Elder Dallin H. Oaks announced the appointment of Henry J. Eyring as the 17th president of BYU-Idaho on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
The announcement came just hours after the First Presidency announced the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, a new organization to be led by current BYU-Idaho president Clark G. Gilbert.
“This new organization will have Church-wide responsibilities for online higher education, and will include many of the online programs currently administered through the BYU universities and LDSBC, …” said Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “For BYU-Idaho the functions to be assumed by this new worldwide organization are a significant recognition and magnification of the pioneering work you have done in an area of worldwide need for the whole Church, which pioneering work is now to join with and benefit online programs at other CES institutions.”
Elder Oaks praised President Gilbert, who has led BYU-Idaho for the last two years. “His innovative efforts to develop online programs to bless the lives of many more students are an ideal resource for his leading the new BYU-Pathway Worldwide.”
Elder Oaks said Henry J. Eyring, BYU-Idaho academic vice president and the son of President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, worked at BYU-Idaho for more than one decade. Brother Eyring will assume his new position April 10, 2017, following the conclusion of the current semester on April 7.
Brother Eyring — who was a child when his father served as president of Ricks College — said the BYU-Idaho campus “for generations has been hallowed ground to my family. We look forward to continued service in this richly blessed portion of the Lord’s vineyard.”
Brother Eyring said he is grateful for the historic creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide. “As President Gilbert and his colleagues go forward now in their mission to take education to a worldwide Church, we at BYU-Idaho will be a kind of home ward to them, supplying essential support,” he said.
President Gilbert said he and his family love BYU-Idaho; he left a faculty position with the Harvard Business School in 2006 to work for BYU-Idaho, where he stayed until accepting a position as CEO of Deseret Digital Media and then president of Deseret News. He and his family returned to Rexburg when he was called as serve as BYU-Idaho president in 2015. “When we left here six years ago we prayed we had enough of Rexburg in us. Once again we will be leaving. I hope, like so many students here, that when we leave there will be enough Rexburg in all of us.”
President Gilbert continued: “In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when we are asked to do hard things, we rise up, we do them and the Lord blesses us.”
Elder Clark recalled a time in the 1930s, when in a state of financial distress, the Church tried to gift Ricks College to the state of Idaho. The Idaho State Senate voted on the gift three times but never received the votes to accept the institution. If the vote had not failed, the Lord could not have prepared the campus to “become this great institution,” said Elder Clark.
The Lord also prepared the Gilberts and the Eyrings and the students for their role on the campus, he said. “You are here in this place by His design,” Elder Clark told the students. “He has watched over you and brought you here to come to know Him and love Him.”
Offering the final address, Elder Oaks told the congregation he felt “privileged to have been part of this historic occasion.”
After lauding the accomplishments of Brother Eyring, Elder Oaks said, “I join each of you in commending President Clark G. Gilbert for his marvelous leadership of BYU-Idaho. Now the Lord’s servants have been inspired to call him to another assignment. As I thought about what I might say to you about that, I remembered an experience I had in 1973. It concerns President Harold B. Lee.”
President Lee was called as president of the Church at age 73 and lived only 18 months afterwards. “Shocked like so many others, I wondered why the Lord would release a leader, so vigorous and well-prepared to lead the Church in that critical time.
“The comfort that settled upon my soul is precisely the comfort that is available to you as you think about the sudden departure of your well-loved and highly capable President Gilbert. I was comforted with the assurance that the Lord had transferred President Lee to another important assignment on the other side of the veil, and the Lord had another very capable apostle to take up the reins of leadership — Spencer W. Kimball. Happily, President Gilbert’s transfer, which follows that same pattern, is not accomplished in the same way as President Lee’s. But the principle is the same. And, happily, the Lord has prepared another leader, [Henry J. Eyring], whose gifts and vision and experience at BYU-Idaho are fully equal to the great responsibility of carrying on the vital work of this wonderful university.”
Then Elder Oaks told the students that they live in challenging times.
“Values and standards honored for thousands of years are now being denied or cast aside. Selfishness is replacing service. Evil is being called good, and good is being called evil.”
Elder Oaks told the students that though men’s hearts are failing them, they should take heart. “There have always been challenging times. We, the generations of your predecessors, have survived daunting challenges, and so will you. The answer to all of these challenges is the same as it has always been. We have a Savior, and He has taught us what we should do.”
The power of God can overcome the world, he said. “In the stressful circumstances that surround us, we must trust in God and His promises and hold fast to the vital gospel teaching of hope. …
“When we trust in the Lord that all will work out, this hope keeps us moving. Hope is a characteristic Christian virtue. I know it will counter all current despairs. When you feel down, put faith and hope to work in your lives. While others may abandon progress, you of faith should hope on and press on with your education, your lives and your families.”