Health-care providers have a sacred trust by nature of their professional callings to heal, President Henry B. Eyring told members of an association of Latter-day Saint physicians April 2 in Salt Lake City.
President Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, received the Humanitarian Award from Collegium Aesculapium and was the featured speaker at the evening dinner, attended by members and spouses, part of the organization's annual conference.
Also receiving the Humanitarian Award was Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President from 2002-2007.
The group honored one of its own members, Mardon Ladwig, with its Distinguished Service Award. He has been serving in as a battalion surgeon in the U.S. military in Baghdad, Iraq, since 2008.
"You and I share a common goal to help Heavenly Father heal his children," said President Eyring. "You spend most of your working lives trying to do it from within a system intended to promote physical healing. I spend most of my waking and sleeping hours trying to help Heavenly Father within a system He designed to make possible the spiritual healing of His children.
"Because we are all Latter-day Saints, we have had experiences in both systems. As bishops, as teachers of Laurels and MIA Maids, as missionaries and as parents we have labored to help Heavenly Father heal the souls of His children. We have felt that healing in ourselves. We have been receivers and givers of spiritual health care."
President Eyring began his address by speaking of the test of mortality that was presented to Heavenly Father's children in the pre-mortal existence. "When it was explained to us, we shouted for joy," he said. It is remarkable, because the test of mortality was to be so difficult." He noted that memory of the pre-earth life would be blocked and that God's spirit children would be given physical bodies subject to disease, decay and powerful urges.
"Not everyone shouted for joy," he said. "One-third of the children of Heavenly Father saw danger in the plan He offered us. The risks seemed too great. It would be too hard, it seemed to them, to keep God's commandments perfectly with all the weaknesses of a mortal body."
The Father made it possible by sending His Beloved Son to pay the price of sins that mortals would commit and allow them to be cleansed through humble obedience to covenants, President Eyring said. "He would send the Holy Ghost to comfort and show the way. And He would send helpers to comfort, to encourage and to lift us up that we might endure."
President Eyring told the association of health providers: "Heavenly Father wants to heal His children from sin and suffering. By the nature of your professional callings, you come into the lives of people when they are humbled by their need to be physically healed. They look to you for relief. If they trust you, they surrender to your judgment, your skill and your choice to do what is best for them."
He said patients also have an inborn preference to take responsibility for their own bodies and health. "The drive to be free to make important choices has been with them" since their pre-mortal existence, he said. "They feel deep in their hearts a desire to do their part in making that healing possible."
President Eyring said that while he shares with the health-care providers a duty to heal Heavenly Father's children, "you have the advantage over me in your great experience in the world's physical heath-care system. In this system, you have been the wonderful providers. I have only been your grateful recipient. Yet, that imbalance provides me an opportunity tonight. I can encourage you to appreciate and enhance the way your health-care service blesses people's lives, as it did mine. And I can tell you what I have learned about how we can protect and enhance the way we help the Lord in His health-care system to bless and heal His children's spirits."
President Eyring recounted that just over a year ago, having just been called as first counselor to President Thomas S. Monson, he was preparing for general conference and, in addition, was to be the speaker for the First Presidency in the General Young Women Meeting. He began experiencing blackouts, the first of which caused him to fall and to fracture his right leg.
In receiving treatment, he observed the unity with which physicians worked together for his benefit. "Each had a separate practice and specialty," he said. "They did not all know each other. And yet as I went from office to office, it was as if they were one. They would already know what others had learned and what they believed about what had been happening to me. I could see the miracle of records and communication technology behind that."
President Eyring concluded that "whatever promotes and preserves unity among people in a physical health-care system will promote its effectiveness in helping people be healed. Do what you can to build that sense of being one and avoid whatever might divide you."
He applied that to a spiritual system of healing. "Pride and prejudice really are our enemies in serving those who need healing," he said.
President Eyring said that as treatment was given to him, he was treated as if the responsibility for healing was largely his own. "That did more than satisfy my inborn desires to act rather than to be acted upon," he said.
"I am still being blessed by being treated as the one to make the important choices." he added.
Ultimately, President Eyring said, surgeons placed a device in his chest to remedy a pattern in which his heart had been stopping momentarily, causing the blackouts. In this, the Lord had honored a priesthood blessing given to him by President Monson that those who were searching would find the cause of his problem.
Now, he faced the choice of speaking to the Young Women congregation from a chair on the rostrum or standing to speak at the pulpit. Drawing inspiration from the courage of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, who had finished a general conference sermon, physically supported by his fellow apostle Elder Russell M. Nelson, President Eyring elected to stand and speak.
"I will always be grateful for the Lord's spiritual and physical healing power which I felt then and still feel," he said.
"It is God who has put in place the power which brings healing to His children," President Eyring said.
"In any health care system, physical or spiritual, the most important thing that can be done is to invite the healing power of the Lord," he declared. "That healing power comes because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and always involves the power of the Holy Ghost.
"That has powerful implications for those of us who are care providers. It affects how we treat each other and how we treat those we serve. And it affects what we are trying to become."
In bestowing the awards, Glen Morrell, president of the organization, said that Sister Parkin, whose husband James L. Parkin is a member of the association, was largely responsible as Relief Society general president for a measles initiative in which millions of vaccinations were given in Ethiopia and Mozambique. He said that President Eyring was being honored for service to God's children as he has tirelessly sought to help them come unto Christ.
Collegium Aesculapium, which includes practicing and retired LDS physicians and health professionals, is a service organization that functions on international, national and local levels. More information can be found on the Web site, collegiumaesculapium.org