Elder Henry B. Eyring
When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
When I was young and still living in New Jersey, a large crowd of angry people gathered in front of our house. My mother went out to meet them, standing alone in this crowd of people who looked very dangerous to me. I couldn’t hear what she said, but after a few minutes they went away peacefully. I still remember that I had seen a miracle.
From when I was older, I have a more recent memory of a crowd of angry people I was called by the First Presidency to face who suddenly and inexplicably were touched by a spirit of calm and reconciliation.
Another time, I was sent to speak to leaders of churches in the United States and ministers of those churches who had met in Minneapolis to deal with the problem of competition among churches.
When I arrived, I found that I was assigned to be a speaker. My subject was to be: Why there was a need for a restoration of the true Church through Joseph Smith. I was a last-minute substitute for Elder Neal A. Maxwell.
When I arrived in the city the night before the meetings and looked at the program, I called President Hinckley. I told him that the meetings were to last three days, that many talks were to be given at the same time, that the crowd could choose which one to attend. I told him that I thought if I told the truth, I feared that no one would come to my second session and that I might be coming home very quickly. I asked him what he thought I should do. He said, “Use your best judgment.”
I prayed through the night. Somewhere near dawn, I was sure I was to say about the Restoration not, “This is what we believe happened to Joseph Smith and why we believe it happened,” but, “This is what happened to Joseph Smith, and this is why the Lord did it.” In the nighttime I was given no assurance of the outcome, just a clear direction—go forward.
To my amazement, after my talk the ministers lined up to speak to me. Every one of them, one after another coming to me, told essentially the same story. Each of them had met a member of the Church somewhere in their lives that they admired. Many of them said that they lived in a community where the stake president had come to the aid of not just his members but of the community in a disaster. They asked if I could take back their greeting and their thanks to people I not only didn’t know but had no hope of ever meeting.
By the end of the three days of meetings, larger and larger crowds were coming to hear the message of the Restoration of the gospel and the true Church of Jesus Christ not because they believed the message but because they had seen goodness in people’s lives—the fruits of that restoration.
As I prayed in these last few nights, those and other memories flooded back with an assurance something like this: “Haven’t I always looked after you? Think of the times I have led you beside the still waters. Remember the times I have set a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Remember, and fear no evil.” (See Psalm 23.)
Over many years I have seen a recurring pattern in the times when the answers to such a prayer have come most clearly.
Once, for instance, I prayed through the night to know what I was to choose to do in the morning. I knew that no other choice could have had a greater effect on the lives of others and on my own. I knew what choice looked most comfortable to me. I knew what outcome I wanted. But I could not see the future. I could not see which choice would lead to which outcome. So the risk of being wrong seemed too great to me.
I prayed, but for hours there seemed to be no answer. Just before dawn, a feeling came over me. More than at any time since I had been a child, I felt like one. My heart and my mind seemed to grow very quiet. There was a peace in that inner stillness.
Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself praying, "Heavenly Father, it doesn't matter what I want. I don't care anymore what I want. I only want that Thy will be done. That is all that I want. Please tell me what to do."
In that moment I felt as quiet inside as I had ever felt. And the message came, and I was sure who it was from. It was clear what I was to do. I received no promise of the outcome. There was only the assurance that I was a child who had been told what path led to whatever He wanted for me.
I learned from that experience and countless repetitions that the description of the Holy Ghost as a still, small voice is real. It is poetic, but it is not poetry. Only when my heart has been still and quiet, in submission like a little child, has the Spirit been clearly audible to my heart and mind.
I spoke in an ancient theater in Ephesus . Bright sunlight flooded the ground where the Apostle Paul had stood to preach. My topic was Paul, the Apostle called of God.
The audience was hundreds of Latter-day Saints. They were arranged on the rows of stone benches the Ephesians sat upon more than a millennium before. Among them were two living Apostles, Elder Mark E. Petersen and Elder James E. Faust.
As you can imagine, I had prepared carefully. I had read the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, both those of Paul and his fellow Apostles. I had read and pondered Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians.
