Does Heavenly Father show off? While I know He doesn’t, I couldn’t help but wonder that while sitting in the Tabernacle last month. This was the moment (see photo). The man at the pulpit is Dave Durocher. Nineteen years ago, Dave stood in front of a judge facing a 22-year prison sentence. Nine years ago, when I met him, he was an atheist. Last month at the Salt Lake Central Stake Conference in the Tabernacle he bore his testimony of Jesus Christ. Every once in a while, Father pulls back the curtain a bit to say, “See what I did there?” He doesn’t do it often. But I believe He does it now and again so that in the more frequent seasons where we are tempted to lose hope for those we love, we can know that He is fully engaged, and very good at what He does.

Almost 180 years to the day before Dave stood at that pulpit, Joseph Smith made the audacious claim that “God hath made a provision, that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin…”[1]

Every spirit? Really?

The scriptures are filled with countless witnesses that God is a very patient, very long-term strategist.

The scriptures are filled with countless witnesses that God is a very patient, very long-term strategist. He plans far in advance to scatter and gather. He provokes immigration and emigration. He prepares for restorations and patiently waits through apostasies. He sends an angel to Saul so he’ll be ready to later be incarcerated when a certain jailer was ready to hear the Gospel. He shakes the sons of Mosiah into repenting just in time to ignite a Pentecost among the Lamanites. He sends Alpheus Gifford to teach Heber C. Kimball so he would arrive in England the moment thousands were ready to hear the Gospel. And through it all He has His eye on each and every Dave He intends to ferret out. Every Dave, including yours.

The greatest evidence of God’s love for all of His children is the things He sets in motion far in advance to save us when we’re ready. I know that He is fully engaged and very good at what He does because I get to see the curtain pulled back more often than most people.

Nine years ago, my wife Celia and I were part of a group that started The Other Side Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pictured below are some of our students. Our average student was arrested 25 times before sitting on our bench and asking for admission. Those in the picture below were facing well over 1,000 years of new incarceration when they came to us. They pay nothing to attend and typically stay with us for 2-4 years. All have been involved in crime, addiction, and homelessness for much of their lives. In spite of our students’ histories, we’ve never had an act of violence. Our students are drug tested monthly by Adult Probation and Parole, and we’ve never had a dirty drug test. Gang members who were previously sworn to kill each other sleep in our house in the same room, and yet we’ve not had a single act of violence. We have both men and women on our campus, who live more chastely than a BYU dorm. The Other Side Academy (TOSA) is Zion with sometimes quite colorful language.

A House of Miracles

Christmas at TOSA is glorious. Students sit in a massive circle around a small mountain of gifts. As we prepare to talk about the Christmas story, I invite them to raise a hand if they know, with absolutely certainty, that miracles had to happen to get them to TOSA. A thicket of arms immediately appears. Next, I invite a couple to tell their stories. I’ll share just one here to support my thesis of hope.

Meet James Moyle. James was born in the Church. He went through many of the Gospel motions for much of his life. He advanced in the Priesthood, served a mission, and married in the temple. Much of that was due to Bishop Craig Mecham, whom he nicknamed Meech, and who refused to give up on him. Career prosperity began to reveal hidden weaknesses in his character. Drinking led to drugs which led to a daily heroin addiction. When his wife divorced him, he threw himself onto the streets and lived as a homeless junkie for six years. The photo is from one of dozens of arrests from those years.

Now it’s time. It’s the spring of 2020. James is often face down in the dirt, passed out on a vacant lot in Salt Lake City with a needle in his arm. James has done monstrous things. And yet, the Master loves James. He knows that his heart is now fully broken in consequence of his own choices. The Savior knows that now is the time. And so, He sets things in motion, fifteen years ago.

Stay with me now because this is going to come at you pretty fast. In 2005, He prompted me to write a leadership book called Crucial Influence. During my research for the book, I happened to study a place called Delancey Street in California, at almost the same time as Dave Durocher happened to be sitting on their bench, pleading for admission in lieu of his 22-year prison sentence. Dave stayed two years at Delancey Street to be forgiven of his sentence, then volunteered to stay an additional six years because he fell in love with saving lives. In 2013 he left Delancey Street and started a career. At about this time, James was beginning his spiral.

In 2014, Celia and I felt a strong prompting to start The Other Side Academy based on much of what I had learned from Delancey Street. For months, we scoured the planet for a strong leader with Delancey Street credentials, but without success. Then in April 2015, we discovered a woman who had lived there for 38 years. Two days before our meeting with her, Dave Durocher happened to call her to ask if she knew of anyone starting something like Delancey Street. He was making great money but his soul was starving. He wanted to return to saving lives. He moved to Utah three months later.

In 2020 Celia and I happened to build a home on the site previously owned by James’ grandfather. Our new bishop called me to serve as his executive secretary. Thus it was that in the spring of 2020, as James was face-down in the dirt, I sat in ward council one Sunday next to a man nicknamed Meech.

As the meeting began, the Bishop asked, “Has anyone seen a miracle this week?” Brother Mecham teared up and said, “I found Moyle!” Every head except mine turned toward him. The name meant everything to them but was unfamiliar to me. He continued, “I have driven to work the same way every day for 20 years. Last Tuesday I felt a strong prompting to drive a different route. That bothered me because I have a special 7-11 where I stop for a soda every day, so I had to find a different one on this new route. I did. It was across the street from a vacant lot with a bunch of homeless people. A gangly, toothless, bearded homeless man was sitting by the store entrance panhandling. I tried to hurry past him when he looked up at me and said, “Meech?”

I had no idea how he knew my name until he said, “It’s me. James Moyle.”

The story has far more miracles than I will recount here. But what are the odds?

When Brother Mecham finished his story I told him about TOSA. From that moment, He made it his mission to get James to our bench. But James wasn’t having it. That is, until Brother Mecham and he happened to drive past our house, and Meech said, “That’s where Joseph and Celia live.” James recognized it as the place his grandfather had lived. A place where he had felt the Spirit many times. He was immediately flooded with clarity and agreed to let Meech take him to TOSA.

There he encountered Dave Durocher. James assumed TOSA must be a “rehab” that would help him get “sober” and that Dave was a counselor of some sort. He was soon disabused of that conception. TOSA is a place where you learn to become a better person, not just a sober person. And who better to do that than someone who emerged from the same filth as you? Dave demanded that James look far deeper into his problems than claiming that it was all due to an unfortunate introduction to pain pills.

This is James a few months ago after a temple session with his daughter, ex-wife and her husband.

Does Heavenly Father show off? No. But He could. As He pulls back the curtain can you see what He did here? He set things in motion years in advance so that He could save James the instant He was ready.

Today, Dave Durocher is a lapsed atheist. He has seen the curtain pulled back too many times to resist the undeniable truth, that “God hath made a provision, that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved…”[2]

Our Savior is fully engaged. And He is very good at what He does.


[1] Times and Seasons, 7 April 1844

[2] Times and Seasons, 7 April 1844