A Great and Dreadful Day - Part 1

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_Bob Bobberson
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day - Part 1

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

- NINE -

Bishop Chuck Gladden lived at the end of a cul-de-sac in a subdivision in the southwestern part of town, near the irrigation canal by Country Drive. The house looked like it was still being built; there was exposed, black tarpaper covered in chicken wire on part of the roof, and although there was a tidy, three-foot-high brick wall lining the property and a smooth concrete driveway leading up to the garage door, there was no grass, gravel, or any other kind of landscaping in the yard. It was just hard, muddy-looking clay.

When Sam arrived for dinner, both the Bishop and Sister Gladden met him at the front door. Behind the two of them lurked a pair of towheaded children. “We’re so glad you made it,” said Barbara Gladden, and the Bishop patted him on the shoulder and pumped his hand. They led him inside. There was some kind of rock and fountain installation in the foyer, and Barbara’s flats clicked on the smooth tile floor. Along the wall were hooks for coats and hats and a little shelf for shoes.
“We take our shoes off in the house,” Barbara said, “because the carpet’s new.” Her hair was cut close to her head, and she had a dry, steely gaze, even when she smiled. At her side, the Bishop was rolling his eyes.

“Oh, okay,” said Sam, and he slipped off his tennis shoes and set them on the rack. The Gladdens showed him around the house: the five bedrooms (a well-furnished guest room with a desk and a sofa-bed; three bedrooms for the Gladdens’ six children—“Six?” “Yes, six. Jarod, Jonas, Heather, Susie, Levi, and Charles, Jr.”—and a large master bedroom with a canopied, four-poster bed that had a floral print comforter on it and a lacy bedskirt. Then he was shown the bathrooms, which were marvelously clean and sparkling. “I wanted to put a urinal in here, but she wouldn’t let me,” said the Bishop. “Would you want to clean that?” was her response. On the walls throughout the house were frames filled with pictures, both of the Gladdens and their extended family, and of things that Sam assumed were related to Mormonism in some way—pictures of Jesus, of older men in dark suits, and of various, elaborate-looking buildings. One of these looked like a castle, and in the image, a much-younger Barbara and Chuck Gladden, wearing their wedding clothes, with Barbara clutching a bouquet, were kissing on a pedestal outside the looming building.

“Yep,” said the Bishop when he noticed Sam looking. “That’s us after we got married in the Salt Lake temple.”

“Oh,” said Sam.

They showed him the spacious kitchen, with its big, six-burner stove, double ovens, and large refrigerator. It was filled with warm smells: garlic, tomato sauce, bread. “I hope you like spaghetti,” said Barbara. “Don’t worry, I do,” said Sam. Then they took him into the living room, where he found three of the older Gladden children, along with Elders Miller and Cummings. They were all gathered in front of the TV, playing a game on the SuperNES.

“Oh! Brother Younger!” said Elder Miller, looking up from his game. He was sitting crosslegged on the floor, clad as usual in his short-sleeved white shirt, tie, and dark slacks. He handed off the controller to one of the Gladden kids and stood up to shake Sam’s hand. Elder Cummings did the same.

“Well,” said the Bishop. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable while Barbara and I finish getting supper on the table?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Sam.

He took a seat in one of the recliners and sat watching as the two oldest Gladden kids—a boy and a girl, probably around 14 and 12—played the video game while the other child and the two missionaries watched intently. Sam had owned one of the old, regular Nintendos back when they first came out several years ago, but he’d never developed that much interest in it. A couple of his friends in high school had gotten really into the games but he’d always seen it as being kind of a waste of time. The missionaries, he noticed, were so wrapped up in what was happening on the screen (the game involved some kind of hand-to-hand combat among the characters) that they barely acknowledged his presence.

“I take it you guys don’t get to play video games very much,” Sam said.

Elder Miller looked over at him: “Huh? Wha? Oh, yeah. Only if it’s at someone’s house and we’re invited,” he said.

“Yeah, things are pretty strict while you’re on your mission,” said Elder Cummings. “It all depends on your mission president. Some missions you’re not even supposed to read the newspaper. Like I said, it just depends on how the mission president is.”

“Do you mean the bishop?” Neither of them was looking at him as they answered.

Miller didn’t seem to understand; Cummings went on: “No, the bishop just oversees the local ward. The local congregation, like what you saw at church on Sunday. The mission president is a separate calling.”