I tried my best to honor Paul and his office. After the talk, a number of people said kind things. Both of the living Apostles were generous in their comments. But later, Elder Faust took me aside and, with a smile and with softness in his voice, said, "That was a good talk. But you left out the most important thing you could have said."
I asked him what that was. Weeks later he consented to tell me. His answer has been teaching me ever since.
He said that I could have told the people that if the Saints who heard Paul had possessed a testimony of the value and the power of the keys he held, perhaps the Apostles would not have had to be taken from the earth.
That sent me back to Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I could see that Paul wanted the people to feel the value of the chain of priesthood keys reaching from the Lord through His Apostles to them, the members of the Lord's Church. Paul was trying to build a testimony of those keys.
To keep ourselves grounded in the Lord's Church, we can and must train our eyes to recognize the power of the Lord in the service of those He has called. We must be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us know that men who lead us hold this power. For me, such prayers are most often answered when I am fully engaged in the Lord's service myself.
It happened in the aftermath of a disaster. A dam in Idaho broke on a June day. A wall of water struck the communities below it. Thousands of people, mostly Latter-day Saints, fled their homes to go to safety.
I was there as the people faced the terrible task of recovery. I saw the stake president gather his bishops to lead the people. We were cut off in those first days from any supervision from outside. I was in the meeting of local leaders when a director from the federal disaster agency arrived.
He tried to take over the meeting. With great force he began to list the things that he said needed to be done. As he read aloud each item, the stake president, who was sitting near him, said quietly, "We've already done that." After that went on for five or ten minutes, the federal official grew silent and sat down. He listened quietly as the stake president took reports from the bishops and gave directions.
For the meeting the next day, the federal disaster official arrived early. He sat toward the back. The stake president began the meeting. He took more reports, and he gave instructions. After a few minutes, the federal official, who had come with all the authority and resources of his great agency, said, "President Ricks, what would you like us to do?"
He recognized power. I saw more. I recognized the evidence of keys and the faith that unlocks their power.
It happened again when a man and his wife arrived back in town just after the dam had broken. They didn't go to their home. They went first to find their bishop. He was covered in mud, leading his members in mucking out homes. They asked what he would have them do.
They went to work. Much later, they took a few minutes to check on their own house. It was gone. So they went back to work wherever their bishop asked them to help. They knew where to go to get the Lord's direction for service in His Church.
I learned then as I have since how the stakes of Zion become places of safety. They become like a great family, united, caring for each other. It comes by simple faith.
Gather with the Saints in His Church. Go to your meetings, even when it seems hard. If you are determined, He will help you find the strength to do it.
A member wrote to me from England. When her bishop asked if she would accept a call to teach early-morning seminary, he told her she'd better pray about it before she accepted. She did. She accepted. When she met the parents for the first time the bishop stood beside her. She announced that she felt the program should go to five days a week. Some parents looked doubtful. One person said, "They won't come. They'll vote with their feet."
Well, the doubt was half right. The students did vote with their feet. But their attendance in those cold and dark morning hours is now above 90 percent. That teacher and her bishop believed that if the students would start to come they would be strengthened by power more than their own. It came. That power will protect them when they go to places where they will be the only Latter-day Saints. They will not be alone nor without strength, because they accepted the invitation to gather with the Saints when it was not easy.
I have a friend who prays every day to meet someone who is prepared to receive the gospel. He carries with him a copy of the Book of Mormon. The night before a short trip recently, he decided not to take a copy with him but instead to carry what is called a pass-along card. But in the morning, a spiritual impression came: "Take a Book of Mormon with you." He put one in his bag.
A woman he knew sat next to him on the plane, and he wondered, "Is this the one?" She rode with him again on the return trip. Now he thought, "How should I bring the gospel up?"
Instead, she said to him, "You pay tithing to your Church, don't you?" He said that he did. She said that she was supposed to pay tithing to her church but she didn't. And then she said, "What is this about the Book of Mormon?" He explained that it was scripture, another witness of Jesus Christ, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith. She seemed interested. So he reached down into his bag and said: "I was impressed to bring this book with me. I think it is for you."
