wondered whether I could match his moving performance.
Yet, Harold is typical of our BYU-Idaho employees, all of whom teach with the kind of power I associate with general conference. The only significant difference between Harold and most of the rest of us is that he is a much better bowler. You students are similarly gifted, particularly spiritually.
A Consecrated, Well-Prepared Team
I am grateful to be with you on our unusually strong, consecrated BYU-Idaho team during this time of medical and economic disruption. You know what has happened. The world has been temporarily disrupted. Some of us have experienced illness and financial pressures, even the loss of a job and income. Almost everyone has suffered in one way or another.
Our Rexburg campus closed during the last month of winter semester, pursuant to guidance given by the state of Idaho. Fortunately, our talented and gifted faculty members, as well as thousands of other capable and consecrated university employees, hardly missed a beat. For that we can thank the vision and foresight of three past presidents, Elder David Bednar and Presidents Kim Clark and Clark Gilbert. It was under their leadership that the university moved to year-round instruction and developed high-quality online courses.
Many of us have also experienced “remote” learning in recent years. At BYU-Idaho we are blessed to have some 350 fully online courses of our own creation, most of which have been enhanced over the years. On top of that, we have created hybrid online courses of various types. Happily, as we start the fall semester, there are also physically distanced face-to-face courses offered on our campus.
Thanks to BYU-Idaho’s year-round calendar, many of these courses have gotten even better in the past months. For that we are indebted to continuous improvement by our gifted and dedicated faculty and curriculum designers during spring semester and summer session. Many online and remote courses are now in their third or fourth generation of development. And the newly created hybrids are also facilitating good learning experiences.
Throughout the fall, we’ll continue to engage in continuous improvement. You can help by filling out satisfaction surveys administered not only at the end of the semester but also along the way.
Our Invaluable Leaders in State Government
We are deeply grateful for our colleagues in the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Thanks largely to the work of BYU-Idaho Vice President of University Resources Brett Cook, we enjoy a particularly close and valuable relationship with representatives of Eastern Idaho Public Health, notably Jody Powell, James Corbett, Geri Rackow, and Mimi Taylor. This department has the power to authorize or curtail our campus-based activities and even suspend them, as they deem it necessary to promote public health and individual welfare.
We trust and follow the guidance of these well-trained and wise state employees, and they show gratifying trust in us. We are subject to their guidelines and standards, much as students are subject to their professors’ grading systems. These representatives of the state are firm but reasonable in their standards. We are learning much from them, and they are interested in our experiences with COVID-19 management. Thanks to these expert and open-minded government officials, I have developed new appreciation for the twelfth article of faith, which states:
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. 
Fortunately, the virus can be largely avoided by simple means. We don’t have to isolate or give up all of the personal and social activities we enjoy. We can be confident in three simple habits recommended by medical doctors and government agencies: wearing face coverings, physically distancing, and washing our hands regularly.
On the BYU-Idaho campus, protective face coverings are required inside all buildings and outside where physical distancing cannot be achieved. For our collective safety, there can be no exceptions. Additionally, we also need to follow hallway directional signs. When we’re in those hallways, we can be comforted by the thought that they receive disinfecting treatments while classes are in session. Of course, the classrooms are being similarly disinfected during the breaks.
It is important for all of us to recognize and respond when we feel physical symptoms of illness. The symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 are persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. If we experience any of those symptoms, or others, we should call the Student Health Center immediately. Also, we need to quickly return any message or phone call we might receive from our friends at Eastern Idaho Public Health, which is headquartered in Idaho Falls.
It is very important to us all—students, university employees, and other Rexburg residents—to trust and immediately respond to contacts from Eastern Idaho Public Health. Any time lost in reporting puts us and everyone close to us at risk of becoming gravely ill. And, as we have seen in the media recently, even a seemingly small outbreak of cases can lead to closures of university campuses.
Personal Honor and Plans to Support the Afflicted
You and I might naturally dismiss a recommendation to “turn ourselves in” to public health officials or the university’s Student Health Center. We might try to convince ourselves that we’re overreacting to a common cold or fever. That is just one of a number of concerns that could make us reluctant to report.