“Yeah,” added Elder Miller. “He’s a totally separate person.”


The missionaries settled back into their zombie-like fixation on the game. On the table beside Sam’s recliner were a lamp and a thick book that had a dark, pebbly, leathery cover similar to the Book of Mormon he’d been given. He picked it up and looked at the spine: Holy Bible – Book of Mormon – Doctrine & Covenants – Pearl of Great Price. Did this mean there were additional scriptures in addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon? He flipped through the pages and found that they looked more or less the same: very thin, delicate pages with text divided up into brief verses and chapters. In the Pearl of Great Price section he came across a set of drawings that looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics. There was a pair of human figures doing something near an altar of some kind. Sam didn’t understand what it meant. The caption mentioned something about a facsimile, and it puzzled him. He closed the book and set it back down on the table and folded his hands in his lap.

It wasn’t but a few more minutes before Chuck Gladden poked his head around the corner and called everyone to the table for dinner. Sam got up and followed the kids and the missionaries into the dining room, where the table was piled with food. There was a big bowl filled with buttered spaghetti noodles and a separate bowl filled with meat-and-tomato sauce. There were two baskets filled with garlic bread, a giant, clear bowl of salad and three plastic bottles with different kinds of salad dressing. There was a bowl of what looked like canned green beans and a Pyrex baking dish filled with something that looked like whipped-cream-covered green Jello. Everyone piled into the chairs around the tables.

“Did you guys wash your hands?” said Barbara to the two youngest kids, and they nodded.

“Okay, everyone. I’ll go ahead and say the blessing,” said Bishop Gladden. “Dear Father in Heaven, we ask thee to bless this food so that it will nourish and strengthen our bodies. We are grateful to thee that thou has given us such delicious things to eat. We’re thankful, too, dear Lord, that Brother Younger is joining us tonight at our table, and we pray that he enjoys the time he spends with our family tonight, and that the Spirit will be with him. We say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”


With that, everyone, notably the two missionaries, began piling food onto their plates. As the bowls made their way around the table, Sam helped himself to servings of each of the items, including the strange, green Jello casserole thing. The Bishop stood and poured milk into everyone’s glasses. The noise of the dining room progressed: it had begun with the prayer, and its intimate quietude, to the bustle of plates being laden with food, to the moist sound of chewing and eating, until at last Barbara began to speak.

“So, are you from this area originally, Sam?”

“No,” he said, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “I actually grew up in a town over near Sacramento. It’s called Auburn,” he said.

“I think I’ve driven through there a few times,” said the Bishop.

“What do your folks do?” Barbara asked. The two missionaries looked uncomfortable.

“Well, nothing anymore, since they’re both dead. But when they were alive, my father was a long-haul trucker, and my mom was an RN.”

“Oh, I see,” said Barbara. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“Yeah, I have a sister. She lives down in San Diego. I don’t really see or talk to her that much, though.”


“And what do you do for a living, Brother Younger?” asked the Bishop.

Sam drew in a deep breath. “Well, I’m actually between jobs right now. I put in my two weeks notice at this—” he was looking at the two younger children “at this club where I was working. I’m ready to move on to something else.”

“A clean slate,” said the Bishop.

“Yeah, exactly.”

Heather, the older Gladden daughter, a girl with reddish blond hair, sparse acne, and braces, pointed across the table at Sam’s knuckles. “Is that a tattoo?” she asked.

He reflexively covered it with his hand. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Back during my wild youth.”

“Can I see it?” said Heather.

“Yeah, sure.” He held his hand out for her to see.

“Are those letters? What does it stand for?”

“Nothing in particular. It’s nothing special.”

“You just got random letters on your hand for no reason?”

“I guess you could say that,” he said. Everyone was staring at him. “Like I said, I got that during a kind of wild time in my life.” He looked around and waited a moment for people to return to eating. Luckily, the missionaries didn’t miss a beat, as they were now helping themselves to seconds. “I guess you guys don’t get tattoos in the Mormo—I mean LDS Church?”

The Bishop blinked his eyes slowly and shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “The body is a temple.”

“I think your tattoos are cool,” said Heather, and her eyes were darting back and forth from Sam’s knuckles to his face. It made him uncomfortable and he looked away. Barbara Gladden’s jaw muscles were tensing, like she was gritting her teeth.