She began to read it. As they parted, she said, "You and I are going to have to have more conversations about this." What my friend could not know, but God did, was that she was looking for a church. God knew she had watched my friend and wondered what about his church made him so happy. God knew she would ask about the Book of Mormon, and He knew she would be willing to be taught by the missionaries. She was prepared. So was my friend. And so can you and I be.
Speaking what you believe will be part of what you are.
My father was like that. He was a scientist. He lectured to audiences in countries around the world. Once I read a talk he had given to a large scientific convention. In it, he referred to creation and a Creator as he talked about his science. I knew that few, if any, in that audience would have shared his faith. So I said to him with wonder and admiration, "Dad, you bore your testimony." He looked at me with surprise on his face and said, "Did I?"
He had not even known that he was being brave. He simply said what he knew was true. When he bore testimony, even those who rejected it knew it came not by design but because it was part of him. He was what he was, wherever he was.
The day of your release will teach you a great lesson. On the day I was released as a bishop, one of the ward members came to my home afterwards and said: "I know you are no longer my bishop, but could we talk just one more time? You have always spoken words I needed and given me such good counsel. The new bishop doesn't know me the way you do. Could we just talk one more time?"
Reluctantly I agreed. The member sat down in a chair opposite mine. It seemed to be just as it had been in the hundreds of times I had interviewed members of the ward as a judge in Israel. The conversation began. There came the moment when counsel was needed. I waited for the ideas, the words, and the feelings to flow into my mind, as they always had.
Nothing came. In my heart and mind there was only silence. After a few moments, I said: "I'm sorry. I appreciate your kindness and your trust.
But I'm afraid I can't help you."
When you are released from your calling, you will learn what I learned then. God magnifies those He calls, even in what may seem to you a small or inconspicuous service. You will have the gift of seeing your service magnified. Give thanks while that gift is yours. You will appreciate its worth more than you can imagine when it is gone.
President Hinckley can't be there as a friend for every new member. But you can be there for at least one. All it takes is to feel something of what they feel and something of what the Savior feels for them. Try to feel the heart of a young man, Nkosiyabo Eddie Lupahla, in Africa, writing about his friend.
"Two and a half years prior to my joining the Church in 1999, my good friend, Mbuti Yona, looked me up. We had been friends through grades 5 to 12, then [were] separated when we attended different [schools].
"Mbuti was baptized in April 1999, and four weeks later he visited me at home and introduced the gospel to me. Regardless of the rumors about the Church, I was impressed by the 'fellow Saints' who gave me a warm welcome on my first visit. It was this same Sunday that my friend introduced me to the missionaries. Arrangements were made to be taught. My friend was there for every discussion, and he kept inviting me to the activities. I really enjoyed being around people with the same values, interests, standards, and goals. It was during this same time period that I began attending institute [of religion]. It all seemed very natural: Thursday nights [5:30]—missionary discussion, followed by institute.
"I learned a lot in institute and especially enjoyed our class about how to achieve a celestial marriage. The first semester ended in May, shortly after I began attending, and I felt cheated. But I was fortunate enough to catch the second semester class, Teachings of the Living Prophets. While in institute, I bought myself the four standard works and I continued to learn and grow in the Church line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. I was baptized September 17, 1999, by another friend I had made while attending institute.
"I am thankful for the institute program. It has not only shaped me, but it has also helped me qualify to become a missionary, which mission I started preparing for five months after my baptism. I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve and to teach prior to my mission.
"I am thankful for my friend. I hope he realizes what he has done for me. We have both served missions, I to South Africa Durban, he to South Africa Cape Town. All it takes is a friend to bring such a mighty change in one's life."
It is painful to imagine a shepherd feeding himself and letting the sheep go hungry. Yet I have seen many shepherds who feed their flocks. One was the president of a deacons quorum. One of his quorum members lived near my home. That neighbor boy had never attended a quorum meeting nor done anything with the members of his quorum. His stepfather was not a member, and his mother did not attend church.
The presidency of his deacons quorum met in council one Sunday morning. Each week they were fed the good word of God by the fine adviser and teacher. In their presidency meeting, those 13-year-old shepherds remembered the boy who never came. They talked about how much he needed what they received. The president assigned his counselor to go after that wandering sheep.
