Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring

This book, for me, is life changing. President Eyring is a member of the First Presidency. I've always associated him with deep humility, strength of character, not to mention extreme smarts. But reading this book has enlightened my mind: he's like me. I don't mean I have those traits, but that we have similar personality types. I just assumed he's always been a humble, introspective type (aka not my greatest strength). What I found, however, is that he's quite analytical. It won't come as a surprise to you that I am quite analytical, what with all the lists and endless number of blog posts on why I believe this or that. I come from a huge line of analyzers. In fact, I don't think you can get a group of Dennis Flakes together without them analyzing something. 

So by deductive logic, if an analytic like him can turn into a humble, unassuming servant of the Lord, I guess I can too. 

So in many ways, this book is like a road map. I have learned a lot.   

President Eyring once gave a talk urging people to keep a daily record of how God's hand has shown up in their lives. I had an idea of what this might look like, but it was so eye opening to see how this played out in President Eyring's own journal. They way he wrote so impacted me, it is a habit I want to start in 2014. From the excerpts I read, it wasn't so much a daily log of activities, but instead he would record short conversations and what he learned from them, or a part of the day where he was taught by the spirit, or some interesting thing he might have done with his kids.

Another theme I learned about is what "study it out in your mind" looks like. I guess I had always looked at it as making a list of pros and cons, but then ultimately letting the spirit guide you, almost as if it was a hoop to jump through. But the way President Eyring studies something out is very involved: he's actually seeking out new information on both sides of the idea, looking at long term effects, and in general, just letting his brilliant mind go to work. And then, because his research has been so extensive on both sides of the argument, the correct answer makes itself apparent. And then the spirit confirms it. I feel this is the truth about our intellect: when we use it not for gain or pride, but only for honestly seeking the Truth, God will reveal the answer this way and it will be less of a mystery. We are, after all, patterned after our Father. He can reveal his processes to us.

The other over-arching theme I learned a lot from was about how councils work. Quite often he would be in a council with two people with very different personalities, or very different viewpoints. I learned that that was the point, in order to see all different sides of a problem. President Eyring let his God-given strengths and differences be assets. He also shows that we can get defensive over an idea, simply because it is ours, or that we can get caught up in our own personal opinion, as opposed to what is right. The greatest thing about the councils he participated in was that they were always united in one thing: finding the Truth.   

I loved something President Faust said to President Eyring, concerning President Eyring's analytical nature: "You will reach your full potential when you aren't just a problem-pointer-outer, but also a problem solver."

I used to think that the answer my own spiritual growth was to just stop analyzing everything, because it always turned out so negative. But now I see that the real challenge is to correctly analyze, with charity, and then look for solutions.

A few favorite quotes from the book

"Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and He is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give...

The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does... all that we can learn will enhance our capacity to serve. That is a destiny reserved not alone for the brilliant, those who learn the most quickly, or those who enter the most respected professions. It will be given to those who are humbly good, who love God, and who serve Him with all their capacities."

He said this in this talk, and I recognize it as truth. Our education is carefully watched over, and we are learning the things we need to know in order to best serve him.

A quote from his personal journal

"To my surprise, the answer seemed practical and personal: help Kathleen plant flowers and help her buy groceries, so we can have pleasant dinners on the patio. I had expected an answer like: "Start on those 12 major talks you must give before Christmas" or "Find a solution to holding the youth of the Church close to the gospel." It was sunset before we put in the last flowers. Neighbors came by to praise and visit. Perhaps the instruction about what to do was about people, not flowers and groceries." -Journal July 2008, p. 486 of the book

I love this. And this is something I am learning more and more each day

A quote from his wife, Kathleen

"Last week I took my five-year-old to kindergarten. The first day she left for school, the most important knowledge I wanted her to get was the knowledge of how to get home. I counted a great deal on the teacher walking my little girl down the hall after school, taking her outside to the bus, showing her which of the the three or four buses to get on, and explaining where to get off. If she didn't gain that particular knowledge, it didn't matter to me if she were to learn calculus or Latin, it would have meant nothing to me. The most important knowledge for her to get was how to get home. " p.488

Thank you, President Eyring, for teaching me "how to get home"!

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