“To tell you the truth,” said Sam, “I’ve got a doctor’s appointment later in the week to look into getting them removed.”

“Why would you want to do that?” said Heather.

“You shut up now,” said Barbara, and Heather set her face in a pout.

“It’s like I said, it’s just something left over from a part of my life that I’m not all that proud of. I just think I’d be happier without the old tats.”

“I’ve heard that it’s super painful to get them removed, like they have to burn them off or something.” This was Jonas, the eldest son.

“I guess I’ll have to let you know,” said Sam.

“Any-how,” said Barbara, her tone rising. “My husband and these two young Elders here have said that you’ve been giving some thought to joining the Church. Of taking the next step and getting baptized.”

Once again, all eyes were on him: “Yeah, it’s true. I’ve been thinking about it.”

“That’s right,” said Elder Miller. “He’s been meeting with us, taking the discussions, and reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it.” He gestured pointingly towards the other end of the table. “Uh, could you please pass the Italian dressing? Thanks.”

“I haven’t quite made up my mind yet, but… Something just seems right and true about it.”

Every last head at the table smiled and nodded with approval.

“There is so much to love about the Church,” said Barbara. “For me personally, it just gives me such a sense of peace and certainty. I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a priesthood holder to lead our family.” She and the Bishop and clutched hands atop the table.

“And we owe our beautiful family to the teachings of the Church,” said the Bishop. “Just look at these smiling, shining faces. We truly are lucky that our Heavenly Father sent these precious children down to us.”

Sam didn’t quite know what to say to this. So he just shrugged and agreed, “You really do have a nice family,” he said.

Levi, the second youngest, piped up and added in his two cents: “Yeah, and we get to play games and have family home evening and everything!”

Everyone chuckled.

“The point we’re trying to make to you, Sam, is that we wouldn’t have the lives that we do if it weren’t for the Church. It fills our whole house and all of our lives with love, and with the guidance of the priesthood and the Spirit. And, so, as the Bishop, I just hope you keep that in mind.”

“I’ll be sure to do that,” he said.

Sam went back to his plate, but he silently agreed with everything that Bishop Gladden had said. He, too, wanted what they had: the nice house, the close family. Sam’s own family had been fractured, with his parents constantly at work, or bickering during the times when they were all together. And then they each got sick one after the other and he watched them waste away into living corpses. The Gladdens, on the other hand, seemed like they would go on being a family into the next lifetime. At the very least, they all believed that this is what would happen.

After dinner, Sam helped Barbara and Heather clear the table until Barbara shooed him away. In the living room, Elder Miller told him stories about an old mission companion who’d had a terrible B.O. problem. “He would stink right as soon as he got out of the shower. It was like that kid Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, with all the dust floating around him. It was like that. I know it’s mean, but we all called him that—Elder Pig Pen. Not to his face or anything, but it was a nickname. I don’t know what it was, or if it was a disease or whatever, but he just stunk.” A bit later, Heather and Barbara brought out dishes of ice cream for dessert. As they finished, Heather sat down at the piano and played songs for all of them. Some were strictly instrumental, but others were songs that everyone but Sam seemed familiar with, and so they sang along. One had something to do with popcorn that was growing on apricot trees. “Spring has brought me such a nice surprise,” went one of the lyrics.

When Heather had finished, she set her hands in her lap and smiled while everyone clapped. “Such a good job,” said Barbara. “It sure was, it sure was,” added Elder Cummings.

The three youngest Gladden children—Susie, Levi, and Charlie—began arguing over which game they would play on the SuperNES, and whose turn it would be. “Knock it off you three,” said the Bishop. “I don’t think there needs to be any of that right now. You guys put those video games away. You guys get down a board game that everyone can play.”

“Do you guys have Pictionary?” asked Elder Miller.

“Yeah, we do,” said Jonas, all gangly and lurpy in his jeans and his Weber State T-shirt as he got up to get it down from the closet.

