Sister Kathleen J. Eyring, wife of President Henry B. Eyring, dies at age 82 following a life of deep conviction to the gospel

Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring — a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother — is remembered for a life of serving others, strengthening family

After consecrating her life, talents and great spiritual maturity to her family and the gospel of Jesus Christ, Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring, 82the wife of President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency — died Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in her home in Bountiful, Utah, surrounded by her family.

“Everything I’ve done in the Church, my marriage to Hal, any call I’ve accepted, I have done with deep conviction that Joseph Smith is a prophet, the Church is true, the Church is led by prophets, and the priesthood is restored and is upon the earth,” Sister Eyring said in a Church News interview when her husband was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Throughout their 60-plus years of marriage and President Eyring’s close to 40 years of full-time Church service, Sister Eyring remained her husband’s biggest support, counselor and confidante.

President Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Sister Kathleen Eyring, at the rededication of the Laie Hawaii Temple in 2010.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kathleen J. Eyring, participated in the rededication of the Laie Hawaii Temple on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010. | Gerry Avant, Church News

President Eyring — who has served in the Presiding Bishopric, as a General Authority Seventy, as the Church commissioner of education, in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and in the First Presidency — often paid tribute to his wife’s defining influence in his life. “I have become a better person as I have loved and lived with her. We have been complementary beyond anything I could have imagined. … I realize now that we grew together into one — slowly lifting and shaping each other, year by year. As we absorbed strength from each other, it did not diminish our personal gifts,” he said during an address he gave at the Vatican on Nov. 18, 2014.

In an interview for his 90th birthday, President Eyring recalled their first date to play tennis. He thought he’d show off and won the first set. As they changed sides, he tried to say something funny or witty, but she didn’t look up. “She just walked past me and went to the other end of the court and began to tap her racket,” he recalled.

Thinking she was irritated, he thought, “She’ll get worse.” Instead, she “just took me apart.” 

That was one of the first things he learned about her: “When things get tough, she gets better.”

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Soon after they were married, the two moved into the guest house on a hilltop on her parents’ property along the coast of California. President Eyring described it as “the nearest thing to heaven as you’ve ever seen.”

Ten years later, President Eyring received a phone call from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then Church commissioner of education, asking him to be the next president of Ricks College (now BYU–Idaho). The family — which by then included three young boys — moved from their idyllic house on the hill in warm, sunny California, to a single-wide trailer near the Rexburg, Idaho, campus. President Eyring remembered that the snow would blow under the door and across the floor of the trailer.

But Sister Eyring never complained. “Because the Lord had already told her, ‘Live so that when the call comes, you can walk away easily.’ So she knew she was on the Lord’s track, and it was OK.”

President Henry B. Eyring, Sister Kathleen J. Eyring and family before his inauguration in 1971 as president of Ricks College. Their sons are Matthew, front, Henry J. and Stuart.
President Henry B. Eyring, Sister Kathleen J. Eyring and family before his inauguration in 1971 as president of Ricks College. Their sons are Matthew, front, Henry J. and Stuart. | Deseret News Archives

Sister Eyring was born in San Francisco, California, on May 11, 1941, the daughter of J. Cyril “Sid” and LaPrele Lindsay Johnson. Her deep conviction in the truthfulness of the gospel was forged in the home of her parents. Growing up, she excelled at sports and loved the outdoors. She attended an elite girls’ prep school, where she became captain of the tennis team, student body president and valedictorian. 

She spent time studying at Sorbonne University in the heart of Paris and the University of Vienna, where she learned to speak both French and German.

While attending the University of California at Berkeley, she and a friend decided to do a semester of summer school at Harvard University in Boston in 1961. There she met Henry Bennion Eyring.

Henry “Hal” Eyring caught sight of an auburn-haired young woman in a red and white seersucker dress walking through a grove of trees during a Church activity and was struck with the thought, “That’s the best person I’ve ever seen. If I could be with her, I could be every good thing I ever wanted to be” (“I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring,” p. 89). 

Said Sister Eyring of their meeting: “I knew Hal was someone special. He thought about important things” (“Henry J. Eyring: Molded by Defining Influences,” Ensign, September 1995).

They were married on July 27, 1962, in the Logan Utah Temple by President Spencer W. Kimball. They have six children — four sons and two daughters.

President Eyring was married to Kathleen Johnson July 1962 in the Logan Utah Temple.
A photo of President Henry B. Eyring and Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring on their wedding day on July 27, 1962. | Credit: KSL

Later in life, President Eyring cheerfully said he saw himself as the lucky “street rat” from the movie “Aladdin,” who won the hand of the beautiful princess (“I Will Lead You Along,” p. 495).

Throughout her life, Sister Eyring strove to serve the Lord by serving others. One of the Eyrings’ bishops once told her husband: “I’m amazed. Every time I hear of a person in the ward who is in trouble, I hurry to help. Yet by the time I arrive, it seems that your wife has always already been there.” 

Added President Eyring: “That has been true in all the places we have lived for 56 years” (“Try, Try, Try,” October 2018 general conference).

President Henry B. Eyring, wearing a cowboy hat
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, with his wife Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring by his side waves to the crowd at the annual Days of ‘47 Parade. | Deseret News file photo

Described by her family as an “intensely private and modest” person, Sister Eyring taught her greatest sermons by example and, often, with great wit and humor. Her son Henry J. Eyring recalled when he and his brothers stayed up late on a Saturday night watching a “tawdry comedy show.” Without making a sound, Sister Eyring went behind the TV and cut the cord before gliding from the room.

“For the most part, Mother leads through quiet example,” Henry J. Eyring said. “However, she is also inspired and fearless. Mother’s assertiveness has been a great blessing to her children and grandchildren” (“President Henry B. Eyring: Called of God,” Ensign, July 2008).

Sister Kathleen Eyring and President Henry B. Eyring attend the Polynesian Cultural Center in November of 2010. | Sarah Jane Weaver

A gifted writer, Sister Eyring wrote a novel but chose not to publish it. Instead, she chose to focus her life — wholeheartedly — in cultivating a rich environment where her loved ones could flourish. “She literally put [the novel] away so that she could get on with what she considered her most important work,” explained her son John Eyring in a tribute which aired on KSL on May 12, 2013. “She had the very best mix: a very calm and quiet heart and the ability to express herself with and through the Holy Ghost in a way that made all the difference in our home and in our lives growing up,” he said.

In recent years, President Eyring made mention of his wife’s declining health. In a Church News interview in 2023, President Eyring said that although she could no longer speak, she would sometimes offer a smile, as if to say, “We’re still in this together.” 

President Eyring said, he would sing and pray with her every morning and night. He doesn’t do it because it’s a good thing to do. “It’s because I want to be there,” he said.

Throughout their marriage, President Eyring said, he always got the feeling that his wife’s first priority was to try to do what the Lord wanted.

Funeral services are pending.

President Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Kathleen Eyring, leave after the first session of the 181st Annual General Conference.
President Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Sister Kathleen Eyring, leave after the first session of the 181st Annual General Conference Saturday, April 2, 2011 in the Conference Center. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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