Happy 87th birthday to President Henry B. Eyring — an artist, lover of sports and Apostle of Jesus Christ

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, turned 87 on May 31. He was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on May 31, 1933, and was ordained an Apostle and joining the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995.

In celebration of his birthday, here are some memorable moments and pictures from President Eyring’s early life and most recent year of ministering to God’s children.

Henry Bennion Eyring was named after both of his parents, Henry and Mildred Bennion Eyring. His father was a world-renowned theoretical chemist and his mother a doctoral candidate and acting chairman of a department at the University of Utah.

President Eyring was married to Kathleen Johnson July 1962 in the Logan Utah Temple.
President Eyring was married to Kathleen Johnson July 1962 in the Logan Utah Temple. Credit: KSL

He met his future wife, Sister Kathleen Johnson, at a church meeting in Boston — she was attending a Harvard summer program, and he was serving as a counselor to the Boston District president. They married in the Logan Utah Temple in 1962; President and Sister Eyring are the parents of four sons and two daughters.

Henry B. Eyring was a basketball player at East High School.
Henry B. Eyring was a basketball player at East High School. Credit: KSL

When President “Hal” Eyring was first called as a General Authority in 1985 he told the Church News he loves athletics but said, “I have never pursued any sport I couldn’t do with my children.”

For over 40 years, President Eyring has captured memories of his life by painting moments from his written journal. According to a 2018 Deseret News article about President Eyring’s art, “most often, the feeling he has sought to preserve is about a moment with Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring.”

Ministering in his 86th year

On Nov. 15, 2019, President Eyring, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Hugo Montoya presented Maryland Governor Larry Hogan with his personal family history, complete with photos and documents.

In a Church News article, the governor is quoted to have said: “This is very special. … I can’t thank you enough.”

While visiting with the governor, they also invited him to attend the future Washington D.C. Temple open house when the renovation is complete — an invitation the governor accepted, saying, “I would love to have that opportunity.”

President Henry B. Eyring and Elder Gary E. Stevenson speak with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on Nov. 15, 2019, about the upcoming public open house of the Washington D.C. Temple.
President Henry B. Eyring and Elder Gary E. Stevenson speak with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on Nov. 15, 2019, about the upcoming public open house of the Washington D.C. Temple. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

On Nov. 16, 2019, President Eyring visited Charlotte, North Carolina. with Elder Stevenson. During the conference, President Eyring taught local leaders and missionaries the real purpose of ministering.

“That’s the message we are still giving,” he said. “Pure religion is extending ourselves to those in need. The fatherless and the widows symbolize those who are in deep need.”

The following day, on November 17, 2019, he and Elder Stevenson participated in the North Carolina Charlotte Central Stake conference. There, he testified of Heavenly Father’s love for His children.

“You are not alone. There is a Father who loves you, cares about you and knows your name and knows all about you,” he said. “He sends us the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost then speaks to us in a way that is very personal.”

President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Hugo Montoya and Elder Matthew Harding greet sister missionaries during a meeting Nov. 16, 2019, with the North Carolina Charlotte Mission.
President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Hugo Montoya and Elder Matthew Harding greet sister missionaries during a meeting Nov. 16, 2019, with the North Carolina Charlotte Mission. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

On Feb. 1, President Eyring stood in front of more than 850 people and delivered a message of hope in the spirit world. The funeral he was speaking at was for Clayton Christensen, the “father of the internationally renowned business theory of disruptive innovation,” according to a recent Church News article.

Christensen, who died at the age of 67 of complications from cancer, wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” a book ranked one of the great business books.

President Eyring spoke of Christensen’s new calling in the spirit world, testifying, “there really is a spirit world. He’s in it, and it’s real.

“Can you imagine if you were trying to run the mission among the spirits in prison if Clayton Christensen arrived?” he continued. “Do you have any idea? You can be quite confident he had his companion assigned within a very short time. Could you imagine the quality they would have assigned to him? And what he could do, we can’t even imagine.”

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets Christine Christensen before the funeral service for her husband, Clayton Christensen, at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, meetinghouse on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020.
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets Christine Christensen before the funeral service for her husband, Clayton Christensen, at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, meetinghouse on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

On March 3, 2020, about a week before COVID-19 forced an abrupt end to Church leaders’ in-person ministry efforts, President Eyring visited Latter-day Saints in Idaho.

His first stop was the Idaho State Capitol in Boise. According to a Newsroom release, he opened the Senate session with a prayer, and the Idaho House recognized him for his contributions to the state, including serving as president of then-Ricks College from 1971 to 1977.

He also toured the Idaho Food Bank, acknowledging its “such wonderful work to help the people, to meet their needs — and I mean their real needs. They have helped people, and I felt that with everyone that I met here today.”

President Eyring attends a luncheon with Charles C. Taylor, president of the Treasure Valley NAACP on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
President Eyring attends a luncheon with Charles C. Taylor, president of the Treasure Valley NAACP on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Approaching his 87th birthday, President Eyring addressed Church members from a near-empty auditorium on April 4 during the historic April 2020 general conference, which in part celebrated the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

In his first address, titled “Prayers of Faith,” President Eyring emphasized each person’s vital role in the Restoration.

“Throughout his prophetic ministry, Joseph Smith used prayers of faith to obtain continuous revelation,” he said. “As we face today’s challenges and those yet to come, we too will need to practice the same pattern.”

As we pray in faith, he continued, “we become a vital part in the Lord’s work as He prepares the world for His Second Coming.”

President Henry B. Eyring speaks during the Saturday evening session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020.
President Henry B. Eyring speaks during the Saturday evening session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 4, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, ChurchofJesusChrist.org

In his second address, “He Goes Before Us,” he testified the Spirit of Elijah is indeed connecting generations of family members through family history and temple work.

“Now, as the Lord surely knew would happen, young people are becoming computer mentors to their parents and ward members,” he said. “All have found great joy in their service.”

He promised: “Temples will soon again be happily scheduling baptismal opportunities and other sacred ordinances. The desire to serve our ancestors and the bonding of parents and children are growing.”