“Sam, could I have a word with you?” said the Bishop, and he took Sam aside and led him back to a room that apparently served as an office. Inside was a big, heavy desk and a bookshelf filled with a variety of books, many of which, as far as Sam could tell, were Church-related. There was also a framed diploma, though he couldn’t make out what it was for. “Have a seat, young man,” the Bishop said, and Sam sat down in the chair opposite the desk. “I couldn’t help but think about what you said earlier about putting in your two-weeks notice at your job. Now, I approve of your decision. I don’t think that any respectable person should be working at a place like that. And we don’t need to get into all the piddling details, but I think we both know what kind of a place you were talking about. The point is that I can see that you’re serious about turning your life around, and I just have a feeling about you. What I wanted to ask you was this. I don’t know what kind of new work you’ve got lined up for yourself, but I wanted to go ahead and offer to call my first counselor, Glen, who owns a contracting business here in town. He does framework and roofing and that sort of thing, and I know he has a lot of turnover. But for his regular, long-term guys, I know he offers real fair wages and benefits. So, if you’re committed and interested, I can go ahead and give him a call.”

Sam felt something like shock. “That would be pretty fantastic,” he said. “And I have a little bit of construction experience. I did some framing work back home a few years ago.”

“Even better,” said the Bishop, and he picked up the phone and dialed. As it rang, he pressed the button for the speaker phone.


“Hello there, Glen?”

“Yeah, sure. This is Glen.”

“It’s Bishop Gladden.”

“Oh, hey, Chuck. What’s going on?”

“Nothing much old buddy. I got you on speaker phone here.”

“All right.”

“I’m sitting here with Brother Younger. You know him, right? He’s that big guy that the missionaries have been giving the lessons to. That investigator I told you was coming over for dinner.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure, sure.”

“Well, Glen, I’m calling you because I think he’s interested in the spot that opened up on your crew. Isn’t that right, Brother Younger?”

“Yeah, definitely,” said Sam.

“And he’s got experience doing frame work,” said Bishop Gladden.

“Well, that’s just terrific,” said Glen. “How soon can you start?”

“How about Monday?”

“Great! I’ll see you then,” and with that, the Bishop picked up the phone and spun in his chair and said a few more words to his first counselor: “Okay. Yeah, good. Thanks a lot, Glen. Yeah, yeah. Thursdee night. Sure. Okay, you too, good bye.”

Sam sat there, practically reeling. A part of him wondered if the Bishop wanted something from him. Was this a way of pressuring him into getting baptized? And if it was, so what? Especially given the fact that he would apparently at the very least be getting a good job out of it?

“Well, if you want it, it looks like you got the job,” said the Bishop.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘Thank you’?”

“Oh, yeah—thanks. Thank you very much. It’s just weird, you know, to have someone just up and offer you a job out of nowhere.”

“You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to!”

“No, no—I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t want it. It’s just, you know—the generosity. I guess I’m not used to it, is all.”

“Well, Sam, that’s what we’re all about,” he said, and it wasn’t clear whether he was referring to himself and his “first counselor,” to his family, or to Mormons in general. But, as Sam was coming to realize, it wasn’t altogether clear where the three groups ended and began. It was as if they were all interlocking parts of something larger.

The Bishop took a pad of paper and a pen from his desk and wrote down the directions to Glen’s office. “Or,” he said, “you can just talk to him in church on Sunday,” he said with a wink. Sam just smiled.

They got up and went back into the living room, where everyone was deeply enmeshed in a boisterous game of Pictionary. Heather was trying unsuccessfully to get her sister Susie to guess the word, “Contagious.” After the timer ran out, Elder Cummings offered his sympathies: “Ooh, wow. That was a tough one.”

Sam and the Bishop stood off near the little alcove by the foyer. “Well, everyone,” said Bishop Gladden, I think Brother Younger is going to head off.

“It was really nice meeting all of you,” said Sam. The two missionaries got to their feet and shuffled over in their dress socks. Barbara Gladden came over, too.

“So,” said Elder Miller, “can we meet with you in a couple of days to give you the next discussion? Would that be all right?”

“Yeah, that sounds fine.” Then he shook everybody’s hands.

“It was so good to have you over,” said Barbara. “Hopefully you’ll come again.” She turned to the children in the living room: “Everyone tell Brother Younger goodbye!”


“I’ll see you again soon,” said Bishop Gladden, and he firmly shook Sam’s hand a final time.

He went out and got in his truck and the Bishop and his wife watched from the front steps. As he drove home, Sam thought about what he’d just seen, and what had just happened to him. There was something about it that was unreal. Everyone seemed just a tiny bit too happy, as if they were all clinging to some invisible force that allowed them to maintain the Leave it to Beaver façade, and yet it didn’t quite see inauthentic. And what might the invisible force be? Their faith? Maybe, Sam thought, there was nothing unreal or strange about it at all, and he was just letting his cynicism get the better of him. Maybe his own sense of rightness and reality was flawed in some way. After all, he was the one who’d done time. He was the one who’d spent a decent chunk of his life smoking dope, drinking, and working in a strip club.

