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:
Can you recall a time when you felt the joy of being a Good Samaritan or receiving help from a Good Samaritan? What did you learn from the experience?
I am grateful to join Sister Eyring in welcoming you to this devotional. And we join you in gratitude for the ability to gather virtually in Rexburg and around the world. We’re looking forward to a good winter semester and the year 2021.
We also have many reasons to be grateful for the recent fall semester. Through attention to behaviors such as wearing masks, limiting the size of our gatherings, and otherwise qualifying for Heaven’s blessings, we finished Fall semester with just one third of the campus COVID cases at which we peaked in October.
That is a tribute to our BYU-Idaho and Rexburg communities, as well as our colleagues at Eastern Idaho Public Health. Collectively, we exercised self-awareness and self-sacrifice. There was a spirit of taking care of one another. Particularly notable was our faculty members’ efforts to provide high-quality courses via a broad range of instructional and communication techniques. BYU-Idaho students and employees around the world came together to participate in miracles of education and ministering.
All of that said, this is not the time to relax. We remain in a state of high alert. Vaccines are coming, but not soon enough for this semester. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, and we must maintain our existing defenses while considering new ones.
As we did last fall, we invite all students to join in a special, one-meal fast next Sunday, January 17. For those in Rexburg, there will be a break-the-fast meal provided through the university and the student wards.
You will receive an email from the university this afternoon with information about the delivery of a discussion guide and the meal. As in the fall, we invite you to make that mealtime one of discussion focusing on what you and your roommates or spouse can do to have a healthy and spiritually blessed semester.
Given our fall success, we can aspire to doing even better in winter, notwithstanding the cold. Fall showed us that we can adapt and survive. Winter presents an opportunity to thrive. Even last semester, when pandemic protocols put a damper on many face-to-face gatherings, there were innovative, safe ways of ministering to one another and enjoying high-quality learning experiences.
For example, Cristopher Tena, a senior from Los Angeles, California, was tasked with organizing volunteers for meal delivery to quarantined students who were unable to leave their apartments. During our peak infection period last semester, this team of volunteers was responsible for delivering food to 300 students twice a day. On snowy days you could spot them loading food into vehicles that they had named "Santa's Sleigh" and "The Polar Express.”
When speaking of these student volunteers, Cristopher said, “They were examples of selfless service. They did not need to know the name of the individuals they helped. They did not need a reward. Instead, they saw an opportunity to serve and did just that. I can speak for those [volunteers] when I say that their favorite part was the distant thank you they would hear from behind closed doors as they walked away.”
Like Cristopher and these volunteers, BYU-Idaho students around the world have been givers and recipients of this same Christlike behavior. Alissa Hunsaker shared one example on this week’s discussion board, and I have invited her to share this experience with you:
I was at the grocery store with my three-year-old in the cart and my baby in a carrier on my chest. My shoe was untied, and I kept tripping on it again and again. I was trying to tie my shoe without waking up my baby, and I just couldn't reach. A stranger walking by thought I was trying to pick something up and offered to help. I sheepishly said, “No, thanks. I’m just trying to tie my shoe.” He knelt down and tied my shoe then wished me a good day and moved on. It was a little thing, but it meant so much to me. It reminded me of the Savior washing His apostles’ feet. I learned that the Lord is always mindful of us, and that He often shows His love for us through the service of others.
These inspiring stories of sacrifice and success are modern-day examples of the ministry of the Good Samaritan.  You know the story well. This traveler, a member of a people deemed inferior and hostile to the Jews, made the dangerous journey from Jerusalem down to Jericho, a city of Samaria. It was a descent of nearly three and a half thousand feet and was renowned for ruthless highwaymen.
The Good Samaritan came upon a severely wounded man twice ignored by previous passersby. Both of them were socially distinguished. In fairness to them, stopping to help was risky. Yet, unlike them, the Samaritan not only attended to the man’s wounds but delivered him to an inn, at which he paid the price of lodging. His continuing commitment was manifested by the promise of returning to settle any unpaid charges.
