“Elder Henry B. Eyring Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, May 1995, 105–6
As a young child near baptism age, Henry B. Eyring sat with his legs through the back of his chair while listening to a speaker in church. “I turned around to look at him,” remembers Elder Eyring. “I knew that what he said came from God and that it was true. It burned in my heart.”
Now sixty-one years old, Henry B. Eyring fills the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created by the reorganization of the First Presidency following the death of President Howard W. Hunter on March 3.
Born 31 May 1933 in Princeton, New Jersey, Henry, or Hal as he was called, was the second of three sons born to Henry and Mildred Bennion Eyring and reared in a home filled with music, intellectual discovery, and spiritual growth. “Religious faith enhanced scientific study in our home,” says Elder Eyring, whose father taught chemistry at Princeton University and whose mother was a gifted teacher and musician. During World War II, Sunday meetings for the small local branch of the Church were held in the Eyring home.
In 1946 the Eyrings moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Henry Eyring headed the Graduate School at the University of Utah. The Eyring boys—Edward, Henry, and Harden—were no longer the “only Aaronic Priesthood” at church.
“I studied physics because my dad said it was important to get a grasp of the sciences,” says Elder Eyring, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Utah in 1955. Following college, Elder Eyring served two years in the United States Air Force in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Simultaneous with his military service, Lt. Eyring served as a district missionary in the Western States Mission. Working evenings and weekends, he taught the gospel to many.
After his service in the military, Elder Eyring attended Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts, where he graduated with a master’s degree in business administration in 1959 and received a doctoral degree in the same field in 1963.
“The formal education we receive makes up only a small part of what we need to know,” says Elder Eyring of secular learning. “Life is more than a career; life is a mission. Life has a purpose, and its purpose requires learning across a wide spectrum. We should be learners throughout our lives.”
While at Harvard, he met Kathleen Johnson, daughter of Joseph and Laprele Lindsay Johnson of Palo Alto, California. They married in the Logan Temple in 1962, eventually becoming the parents of six children—Henry, Stuart, Matthew, John, Elizabeth, and Mary.
The Eyrings have always valued family life. “Hal has taught the gospel in our home with great clarity and conviction,” says Kathleen. “And, to make it all the clearer for us to understand, he has lived it.”
Saturday morning projects, such as building a bookcase or planting flowers, supplemented family home evenings when the children were young. Intellectual discovery and spiritual growth were fostered, and athletics provided balance. “I have never pursued any sport I couldn’t do with my children,” he says. So tennis, basketball, and swimming became the family activities.
Career choices for Elder Eyring followed his decision to teach and led to a position in 1962 as a professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, including a year as a Sloan Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He also served for four years as bishop of the Stanford First Ward, a student ward in the Palo Alto Stake. “In 1971, after nine years at Stanford, I accepted the opportunity to serve as president of Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho,” says Elder Eyring, who during the Idaho Teton Dam disaster helped shovel mud alongside the students. “Six years later, in July 1977, I began eight years of service with the Church Educational System—three as deputy commissioner, and five as commissioner of education.”
Elder Eyring’s Church service includes being a regional representative and a member of the Sunday School General Board. In April 1985 he was called as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and in October 1992 he was called to serve in the First Quorum of Seventy. As a Seventy, he again served as commissioner of education.
“What’s really important in Church education is the student and the teacher and what happens between them,” says Elder Eyring. “We don’t want to miss the chance to make a difference.”
On Friday, March 31, when he received his call to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he was also serving as second counselor in the North America West Area presidency.
“When you know something to be true, you should act upon that truth,” he once said. Years ago, truth burned within the heart of young Henry B. Eyring, and now Elder Eyring continues his lifetime of acting upon that truth.
“Jesus Christ lives; he has ‘tied’ himself to us,” says Elder Eyring, using the analogy of mountain climbers. “Only we at great effort can break the tie. I pray with my whole heart that we will understand what it means to be bound to a God who loves us, who will let us climb freely—but is ready, should we slip, to break the fall.”