When he got home, he hung up his coat and went into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. Then he sat in his easy chair and read the Book of Mormon for an hour, after which he said a prayer, asking once again for confirmation as to the truthfulness of the LDS Church. Like a subdued echo of his earlier experience, he felt a warm sensation in his chest and his lips began to tremble, though he didn’t shed any tears. He just felt good. He felt right, and he felt good, as if the world was beginning to turn in his favor.

He got up from where he’d been kneeling on the floor. For whatever reason, he noticed an old glass ashtray peeking out from an open cupboard below the end table. He bent down and picked it up and went to drop it in the trash. It was hard, solid, and heavy in his hand as he carried it to the trashcan in the kitchen, and he would always remember how it felt. It was one of those strange, unaccountable details—the sort of thing he would have surely forgotten if not for the fact that, later that night, as he lay in bed, he made up his mind to be baptized, and to formally join the LDS Church.

...Next time: the final chapter of Part 1 - Sam makes a decisive move....
Posts: 1432
Joined: Sat May 07, 2016 2:38 am

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day - Part 1

Post by _candygal »

I can't wait to get some printer ink for my little office upstairs...I need to copy this!! Thanks!!
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day - Part 1

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

- TEN -

The ensuing days were a blur. Sam could scarcely contain his excitement and anticipation, and the hours could not pass quickly enough. When he woke up the day after he’d made up his mind, he first tried to get ahold of the missionaries, who didn’t seem to have a phone, and then he called Bishop Gladden to give him the good news.

“I’m telling you right now that this is the best decision you’ve ever made, Sam,” he said, and he agreed to pass the message along to Elders Miller and Cummings. That afternoon, the two missionaries knocked on the door, and Sam opened it yet again to their beaming young faces.

“This is so wonderful!” said Elder Cummings, his plump face even rounder than normal. Both of the missionaries took turns embracing him, slapping him on the back. Then, as always, they went to the living room and said an opening prayer. This time, Elder Miller prayed for “strength, integrity, and honesty.”

When they were all settled in, Elder Miller furrowed his wolfish brow and said, “Okay, Brother Younger, I need to do the baptismal interview with you.”


“Don’t worry, it’s normal.” He held up a reassuring hand. “I think that Elder Cummings and I—along with Bishop Gladden—are all confident that you’ll sail right through the questions. We wouldn’t be sitting here with you today if we didn’t think you were ready for baptism.”

“Well, all right then.”

Elder Miller held his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat, and then he began: “Brother Younger, do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and do you believe that Jesus Christ died for all of us?”

It wasn’t really anything he needed to think about, and so he said, “Yes. Yes, I do.” If he had thought about this question in more detail, he would have realized that these things were abstractions to him. He did not conceive of them as being a part of some coherent and material reality; rather, they were caught up in the onrush of his growing sense of the Spirit. They were connected—inseparable, even—from the feelings he had experienced.

“Okay, good!” said Elder Miller. Beside him, Elder Cummings was nodding in approval. Miller continued: “Do you believe that the Church is true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet?”

“I do believe that.”

“Do you also believe that Alma Grange Baylor is a true prophet?”

Sam frowned: “Who is that again? Is that the current prophet?”

Cummings smiled: “Yes, that’s right. You’ve got it.”

“Then yes,” Sam went on. “I believe that. It has to do with continuing revelation.”

“Yes, yes! That’s right. See? No problem,” said Elder Miller. “You’re totally ready for all of this. Just a few more questions to go.” He leaned forward. “Then next question is about repentance. What I want to know is, what does repentance mean to you? Do you believe that you’ve fully repented for your past sins?”

He thought about this. There was no question in his mind that he was laboring strenuously to change. He’d already left behind a number of the ugly things in his life, so he said, “Yes, I believe I have.”

“Okay, fantastic, Sam. I’m supposed to ask you about serious crimes and offenses, but since you already said that you’ve repented for all your past transgressions, I think we can move along.”

“Okay, good,” he said, though he wondered, somewhat worryingly, what Elder Miller meant by “serious crimes.” Hadn’t he said that baptism was a wiping clean of the slate? Didn’t it mean that he would get a wholly new start?

