Hank Smith is an author, BYU professor, and a favorite speaker for EFY and BYU Education Week. He speaks and writes on everything from happiness and dating to technology and temptation, and he does it all in a memorable, lighthearted way. We were fortunate to have Hank as a speaker at our Time to Blossom Conference a couple of years ago, and he was a rockstar! We love you, Hank!
Q: How did you become a professor, author, and speaker?
A: I started teaching seminary for the Church in 2000 when I was still in college. After teaching seminary for a few years, I decided to go back to school for a Master’s Degree and then a PhD. During that same time I did a lot of teaching for EFY and BYU’s Education Week. It was during one of my classes at Education Week that I was approached about recording talks with Covenant Communications (Deseret Book). My speaking and writing really took off after that. I just recorded my 15th talk on CD! After finishing my doctoral degree, BYU asked me to come teach in their Religion Department. It has been quite a ride, and I’m very thankful the Lord gave me these opportunities.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your talks and books?
A: Great question! I spend a lot of my time with youth and young adults. I ask a lot of questions about their lives, struggles, and worries. I also spend a lot of time asking parents and leaders what they are seeing in their families and wards and stakes. If I see a common theme, I’ll start collecting stories and insights that I think would make a fun message that could potentially really help with that particular issue. I like to think that Heaven helps me find the perfect story or quote. I try to keep it simple. I focus on two things: learning and laughing. I think laughter and learning can work together to make a really memorable experience.
Q: Tell me about a memorable moment in your career.
A: Wow, there have been so many. I’ve had too many awkward and funny moments to even mention. I once drove a car without a heater in the middle of winter (on accident) and showed up to speak almost frozen. I once kicked a Stake President in the head when he reached down for his hymnbook, and I once had to leave a talk and go straight to the emergency room (I’ll spare you the details). My favorite moments have been those when I get a letter or have a parent approach me to tell me how the CDs have blessed their family. It is nice to hear when they make a difference.
Q: Do you have a favorite subject to speak on at EFY?
A: I like to help the scriptures come to life for people. I really enjoy when I can help others see how funny the scriptures are and also how meaningful they can become if you know how to study them. I also love telling funny stories. If a talk involves a funny and meaningful story, I am usually pretty excited to give it.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: Oh wow, that is a long story. I’ll just tell you one part of it. She was reaching for a door and I was running towards the other side of that same door really quickly. Let’s just say the door opened toward her a lot faster and harder than she expected. After our collision, I chatted with her for a few minutes and ended up asking her out. That date turned into many dates and then a wonderful marriage!
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Hmmm, that is a tough question. I’ll give you a few of my favorites that I’ve thought of multiple times since hearing them. “Never make decisions when you are emotional.” “Don’t chase money. Do what you love and money will chase you.” “Kindness is the essence of greatness.” “Children need your presence more than they need your presents.”
Q: How did you gain a testimony of the Gospel?
A: I love this question. My testimony is very much alive and growing. Like a tree, a testimony starts small and needs to be protected and nourished in order to grow and one day bear fruit. Just because a testimony is small doesn’t mean it isn’t real. A small testimony, like small tree, simply has a lot of growing to do. My testimony started small. I think the Lord planted questions and longings in my heart and then gave me little experiences over time that gave me reassurance in His power and love for me. Over time ,the experiences and evidences kept adding up and so my confidence grew. I started basing life’s biggest decisions on what the Lord had given to me and that only led me to have even greater more powerful experiences with Him. I can say now my tree is as strong as ever, and I continually nourish it every single day. In return, the Lord has been very generous with even more experiences and evidences. It is absolutely fantastic.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you knew during your teenage years that you know now?
A: Oh wow, the answer to this question could be a book. First, smiling and being interested in other people is the key to a successful social life. Second, your parents really do know what they are talking about. Shocker, I know. Third, don’t waste time on things of little worth. Make each day count toward your progression through high goals and service to those around you!