Gaining and Strengthening a Testimony

September 18, 2018

President Henry J. Eyring

BYU-Idaho President

Biography:

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, dvancement 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 and Sister Eyring currently team teach the CTR 6 class in Primary.

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 three grandchildren.

Spiritual Preparation

Pre-devotional Discussion:

Without revealing private details, can you share, on the devotional discussion board, a story of how repenting increased your faith in the Gospel and the Church?

I’m grateful to testify of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ.  I was blessed to gain my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was very young.  I vividly recall talking with my mother one Sunday night as she sat next to the bathtub in which my younger brother Stuart and I were bathing.  That tells you how young I must have been, because I didn’t mind sharing my bath with Stuart.

Earlier in the day, my Sunbeam teacher had taught me about the celestial kingdom.  Somehow, I got the idea that getting into the celestial kingdom would be very difficult.  That made me worry that I might not qualify.  Sitting there in the tub that night, I looked up and asked my mother, “Will I go to the celestial kingdom?”  I remember her serious, confident look as she said, “Yes, you will.”

Mother responded so surely that it made me wonder if getting into the celestial kingdom was easy.  I decided to test her on this point.  I asked, “Will Stuart get in?”  “Yes,” she replied, “Stuart will too.”

Mother was right about Stuart.  He is my parents’ bishop and a wonderful husband and father.  Stuart is on track for the celestial kingdom.

I am trying to stay on track as well.  My testimony of the Church hasn’t faltered since Mother first told me that it is true.  Yet I have not been immune to challenges and have at times struggled to defend my faith.   A particularly unsettling challenge came when I was a young law clerk. 

A supervisor who knew of my Church membership told me that new research had invalidated the Book of Abraham.  I was shaken by that accusation.  But I felt confident in a secret weapon.  My father had recently been called as a General Authority.  I was sure that he would have arguments to counter those I faced at work.

It was in such a state of confidence that I called my father on the phone.  I described my situation and eagerly awaited his answer.  I was sure that he would refute the accusations about the Book of Abraham.  But his answer surprised me.  He simply asked, “Have you read the Book of Abraham?”

“Yes,” I replied.

He asked, “How do you feel when you read it?”

“Good,” I admitted.

“What else do you need to know?” he asked.

Of course, that phone conversation didn’t help me much at work.  But for the last thirty years it has caused me to reflect on my testimony of the Book of Abraham and the other works of scripture revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith, especially the Book of Mormon. 

I cannot prove to other people the divinity of these books.  But, as I read them, they repeatedly prove themselves to me, through a warm feeling that first came as my mother read them aloud while Stuart and I snuggled next to her in bed.

As I grew older, I discovered another source of testimony that our latter-day scriptures are true.  Thanks to Mother, I knew scripture stories about people who had repented and received forgiveness of their sins. 

The stories of Enos and Alma the Younger became precious to me in my teenage years, when I recognized the need for heart-changing repentance.  Responding to the Spirit’s prompting, I followed the examples of Enos and Alma, praying for forgiveness and peace.  When those feelings came to me, as they had to them, I knew in both my heart and my mind that those stories are true.  I could not deny that Enos and Alma the Younger were real people whose stories had been compiled by the prophet Mormon and revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Yet I knew more than that.  I knew that in this dispensation the Lord has restored His gospel in its fullness and His Church in its completeness, with priesthood leaders authorized to speak for Him.  Their personalized counsel, given to me both over the pulpit and also one-on-one, changed my life.  I knew that they spoke for Heavenly Father, because heeding their counsel helped me find peace and happiness when I could obtain it nowhere else.  Thus, I gained an unshakable testimony that the Church restored through Joseph Smith is still led by a living prophet, and by other leaders, called under Heavenly Father’s direction.  

Because of these life-changing experiences, I can transcend the occasional temptation to doubt what I know.  When rumors and supposed discoveries about the Church come up, I suspend judgment.  I find it unnecessary to investigate or rethink my beliefs.  I have a better way to renew my testimony. 

Whenever I am tempted to doubt the Church or any of its leaders, past or present, I need only to reevaluate my own spiritual state.  I ask myself the question, “Am I true?”  I define the word “true” the way you may remember doing when assessing a true-or-false statement on a school test. 

To be true, all parts of a statement must be true.  Any falseness, no matter how small, makes the whole statement false.

By that standard, my answer to the question, “Am I true?” is always “No.”  There is always some weakness I can identify or some failure requiring repentance.  It could be a harm caused to myself or to others.  It could also be a failure to do a good deed that was within my power. 

Upon identifying such a personal failure to be true, I take it to Heavenly Father in prayer.  I try to emulate the Savior’s disciples when, during the Last Supper, He announced that one of them would betray Him.  Each disciple wisely asked, “Lord, is it I?”[i]

Of course if I have felt the need to ask this question, I probably have betrayed the Savior in some way.  In answer to my prayers for guidance, the Holy Ghost may direct me to counsel with my immediate priesthood leaders, especially my father.  More often, though, the stirrings of conscience, sparked by the Holy Ghost, lead me to private feelings of remorse with a related desire to make things right.  That is especially the case when I have hurt someone by my acts or my failure to act.  Following the Spirit’s guidance, I try to right the wrong quickly. 

When this cycle of recognition and repentance is complete, I am not just relieved of the pain of feeling untrue.  I have also re-proven to myself that the Church and its sacred teachings are true. 