I knew the counselor, and I knew he was shy, and I knew the difficulty of the assignment, so I watched with wonder through my front window as the counselor trudged by my house, going up the road to the home of the boy who never came to church. The shepherd had his hands in his pockets. His eyes were on the ground. He walked slowly, the way you would if you weren't sure you wanted to get where you were headed. In 20 minutes or so, he came back down the road with the lost deacon walking by his side. That scene was repeated for a few more Sundays. Then the boy who had been lost and was found moved away.
Now, that story seems unremarkable. It was just three boys sitting in a room around a small table. Then it was a boy walking up a road and coming back with another boy. But years later, I was in a stake conference, a continent away from the room in which that presidency had met in council. A gray-haired man came up to me and said quietly, "My grandson lived in your ward years ago." With tenderness, he told me of that boy's life. And then he asked if I could find that deacon who walked slowly up that road. And he wondered if I could thank him and tell him that his grandson, now grown to be a man, still remembered.
He remembered because in those few weeks he had been, for the first time in his life that he recognized, watched over by the shepherds of Israel.
Now, you may be thinking: It's not that easy for me. I have so many people to watch over. And I have so little time. But where the Lord calls He prepares a way, His way. There are shepherds who believe that. I'll tell you about one.
Two years ago, a man was called as the president of his elders quorum. He had been a member of the Church for less than 10 years. He had just become worthy to be sealed to his wife and family in the temple. His wife was an invalid. He had three daughters. The oldest was 13, and she cooked the meals and, with the others, cared for the house. His scant earnings from manual labor supported not only those five people but a grandfather who lived with them in their small house.
When he was called to be president of his elders quorum, it had 13 members. That tiny quorum was responsible for another 101 men who either had no priesthood at all or who were deacons, teachers, or priests. He was responsible to watch over the souls of 114 families, with little hope that he could devote more than his Sundays and perhaps one night a week to his service, with all he did to serve his own family.
The difficulty of what he faced drove him to his knees in prayer. Then he stood up and went to work. In his efforts to meet and know his sheep, his prayers were answered in a way he had not expected. He came to see beyond individuals. He came to know that the Lord's purpose was for him to build families. And even with his limited experience, he knew that the way to build families would be to help them qualify to make and keep temple covenants.
He began to do what a good shepherd always does, but he did it differently when he saw the temple as their destination. First, he prayed to know who were to be his counselors to go with him. And then he prayed to know which families needed him and had been prepared.
He called on as many as he could. Some were cold and did not accept his friendship. But with those who did, he followed a pattern. As soon as he saw interest and trust, he invited them to meet the bishop. He had asked the bishop beforehand: "Please tell them what it takes to be worthy to go to the temple to claim its blessings for them and their families. And then please testify to them, as I have, that it will be worth it."
A few then accepted the quorum president's invitation to a temple preparation class taught by stake leaders. Not all completed the course and not all qualified for the temple. But each family and each father was prayed for. Most were invited at least once to a feast of the good word of God. With every invitation came the president's testimony of the blessings of being a family sealed forever and the sadness of being separated. Every invitation was issued with the love of the Savior.
During the president's service, he has seen 12 of the men he taught ordained elders. He has seen four of his elders ordained high priests. Those numbers don't come close to measuring the miracle. The families of those men will be blessed over generations.
In time, when the child is away from home and family, prayer can provide the shield of protection the parent will want so much for them to have. Parting can be hard, particularly when the parent and the child know that they may not see each other for a long time. I had that experience with my father. We parted on a street corner in New York City. He had come there for his work. I was there on my way to another place. We both knew that I probably would never return to live with my parents under the same roof again.
It was a sunny day, around noontime, the streets crowded with cars and pedestrians. On that particular corner there was a traffic light which stopped the cars and the people in all directions for a few minutes. The light changed to red; the cars stopped. The crowd of pedestrians hurried off the curbs, moving every way, including diagonally, across the intersection.
The time had come for parting, and I started across the street. I stopped almost in the center, with people rushing by me. I turned to look back. Instead of moving off in the crowd, my father was still standing on the corner looking at me. To me he seemed lonely and perhaps a little sad. I wanted to go back to him, but I realized the light would change and so I turned and hurried on.
