“May I please see your belly button?”
Early in 1962, I was a full time Seminary Teacher at the East Seminary next to East High School in Salt Lake. I was teaching 10th grade New Testament and had a 6-8 minute devotional session to begin each class period. Debbie, a student who had responsibility for that day’s devotional, came early to class. I asked if she was ready for her devotional, and she said: “I guess so.” Her response was unexpected, since she was an unswervingly dependable person. She then told me she had asked her neighbor a question about science and religion, which was part of her devotional presentation, and that the man had then offered to come and present the devotional to our class.
“Debbie, as a class officer, you know that visitors who present in Seminary must be approved by Brother Grant Hardy, our Principal,” was my reaction, with some small apprehension. About that time, Dr. Henry Eyring came in the door and said: “Debbie, is this the place?”
Debbie assured him this was the right place, and that she was happy to see him. He then came to me telling me that he was Brother Eyring, Debbie’s friend and neighbor, and he had agreed to come and give an eight minute devotional to our Seminary Class and was that okay? “Certainly!” I said in absolute amazement.
The other students came into the classroom. We only had about eighteen kids in the group; however, it was an excellent class, and they loved learning—not a real slacker among them. Debbie called on someone to pray and then introduced her neighbor, Brother Eyring. She mentioned he was a famous scientist, a fact most students seemed to know and appeared to be not overly impressed. She said that she went to the house next door to ask about evolution for her devotional assignment and Brother Eyring had quickly offered to come to her aid. After his comments to her, she expressed that she wished he could come and talk to the class. Dr. Eyring asked what time it would be, and finding out the class was at 10:15 AM the next day, said he thought he could do just that.
He spoke earnestly with a very quick review of his childhood and the scientific and religious questions that come pretty much to all human beings. In doing so he connected with the students. He said several times, “Like you, I wondered about this and that…” He then spoke of his scientific studies and how that each array of new knowledge that came to him strengthened his testimony of God, The Eternal Father, and the prophetic role of Joseph Smith. He was tremendous in connecting with those 15 years old kids! They were engaged and gave him full attention.
Winding up his eight minutes, he had the students as well as me enthralled in his message and in him. Hands were up with inquires from many students, and he looked at me, questioningly. It was clear that he loved this experience.
“Dean Eyring”, I said, “we would love for you to take as much time as you have or wish to take with us.” Good grief, he stayed the whole hour and kids stayed afterwards some going late to their next classes over at the high school in order to be around him longer. He took everyone’s questions—deep and profound, silly and ridiculous. He always dignified the asker. Furthermore, he was so tuned in that he said on two or three occasions, “Now this student has a question, I can see it in his/her eyes…” (they hadn’t raised their hands), and then he would pause waiting for the student to speak.
Among other things, he stressed time and time again that this is God’s creation and that all that God does is reasonable and logical. Life is the process of discovering not only what is, but why it is logical. Don’t be impatient, eventually true religion and true science will merge and become one comprehensive truth was his message. Just hold on for a few hundred years.
He said that the first thing he hoped to do after greeting family and friends in the hereafter, and after expressing appreciation for his life here upon the earth, would be to seek out Father Adam. He would express personal appreciation for Adam’s work and example and then ask: “ PLEASE, may I please see your belly button?” “If Father Adam has a navel, it will tell me so much,” said Dr. Eyring with a huge smile. “It will also bring a host of new questions. That is the way science and religion is. That is what eternal progression is all about!”