Announcing God’s Tender Mercies by David Dollahite

GTMAs you all know, we here at BCC Press are committed to serving up the best long-form content available in the Mormon world, and today, we are proud to prove it once again with our newest release, David C. Dollahite’s wonderful conversion memoir, God’s Tender Mercies: Sacred Experiences of a Mormon Convert.

If you don’t know David, you definitely should. He is a Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and the author or co-author of six other books, including Deseret Book’s Successful Marriages and Families in 2012 and the textbook Religion and Families, published by Routledge in 2016. In God’s Tender Mercies, he tells the story of his own conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his mission, his marriage, and his international work as a scholar of family life.

God’s Tender Mercies features another outstanding cover by BCC’s own Christian Harrison and is available in paperback and Kindle versions, with an audiobook coming soon. The excerpt below comes from Chapter 19, “Dreams, Blessings, Baptisms, & Confirmations,” which takes place during his LDS mission in New England.

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On November 11, one of the most important sequences of events in my mission and my life began. Our Elder’s Quorum president, Brother Corrigan, called us on Saturday evening to tell us he was bringing a friend to church the next day. On Sunday, he introduced us to Jackie McLean, a single mother of three children, Marie, Kelly, and Jimmy.

While we were in a Sunday School class, Brother Corrigan came and got us out of class and asked if we would assist him in administering to Jackie. She had been trying to quit smoking for some time. Brother Corrigan told her about priesthood blessings and she had asked for a blessing. We went downstairs into a classroom and gave Jackie a priesthood blessing by laying our hands on her head and speaking words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Brother Corrigan stood behind her and was voice for the blessing, Elder Buhler stood behind her on her left and I stood behind her on her right. During the blessing, Elder Buhler and I felt the spirit very strongly. After the blessing, Jackie stood up and looked very white—as though she was going to pass out. She said she was not feeling well and wanted to go home. She accepted our invitation to take the discussions the next day and went home.

We began teaching the McLean family the next evening. The kids seemed to enjoy our visits and accepted what we taught. Jackie accepted everything we taught her although though she said she had been a Pentecostal Christian who had read and believed a great deal of anti-Mormon literature.

On the 21st of November, as Elder Buhler and I were teaching Jackie McLean about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I began to have the strongest sense of déjà vu (the feeling you have experienced something before) that I had ever experienced. It became stronger and stronger. I stopped teaching, turned to Elder Buhler, and said, “I am feeling really strong déjà vu.”

Elder Buhler said, “So am I!”

Then Jackie said, “Would you like me to tell you why?” We nodded and she told us that beginning a couple of years ago she began having a recurring dream that she was in some deep distress and there were two young men in dark suits with short hair who were praying over her. The dream was very vivid and it bothered her. She did not know the two young men and she did not know if, in the dream, she was dying or was dead. She was bothered enough that she asked a number of people, including her pastor and a palm reader, to “interpret” the dream. No one gave her a satisfactory answer. She continued to have the dream a number of times in the next two years.

She then said, “When you gave me the blessing on the day we met, the dream came to me again and I saw the faces in my dream. It was you, Elder Buhler, and you, Elder Dollahite.” That was why she felt sick after the blessing—because she thought it may mean she was going to die. She told us that was why she agreed to be taught and accepted everything we had taught her even though she had been told by her Christian pastors that the Mormon Church was a cult and she should never listen to Mormon missionaries. Indeed, she was one of the most faithful members of her church and her current pastor could not believe she was listening to us. He was working very hard on her telling her she was going to go to hell if she became a Mormon. She said she knew that God had given her the dream to prepare her to accept what we were teaching her.

For me this was an extremely important revelation since when she had begun having the dream I was not even a member of the Church—in fact I had not even heard of the Church. Thus, the Lord knew before I did that I would accept the gospel, that I would serve a mission, that I would be called to New England, that I would be assigned to that area, that Elder Buhler would be my companion, and that we would give Jackie McLean a blessing during which she would recognize us from her dream.

This has been one of the greatest tender mercies the Lord has granted to me. Because of this experience, I have never doubted that the Lord is guiding my life—and other people’s lives. I have always known that the Lord knows the beginning from the end and I have always tried to have faith in the Lord’s divine plans and purposes for me and for others . . .

 

David C. Dollahite, PhD, is Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University where he teaches classes and conducts research on the links between religion and family life. He is Co-Director (with Dr. Loren Marks) of the American Families of Faith Project. He and his wife, Mary, have been married for 35 years and have seven children and three grandchildren. Dave has served as bishop of a BYU student ward, stake high councilor, bishop’s counselor (twice), stake mission president, and currently serves as stake Sunday School president and Elders Quorum instructor. Two of his hymns, “As Families in the Latter Days” and “May Thy Face of Shining Splendor,” were performed in the LDS Music Festival. He is coauthor/coeditor of six books including Successful Marriages and Families (Deseret Book, 2012).