Another concern might be the time required to get a diagnosis. Yet another might be feelings of guilt if we were found to have infected others already. Of course, we could also fear the possibility of having to drop classes that have a face-to-face component.
Each member of the BYU-Idaho family has personal agency. And you are worthy of that trust. But it is natural to fear the consequences of a potential quarantine. To make those consequences less burdensome, the university will immediately respond with help for quarantined students through the Student Well-Being Office, including assistance for roommates who may not be positive for COVID-19.
Free services from the university will include in-room meals and cleaning assistance. Likewise, extra academic support will be given. That support may include help with real-time access to video of classroom discussions, remote counseling with professors, and access to tutoring. No wounded academic warrior will be left on the pandemic battlefield.
Keeping Score and Playing to Win
Fortunately, the vast majority of the members of the BYU-Idaho family will not contract the virus. That is one of the reasons that we’ll be able to take good care of those who do. But all of us must remember and act upon our duty to battle the virus.
To that end, I want to share with you the public-health “grading” system to which the university is subject. It is updated each day by the state of Idaho’s Division of Public Health. You can find this scorecard at the Eastern Idaho Public Health website.
In this age of instantaneous access to information, many of us habitually check our hand-held devices or laptops for news about the people, athletic teams, or other organizations we follow. When I was a young man, I followed the Utah Jazz basketball team. I eagerly anticipated each game. If I couldn’t catch it live, I checked the score afterward to find out whether the Jazz won or lost.
Now that I’m older and worrying about retirement, I check the stock market every few days. And Sister Eyring consistently watches our checking account. Before long I’ll be retired, and we want to be sure of having enough savings to live well after the paychecks stop coming.
Many of you do something similar with your classes. If you’re like I was in college, you check your grades frequently to know where you stand relative to a good GPA, one that will serve you well after graduation.
Even more rewarding than tracking our grades or following the stock market or a great sports team is being on a great team. We’re not just fans of what happens at BYU-Idaho. We are the players, and our coaches include wise faculty members, administrators, and even prophets. We can influence the outcome of this important game, which has high stakes for us all, knowing that our efforts will qualify us for Heaven’s help.
May I suggest that we all become familiar with the health “scorecard” that will determine whether BYU-Idaho can remain open throughout this semester? Each day, at five o’clock in the afternoon, the Division of Public Health updates its COVID-19 infection statistics. In addition, the university has begun to provide a similar update and infection trendline for our students in the Rexburg area. It’s not necessary to check these scorecards daily. But, if we want to win this important health battle, we need to know whether our efforts to stay healthy are working or not.
An Epic Physiological and Spiritual Trek
Many of us have been on long, arduous journeys before. These might have been drives across several states or flights to distant countries. Perhaps you have gone on an overnight hike or climbed a mountain. Many of us have participated in youth treks sponsored by a stake or ward.
These journeys remind us of the toils and sacrifices undertaken by our Church forebears. Last year, while on a stake conference assignment, I was blessed to visit the grove of trees in Iowa City where financially poor European immigrants gathered to cut down green trees and build handcarts for the 1,300-mile trek to Salt Lake City.
These faithful, industrious Saints looked to the future, while remembering epic physical and spiritual treks of the past. Among those was Zion’s Camp, a challenging month-long, 900-mile journey from Kirtland to Missouri. The handcart pioneers also thought upon the hardships and miracles that attended Moses and the children of Israel as they departed Egypt for the promised land. The handcart pioneers likewise read about and remembered the departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem.
This current semester presents a kind of spiritual trek for all members of the BYU-Idaho community. We are starting from a challenging position. The way will be hard—we will face challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. But we are led by a living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. And he and his prophetic predecessors have appointed wise, capable faculty members and administrative employees to serve as our leaders of thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens.
To begin our metaphorical trek through this pivotal semester, your BYU-Idaho leaders, as well as your ecclesiastical leaders, invite you to observe a special fast on this upcoming Sunday. Each of us can choose a fast of the length that feels best. But we invite all students to break the fast with a meal to be provided by the university.
