Two events occurred in 2001 that seem to have little to do with one another. One was Ricks College becoming the four-year institution known as Brigham Young University-Idaho. The other was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
President Henry B. Eyring, then commissioner of Church education and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and now a member of the First Presidency, was assigned to speak at BYU-Idaho on Sept. 18 that year.
"But then the unthinkable happened," recalled his son BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring in an April 23 devotional address. Terrorist attacks destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
By coincidence, both President Henry J. Eyring and his father were scheduled to speak to college students the following Tuesday. And although the younger President Eyring felt they should cancel their addresses, President Henry B. Eyring felt that the remarks he had prepared during the summer would be perfectly appropriate at BYU-Idaho.
"In hindsight, Commissioner Eyring couldn't have been more right," President Eyring said of his father.
President Henry B. Eyring recognized the connection between the changes occurring to BYU-Idaho at the time and the great uncertainty that hung over the world following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"He optimistically decided to make the theme of change central to the address that had been in the works for months," President Henry J. Eyring said, expressing his desire for all students at BYU-Idaho to become familiar with his father's 2001 address. But rather than quote from it, he shared brief video clips from the address, titled 'A Steady, Upward Course.' The address centered on nine themes — five efforts required of individuals and four resulting effects that come as promised blessings.
1. Centering on the Savior and His commandments
Faith in Christ should be central to students' academic pursuits. "We will not attain academic excellence without that faith of yours as students and those that follow to learn by study and by faith," he said.
2. Focusing on the unchangeable
"We must have an eye of faith fixed on eternal life," President Eyring said. Eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God, means to live in glory forever in families in the presence of Heavenly Father, he said.
3. Praying for the guidance of the Holy Ghost
"One of the reasons that we can prophesy about the academic excellence that will be here is (that) you will do that same thing in classes. ... You'll pray that you'll be taught by the Holy Spirit," he said. "The prayer that I've felt in this room is one of the things that has made this institution worthy of the trust that has been given it by the prophet of God."
4. Teaching and nurturing
BYU-Idaho will be a great teaching institution because the Savior is the great exemplar, President Eyring said in his 2001 address. "He was a teacher. His work and glory was to lift others. He taught His disciples not to set themselves as being better than others, but to be the servants of all," he said.
5. Treating everything as the Lord's
There will come times when the Lord's prophet will ask His people to do more with less. "Knowing that will come, we must and will find ways to improve and to innovate that require little or no money," President Eyring said. "We will depend more upon inspiration and perspiration to make improvements than upon buildings and equipment."
"These five types of effort on your part will produce remarkable outcomes," President Henry J. Eyring said following these clips.
1. Frugal innovation
Frugality and willingness to do more with less will set a tone for the campus of BYU-Idaho, President Eyring said in his 2001 address. "Their sacrifice, your sacrifice, will bring down the blessings of heaven as it always has."
2. Influencing others for good
President Eyring made a prophecy in 2001 that the day will come that "capacity to influence people around you for good will have you singled out as one of the great leaders in whatever place you're in."
3. Legendary leadership
Graduates of BYU-Idaho will be natural leaders who know how to teach and learn, President Eyring said. Those graduates "will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve."
4. A steady, upward course to exaltation
From leaders, teachers and staff members for whom the Savior and His kingdom are at the center of their lives, students will learn how to keep on a steady upward course, even in times of great change, President Eyring said.
"From that example, they — you — will become life-long teachers in their families, in the Church and in their work, and they will bless others wherever they go by what they have learned about innovating with scarce resources and treating all they have as if it were the Lord's."
Following the second set of clips, President Henry J. Eyring told students they have the promise of becoming natural leaders who influence others for good.
"I see you doing these things, and I look forward to a lifetime of watching you rise on your steady upward course."
President Eyring's wife, Sister Kelly Eyring, spoke briefly on leadership during the devotional.
Many students participated in a discussion board on leadership before the devotional. Sister Eyring remarked, "most everyone who shared an example of a leader they know mentioned the humility of the leader."
She quoted from Matthew 20:26: "But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister."
"I hope this semester you will look to serve your roommates and classmates. This kind of caring is the key to becoming a great leader."