In October 2018, it was my first general conference working for the Church News. As their web producer, I helped make talk summaries from the speakers go live in real time on our website. This could be both stressful and exciting—there are a lot of moving parts and long hours, but it was also rewarding being part of a dedicated team helping to make conference accessible to people everywhere.
Still, working quickly in this manner meant that I typically got more out of the messages shared in conference after it happened. But there were moments when I was be able to tune in and appreciate what was being said. One of those happened to be during then-Bishop Dean M. Davies’s talk “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice.”
I remembered this talk on Wednesday morning, September 1, after hearing that Elder Davies had passed away due to an extended battle with cancer. He was only 69 years old, but had served in a number of capacities in the Church, including as Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric from 2012–2015 and as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric from 2015–2020. Prior to that, he was managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department where he oversaw special purpose real estate, temple design, and temple construction. Additionally, he had a number of other callings in his stake and ward and was president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.
I didn’t know Elder Davies personally and am not acquainted with his family or friends who are mourning his loss. Still, my heart goes out to them, as I am sure it is difficult to share a husband, father, grandfather, and beloved family member and friend with the world not only in life, but in death. But as just one of millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who heard Elder Davies’s message that day in October 2018, I wanted to express my gratitude for the impression he made on me.
In his talk, Elder Davies shared a profound experience he had finding a site for the Vancouver temple with President Gordon B. Hinckley. He also shared four essential building blocks of our individual faith and testimony:
- Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.
- The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth.
- Joseph Smith is a prophet, and we have living prophets on the earth today.
But what made me pause that day in October is what he said next:
“In recent months, I have listened to every general conference address which President Nelson has given since he was first called as an Apostle. This exercise has changed my life. As I studied and pondered 34 years of President Nelson’s collected wisdom, clear and consistent themes emerged from his teachings. Each of these themes relates to those building blocks just mentioned or is another key building block for our personal temples. They include faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost, redemption of the dead and temple work, keeping the Sabbath day holy, beginning with the end in mind, staying on the covenant path. President Nelson has spoken of them all with love and devotion.”
Thirty-four years’ worth of general conference talks by President Nelson. Isn’t that incredible? And not only did Elder Davies listen to those talks, he did so in a matter of months. The result of his listening to those messages also impresses me because Elder Davies, who was First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric at the time and who certainly already had a strong testimony—said that the exercise changed his life.
He then shared his testimony about the prophet:
“The chief cornerstone and building block of the Church and for our lives is Jesus Christ. This is His Church. President Nelson is His prophet. President Nelson’s teachings witness and reveal for our benefit the life and character of Jesus Christ. He speaks lovingly and knowingly of the Savior’s nature and of His mission. . . . We come to fully and truly sustain the living prophet as we develop the pattern of confiding in his words, having the faith to act upon them, and then praying for the Lord’s continued blessings upon him.”
Just two years later in October 2020 general conference, Elder Davies was released from the Presiding Bishopric due to his health challenges but was called to serve as a General Authority Seventy. In June of this year, he spoke at the Syracuse Utah Temple groundbreaking. According to Church News, it was his final public appearance.
At the groundbreaking, Elder Davies said that the Lord’s house “is the virtual evidence of the Lord’s tangible love for His people. He reached out and provides these houses where we can learn of Him and His Son and be united as families. You really can’t describe it—it just fills your heart with gratitude.”
I find it a beautiful thing that Elder Davies, who had so much experience working with temple construction, was present at that groundbreaking just a couple of months before he passed. Even in the midst of fighting a mortal battle against cancer, he was focused on the eternal and speaking about the house of the Lord—a place that unites him and his family forever.
We and Elder Davies’ family and friends may not hear him speak in real time again in this life, but his testimony and wisdom can stay with us through this life and into the next. So at this upcoming general conference when I am working for LDS Living and have a moment to listen to the speakers, I will remember him. And when the prophet speaks, I will listen—hopefully, a little better than I have before.