There is a biblical precedent for this invitation. During their last night in Egypt, the Israelites ate roasted lamb and unleavened bread. That prepared them well for the exodus. Things got tougher in the wilderness, where the Israelites ate manna, which was much less tasty. Some 700 years later, Lehi’s family made a similar journey. Rather than manna, it was uncooked meat for them on their way to the promised land.
We hope to do better than that for you. To break our beginning-of-the-semester fast, the university will provide lasagna, tossed salad, rolls, and cookies. We’re currently preparing for 17,000 diners. Information about the distribution and pickup of the meal will come soon.
The most important part of the meal will be a conversation that we invite you to have as roommates. Much like newly transferred missionaries, you might take the opportunity to plan for this upcoming semester, or “transfer.” The university will provide a few suggested topics, such as ways to keep one another safe from illness. But you and your roommates will be blessed with inspiration as you take counsel and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Connecting Face to Face
We know that there is much at stake in this semester. And many factors are beyond our control. Yet, we can be united in our efforts to fight the virus and enjoy great intellectual, social, and spiritual experiences that are life-changing in the best sense.
It is not only the virus but also isolation that is our enemy. Just two chapters into the Bible we read the statement, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”  “Gathering” is a related important theme in the scriptures, as well as the teachings of modern Church leaders.
Regrettably, due to pandemic-required limits on gatherings and close contact, many of us have felt more alone than ever before, even when we are surrounded by other people. That makes me all the more grateful for the gathering authority given by civil authorities. They have wisely struck a delicate balance between the physical risks of gathering and the psychological risks of isolation. We have been authorized, for now, to open our campus.
However, for those of us who remember the pre-pandemic days, parts of the campus don’t look the same. That’s particularly true, for example, of the Hart auditorium, which was built as a basketball arena in the days of intercollegiate athletics at Ricks College. For now, the Hart auditorium is a space to study and connect to remote classes, with desks on the protected hardwood floor. Similarly, physically distanced study spaces are available across the campus, including the balcony and north and south breezeway halls in the BYU-Idaho Center.
For those of you in Rexburg, I encourage you to go onto the campus at least several times a week, even if you don’t have any face-to-face classes. As you do so, please wear a mask or face shield. When walking around the campus, make eye contact with others and perhaps give them the “hello” salute that Sister Eyring has recommended.
And don’t shy away from conversations with other mask-wearing people. You have the power to not only make someone’s day, but to touch their soul. In fact, reaching out in this and similar ways, such as Zoom conversations, will be a blessing both to others and to you.
The Power of Example
Just as we can make someone’s day with a hello salute or a friendly conversation, our example of adhering to safety protocols can be powerful—for either good or ill. My guess is that sometime in the past six months, you have been wearing a face covering in public only to that find that a conversation partner’s mouth and nose aren’t similarly covered. Though I consider myself to be self-disciplined and knowledgeable, I have found it very hard to keep my face covering on when others aren’t. The social instinct to be friendly and supportive is almost impossible to resist.
But, in situations when we know we ought to be covered, we need to be leaders, even at the risk of seeming insensitive or even offensive. If we don’t, the result could be something like this: [video clip].
Let’s not let the crowd sway us. Instead, let’s lead out in confidence, with feelings of love and concern for the welfare of others. As we express those feelings, hearts will soften, and together we can stay safe, physically and emotionally.
The Opportunity to Be a Hero
This is a challenging but exciting time. I predict that we will remember it all of our lives. That has been true of my memories of the bursting of the Teton Dam, on an early Saturday in June of 1976. My brother Stuart and I were working the dry farm of our home teacher, Craig Moore, when the dam unexpectedly broke. Hearing the radio report, we drove to the crest of the hill and saw what looked like a giant brown lake spreading across the valley.
The reality of the flood, though, was much more harrowing. Initially, public officials told Main Street merchants to use towels to prevent water from coming under their doors. But soon a wall of water nine-feet tall broke every ground-floor window on Main Street, with plate glass windows exploding as though bombs were going off inside. Many houses were destroyed. One was lifted off its foundation, drifted downstream, and came to rest on a baseball diamond in Smith Park. A similar house was deposited on the north end of the Ricks College football field.
