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President Henry J. Eyring, BYU-Idaho students and staff reflect during devotional on lessons from pandemic ‘sojourn’


The world has always been a beautiful and wonderful place, through the creative power of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; but it is also a place of natural disaster, human brutality and other woes.

“That is because we are here to be educated, tested and proven in ways that were not possible in the pre-existence,” BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring taught students during the April 19 campus-wide devotional on the Rexburg, Idaho, campus.

Such challenges are demonstrated in scriptural accounts, such as the children of Israel’s 40-year exodus from Egypt and Lehi and Nephi’s “sojourn to their promised land.”

President Henry J. Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

President Henry J. Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Michael Lewis, BYU-Idaho

“The sojourns of the Saints under Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young were a match for the Exodus from Egypt and Nephi’s crossing from the ancient world to the new one,” President Eyring said.

For the past two years, members of “the BYU-Idaho family” along with the citizens of surrounding communities, have been on “a sojourn triggered by a pandemic.”  

“While keeping an eye on the pandemic, we have a valuable opportunity to learn and benefit from the events of the last two years.”

Students gather for the first devotional of BYU-Idaho Spring 2022 semester on April 19, 2022.

Students gather for the first devotional of BYU-Idaho Spring 2022 semester on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Michael Lewis, BYU-Idaho

Innovations such as new remote courses and enhanced hybrids were “the equivalent of educational manna,” and though the learning processes were different, they were mostly effective and “surprisingly good.” “We learned much in the educational ‘wilderness,’ “ President Eyring said.

He asked four colleagues to reflect on and share their experiences during the pandemic. 

BYU-Idaho student Christian Lloyd recounted how he came to accept the COVID-19 guidelines set by the university, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

Christian Lloyd speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Christian Lloyd speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Brett Garamendi, BYU-Idaho

“Wearing a mask and following the other guidelines was no worse than a minor inconvenience. …  If wearing a mask and social distancing was all it took to help others feel more comfortable coming to campus; then that was the least I could do,” he explained.

“It is not our job to know everything right now; our only responsibility is to do the best we can, to follow the Savior and learn from what we experience.”

Kristie Lords, student well-being managing director, reflected on the many ways she witnessed ministering. 

Kristie Lords, BYU-Idaho’s student well-being managing director, speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Kristie Lords, BYU-Idaho’s student well-being managing director, speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Brett Garamendi, BYU-Idaho

“I watched a legion of people come together to ensure students had food, were cared for and received appropriate support beyond the classroom,” she said. “This did not solve the global crisis, but it did provide a semblance of peace when the world was in tumult and families and loved ones were time zones apart.”

Student Cassi Johnson spoke about the unique ways she made connections with others during the pandemic, even as she felt “lost and confused.” She found ways to grow relationships and serve others and had experiences she “will forever be grateful for.”

Cassi Johnson speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Cassi Johnson speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Brett Garamendi, BYU-Idaho

Faculty member Joe Anderson recalled the perspective shifts he and his family experienced during the onset of the pandemic.

Joe Anderson speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Joe Anderson speaks during the BYU-Idaho devotional on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Brett Garamendi, BYU-Idaho

“Prior to COVID, modern society was moving at an ever-increasing rate and our daily lives were perpetually hectic,” he said. “Thankfully, the early days of COVID forced us to slow down. It may not have seemed like a blessing to many, but my family benefited from time spent together focusing on what really matters.”

President Eyring concluded his message by quoting the words of President Russell M. Nelson, who said: “How you deal with life’s trials is part of the development of your faith. Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth.”

“With that foundation of understanding, we can seek the Spirit’s guidance in leading our colleagues and other loved ones,” President Eyring said. “Then, together, we can approach and ultimately qualify for the Promised Land.”

Students gather for the first devotional of BYU-Idaho Spring 2022 semester on April 19, 2022.

Students gather for the first devotional of BYU-Idaho Spring 2022 semester on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Madeline Carn, BYU-Idaho

Sister Kelly Eyring, President Eyring’s wife and the mother of three children who have graduated from BYU-Idaho and two sons who are currently enrolled at Church universities, shared her “motherly advice” with the students.

“What we focus on will fill our thoughts and affect our actions,” she said. “Prayer will be a way to focus your mind on the things that you are grateful for.”

Sister Kelly Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

Sister Kelly Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Michael Lewis, BYU-Idaho

She also expressed her hope that “you and my boys would watch for people who need an act of kindness.” Serving each other by noticing others’ needs always makes for a better day, she said.

Finally, she encouraged students to remember that “our best is all that is needed. We are all learning, and learning includes making mistakes.”

Sister Kelly Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

Sister Kelly Eyring speaks at the first devotional of Spring Semester at BYU-Idaho on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Brett Garamendi, BYU-Idaho

“We can be strengthened,” she said. “We can do more than just hope for a great semester. We can make it a great semester.”

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