President Henry B. Eyring: New leaders voice joy, humility over callings

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

President Gordon B. Hinckley (R) has some fun with his newest second counselor, President Henry B. Eyring, who was named to the post Saturday during LDS General Conference.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

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With a bright smile and a touch of emotion, President Henry B. Eyring described his call to the First Presidency of the LDS Church as personal and sweet — a time when he felt both joy and a closeness to the Lord, as well as "personal inadequacy."

President Eyring made his remarks to reporters during a televised press conference Saturday, just hours after being sustained by the worldwide membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the new second counselor in the church's First Presidency. He fills the position held by President James E. Faust, who died in August.

President Eyring said he received a telephone call Thursday afternoon from church President Gordon B. Hinckley, who asked if he was willing to join President Thomas S. Monson and himself in the First Presidency.

"It was the most marvelous way of extending a call, which was from the Lord," he said.

He became emotional when he talked about filling the position of President Faust. "He was not only a dear friend but a model," he said. Later, President Eyring described a time when he was talking to another general authority and said, "I always wanted to be him (President Faust) when I grew up."

Education, enterprise

President Eyring was born May 31, 1933, to Henry and Mildred Bennion Eyring in Princeton, N.J., where he lived as a young boy. His father was a renowned research scientist at Princeton and the University of Utah, whose knowledge of intricate chemistry was widely applied to a variety of scientific fields. The family moved to Salt Lake City from New Jersey in the 1940s so their children could grow up in an LDS environment, and the elder Henry Eyring helped build the U. into a renowned research institution.

With characteristic concern that children feel, Elder Eyring told an audience at Brigham Young University several years ago how he remembers the move to Utah. "I can remember how my cousins helped me," telling him "the kids would stone me with my New Jersey accent. I got rid of it quickly, out of fear. I remember terror as I walked up to the junior high school on the first day.

"A few years later — I don't know how it happened — but after basketball season I left high school and went without my high school classmates to the University of Utah. I can remember those first days — the physics department and the mathematics department didn't seem very friendly to me. I remember my fear.

"I went from there to the United States Air Force and somehow decided that physics would not be my life's work. I thought I needed something else for education, so I tried a place I had heard of called the Harvard Graduate School of Business. I was so naive I didn't know it might be hard to be admitted. I know now that it was a miracle that I was accepted....

"I didn't know what a balance sheet was. I didn't know what a pro-forma cash flow looked like. I was a physics student about to be lost in the Harvard Business School."

After graduation with a doctorate from the prestigious institution, he took a faculty position at Stanford University, where he married his wife, Kathleen Johnson. He recalled that "her first adventures in cooking for us were to find some morning menu that I could keep down on my nervous stomach as I went off to meet those apparently confident Stanford students. I wondered how I could teach them, until I found out that they were scared, too."

While at Stanford, he held teaching and administrative assignments in production management, operations and systems analysis, organizational behavior and management of the total enterprise. He also served as a visiting fellow for a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was founder, director or officer of at least two companies in Sunnyvale, Calif.

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