Interview with David P. Vandagriff

I received a complimentary copy of David P. Vandagriff’s new book, I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in Everyday Life, in the past month.

Here is the information from the inside flap:

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event that ever has or ever will occur at any time or in any place in our universe. It is a gift not only for our last breath and the last day of our lives, but it is also for every day of our lives and every breath of our lives. For it is during the hours of our everyday lives that we work out our salvation, usually unobserved by others, sometimes feeling alone, and often feeling opposed.

“Though commonly mentioned in the Church, the Atonement of Christ is frequently misunderstood by many of the Saints. It is often viewed as a tool that is only to be employed when dramatic sins are committed. However, the Atonement is something that should be a part of every facet of our lives – in joyful periods and challenging times.

“Drawing on his personal experience as a husband and bishop, David Vandagriff has written I Need Thee Every Hour to help readers see how the Atonement can encourage us and improve our lives as we realize the enormity of the Savior’s sacrifice and how far it extends. Using real-life stories, each individual chapter discusses how the Atonement relates to different areas of daily life – including death, prosperity, trials, service, and undeserved suffering – to show how the Atonement is the foundation of all hope and the proof of a loving God.”

I Need Thee Every Hour is a beautiful book, the exterior artwork matching the depth of thought inside. A particular chapter, “‘Abide With Me’ – Prayer and the Atonement”, struck me deeply. I read of the author’s confusion why he could receive answers so swiftly as a Bishop and yet not as an individual. It was only when he realized he was approaching prayer differently as an individual that he received an insight that changed all future personal-prayer experiences.

I was eager to talk with David more regarding this work, one that seeks to help confused individuals – who suffer from any number of difficulties – to find peace.

He agree to an interview and I’ll be sharing his thoughts over the next couple of weeks, in periodic installments.

C.S.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
 
DAVID:   I remember reading a newspaper article that said 81% of all Americans think they have a good idea for a book and should write one.  As for myself, I have to admit a couple of half-hearted efforts at novels that didn’t go anywhere, but never really thought about writing a real book. 
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While I was practicing law, a legal publisher asked me to write a book on “Document Assembly” – a riveting topic only if you were a techie lawyer in 1990 – but I never could find the time to produce more than a lot of magazine articles and a few book chapters in publications for attorneys.
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I think my current book began in 2008, when I co-authored Deliverance from Depression – Finding Hope and Healing Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, with my wonderful and hard-driving wife, G.G., and my son, Greg.  To be frank, G.G. provided the impetus for that book, but it opened the possibility that I might be able to write non-fiction that someone besides a lawyer might want to read.  Even more motivating was the experience G.G. and I had during book signings of talking to good Latter-day Saints who were suffering from depression or who had someone in their family who was afflicted with this difficult disease.
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While I was bishop of a BYU singles ward, I asked that every talk and every lesson in the ward be explicitly tied to the Atonement of Christ.  When I gave a talk, I held myself to the same standard, so I started collecting scriptures and quotes on this most important of subjects.  This idea – connecting the Atonement to everything important – changed my life in ways I only began to comprehend while I was still serving on campus.
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After I was released, I worked to understand what I had learned and started to write my thoughts and feelings.  The more I pondered the Atonement, the more clearly I understood the Savior’s influence on my life over many, many years, stretching back even before I became a member of the Church.
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I honestly can’t say exactly when writing for myself became the possibility for a book.  It was probably G.G.’s idea, since she is the source of so many good ideas in my life.  As I looked through the prism of the Atonement, I could see its influence helping me 20-30 years before I ever set foot on campus.  Some parts of my book are taken verbatim from talks I gave when I was a very young bishop many, many years ago, but the central organizing principle, the Atonement of Jesus Christ as the center of revealed religion, only became clear when I really focused on understanding this vital truth.
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C.S.: What was the pathway like to get your first book published?
 
DAVID:  G.G. and I had developed good relationships with Covenant Communications, the publishers of Deliverance from Depression, so I submitted the manuscript for I Need Thee Every Hour to Covenant.
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Some people at Covenant had questions about how my book differed from the many other excellent books that have been written about the Atonement in recent years.  My response was that the other books I had read dealt with the doctrine and theory of the Atonement while mine dealt with the application of the Atonement, how it applied not just on Sunday, but on every day and in every circumstance of our lives.
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I had an excellent editor, Samantha Van Walraven, who worked hard to overcome one of my major faults as a writer (and one that drives G.G. crazy), repeating myself too many times.  Perhaps it’s my nature or maybe it’s the result of years spent explaining complex legal matters to hillbilly clients, but I have a tendency to explain, then explain again, then say the same thing in a slightly different way two or three more times.  Sam whacked away the verbal undergrowth so basic principles and lessons are expressed well one time, not five times.
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Here is the link to read more about his new book, I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in Everyday Life, and to get your own copy. Know that this is not a light read. But if you are ready to ponder on new facets of the atonement of Jesus Christ, this would be a book you would want on your shelves.
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