The Good Samaritan risked harm while giving his all. And there was nothing in it for him but the satisfaction of sacrificing and serving.
A Tradition of Sacrificing and Serving
BYU-Idaho is blessed with a tradition of attracting and nurturing Good Samaritans. I saw that as a young boy of twelve. On a beautiful Saturday morning in June of 1976, the just-completed Teton Dam broke. Thanks to fortunate timing and good communication, the death toll was 11, rather than thousands.
But, in addition to the tragic loss of lives, the physical devastation downstream was immense. Water ran more than six feet deep down Rexburg’s Main Street. The damage was amplified by the lumber mill northeast of town. Thousands of large logs and wooden beams stacked high for shipping became floating battering rams, demolishing houses in the path of the flood.
Historical accounts of the disaster are sobering. For example, Roy and Veion Cole’s home was knocked off its foundation. It was then skewered by a downed light pole, fully demolishing it. Veion later recalled:
We had the post office on the east of us, and the water went right through their building and took the mail and the mail carts out and put it all in our driveway. The whole side of our street looked like it had been the old channel of the river. All of the houses were off their foundations, and all but two had to be demolished.
The timing was especially poignant, as Roy had just received a total hip replacement and could do little in the cleanup. Things went from bad to worse as he experienced a massive heart attack. Later, though, Veion shared this sweet recollection:
Roy was really appreciative of the six older men from Ogden, Utah, who went into his blacksmith shop and shoveled mud and carried it out in wheelbarrows for two days. He said they were all past 65 years old. They were independent. They wouldn’t let you buy their dinner; they brought it with them. They were members of our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Of course, the U.S. government took full responsibility for the disaster and subsequent cleanup, which ultimately tallied $300 million. But the government representatives were surprised at how local citizens, Church leaders, and the representatives of the College retained their independence. Wood Miller, Ricks College Housing Director, later said this:
[G]overnment officials kept insisting that they would pay me for the housing of these flood victims, because off-campus or anywhere else they had to pay two hundred dollars a month for apartments. Each time they would offer to pay, we would say, “No, these are our people and this is on the house.” . . . I think that the college rose to the opportunity of giving service.
The same can be said of the vast majority of local citizens. When asked about the effect of the flood on him, Albert Pieper replied:
Well, it’s changed my life, because I think you become aware of where your values are…And I think it helped you to see that people, other people, are basically good—that you don’t stand alone in a time of disaster or trial. [T]here are others to help you.”
Emotional Hard Times
The flood was hard on everyone, but particularly so on children. Our friend Brett Cook, who now directs our University Resources area, fled to high ground with only the clothes on his back. It was more than a week before he could get a donated shirt and pair of pants.
He was particularly self-conscious on the second Sunday after the flood, when Church President Spencer W. Kimball came to Rexburg for a special meeting in the Hart auditorium.
But he was just one of many who felt underdressed. Of course, President Kimball was gracious and kind.
Sadly, many children lost all of their personal possessions in the flood, including pets, bicycles, and dolls. While waiting for their homes to be repaired or replaced, they stayed with their parents in the college dorms or in the basements of townspeople living above the crest of the flood.
Many of them, especially the youngest, had little to do.
As the hot, lazy summer months came, a surprising pastime emerged. Young people—girls as well as boys—took to building dirt dams in street gutters in front of the homes or college dorms in which they were sheltering. Once a sufficiently large pile of dirt was deposited, garden hoses were used to fill the earthen dams.
When the water level reached the crest of the dam, the builders used shovels to create a small breach on one side, just the way the Teton Dam broke.
Like the real dam, these miniature versions first leaked, then breached, and ultimately left half of the dam with no water behind it, just like the real one.
The young dam builders probably didn’t perceive a psychological impulse to mimic the building and breaching of the Teton Dam. But there was little for them to do during that crowded, hot summer. It was natural for children to reenact the disaster that had taken their physical possessions and turned their lives upside down.
