Get to know
Considering that President Dan Dillingham had lived in 13 places before high school graduation, it’s a tender twist of fate that some of his first memories of gospel learning happened within Burch Creek Stake boundaries. As a kindergartener living on Van Buren Avenue, Dan learned from ward leaders in the 6th/7th ward building how to pay tithing (and coincidentally, how to talk like Donald Duck). After living in dozens of places, he returned and now leads our Stake with a matured and fully formed version of those gospel lessons (though we are yet to benefit from his Donald Duck voice in stake settings). His life experiences have shaped him into the sturdy leader we depend on in the Burch Creek Stake, so here’s a little peek into his history.
While many large families stay rooted in one place, the Dillinghams moved frequently, following the work of their father. As the oldest child, succeeded by six sisters, that made Dan his father’s apprentice by default. Whether it was fixing Kirby vacuums or making sales appointments, Dan learned quickly that the most helpful skills he could develop were adaptability and problem solving. These skills helped in numerous settings, such as making meaningful friendships in the short time between moves and how to navigate unusual living conditions, like taking garden-hose showers. Life taught Dan at a young age that if you want something, you must find creative solutions and work, work, work. And when all else fails, adapt.
Dan’s sense of responsibility for his family caused him to pause before putting in mission papers. But his father assured him, “Go. We’ll figure things out.” With the support of his ward family, he left for a Spanish speaking mission in Atlanta, Georgia. To Dan’s surprise, he and his companions were the first Spanish speakers called to the mission. His knack for adaptability was vital to the work. While the other missionaries had defined areas and typical responsibilities, Dan and his companions were told to find Spanish speakers wherever they may be. So they worked in the fields, side by side with migrant workers, seeking those who wanted to hear about the restored gospel. Evenings were spent in the small, overcrowded apartments of the workers, discussing Jesus in large groups. Dan, who had done a lot of migrating himself, fit right in with those who left their home countries to follow the work.
Soon after his mission, Dan’s fraternity at Weber State had an activity with one of the sororities. A cute gal invited him to sit in the back next to her for the drive. The road became treacherous in the rain and the car was T-boned, hitting Dan’s side and causing them to spin. Dan’s first and strongest reaction was to protect this young lady. In the aftermath of the crash, Dan and Diana made a lasting connection while picking bits of glass from each others’ hair. Unfortunately, with the chaos of the crash, he failed to get Diana’s number. For days he searched campus for her to no avail. Finally one day Diana heeded a prompting to skip the shuttle and make the long trek across campus. She found him on a bench waiting for her. They married in the Logan temple almost two years later.
Dan supported Diana, helping her successful campaign for student government. And Diana supported Dan. When his MBA program at BYU sent him to Asia right as Diana was due with their second child, she sent him off. Miraculously, she gave birth the morning after he returned.
Coming from a family with six sisters, Dan was not surprised to become the father of four daughters. And while he didn’t make any of them his apprentice, he taught his daughters to set high goals, adapt, and work hard. Rather than moving the family dozens of times, he took them on trips. He expanded their view of the world through travel and adventure, and encouraged them through mishaps and challenges by saying “If nothing else, it’ll make a good story!”
Dan’s career in sales and technology has been across the board from tiny to large companies, each one teaching him something new. Diana says he’s always had a long fuse, with extensive patience to work things out, and that has been necessary throughout his career.
When Dan is feeling particularly pressed and needs to clear his brain, he pulls out one of his guitars. While finger picking classic songs, his stress gives way and solutions come. Music of all kinds has been a powerful mental and spiritual tool in his life. If you know how much Diana loves music (and most of us know), then imagine this: He loves music more than she does!
Cooking is another great passion. As Bishop of the 4th ward, he even catered the Ward Christmas dinner! Next time you’re in a temple recommend interview, don’t hesitate to ask for a favorite recipe!
The Lord knew that Dan had a willing heart that trusted God through the dark. But the Lord wanted Dan to know that about himself. During a period of success, his work group was surprisingly laid off. In this moment of shock and facing the unknown, he was called as Stake President. He and Diana accepted, with confidence that the Lord would provide. And He has.
As President Dillingham has served, the puzzle pieces of his life have come together. He now sees how his challenges and experiences have taught him to empathize with those he serves and prepared him for this time of great change within the church. When new church programs (i.e. Come Follow me & Ministering) have been rolled out, President Dillingham was willing and enthusiastic to adapt, and patient when change came hard. When the pandemic hit, President was prepared to embrace new technologies and methods of church work. His hard-earned optimism has taught him that no failure is final and that God wants our progress, not perfection.
President Dillingham believes that we are doing better than we think we are. If he were sitting across from you right now, no matter what unsurmountable challenge you are facing, no matter what past hurts or burdens you carry, he would tell you “Don’t focus on where you are now. Look to the future and allow yourself a fresh start. Draw a line in the sand. Now step forward. That’s progress.”
(Written by Christy Spencer, Stake Communications Director)