Favorite Conference Talks – President Henry B. Eyring

This talk was given in the priesthood session and is a simple talk, as great ones often are. Eyring is a perennial favorite of mine, along with the obvious ones like Holland and Uchtdorf.

I loved this talk more because of the feeling I had at the end, rather than any particular thing that was said, but it seemed to me to give a glimpse of so many things that I love about the gospel, especially because, when we talk about the gospel as designed for our happiness, we aren’t talking about just a happiness in the eternal world, or an abstract concept of happiness, we’re talking about real honest happiness and basic cheerfulness that can be a real part of our everyday lives right now, and by which we can bless the lives of others.

President Eyring started with a story of the priesthood bearers whose message converted a young girl in Switzerland and a young German immigrant boy in St. Louis. These two crossed the plains together and became his ancestors. This type of story is repeated often in many families, but such stories all have a common component:

“The power of the priesthood in a holder whose power to serve was magnified by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

His message to us is that we should do whatever is required to qualify for the Holy Ghost as our companion. “And then let us go forward fearlessly that we will be given the powers to do whatever the Lord requires us to do.”

Eyring then discussed the difference between the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We receive the Gift at confirmation but companionship requires us to put out lives in order to qualify. Putting our lives in order requires the following:

Obedience, Faith, Repentance

“We cultivate spiritual gifts by keeping the commandments and trying to live a blameless life. That requires faith in Jesus Christ, to repent and be cleansed through his atonement.”

Humility and Prayer

“Just as we must be cleansed of sin to have the Spirit with us, we must be humble enough before God to recognize our need for it.”

This humility was demonstrated by the disciples of the Lord in the Book of Mormon, who were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

“As the humble servants of the Savior, we should pray for the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to come to us in our service and to those we serve. Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.”

Reading, Studying and Pondering the Scriptures

This is also increased by reading, studying and especially pondering the scriptures. Pondering is the thinking and praying that you do after reading and studying the scriptures. Section 138 was revealed as a result of pondering upon the scriptures.

He then asked the question that I think is the crux of this talk (quoting President Monson):

“What does it mean to magnify your calling?”

I found the answer to be surprising:

“It means to build it up in dignity, to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”

Sounds way too simple, but I think we overcomplicate most things. The story of President Kimball’s visit to President Eyring’s father in the hospital was very instructive, and very funny. Young Henry was watching President Kimball for some amazing lesson in how to render priesthood service to someone in need. But all President Kimball did was sit down for a few minutes and smile. That’s it.

Which reminds me of this parable from D&C 88:

51 Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.
52 And he said unto the first: Go ye and labor in the field, and in the first hour I will come unto you, and ye shall behold the joy of my countenance.
53 And he said unto the second: Go ye also into the field, and in the second hour I will visit you with the joy of my countenance.
54 And also unto the third, saying: I will visit you;
55 And unto the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
56 And the lord of the field went unto the first in the first hour, and tarried with him all that hour, and he was made glad with the light of the countenance of his lord.
57 And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth.
58 And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season—
59 Beginning at the first, and so on unto the last, and from the last unto the first, and from the first unto the last;
60 Every man in his own order, until his hour was finished, even according as his lord had commanded him, that his lord might be glorified in him, and he in his lord, that they all might be glorified.

I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood that parable. But it seems to me to be talking about exactly what was happening in that hospital room, meaning that priesthood service is often not done by saying or doing any particular thing except taking the Spirit to others so that they can feel it and experience it through us.

How does this happen? Well, earlier in the same section, we get this:

3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ.

Emphasis added.

I think this is why President Eyring is putting so much importance on the companionship of the Holy Ghost in priesthood service, because having the Holy Ghost is practically identical with the concept of priesthood service. It’s what makes it work.

Warning: Mission Story Ahead

Once, as a missionary, I was working in the mission office on some project or other with my companion and whatever we were doing was not going well. We were irritated and we were arguing about whatever we were doing. I don’t remember the details, but the feeling was one of intense irritation and frustration.

Just then the door opened and in walked Elders John K. Carmack and Robert L. Backman. Just like that. No warning, just walked through the door. My immediate thought was that we were in trouble. These GAs would see immediately that my companion and I were not good missionaries, that we were fighting, that we were screwing up whatever project we were working on and that we should probably just be sent home to save the Church further embarassment. Those thoughts went through my head in a lightening flash.

But it wasn’t like that at all. They were smiling like they had just been laughing at some joke as they were walking together. They walked up to us and put their arms around us and asked us how we were. I don’t remember much about what they said or what we said, but I remember how I felt. My second thought, after the previous one melted away was just this: They love us.

It was like when the bright sun bursts out of the clouds and you feel it warm on your face. The change in the room was that dramatic. Those brethren probably don’t remember me at all, but I remember them and how they made me feel that day. They changed everything just by walking in the room. But it really wasn’t them. It was what they brought with them.

President Eyring concluded with this (quoting George Q. Cannon):

“Whenever darkness fills our minds, we may know that we are not possessed of the Spirit of God. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are filled with joy, with peace, and with happiness, no matter what circumstances may be, for it is a spirit of cheerfulness and of happiness. The Lord has given us the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is our privilege to have that Holy Ghost reign within us, so that from the morning till night and from night till morning we shall have the joy, the light and the revelation thereof.”

Emphasis added.

I love that phrase “reign within us.” At the end of that talk, I felt the same way I felt in that dingy mission office 25 years ago. That’s what the Holy Ghost is and what it should be in our lives every day. If we can take that with us always, we don’t need to worry much about how to perform priesthood service. It’s practically all we need.


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