As he approached age 19, Dean Davies felt no inclination to serve a mission. He had nothing against serving. He’d been raised in a home of work and love. He remembers his sisters and mother with their beautiful voices singing hymns around the piano. He’d attended Church meetings, though doesn’t recall serving as president of any Aaronic priesthood quorums.
He does remember the day he carried a sleeping bag to the front yard, hoping that somehow he’d be able to go to the father and sons outing, when suddenly, without warning, the bishop pulled up in a Volkswagen van and told him to climb in.
But for some reason — perhaps because his father wasn’t active, and perhaps because his brothers didn’t serve — filling a mission wasn’t on his radar.
That is, until he had a dream.
“I was driving. I saw a car stalled along the road and stopped to help. I distinctly remember seeing the couple. He was tall and stately with brushed-back silver hair.
“After helping start the car, I remember the clear impression that if I ‘followed the counsel they’d give,’ then I’d be blessed all my life,” he said.
The image was vivid and the message compelling. In a few months, the young Davies was in his bishop’s office, interviewing for a mission. A few months later, after receiving Spanish language training to serve in Uruguay and Paraguay, he had just stepped off the plane in Montevideo the day before Thanksgiving in 1970 — feeling overwhelmed by the warm, humid air as he walked across the tarmac — when he noticed the same tall, stately man with his wife standing before him.
President Gardner H. Russell, who later served in the Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife Dorothy were to become instruments in his development. “My mission was an absolute anchor in my life. I learned to love the Gospel and those I worked with,” he said.
Since then, after serving in most callings in the Church, but, curiously, not as bishop, Bishop Davies was called to serve as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric in the April general conference.
He comes to the assignment well-versed in the temporal affairs of the Church, having worked as director of real estate for the Church, then as managing director of the Physical Facilities Department, and most recently as managing director of the Special Projects Department at the time of his calling.
Yet, of all the virtues he brings to the calling, perhaps most prized is an ability to work, a principle deeply ingrained in his youth.
As a child, a toy in a store window caught his attention. When begging and pleading yielded nothing from his parents, he happened to notice that neighbors across the street needed their lawn mowed. After striking a deal, he pulled out the push-mower. He’d never known the sun to be so hot, nor grass to be so long. But he endured.
He would learn this lesson more pointedly as a freshman at Utah State University, where he’d been accepted as an honor student.
When the first semester proved overwhelming, an ankle injury allowed him to withdraw from school with dignity. His first stop was not his home, but the home of Darla James, a childhood friend who had somehow blended quietly into the background as the sister of his best friend. But during these months before his mission, she was no longer just one of the gang, but someone who stirred feelings of goodness in him.
It was her comfort he sought.
To his dismay, it was her father who met him at the door. He wanted to know — in exacting tones — why he wasn’t in school. For more than an hour, her father stood on the porch with Bishop Davies and listened. As a former P-51 pilot in World War II, Darla’s father knew something about stiffening the spiritual spine to face life’s battles and gave Bishop Davies a pep talk that recharged his courage and sent him back to school.
That afternoon visit proved to be a key victory in Bishop Davies’ young life, one that strengthened him to conquer still tougher situations, such as on two occasions when he had worked his way up the corporate ladder to become a leader of large corporations.
In each instance, his corporate superior counseled him that service in the Church would interfere with the single-minded devotion needed to make it really big in the corporate world.
Without hesitation, Bishop Davies tenured resignations at both companies, willing to accept less income to serve God and family.
Each experience — challenging as they were, leaving them wondering what to do next — led to greater blessings, eventually earning them the confidence of Church leaders such as President Gordon B. Hinckley, who expected Bishop Davies to know all the details. One such detail was the distance from a bus stop to the front door of a proposed temple. Bishop Davies walked the course to learn firsthand the dangers of crossing a busy street or how steep a hill was that might hinder patrons.
“How do you do that?” President Hinckley once asked him after visiting a temple site. On reflection, Bishop Davies wrote a thoughtful account of the Lord’s blessings throughout his life that trained and endowed him with gifts for a crucial time of temple building in Church history.
To his credit, Bishop Davies was quick to correct one meaningful error in his life. When he should have been proposing to Darla, he instead said he didn’t feel right about their marriage, a decision that promptly disappointed Darla and the Spirit.
A few days later, when she was willing to speak with him, he recounted the spiritual darkness he had felt. Eight months after returning from his mission, they married in the Salt Lake Temple.
The sum of his life’s work, he said, is that “the Lord loves and guides His children.”
Family: Born Sept. 5, 1951, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Oliver Truex and Myra Baer Davies. Married Darla James in the Salt Lake Temple on June 20, 1973. Parents of five children: Aaron (Krisanne), Rebecca (Douglas) Larson, Jill (Richard) Ottley, Sarah, Jennifer; 14 grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from BYU, 1976; advanced executive leadership programs at Stanford and Northwestern universities.
Career: Vice President of High Industries, Inc., Lancaster, Pa., 1993-1995. Vice President of Bechtel Investments Inc., San Francisco, 1983-1993. President of Equitec Properties Company, Oakland, 1977-1983.
Community Service: San Francisco Mayor’s Fiscal Advisory Committee; Board of Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Board of Directors of Lancaster General Hospital and chairman of the finance committee.
Church Service: President of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission, 1998-2001; president of the Pleasanton California and Danville California stakes; counselor in two stake presidencies; served on five high councils; counselor in three bishoprics. Missionary in the Uruguay/Paraguay Mission, 1970-1972.