Provo to Palo Alto: How Elder Daines’ unanswered prayers provided greater blessings than he imagined

The electric skateboarding stake president and Stanford professor always wanted to return home to Utah, but the Lord had ‘other, better plans’

Elder Robert M. Daines was working as a law and business professor at Stanford University when he was called to serve as an early morning seminary teacher. 

As a lifelong Latter-day Saint, Elder Daines knew the gospel. As a college professor, he was comfortable speaking in front of hundreds of students. 

Elder Robert M. Daines, sustained as a General Authority Seventy in the April 2023 general conference.
Elder Robert M. Daines, sustained as a General Authority Seventy in the April 2023 general conference. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

But something about teaching 15 early morning seminary students pushed him to study the scriptures like never before. His wife, Sister Ruth Ann Daines, said he often went to bed early and arose at 4 a.m. because he needed three hours to prepare for his daily lesson. 

“Some people have talent, some have to hustle,” he said. “I’m in the ‘you’d better hustle’ category.”

Elder Daines said he pored over the scriptures for hours each day because he wanted to know and feel the Savior’s love, then help his students make the same connection. The decadelong experience had a powerful impact on his faith and testimony.

“I feel like I was truly converted and came to know Jesus Christ as a seminary teacher in Palo Alto, California,” he said.

Elder Daines was one of five new General Authority Seventies sustained in April 2023 general conference.

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‘Dedicated’ from his earliest years

Robert Merrill Daines was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on July 28, 1964, to Robert Henry Daines III and Janet Lundgren Daines. He was raised by a faithful Latter-day Saint family in Provo, Utah, where as a boy he would sometimes carry a small AM/FM radio to school to listen to general conference messages before the biannual event was held only on Saturdays and Sundays.

A locator map of the United States shows the location of Bloomington, Indiana.
Elder Robert M. Daines was born in Bloomington, Indiana. He was sustained as a General Authority Seventy at the April 2023 general conference. | Church News graphic

“From his earliest years, he has been a completely devoted follower of Christ and His Church,” said Sister Daines. “He has been dedicated and on the team for his whole life.”

One family member who has always been a stalwart example for Elder Daines is Sister Michelle D. Craig — his older sister — who will be released in July as the first counselor in the Young Women general presidency. Elder Daines quipped that school teachers often thought better of him because they knew her first. 

“I was lucky to be her little brother. She is unfailingly loving and kind,” he said. “She was the perfect big sister, and I’m still stretching to try to follow in her footsteps.”

Strengthened through trials

When Elder Daines was a teenager, he was forced to leave behind his friends and basketball team when his parents were called to preside over the Pennsylvania Harrisburg Mission

Life in the mission field was difficult for teenage Rob and his older siblings. He loved basketball but was sometimes picked on by his coach and teammates for declining to go to team parties, use profanity or watch inappropriate movies. Sometimes when he got on the bus, somebody yelled, “Get the Mormon,” and everyone threw objects at him. He had no social life and few friends. 

Elder Daines found solace in reading the scriptures for hours and spending time with his family and the missionaries. Through these trials, he and his siblings learned valuable lessons and developed a reliance on the Savior they would not have gained otherwise.

“That’s where I learned to appreciate my family and love the scriptures,” he said. “I love studying the gospel.”

Mission to Switzerland

A few years later, Elder Daines served in the Switzerland Zurich Mission, where he taught the gospel and developed many cherished friendships. 

“The Saints there embraced me and my family,” he said. “I’d like to say I was remembered for being a good missionary, but in fact I was remembered for doing the dishes when I was invited over for dinner.”

Elder Daines and his wife have returned several times with their family over the years and even named one of their children Hitsch, a Swiss nickname for Christian. The Saints in Switzerland, as well as the Daineses’ time there as a family, continue to be a big part of their family culture.

“My mission has shaped the course of my life since,” he said. “We feel dearly connected to that country and those Saints.”

The 8-year courtship

Elder Robert M. Daines, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Ruth Daines, pose for photos
Elder Robert M. Daines, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Ruth Daines, pose for a photo in the Church Office building in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 3, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Switzerland is also where Elder and Sister Daines spent their honeymoon, many years after they met through a mutual friend as 16-year-olds.

Rob had returned to Utah for spring break while his parents were serving their mission. When introduced, Ruth Ann’s first impression of Rob was positive. “He was such a delight, fun and funny,” she said. 