Thus, by responding to my human falseness, with the help of the Church’s doctrines and leaders, I can actually strengthen my testimony.

Fortunately for me, I have enough personal weakness and falseness to last a lifetime.  As a result, I need never be thrown into doubt by any accusation against the Church, its doctrines, or its leaders.  Whenever I feel such doubts and the associated temptation to judge the Church, I try to remember to turn a critical eye back on myself.  When I do that, there is always something in my thoughts and actions that needs fixing, or at least improving. 

If you and I act this way consistently, the adversary’s attempts to sow doubts about ourselves or the Church will paradoxically have the reverse effect.  His temptations, if we recognize them, can strengthen us.  That should not come as a surprise.  When Heavenly Father cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, knowing that they would be subject to temptation, He promised them that they and their posterity could transcend the adversary’s subtle strategies.[ii] 

The Apostle Paul likewise knew that our mortal frailties, both physical and spiritual, can work for our good.  He told the Corinthian Saints:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.[iii]

In fact, the Lord seems to have designed a mortal existence in which weakness and temptation can play a crucial, refining role.  In Ether 12:27, He says:

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.[iv]

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, father of Enos, taught this same principle in explaining how he and Nephi could command even the waves of the sea:

Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.[v]

If you are currently battling doubts about the Church, try the following spiritual experiment.  Assume that the Church is true, notwithstanding the human frailties of its members and leaders.  Then look for at least one way in which you are not being true to the teachings of the Church.  Perhaps there is a transgression weighing on your mind and heart.  Or perhaps you have treated someone poorly and have been delaying an apology; that is a common fault of mine.

After pondering this regret long enough to feel your heart soften, seek direction from Heavenly Father.  Consider talking with your bishop about the matter, even if it doesn’t seem necessary.  He can offer valuable counsel.  He can guide you in seeking the forgiveness of persons you may have offended.  When appropriate, he will specify the conditions that will allow you to again feel close to Heavenly Father and the Savior.

Then, liken yourself to Enos and Alma.  Pray for feelings of remorse and for guidance in making things right.  Having done that, pray for feelings of forgiveness.  They may not come immediately.  There may be more time and effort needed.  But, with your bishop’s guidance and your own persistent efforts, the feeling of forgiveness eventually will come.

As this happens, you can recognize not only the miracle of forgiveness but also the power of the doctrines of the Church, through which forgiveness has come.  You can once again prove the truthfulness of the Church, notwithstanding the imperfections of its members.  You can be sure that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are divinely inspired guides for our lives.  You can have faith that the celestial kingdom is within reach.

I’m grateful for the following insight provided by Taylor Olsen who, like many of you, provided thoughts on the devotional discussion board. It was wonderfully difficult to choose just one comment to share today, but I am sure you will enjoy Taylor‘s message as well as the marvelous videography work done by our BYU-Idaho team just this last Friday.  [Play video.] 

I am grateful to Taylor for sharing that wonderful testimony of repentance and forgiveness. 

I know that Enos, Alma, Abraham, and all other characters in our revealed scriptures are real.  That knowledge has come by following their teachings and personal examples, especially the examples of repenting and obeying.  Fortunately, this test is repeatable.  It is a lifelong cure for doubt and a prescription for unshakable faith.  The Savior said it this way:

My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.[vi]

I am profoundly grateful for my testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel as contained in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I first gained this testimony from my angelic mother.  With the help of her and other faithful teachers, especially my father, my testimony steadily grew in boyhood.  It became independent and strong as I began to read the scriptures and to seek divine confirmation of their truthfulness.

In my adulthood, the Church has come under increased scrutiny and attack.  But I have felt well-prepared, thanks largely to the teachings and testimony of youth.  In addition, my faith has been strengthened through repentance.  I can testify of the Church’s truthfulness because I am too often untrue to my sacred covenants.  I frequently fall short. 

When this happens, I may be tempted to put the blame elsewhere.  However, I’ve learned that it is a blessing to have my conscience pricked and my pride revealed.  Personal shortcomings and the desire for repentance repeatedly turn me to the teachings of the Church and to its leaders for comfort and guidance.  In the process of repenting, I receive renewed assurance that the Lord is leading the Church.  My faith and ability to transcend temptation increases.  To paraphrase Paul, when I am spiritually weak, my reliance on the Church makes me strong.[vii]

I am also grateful for my inspired leaders, especially my parents.  My father has taught me to live by faith and the feelings that produce it.  My angel mother has instilled confidence that I might qualify for exaltation.  I know that she is doing so, and I plan to join her in the celestial kingdom.

I testify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by our Savior.  I am grateful for the small role I play in it and for its huge role in my life.  May we be blessed as we together advance the work of Heavenly Father’s kingdom, repenting and increasing in faith as we go.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[i] Matthew 26:22.

[ii] See Genesis 3:15 Moses 4:21.

[iii] 2 Corinthians 12:10.

[iv] Ether 12:27.

[v] Jacob 4:7.

[vi] John 7:16-17.

[vii] See 2 Corinthians 12:10.

Gaining and Strengthening a Testimony

Audio of President Eyring's BYU-Idaho devotional, Fall 2018


BYU-Idaho Radio Interview

Audio of President Eyring's BYU-Idaho Radio interview about his devotional, Fall 2018.