Years later I talked to him about that moment. He told me that I had misread his face. He said he was not sad; he was concerned. He had seen me look back, as if I were a little boy, uncertain and looking for assurance. He told me in those later years that the thought in his mind had been: Will he be all right? Have I taught him enough? Is he prepared for whatever may lie ahead?
The afternoon my mother died, we went to the family home from the hospital. We sat quietly in the darkened living room for a while. Dad excused himself and went to his bedroom. He was gone for a few minutes. When he walked back into the living room, there was a smile on his face. He said that he'd been concerned for Mother. During the time he had gathered her things from her hospital room and thanked the staff for being so kind to her, he thought of her going into the spirit world just minutes after her death. He was afraid she would be lonely if there was no one to meet her.
He had gone to his bedroom to ask his Heavenly Father to have someone greet Mildred, his wife and my mother. He said that he had been told in answer to his prayer that his mother had met his sweetheart. I smiled at that too. Grandma Eyring was not very tall. I had a clear picture of her rushing through the crowd, her short legs moving rapidly on her mission to meet my mother.
Dad surely didn't intend at that moment to teach me about prayer, but he did.
Watch Over and Strengthen
I saw a young man nearly overwhelmed by a new call not long ago. The Lord had inspired His servant to call him to be the president of a stake. The young man had never been a bishop. He had never served in a stake presidency. The stake had in it many men of greater maturity and experience.
He was humbled when he heard the call. His wife through tears said to the servant of the Lord who called him, "Are you sure?" Her husband said quietly that he would serve. His wife nodded her support, tears streaming down her face. As you might have done at such a time, he wanted to talk with his father, who was far away. He called him that afternoon on the telephone. His father has been a dairy farmer all his life. He raised the boy into a man through milking cows and letting his son observe him stop to talk with neighbors to see how they were doing. The next morning, in his first talk as a stake president, this is how he recounted the conversation with his father:
"Many of you that know me know I am a man of few words. I must have gotten that from my father. As I called him yesterday to let him know that I was being called as a stake president, his one response to me was, 'Well, you better do a lot of praying.' That was his counsel to me. What better counsel could he give?"
There is another temptation to be resisted. It is to yield to the despairing thought that it is too hard and too late to repent. I knew a man once who could have thought that and given up. When he was 12 he was ordained a deacon. Some of his friends tempted him to begin to smoke. He began to feel uncomfortable in church. He left his little town, not finishing high school, to begin a life following construction jobs across the United States. He was a heavy-equipment operator. He married. They had children. The marriage ended in a bitter divorce. He lost his children. He lost an eye in an accident. He lived alone in boardinghouses. He lost everything he owned except what he could carry in a trunk.
One night, as he prepared to move yet again, he decided to lighten the load of that trunk. Beneath the junk of years, he found a book. He never knew how it got there. It was the Book of Mormon. He read it through, and the Spirit told him it was true. He knew then that all those years ago he had walked away from the true Church of Jesus Christ and from the happiness which could have been his. Later, he was my more-than-70-year-old district missionary companion. I asked the people we were teaching, as I testified of the power of the Savior's Atonement, to look at him. He had been washed clean and given a new heart, and I knew they would see that in his face. I told the people that what they saw was evidence that the Atonement of Jesus Christ could wash away all the corrosive effects of sin.
That was the only time he ever rebuked me. He told me in the darkness outside the trailer where we had been teaching that I should have told the people that while God was able to give him a new heart, He had not been able to give him back his wife and his children and what he might have done for them. But he had not looked back in sorrow and regret for what might have been. He moved forward, lifted by faith, to what yet might be.
One day he told me that in a dream the night before, the sight in his blind eye was restored. He realized that the dream was a glimpse of a future day, walking among loving people in the light of a glorious resurrection. Tears of joy ran down the deeply lined face of that towering, raw-boned man. He spoke to me quietly, with a radiant smile. I don't remember what he said he saw, but I remember that his face shone with happy anticipation as he described the view. With the Lord's help and the miracle of that book in the bottom of a trunk, it had not for him been too late nor the way too hard.
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