Back in 2014, President Henry B. Eyring, who was then serving as first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — in the new presidency of Russell M. Nelson, of course, he serves as second counselor — addressed a conference on marriage that was held in Rome (actually, in Vatican City).
Certain critics of the Church knew about this, and it obviously threatened them. A Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that isn’t both dismally obscure and an international laughing stock is simply inadmissible in their worldview. Accordingly, they went into a virtual frenzy, desperately trying to reassure each other about how insignificant the Church is.
They vied with one another to mock President Eyring as a backwards rube, a “hick from the sticks” (as one poster described him) who would, they were certain, be completely disoriented by the urbanity and cultural riches of Rome.
I’ll bet that he wasn’t.
President Eyring was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, where his father, who ultimately served as president of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was teaching at Princeton University.
He himself earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard University after serving for two years in the United States Air Force in Sandia, New Mexico, and receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics. Then, prior to being appointed president of Ricks College in Idaho, he taught for nine years at Stanford University and served as a Sloan Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
For the previous three and a half decades, he’d been serving as one of the most senior leaders of a global church. He was, at the time, its second-ranking officer.
By the remarkably high standards of these anonymous internet message board ultra-sophisticates, of course, President Eyring’s may be a pathetically provincial and backwoodsy background. But I suspect that, in the eyes of most ordinary people, it would probably seem pretty remarkable.
It was great fun today to run into a group of Australian Latter-day Saints at the site of ancient Caesarea Phillipi. Among them were John Bailey (former mission president in New York City and former president of the Sydney Australia Temple, who once hosted me during a lecture tour in Sydney) and Alan Wakeley (formerly the director of public affairs for Australia, who also helped to host me during at least one set of visits down under).
I’m scheduled to go back to Australia for a lecture in Sydney later this year.
Posted from Tiberias, Israel