About Utah: 30 years later, Eyres still writing about child rearing

Published: Thursday, Nov. 25 2010 9:00 p.m. MST

Not Mitt Romney. He was on an LDS mission in France in 1969. Mitt's father, George Romney, the three-term Michigan governor, had made a run for the White House in 1968. His college campaign manager, the man who organized Romney for President chapters at campuses across America, was Richard Eyre from Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Early in the campaign, Richard had sent Romney a detailed proposal for a campus strategy and to his surprise Romney invited him to join the campaign.

Richard was in New Hampshire in early 1968 when the Romney campaign wilted in the face of a Richard Nixon groundswell Nixon would ride to the White House. But if it was the end for Romney, it was just the beginning for Eyre, who was hooked on politics in general and in particular on George Romney, his mentor.

If Richard was serious about a career in government, Romney advised, then he shouldn't go to law school. "There are too many lawyers in politics already," he told him. "What we need are more managers. And law school teaches you to look backward. Business school teaches you to look forward."

So business school it was. After getting a bachelor's degree from Utah State and a master's from BYU — both in political science — Richard applied to Harvard Business School.

When the acceptance letter came, he and Linda dutifully headed off to Boston in their Ford-Porsche caravan. She got a job teaching music at a junior high school and he hunkered down in Cambridge. They sold the Porsche to help pay for school.

It was the first time out of the Intermountain West for Linda. She was born and raised in Montpelier, Idaho, just over the mountain from Utah State University, which is where she met Richard, a fellow Aggie who had moved with his family to Logan at an early age. Richard likes to say he fell in love first. "I met her because she was the homecoming queen," he says, "I fell for her from afar."

From Harvard they moved to Washington, D.C., where Richard joined two other former Romney staffers to form a political consulting firm. Then it was back to Utah so Richard could accept an invitation to run Salt Lake mayor Jake Garn's campaign for the U.S. Senate. It turned out a success — a portent, Richard hoped, for his own bid for public office.

But then came the totally unexpected, completely out-of-the-blue call that changed everything.

The Eyres were asked by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to preside over an LDS mission in London, England. She was 28, he was 30, the youngest mission president in the church.

"Everyone says their mission changed them," says Linda. "But it was like a right-angle turn for us."

They never saw it coming.

It was Linda who set the course for what would become their life's work. She had four young children under the age of six to care for and she decided to start a diary about motherhood. As she wrote about the causes and effects of her own parenting, she found herself tuning in to the causes and effects of parenting in general. She became increasingly aware that many, if not all, of the problems of the 19- and 20-year-old missionaries they were supervising could be traced back to their upbringing. Also, the majority of the problems that confronted the English people they worked with were family issues.

"It was in England that we really woke up to the fact that the problems in our society weren't political, they were personal, and it was the breakdown of families that was causing the problems, not the politics involved," says Richard. "It was Linda who crystallized the journey for us."

Thus the framework was laid for the Eyre's first two parenting books: "Teaching Your Children Joy" and "Teaching Your Children Responsibility."

They wrote and finished them in 1979 shortly after returning from England. Deseret Book, the largest publishing house in Salt Lake, bought both books and sent the Eyres on a publicity tour.

They were in San Francisco promoting the books on a local morning television show when the president of Random House, the noted New York publishing firm, happened to see them on TV.

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