Miller continued. “We’ve taught you, and you learned last Sunday, that being a member of the Church involves upholding certain gospel standards. So, what I need to ask you is if you are willing to obey: the law of chastity, the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and to keep the Sabbath day holy? Are you willing to abide by these laws?”

He sat there thinking for a moment, taking a second or two to recall what each of these laws entailed, and then he said, “Yes, I am willing.”

“Good! That’s great. We’re almost done.” Both of the Elders seemed a tad restless, and they shifted in their spots on the couch. “The last question is this. When you’re baptized, you are making a covenant with God. A ‘covenant’ is a very special, holy kind of promise. So, my question to you is, are you willing to covenant with God to take upon yourself Christ’s name, and to keep his commandments? Are you willing to do this?”

“Yes, I am,” he said, and he was aware of a weight being lifted from him. He had passed the test. The two missionaries were smiling broadly, and they both stood up to shake his hand.

“Congratulations, you’re ready.”

They told him that the bishop had already scheduled a block of time for him to be baptized on Saturday evening. He was more than welcome to invite any friends or family to come and participate. This was a big event, after all! Apart from that, they said, all he needed to do was to show up. They, the bishop, and the other members of the Church would take care of the rest.

When Saturday rolled around, he went in through the glass doors and found Elders Miller and Cummings waiting for him.

“They’re filling up the baptismal font right now,” said Elder Miller.

Bishop Gladden was there, as were Barbara and a couple of the kids, and Raymond—who last name, Sam learned, was Haas—and Ariel Jergens, both of whom had been in the Gospel Doctrine class. There were other people from Church he recognized as well—a total of around two dozen people or so. The Bishop and the missionaries warmly introduced him to the members he hadn’t yet met.

“We are so glad to have him come into the fold,” said Bishop Gladden.

“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” said Helen Dietrich, a white-haired, sixtyish woman with impish eyes. Her comment was so dry and acerbic that Sam couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. “It’s really nice to meet you, Sam,” she said, and she held out a bony, gnarled, heavily veined and spotted hand for him to shake. Her grip was remarkably strong.

“Thank you,” he said.

Then the Bishop swung him around to meet someone else. “Sam, I’d like you to meet Sandy Richards, one of the single sisters in our ward.”

She blushed, but she gave Bishop Gladden a gentle shove and said, “Oh, come on now,” and she laughed so that her teeth showed. She had a slender, graceful neck and to Sam she looked fresh and untainted, but sad, somehow. In short, he thought she was beautiful, or at least this is what he would eventually think about her.

“It’s really good to meet you,” she said, looking carefully into his face. “Hopefully they’ll dunk you all the way under the first time. When I got baptized, my hand didn’t go under the first time and so they had to do it again.”

Elder Cummings was hovering nearby, and he piped up: “Don’t worry, Elder Miller’s real good at this. Lots of experience.” He was standing close to Sandy with his hands in his pockets, and he kept glancing over towards her out of the corners of his eyes. He seemed to be rocking slightly, perhaps trying to inch ever closer into her personal space.

At that point, the Bishop led Sam down the hallway to get a look at the font. It was like a large, tiled bathtub sunk into the floor of one of the church classrooms. There was a bit of steam coming off the warm water, and Sam could smell the chlorine in it.

“Quite a long ways from the icy water that John the Baptist dunked Jesus in, eh?” said Bishop Gladden.

“Yeah,” said Sam, who found himself at something of a loss for words.

“Well, you better go get changed,” he said.

Sam followed Elder Miller back to a bathroom, where he was given a set of white clothes—a pair of pants and a long sleeved shirt. Elder Miller changed into an identical pair of white clothing as well, save that he also had on a white necktie. After this, with his naked feet slapping against the bathroom linoleum, Sam followed the young missionary back down the hall and into the area above the font. An accordion-like sliding door had been pushed aside to reveal chairs set up in rows, so that witnesses could sit and watch. In the front row were Bishop and Barbara Gladden and the three children they’d brought along, and also Ariel Jergens, and chubby-faced Elder Cummings. The lights in the outer room had been lowered so that it was difficult to see the faces of the people beyond the front row, but Sam nonetheless tried to locate Sandy Richards. He thought he could see the shiny black pumps he thought he remembered her wearing. Meanwhile, the baptismal font itself, lined with 1-inch square white tiles, shone brilliantly. The water was a very pale aqua.

