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Credit: Deseret News
Remembering his boyhood efforts to copy the baseball swing of his hero Joe DiMaggio, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, observed, “When we choose heroes, we begin to copy, consciously or unconsciously, what we admire most about them.”
Speaking in the priesthood session of general conference, President Eyring said, “My dad took me to Yankee Stadium only once to observe my baseball hero play, but every Sunday he let me observe a priesthood man who became a hero. That hero shaped my life.”
Identifying his father as that hero, he said, “My father was the branch president of the little branch which met in our home. … Our branch never had more than 30 people in attendance.”
A young man customarily drove his mother to their house for the meetings but never came inside.
“It was my father who succeeded by going out to him in the car and inviting him into our home,” President Eyring said. “He was baptized and became my first and only Aaronic priesthood leader. He became my priesthood hero. I still remember the wooden statue he gave me as a reward after we had completed a project to cut firewood for a widow. I have tried to be like him whenever I give justified praise to a servant of God.”
President Eyring said he chose another hero in that branch, a United States Marine, who had been sent to Princeton University to further his education. "It was wartime so that alone made him my hero," he said. The Marine played as captain of the university's football, basketball and baseball teams.
“He came to my home during the week to show me how to shoot a basketball with both my left and my right hand,” President Eyring recalled. “He told me that I would need that skill because I would someday play basketball on good teams. I did not realize it then, but for years, he was, for me a model of a true priesthood man.”
President Eyring then admonished his listeners: “Each of you will be a model of a priesthood man whether you want to be or not. You became a lighted candle when you accepted the priesthood. The Lord put you on the candlestick to light the way for everyone who surrounds you.”
He said he has observed three common characteristics for priesthood holders who have been his heroes. “One is a pattern of prayer, the second is a habit of service and the third is a rock-hard decision to be honest.”
President Eyring said that the priesthood holder whose example is worthy of following prays often and with real intent.
“In the evening you will get on your knees and thank God for the blessings of the day,” he said. “You will thank Him for parents, for teachers and for great examples to follow. You will describe in your prayers specifically who has blessed your life and how, during that day. That will take more than a few minutes and more than a little thought. It will surprise you and change you.”
One way that a fervent prayer changes a priesthood holder is that he comes to feel he is truly a child of God, President Eyring said. “You will also know that He expects much of you. … He will expect you to follow His teachings and the teachings of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. He will expect you to be generous and kind to others. He will be disappointed if you are proud and self-centered. He will bless you to have the desire to put the interests of others above your own.”
President Eyring acknowledged that some of his listeners are already models of priesthood service.
“I know of a branch president who almost every day brings people to the missionaries for them to teach,” he said. “Just a few months ago he was not yet a member of the Church himself. Now there are missionaries teaching and a branch growing in numbers and strength because of him. But more than that, he is a light to others who will open their mouths and so hasten the Lord’s gathering of His children — the children of Heavenly Father.”
As priesthood holders pray and serve others, they will become more aware that Heavenly Father is saddened if they are dishonest, President Eyring said.
“You will be more determined to keep your word to God and to others. You will be more aware of taking anything that does not belong to you. You will be more honest with your employers. You will be more determined to be on time and to complete every task you are given by the Lord that you have accepted to do.”