Ruth Ann learned that Rob had never been on a date, so she invited him to join some friends for an activity. From there they developed a friendship over several years before anything romantic transpired. 

When she returned from a mission in Fresno, California, he was BYU’s student body president. She initially found his social life a little overwhelming and wondered if he had changed, which made her reluctant to spend time with him.

Eventually their sisters arranged to bring them together, and they began dating. Eight years after they first met, Robert Daines and Ruth Ann Glazier were married in the Salt Lake Temple on Dec. 16, 1988. 

Becoming a professor

If possible, Elder Daines might have pursued a career as a college student. The next best option was becoming a college professor, which felt natural for several reasons.

He appreciated growing up around the BYU campus, where he was a ball boy at the basketball games. His father and grandfather were professors who liked teaching and research. He loved reading, and one of his favorite things was to purchase books at the BYU Bookstore and finalize his schedule on the first day of classes. 

He went to Yale Law School hoping he could teach but had some backup options in case things didn’t work out.

He was admitted to the bar but has never practiced as a lawyer. 

He clerked for Judge Ralph K. Winter of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

He spent more than three years on Wall Street as an associate for Goldman Sachs.  

Once Elder Daines knew he wanted to teach, he had a variety of offers all over the country. He had no desire to keep commuting into the city and wanted to return to Provo, but the dean of New York University Law School was persuasive. Sister Daines eventually convinced her husband that if he wanted to be good at his job, he needed to stay and gain experience at NYU. 

“I learned what it meant to have intellectual honesty and to be a professor,” he said. “Ruthie was right, I learned how to do my job well.”

What he learned there prepared Elder Daines to continue his career at Stanford for the next 20 years, where “commuting” meant going from on-campus housing to the law school on his electric skateboard.

Newly called General Authority Seventies Elder Alan T. Phillips, Elder Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier, Elder J. Kimo Esplin and Elder Robert M. Daines, take their seats on the stand during April 2023 general conference
Newly called General Authority Seventies, from left, Elder Alan T. Phillips, Elder Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier, Elder J. Kimo Esplin and Elder Robert M. Daines, take their seats on the stand during general conference on April 1, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The blessing of an unfulfilled dream

From the time he and his family left Provo, it was always Elder Daines’ dream to return to Provo. That has never worked out, but he and his wife are grateful for unanswered prayers.

“The Lord had other plans — other, better plans,” he said. “And it has been a great experience for us.” 

Each stop along the journey, the Daineses have served in a variety of Church callings that have enlarged their perspective and forged lifelong friendships with Latter-day Saints and people of various faiths, backgrounds and cultures. They have witnessed in a unique way how the gospel of Jesus Christ can promote understanding, unity and peace, and bless lives. These experiences have helped prepare them for Elder Daines’ call as a General Authority Seventy.

“This experience living outside of where we grew up and where we thought our comfort zone might be has been one of the most delightful, fulfilling, enriching and inspiring experiences we could have ever had,” Sister Daines said. “Hopefully, that is something that we can offer to help build the kingdom.”

‘Richly blessed’

Years removed from teaching early morning seminary and volunteering in the nursery, Elder Daines had served as a stake president for only two years when he was called as a General Authority Seventy. 

Stanford had become his dream job and his family’s dream location. He wondered how his colleagues would respond to his resignation, although the response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Elder Daines knows that all members who make covenants would “drop their nets” like the Savior’s early apostles to serve the Lord.

“We just try to do our best wherever we are called,” Elder Daines said. “It will be a sacrifice for the whole family. But every time we are called to something hard, we have been richly blessed in ways we could not have imagined.

“A Catholic friend once told me: ‘God doesn’t need you, you need God. It is a privilege to be busy in the service of God,’” he continued. “We will try to live by that rule and steer by our temple covenants and the two great commandments.” 

About Elder Robert M. Daines

Family: Born in Bloomington, Indiana, on July 28, 1964, to Robert Henry Daines III and Janet Lundgren Daines. He married Ruth Ann Glazier in the Salt Lake Temple on Dec. 16, 1988. They have five children.

Education: Received degrees in American studies and economics from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Yale University. 

Employment: Worked as an associate for Goldman Sachs, taught at New York University and Yale University, associate dean and Pritzker professor of law and business at Stanford University.

Church service: Was serving as a stake president at the time of his call. Served as a full-time missionary in the Switzerland Zurich Mission. Previous callings include early morning seminary teacher, nursery leader, high councilor and bishop. 

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