All seemed lost, through no fault of the victims. But the townspeople rallied. And the college became the headquarters for disaster relief. Thanks to thousands of volunteers who came in buses from surrounding states, the college miraculously opened for classes just three months later. In the meantime, the dorms housed displaced flood victims, and the Manwaring Center served hundreds of thousands of meals.
There aren’t as many people in Rexburg these days who remember that summer of disaster. Yet, every one of us has faced metaphorical floods that strained us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We are blessed to believe in the power of the Savior’s Atonement and eternal life. We know that our apparent tragedies can become our greatest triumphs. That can be true of this pandemic.
There’s poetic irony between a giant, flawed dam and an ingeniously evolved virus invisible to the human eye. We can’t tell whether the virus will merely skirt the campus, as it has done to this point, or cause every door and window to be closed, as happened in spring. Only Heaven knows. But we will give our best efforts to have a semester we can look back on as a blessed time. Heaven will do the rest.
Honoring Our Elders
Before closing, I beg your indulgence in a final, important thought. From the beginning of this pandemic, we have known that it disproportionately afflicts the elderly. Among the earliest fatalities in Utah were two friends a generation older than I. One was Bob Rose, my father’s next-door Bountiful neighbor of 43 years.  Another was Bob Garff, a well-known auto executive and politician, as well as president of the Bountiful Utah Temple,  where Brother Rose also served.
I keenly feel the loss of these wise friends. They were not only great contributors to the Church and the world at large, but also invaluable examples to me. You may have felt similar losses.
Honoring and protecting the elderly is one of the most laudable features of our society today. Though it comes at a cost to all, including the young and healthy, it is a well-justified investment in maintaining our humanity and spiritual sensitivity. In addition to making us kinder, it allows us to learn from the wisest among us. And it is what each of us will hope for as our lives come to their close.
I was powerfully taught this lesson on a spring Monday eight years ago. The wife of my boyhood home teacher Craig Moore, Lila, was passing away. She was 92 and had been widowed for 16 years. Lila’s children, Kathy and Merrill, were on their way to Idaho but hadn’t arrived.
Lila was struggling for air with such strength that her legs rose off the bed with each breath. I had given her a blessing that mentioned the First Resurrection and reuniting with Craig. Yet, she was determined to remain on Earth. In what seemed to be delirium, she declared repeatedly, “I have too much to do.”
Into her final hour, Lila repeatedly asserted that she would get better. But the labored breathing began to slow. She held my hand to the end.
How blessed we are to have the capacity to honor and prolong the lives of our forebears. They can teach us things—from both sides of the veil—that we cannot otherwise learn before it is too late to make good use of them on Earth. I admire my daughter Sarah, a BYU-Idaho graduate and now a graduate student at BYU, who drives to Bountiful at least once each week to bring dinner to her Grandpa Eyring.
It’s not necessary to have a grandpa in the First Presidency to learn priceless lessons from the experiences of those who have gone ahead of us. I encourage you, even as you juggle schoolwork and other responsibilities, to make time for your parents and grandparents, as well as additional wise, older friends.
I feel confident that this current global threat will be vanquished in due time. I hope and pray that we will qualify to keep the campus open throughout this semester. Yet I’m certain that, as we unitedly give our best efforts, Heavenly Father will reward us with the blessings he has in store for us. Let’s have a great experience this semester.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Articles of Faith 1:12.
 Genesis 2:18.
 Permission granted by Connie Rose for use of text and picture of Bob Rose, Sept. 10, 2020.
 Permission granted by Katharine Garff for use of text and picture of Bob Garff, Sept. 10, 2020.
We Are All Enlisted
Audio of President Henry J. Eyring's BYU-Idaho devotional address, fall 2020
Interview with BYU-Idaho Vice Presidents Amy LaBaugh and Brett Cook
Audio of a BYU-Idaho Radio interview with BYU-Idaho Vice Presidents Amy LaBaugh and Brett Cook about COVID-19 precautions for Fall 2020.