Some of these children’s parents and older siblings naturally wrestled with unanswerable questions. “How did this happen?” “Why us?” “Who’s to blame?”
My bishop, Clayter Forsgren, a professional engineer, presided over a sacrament meeting eight days after the flood, the first opportunity for our ward to gather.
My father recorded this summary of Bishop Forsgren’s remarks in his journal:
We attended a fine sacrament meeting where Bishop Forsgren bore testimony and gave advice that we should work to clean up and theorize later. He said, “Sure, I’ve got a theory as to why I lost my busines building: I built it near the river, and the dam burst.”
Like thousands of other residents, Bishop Forsgren received financial compensation from the federal government, enough to build on higher ground or start a different business, perhaps even enough to retire. But he and his associates rebuilt and went back to work on the same riverside lot. Bishop Forsgren passed away seven years ago, after decades of Church service in many capacities. Today the company he started operates in ten states.
“What Can I Do?”
Our current state of pandemic is different from the Teton Dam flood, which was a larger-than-life, undeniable disaster. By contrast, the virus seems unique among diseases, sneaking among us all, while infecting relatively few. But the long-term consequences of infection are not fully understood. And now the virus appears to be mutating, becoming more easily contracted.
In fact, a COVID-19 dam has broken on us. But we can be sure that personal and collective righteousness will qualify us for Heaven’s blessings, as always. Part of qualifying is the maintaining of pandemic precautions, as we did last semester.
However, I, for one, need to change some of my pandemic habits. Chief among those, I am ashamed to admit, is the daily check of COVID statistics. It’s as though I build and break my own street-gutter dam every day. In my partial defense, I did better before our area shot to the top of the New York Times list of most-infected counties, per capita. For several weeks, I sarcastically thought, “We’re number one!”
Fortunately, the situation improved as the semester went on. And Madison County was also doing well, thanks in large part to close collaboration between the university and our civic leaders. I’m aware of shifts in the trends, but not compulsively checking the statistics each evening.
Notwithstanding my genuine concerns about this winter, I’ve learned to trust knowledgeable people, including BYU-Idaho University Resources Vice President Brett Cook and his close colleague Eastern Idaho Public Health Director, Geri Rackow. In collaboration, they tell us what changes to undertake. It has also been encouraging to take counsel with the civic leaders of the City of Rexburg and Madison County. There is safety in such deliberate, informed counsel.
This semester, I am committed to thinking less about the spread of the pandemic and more about what I can do about it. Next Sunday, Sister Eyring and I will observe a morning fast, followed by a meal over which we will make plans for a safe, successful semester. We will counsel and pray, for ourselves and those with whom we interact.
We invite you to do the same. Vice President Cook, with the help of his professional colleagues and your ward leaders, will provide a meal of lasagna, green salad, and rolls, as we did for 19,600 students last fall. We promise that you will be blessed as you take counsel together and seek Heaven’s guidance.
My personal plan is to do the simple things within my control. For me, that means wearing a protective mask when I leave the house, even outside. Sister Eyring is thoughtful to provide one. Actually, I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of a mask. It’s good for keeping my face warm. I don’t know how my nose has survived so many Rexburg winters without one.
I’m also going to be more generous in judging others’ decisions and actions. And I’ll refrain from speculating or seeking to assign blame to others.
Samaritans of Spring
The Good Samaritan modeled that behavior. He didn’t judge the beaten man on the perilous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Nor did he make excuses, as the danger of the situation would have allowed. He took the risk of helping.
We have similar service opportunities this winter. The pandemic dam has broken; we must continue to deal with the flood of invisible, stealthy disease. It is time to go to work, like the Good Samaritan, focusing on what each of us can do, individually and collectively.
What we know from the Teton Dam flood and our recent experiences in fall is that this winter can be a spiritual proving ground. Through Book of Mormon prophets, we are taught that opposition is essential to our spiritual growth in this life.  We also learn that we are here on Earth to be tested and tried, for our good, as the Lord declared to Moroni:
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. 
