I’ve written a bit about Henry Eyring before (here in connection with General Conference and creationism, and here on Church authority and argument.) He’s a central figure for talking about 20th century science-and-religion arguments in the Church, which you can read about in his Faith of a Scientist, his biography Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, and this article from The Search for Harmony called “Agreeing to Disagree: Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith.”
I was checking a reference today, and noticed an adjacent article interviewing Eyring, with this fantastic story. At the time, he was part of what we would call the Sunday School Presidency, and was invited to a meeting to talk about the new magazines (Ensign, New Era, Friend) replacing the old ones, which happened in 1971.
I got a letter from Richard L. Evans to come down to a two o’clock meeting for the new magazines, along with a great many other people. I was visiting [with Pres. and Sis. Camilla Eyring Kimball, his sister] and I said, “I am going to a meeting for the magazines.” [Pres. Kimball] said, “I am going, too, at nine o’clock.” I had forgotten in the meantime that mine was for two o’clock and assumed it was the same meeting. My secretary was not there that morning and I was a little bit late, so I hurried down to the Church Office Building. When I got there, I went in and said to the receptionist that I was supposed to go to a meeting. He said, “Well, isn’t it this afternoon?” I said, “No, it is this morning.” And so he took me in and there were four apostles—[Pres. Kimball], Marion Romney, Brother Evans and Brother Hunter—and the magazine editors [probably Doyle Green]. I was quite surprised that there was no one else from the Sunday School but I thought, well, they must regard me very highly, and so I just sat down. [Pres. Kimball] shook my hand, so did Marion, and everyone—I knew them, you know—so I sat down. The discussion went around and I was willing to offer my views quite freely. However, Brother Evans said, “Your turn will come in a few minutes.”
When they got around to me, I told them that the Church magazines never would amount to a damn if they did not get some people with independence in there who had real ideas and would come out and express themselves. If they were going to rehash old stuff, they would not hold the young people…. I gave them quite a bit of very fine advice and I damned a little when I wanted to and when I got through, Brother Evans said, “I do not know anyone who characterizes the idea of independence any more than you do; are you applying for the job?” I said, “No, I am not applying for the job, but I think I have given good advice.” Everyone was very nice to me.
I did not have any feeling, even after I had been there, that there was anything wrong, and thought that they must have a high opinion of my wisdom. When I got back to my office, my secretary asked, “Where have you been?” I said I had been down to that Church magazine meeting. She said, “That is this afternoon at two o’clock.”
What is so funny is not that I made a mistake, but that I was so insensitive as to not realize it. I did not go to the two o’clock meeting. I felt I had done my work. Brother Evans got up in that meeting and, I am told, said that they had had a meeting in the morning and that very useful advice had been supplied by Brother Eyring. He did not say I had not been invited.
I am amazed at the graciousness of the brethren in making me feel I belonged, when any one of them might well have been annoyed. They are a most urbane group. On my part, there was no holding back; I just tried to help them all I could.
I love his frankness and humor. “I was willing to offer my views quite freely.”
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