Comments

  1. I had an experience once where I met some people while on a month long genealogy trip.They lived next to a cemetery I visited and I needed to borrow the key to the cemetery gate from them. When I returned the key, they asked me to stop and chat. I explained why I was there and which family I was researching. They requested my address, promising to write me if they came across any information on my family.
    Two weeks later I received a letter from them containing a 60 year old obituary for a member of my family. It contained information linking this family back to Canada and was the critical information needed to locate this woman’s grave.
    This couple had been clearing out old papers as they prepared to retire and sell their farm. In those papers they found this obituary.
    I remember thinking isn’t that amazing that 60 years earlier, long before I was born, someone in their family had been inspired to cut this out of the newspaper and tuck it away. Then it hit me. God had known that I would be coming, not just somebody. That I would knock on their door shortly before they located this paper. That I would need this information. And He made sure it was there for me.

  2. The foreknowledge of God is something we often give lip service to, but seldom show real faith in. How lovely to hear real examples of it in people’s lives.

  3. I know too much and too little. David is family and I love him, even though or maybe because we routinely disagree. I know this to be the work of a mature, seasoned soul. But he didn’t slip me an advance copy! So now on order.

  4. I am the recipient of a very tender mercy, one made more important to me this week since I received word that the person who delivered this help just died.
    A number of years ago I became very ill. I did not wish to discuss it with any friends, but I was totally lost in figuring out what to do. There seemed no good options.
    Then a good friend from the ward showed up at my door. He was not the bishop. He was not my home teacher. He was not in my priesthood line of authority. He was active but had not received the higher priesthood or been to the temple because he had been unable to stop smoking.
    He told me the Lord had told him I was in trouble and needed his help. He was a convert, still struggling to understand the doctrines. He told me he was spooked because nothing like that had ever happened to him before and he did not want it to happen again. But he came repeatedly to my home until he found me there.
    He was a simple, humble, loving man. He had no college degree or higher education. He did possess the key I needed, but actually most of the ward members had it. What he possessed that they were short of was the power to hear the voice of God and the faith to act on it. He literally saved my life. And I will treasure his friendship forever.

  5. This is such an uplifting topic. It makes me reflect on all the tender mercies the Lord has shown me. Too precious to forget: from cemeteries where my ancestor would not let me leave until I located his grave to protection in war zones and while hitchhiking the Middle East to a powerful witness received on the escalator in Bloomingdales. We are loved and Our Saviour knows us. So many places and ways He reveals it to us.

  6. Thanks for sharing that, Linda.

  7. I rarely read BCC anymore because I determined a while back that it is not good for my soul, but now I wonder if I was wrong… ;) Something similar to this happened to me on my mission, and I remember the look of stunned shock on a woman’s face when we met her in front of her house, finding out later that she had previously seen us in a dream-vision. Thanks for posting this, and I look forward to reading the book.

  8. This post has caused me to remember and reflect on all the many tender mercies I have experienced. If I began to list them, we would be here all day. Thanks for the reminder of just how involved God is in the details of our lives, just how important our happiness and success are to Him.

  9. Life is so difficult. People we trust, even our Church leaders, can be short sighted and short tempered and ignorant. We should not ignore the failings. We should not keep struggling to do better and correct what we can. But thank you for sharing the good experiences. For helping us to remember the sun shines behind the clouds, even on days we cannot see it. Perhaps we should all give thanks that children are being reunited with their parents on America’s borders. That the compassion of a country won this battle. A very tender mercy to thousands of children. And an example to the world that the people of the United States still believe in its ideals.

  10. I am surprised there are not more comments here, where the weighty things of life are considered, but there are many more on a post about translating the phrase ‘get a coffee’.
    I am hoping it is because many reading feel sharing these stories from their own life might be too revealing of things sacred to them. I also hope it is not because the readers have no stories of tender mercies in their lives.

  11. I am surprised there are not more comments here, where the weighty things of life are considered, but there are many more on a post about translating the phrase ‘get a coffee’.
    I am hoping it is because many reading feel sharing these stories from their own life might be too revealing of things sacred to them. I also hope it is not because the readers have no stories of tender mercies in their lives.

  12. This seems like a book worth reading. And I am so grateful for this post. It brought to mind wonderful, ‘never to be forgotten’ experiences in my life. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  13. I went to Amazon and read his conversion story to the Book of Mormon. It was a spiritual experience for me.

    My observation of BCC is similar to Wilson’s. I wonder why a great post like this gets few comments compared to those that nitpick and criticize the church and church leaders.

  14. This post led me to read the author’s conversion story at BYU speeches. Wonderful. He is obviously a man with a spiritual gift of feeling the Spirit clearly and strongly.
    One of the places I have come to feel most clearly led is when I do genealogy. Many tender mercies shown to me there.
    I feel I have entered sacred space when I read this post.

  15. Harriet says:

    I believe in my case I nitpick and criticize church leaders online because I feel unheard, my concerns dismissed. I would love a way to meet with them to discuss things but that path seems just to be about gatekeepers keeping information from them. I don’t believe people want this. They know no other way.