Bishop Dean M. Davies: Meet the new first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

One of the first things Bishop Dean M. Davies’ wife, Sister Darla Davies, gave him for his office when he was called as a General Authority was a framed photo of the two of them on their wedding day.

They were married on June 20, 1973, in the Salt Lake Temple. In the photo, the two of them — dressed in their wedding finery — smile at the photographer. Behind them are the familiar vertical pinstripe windows of the Church Office Building.

“Little did we know the important role that building would play in our lives,” Sister Davies observed.

Bishop Davies has occupied an office on the 18th floor of the Church Office Building since being sustained as a second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric on March 31, 2012. But he became familiar with the interior, the daily operations and the people of that building for more than a decade before that as he worked as director of real estate for the Church, managing director of the Physical Facilities Department and then as managing director of the Special Projects Department.

He’ll continue to make the daily drive downtown to the building on North Temple Street for the foreseeable future as he was named first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric on Oct. 9, 2015, to serve with Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and his second counselor, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, after then-Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Oct. 3.

Before being called to the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop Davies served in many Church capacities including as president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission, stake president, stake president’s counselor, high councilor, counselor in a bishopric and as a missionary in the Uruguay/Paraguay Mission.

After his mission and marriage to his childhood friend, Darla James, in 1973, he received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Brigham Young University and completed advanced executive leadership programs at Stanford and Northwestern universities.

Prior to his tenure in Church employment, Bishop Davies worked his way up the corporate ladder to hold executive positions in several large corporations. When senior leadership counseled him on one occasion that service in the Church would interfere with his ability to succeed in the corporate world, he offered his resignation. His experiences in the business world, however, as well as his time in Church employment, have provided useful insight. “I came from the business side and it has allowed for a balance in the bishopric of understanding both ecclesiastical purposes and temporal operations of the Church,” he said.

Throughout his varied professional career and Church assignments, Bishop Davies said his wife has been his helpmate and partner. “My wife is absolutely caring and supportive,” he said.

They have five children and 14 grandchildren.

Reflecting back, Bishop Davies feels both the blessings of his service and the weight of responsibility going forward. He explained that the Presiding Bishopric has the responsibility to oversee the temporal affairs of the Church. “The bishopric is literally responsible for things that impact every member of the Church — where they worship on a Sabbath day, where they go to the temple, how they pay their tithes and offerings, where their membership records are carefully kept and monitored.”

As such, the bishopric works with every Church department and reports directly to the First Presidency. “The bishopric is a service organization,” Bishop Davies explained. “We serve the Church. We serve the Church departments. We provide professional resources in a temporal kind of way that allows them to focus on their ecclesiastical or spiritual assignment.”

The Family History Department, for example, recently had a need to find a new space for their engineers and designers. “They had a need. We had the tools and resources. We were able to identify a new location and design an office building that will house their department and Discovery Center. We worked together to resolve a long-term space need.”

One of the things Bishop Davies said he has most appreciated in the past three and a half years, and expects to continue to enjoy, is the sense of “heavenly unity” felt both within the bishopric and while working with other quorums and Church entities.

“Even though we have different roles and stewardships, it doesn’t impede [us] from coming together to achieve success and a unity of purpose. We help one another.”

That spirit of collaboration couldn’t be more strongly felt than within the bishopric, Bishop Davies said. The members of the bishopric have their own individual committee assignments but there are other committees and assignments where they participate as a unit. “We never force a decision where there’s not a oneness of heart, mind and spirit.”

Bishop Davies remembers being in Vietnam last year while the rest of the bishopric was in Salt Lake City and an important issue arose. “I participated in a conference call in the middle of the night so we could make a decision together,” Bishop Davies recalled. “We are one. We act as a brotherhood, a shared unit.”

Still, there are challenges in administering the temporal affairs of a worldwide Church. “With so many more Church units being organized and meetinghouses being built, how do we make certain we have the tools and resources to oversee an ever-growing Church in a seamless and transparent way?”

The answer, Bishop Davies said, is through the members and staff. “Our most valuable resource in the Church is its people. It’s not the bricks and mortar but it is the faith, testimony, devotion, experience and skills of every Church member and every Church employee. That’s the true worth of the Church.”

Bishop Davies said he has learned from experience that “the Lord guides and directs you if you’re open to the whisperings of the Spirit. He will lead you to know what to say, what to do or what information to have if you will invite Him and invite the Spirit into the process.”

It was a principle taught to him repeatedly in his responsibilities to choose temple sites before being called to the Presiding Bishopric, and it has been reiterated in the three and a half years in the bishopric. “I believe anything is possible with the Lord’s help,” he said. “Anything. By having faith and by applying yourself and inviting the Spirit, miracles happen.”

Learn about Bishop Gérald Caussé, the new Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Learn about Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, the new second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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