Who does President Henry J. Eyring turn to when he begins to question the Church?
When President Henry J. Eyring was a young law clerk, a supervisor who knew of his Church membership told him new research had invalidated the Book of Abraham. “I was shaken by that accusation,” he said.
But he had a secret weapon. His father had just been called as a General Authority.
So, he called his father on the phone, described his situation and awaited the answer that would surely refute these accusations. But his father’s answer surprised him.
“He simply asked, ‘Have you read the Book of Abraham?’
“ ‘Yes,’ I replied.
“He asked, ‘How do you feel when you read it?’
“‘Good,’ I admitted.
“‘What else do you need to know?’ he asked.”
That phone conversation didn’t help him out much at work, President Henry J. Eyring explained in a university devotional address held Tuesday, Sept. 18 in the BYU-Idaho Center auditorium. However, it has caused him to reflect for the past 30 years on his own testimony of the Book of Abraham and other works of scripture revealed to Joseph Smith.
So where does he turn if not his own father?
To the examples found in the scriptures, he said.
From reading the stories of Enos and Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon in his teenage years, President Eyring learned the need for heart-changing repentance. Following their examples, he prayed for forgiveness and peace.
“When those feelings came to me, as they had to them, I knew in both my heart and my mind that those stories are true. I could not deny that Enos and Alma the Younger were real people whose stories had been compiled by the Prophet Mormon and revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
More than that, he knew that in this dispensation “the Lord has restored His gospel in its fullness and His Church in its completeness, with priesthood leaders authorized to speak for Him,” President Eyring said. Thus, he gained an unshakeable testimony that the Church restored through Joseph Smith is still led by a living prophet and by other leaders, called under His direction, he said.
“Whenever I am tempted to doubt the Church or any of its leaders, past or present, I need only to reevaluate my own spiritual state,” President Eyring said. “I ask myself the question, ‘Am I true?’”
In order for a statement to be true, all parts of must be true. One part of falseness makes the whole statement false. By that standard, the answer to President Eyring’s question is always “No.”
“There is always some weakness I can identify, some failure requiring repentance,” he said.
Whenever following the cycle of recognition and repentance, he is not just relieved of the pain of feeling “untrue,” but also has re-proven to himself that the Church and its sacred teachings are true, he said.
President Eyring invited anyone battling doubts about the Church to try a spiritual experiment. “Assume that the Church is true, notwithstanding the human frailties of its members and leaders. Then look for at least one way in which you are not being true to the teachings of the Church.”
After pondering this regret long enough to feel a softened heart, one should seek direction from Heavenly Father, consider talking with his or her bishop, then follow the example of Enos and Alma, President Eyring said. “Pray for feelings of remorse, and for guidance in making things right. Having done that, pray for feelings of forgiveness.”
As this happens, “you can recognize not only the miracle of forgiveness, but also the power of the doctrines of the Church, through which forgiveness has come,” he said. “You can once again prove the truthfulness of the Church, notwithstanding the imperfections of its members.”
President Eyring’s wife, Sister Kelly C. Eyring, also spoke at Tuesday’s devotional comparing the process of gaining a testimony to collecting small coins.
“A single penny isn’t worth much,” she said. “In fact, we may feel that it is not worth the time and effort to pick it up.”
However, accumulating many pennies over a long time produces financial fortunes.
“Likewise, the habit of looking for and picking up the seemingly small experiences that Heavenly Father places in our day can fill our testimony banks to overflowing,” Sister Eyring said. “The key is to recognize and ‘pick up’ those experiences and put them into our spiritual ‘bank accounts’ where they can be added to and grow larger, rather than being lost to memory.”