Henry J. Eyring, the president of BYU-Idaho, and his wife, Kelly C. Eyring, spoke of patience and faith in their devotional addresses on Sept. 14.
President Eyring welcomed all students to the beginning of a new semester.
“Whether you are in Rexburg, Rhode Island, Rio or somewhere in the rest of the world, you are in the right place for learning and for strengthening your testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” President Eyring said.
Amid the chaos of COVID-19, President Eyring offered encouragement, love and understanding. He praised students’ efforts and sacrifices during times of uncertainty.
“Let me praise you for your faith, patience and optimism,” President Eyring said. “Many of you have endured more than one semester of disappointment and hardship. Despite the best efforts of yourself, your roommates, university teachers, Church leaders, and your family, this has been a character-building and often frustrating time. Thank you for your steadfastness.”
With the continuing threat of COVID-19, President Eyring encouraged students to pray and consider the First Presidency’s invitation to be vaccinated.
“Unvaccinated college-age students are at greater risk of infection than ever,” President Eyring said. “For that reason, Sister Eyring and I hope that all members of our BYU-Idaho community will prayerfully consider the First Presidency’s urging to be vaccinated, for the sake of yourself and others.”
Additionally, President Eyring discussed wearing face masks in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19. University leaders, under the approval of the Church Board of Education, are requiring face masks to be worn in all campus buildings.
“Like you, I battle feelings of claustrophobia when wearing a mask,” President Eyring said. “But I try to remember the greater good to be done for me and those with whom I gather.”
President Eyring invited all students to participate in a university-wide fast on Sept. 19. Students are encouraged to fast for one meal. Those who participate will receive a dinner provided by the University. He also urged students to meet with their roommates or families to discuss plans for a safe and productive semester.
“You might not only eat together but also have a structured discussion of actions that each person might take for the sake of having a protected and productive semester,” President Eyring encouraged. “Those actions might include vaccinating and deciding when and where face masks should be worn. You could be blessed by a conversation about the things you’ll do for one another, temporally, as well as spiritually and emotionally.”
President Eyring encouraged students to exercise patience during challenging times.
“This experience of waiting longer than we would choose is typical of life’s hopes postponed,” President Eyring said. “It is human nature to want straight, short paths to the realization of our dreams. However, our mortal existence is a divinely prepared opportunity to learn patience as we strive to improve.”
President Eyring challenged students to stand in holy places and be not moved as they navigate through life’s difficulties. He also stressed the importance of relying on the Holy Ghost and discussed its ability to be a source of strength and comfort.
“Throughout the process, the Holy Ghost can sooth and strengthen,” President Eyring said. “As we stand in holy places, He can warm our hearts and clarify our minds. The veil between our earthly realm is a divine challenge to be hopeful. As we persevere patiently, insight will come slowly but surely, often in the course of humble trial and error.”
In her address, “Better than Expected,” Sister Eyring taught students that as they strive to connect with God, He will help them overcome difficulties and find their way through the unexpected.
She told a story of hiking the Bald Mountain Trail. While she was hiking, she remembered that her sister-in-law had once encountered a bear on the very same trail. Though her sister-in-law quickly got away, Sister Eyring’s mind began to wander in fear.
“Just as I had let my mind wander to what bad things could happen, a darling little chipmunk scurried across the trail,” Sister Eyring said. “As you can imagine, I let out a scream, not because the chipmunk was so frightening; it was actually adorable. I had let my mind go to a place of concern and fear, and so the very movement of the chipmunk created a very out-of-proportion response. I wasn’t expecting the bushes to rustle and a little furry critter to cross my path.”
Sister Eyring described this as a personal learning experience. After laughing at her surprised reaction, she pondered on the nature of her thoughts.
“I thought, as I went along with the rest of the hike, about why my response was so exaggerated,” Sister Eyring said. “It had a lot to do with where my thoughts were and what I was expecting. I know that worrying about what might happen, or even about what is happening, is not productive nor does it make me happy. It just makes me jumpy and afraid of every little thing that crosses my path.”
Sister Eyring invited students to do two things to overcome fear during times of difficulty or uncertainty. She asked them to love God by working to become more like Him and to love their neighbors.
“May I suggest that you and I expect to feel the love of God even in this unexpected time,” Sister Eyring said. “We can show our love of God by trying to be more like Him. We can love each other better this semester. We can give our roommates and spouses and children more love and patience.”
She explained that the fall semester will be a lot different than she expected it to be as the world continues to battle COVID-19. She encouraged students to keep moving forward in the midst of challenges and uncertainty.
“This semester is going to be different from what we imagined,” Sister Eyring said. “It can be even better than what we think as we think about these two commandments and live them with intention, not letting our thoughts and expectations turn chipmunks into bears. Let’s stay centered and believe that our Heavenly Father will help us navigate the unexpected. He will bless us as we keep the two great commandments to love him and to love our neighbors.”