Like the Teton Dam flood, pandemic offers ways to serve, grow stronger, President Henry J. Eyring tells BYU-Idaho students

Through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring said that he’s seen many examples of ministering and service across the university community, from meal delivery to the simple act of a man tying the shoe of woman carrying a baby, calling them “modern-day examples of the ministry of the Good Samaritan.”

He drew several parallels from the service during the pandemic to when the Grand Teton Dam broke in 1976, causing $300 million in damages. President Eyring, who was 12 at time, shared examples of how, while it was a very trying time in the community, many people pitched in to help with housing, clean up and supplies.

“The pandemic dam has broken; we must continue to deal with the flood of invisible, stealthy disease. It is time to go to work, like the Good Samaritan, focusing on what each of us can do, individually and collectively,” he said during the semester’s opening devotional on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring speaks during the campus devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring speaks during the campus devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Credit: screenshot byui.edu

President Eyring noted that some of his personal habits from the past year, including checking daily infection numbers, need changing.

“My personal plan is to do the simple things within my control. For me, that means wearing a protective mask when I leave the house, even outside,” he said, adding that he’s come to appreciate how a mask keeps his nose warm. “I don’t know how my nose has survived so many Rexburg winters without one.”

“I’m also going to be more generous in judging others’ decisions and actions. And I’ll refrain from speculating or seeking to assign blame to others,” he added.

President Eyring invited students to consider what each of them, their roommates or spouse can do to have “to have a healthy and spiritually blessed semester.”

In the biblical story of the Good Samaritan, the road from Jerusalem or Jericho was risky as a known spot for highwaymen. The Samaritan didn’t judge the beaten man or make excuses, President Eyring said.

With the current challenges and individual responses to adapt, there is an opportunity to be better prepared for future setbacks, whether at school, employment or family, he said.

“Nonetheless, many types of ‘dams’ will break on us and those we care for. The floods may bring illness and quarantine, school and career setbacks, and, perhaps most painful of all, family sorrows,” he said. “But that ‘curriculum’ is central to the purpose of this Earth life.”

He pointed out that the students can do more than just survive the winter with the pandemic precautions in place. There is also an opportunity to increase in faith and charity, he said.

BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring shares a painting of the Good Samaritan during the campus devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring shares a painting of the Good Samaritan during the campus devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

“It can be a heroic journey, like the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Working together, we can strengthen and carry one another,” he said. “We can be generous, courageous Good Samaritans, looking back with gratitude and satisfaction in work well done.”

Sister Kelly C. Eyring, President Eyring’s wife, also spoke at the devotional and shared about her goals for both physical and spiritual strength training. She noted how with physical training, she has a trainer and program in place, along with her “why” and instructions to keep a log.

“So, I have a goal, and a system, and I just need to show up and work consistently and not be afraid of failure,” she said.

For spiritual strength training, she pointed to the workout of navigating the pandemic.

“If we allow for it, I am pretty sure this pandemic will make us stronger. Alma 20:4 reads, ‘in the strength of the Lord, thou canst do all things,’” She said.

She said she hopes that the students will keep “a log or journal so that you can see for yourself and remember how the Lord helped to build you through this time.”

Sister Kelly Eyring speaks during the BYU-Idaho campus devotional on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.
Sister Kelly Eyring speaks during the BYU-Idaho campus devotional on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Credit: screenshot byui.edu