“From the Time I First Heard Elder Andrus Speak…”: The Conversion of Henry Eyring
Henry Eyring (1835-1902) was born in Coburg, Germany. He was living in St. Louis, Missouri when he first heard the preaching of Milo Andrus, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He later joined the church in March 1855.
The following account of Henry Eyring’s conversion and of his subsequent activities is taken from "The Journal of Henry Eyring, 1835-1902," pages 18-21.
He is the ancestor of noted chemist Henry Eyring, Camilla Eyring Kimball (wife of LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball), and Henry B. Eyring (currently an LDS Church apostle).
The summer of 1854 was very dry and hot, the river at Cincinnati becoming so low that people could wade across it without hardly wetting their knees. While in St. Louis I read at different. times articles about the Mormons, representing them to be a sot of thieves, cut-throats and the very off-scourings from the earth. Hearing that several companies of that people had come to St. Louis, I apprehended danger to the public safety and felt it hardly safe in the streets after night. On the morning of December lOth, 1854 I happened to hear that the Mormons held meetings in a chapel cor. of 4th Street and Washington Av. Feeling a curiosity to see some of these desperate characters I went to their meeting on the evening of the same day. I arrived there rather early and discovering a bench near the door I concluded to locate myself there, thinking if anything serious should happen I could readily make my escape to the street. After occupying that bench for a while and watching the people who were now coming in gradually I discovered that they were a friendly, sociable people who certainly did not have the appearance of cut-throats. Upon this I took courage and actually ventured to seat myself in the gallery.
Time for meeting having arrived the choir sang, "Who are those arrayed in white brighter than the noon-day sun?" Having been used to the slow solemn church music of Germany, I was rather unfavorably impressed with the lively tune sung by the choir and imagined to discover something fanatical in the performance.
Singing over, Elder Milo Andrus arose and opened by prayer. Here was another stunter; his lively quick manner of speech was so much in contrast with the slow, measured tone of orthodox Christian ministers that I was almost shocked at his seeming lack of piety. After singing again by the choir Elder Andrus addressed the congregation in an attractive and fluent manner. On Monday Morning Dec. llth I went as usual to my place of business. I mentioned to my fellow Clerk Hopkins, that I had been to a Mormon meeting and found it quite attractive. Win. Brown, our porter, standing by, felt pleased at my favorable mention of the Mormons and finally acknowledged that he himself was a member of the Church.
I told him I was pleased to hear it, as I wanted some further information about that people. In the afternoon he handed me a Voice of Warning by Elder P. P. Pratt, which I read through on Monday night and returned to Bro. Brown on Tuesday morning. He asked me how I liked the book. I told him there were many interesting things in it, but as to believing in angel’s visits or visions I could not do that.
I will here say that for some years previous to that time I had discarded all belief in revealed religion, had no connection with any church, but believed in the necessity of virtue, morality and honesty. Just prior to my hearing the true gospel, I had become to some extent dissatisfied with my infidel notions and I used to reflect like this: "When I was a zealous Protestant, I prayed and went to meeting and had an inward peace and joy which I measurably lost after becoming an infidel, and although I could not possibly return to my former Christian convictions, yet I felt a something lacking which infidelity could not possibly furnish me.
I was in that condition when I heard the truth and I fully believe that Providence so led me as to hear it at the right time, when my mind was susceptible to good impressions.
From the time I first heard Elder Andrus speak until now I have always attended the meeting of the Latter-day Saints, and the instances are very rare indeed, when I failed to go to meeting, it being at the same time my duty to do so.
I name this in my history that my children may imitate my example and never neglect this very important duty of assembling with the Saints.