President Nelson has also taught this principle, saying: “Every test, every trial, every challenge and hardship you endure is an opportunity to further develop your faith.” 
This semester presents such an opportunity to increase in faith and charity. As we minister to one another, we can become Good Samaritans, examples of our Savior Jesus Christ in all we do. That will bless not only those we serve, but also ourselves.
COVID management and response is, for now, an unofficial but very important element of our university curriculum. In addition to increasing our wisdom and charity, it is preparing us to do harder things in the future. BYU-Idaho’s certificate and degree programs are similar: they become more intellectually challenging from beginning to end. Then, after graduation, the challenges only grow.
Thanks to our present challenges, you will be better prepared for school, employment, and family setbacks. You and I both will be more thoughtful and charitable. Like the Good Samaritan, we will know how to lift up the hands that hang down.  That will not only set us apart as leaders but also prepare us for inevitable challenges never imagined.
Nonetheless, many types of “dams” will break on us and those we care for. The floods may bring illness and quarantine, school and career setbacks, and, perhaps most painful of all, family sorrows. But that “curriculum” is central to the purpose of this Earth life.
When floods come, we must not shirk or take the easy way out. Let’s not ask, “Why me?” or “Who is to blame?” And let’s not feel rebuked by Heaven. The Apostle Paul, who endured more than his share of hard missionary assignments, wrote this to the Hebrew saints:
[W]hom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 
That was similarly true of Joseph Smith and other founders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were repeatedly slandered, beaten, and imprisoned. But they rose above the flood of persecution. As Joseph wrote in the Doctrine and Covenants,
“Deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me.” 
Sailing into the Wind
Few people suffer as Paul and Joseph did. But all of us in mortality face floods of hardship and storms of sorrow. In the best of times, we enjoy smooth sailing, as this young fellow did in his grandma and grandpa’s California swimming pool. He and his family lived in their guest house.
In 1971 his father was called as president of Ricks College. The shirt he wears in this photo is a gift bearing the logo of the college. When his father first shared the news of the family’s move to Rexburg, he declared, “I wish we could carry you on our shoulders.” Yet the boy didn’t fully understand where his family was going. The next day, in second-grade show-and-tell, he stood and proudly announced, “I’m moving to Rexburg, Iowa.”
Little did he know how the winds would blow and the snowdrifts rise in Rexburg. But life almost always requires shoveling snow drifts and sailing into headwinds. The breeze is rarely directly at our backs, just the desired strength and warmth. Providentially, though, our testimony of the restored Gospel and our faith in prophetic guidance act as a rudder and a deep keel. And the Spirit can warm our hearts and enlighten our minds in the fiercest of winter gales, just as in times of unanticipated floods.
Making progress in this earth life takes determination, effort, and often sacrifice. Even in the toughest spiritual seas, we must not cut our spiritual anchors or let ourselves be driven with the wind and tossed. 
Providentially, resiliency is built into our bodies, minds, and spirits. I saw that on Christmas Day, in a three-year-old grandson who woke in a London hospital after unanticipated open-heart surgery. This toddler and all of us have access to untold spiritual and emotional strength, through our Savior Jesus Christ.
We have shown the ability to get through these challenging times. We can do more than just survive this winter semester. It can be a heroic journey, like the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Working together, we can strengthen and carry one another. We can be generous, courageous Good Samaritans, looking back with gratitude and satisfaction in work well done.
Like the Good Samaritan, we will be protected and blessed in this service. Heaven will “vaccinate” us, spiritually and emotionally, for service in difficult assignments such as the one undertaken by the Good Samaritan. Throughout our lives, we will be ready to lead when a pandemic threatens, a dam breaks, or a rocky, dangerous road must be traveled.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 See Luke 10:29-37.
 See 2 Nephi 2:10-11, 15.
 Ether 12:27.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1990.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.
 Hebrews 12:6-7.
 Doctrine and Covenants 127:2.
 See James 1:6.