Elder Miller led the way, guiding himself down into the water with the use of a metal bar mounted on the side of the font. Sam put his foot into the water and felt the warmth of it against his ankle, and he felt the fabric of his white pants gather wetly around his legs. He followed Elder Miller down all the way into the font, until both of them were standing belly-button deep in the water.

The missionary leaned in and whispered to him: “You can hold your nose with your fingers when I dunk you under if you want.”

“Okay,” said Sam. He felt so peculiar. There was a lightness and yet an anxiety in his big, cumbersome body. He felt that he was doing something of great significance and importance, and he was aware of some unnamable thing that lay just beyond his grasp, like he’d forgotten to ask one final yet critical question, but it was too late to turn back. He smiled to the Bishop and his family members in the front row, and Charlie, the youngest boy, waved to him.

“You ready?” asked Elder Miller.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said, and he smiled.

Elder Miller took him by the wrist. Then the missionary raised his right arm at a right angle up by his head, with his palm held rigid. He spoke with great clarity and authority: “Samuel Aaron Younger: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Sam felt Elder Miller’s hand against the small of his back, helping him to plunge aft-wards. The water closed over him. The sound of the room vanished, and apart from the hands of the missionary on his wrist and on his back, he was completely alone beneath the surface. It lasted but a second, and then he was pulled back into the air. He stood there, blinking in the bright light, feeling the water stream down him in warm rivulets, breathing in the air. He was terribly conscious of being alive, and felt now more than ever, with all of his sins having been washed away, that his life had begun again. Standing there in his white clothes, with the water still dripping from his hair, and his ears, and his wet clothing, he thought he knew, if even for a moment, what it must be like to be an angel. Before he knew it, Elder Miller was embracing him, and then Barbara Gladden was at the edge of the font, handing him a towel.

After he’d dried himself and gotten re-dressed in his suit and tie, they went into a separate room that was somewhat larger than the room that held the baptismal font. This room had a bank of drape-covered windows lining one wall, and there was a piano in one of the corners. As with every room in the ward building that Sam had seen, there were sparse decorations on the plain white walls, though at one end of this room was a chalkboard. The metal folding chairs had been arranged in rows, and at the head of the room was a single chair facing the rows. Sam understood that he was now going to be given the gift of the Holy Ghost. The people worked their way into the room, quietly congratulating him, rubbing his back, and telling him how glad they were. After people were seated, Bishop Gladden led him to the chair at the front of the room and sat him down. Several of the men, including Ray Haas, both the missionaries, and Bob Gompert, the goateed Gospel Doctrine teacher, came forward, too, and they formed a circle around him. The room got very quiet, and Sam felt the Bishop lay his hand on his head, and one by one, the other men followed suit. Sam shut his eyes and listened as the Bishop quietly prayed, conferring upon him the Aaronic Priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As he spoke, it was clear to Sam that he was improvising on the spot. He prayed that Heavenly Father would always look after Sam and guide him towards righteousness. He also requested that the Holy Ghost would comfort Sam during times of sorrow. He asked that Sam be given strength to uphold his priesthood duties and callings. All the while, Sam sat with his eyes closed, his hands folded in his lap, feeling the gentle swaying of the men’s hands on his head. He felt as if they were conferring a great power upon him. Just then, the Bishop said, “Amen,” and Sam reopened his eyes. He sat there, momentarily dazed, and then he saw that all the people sitting in the chairs were watching him, proud and smiling. He was one of them now.

All of this was followed by yet another round of backpats, handshakes, and congratulations. Sandy Richards, who kept fidgeting with her hair as she stared at him, said, “So, do you feel any different?”

“I really do,” he said. “I really do,” and she squeezed his arm.

The people trickled out of the room and they went down to what the missionaries called the Cultural Hall, which really seemed more like a big room with retractable basketball hoops at either end and a theatrical stage dominating the front. Apparently, as Ray Haas explained to him, the ward used this room for all kinds of different gatherings: youth activities, potluck dinners, pickup basketball games (the orange-carpeted floor had the rudimentary outlines of a basketball court), skits, and so on. There was even a kitchen/prep-room in the back, and this is where the food and refreshments had been assembled. Sam helped Elder Cummings set up a long table at one edge of the cultural hall and the women brought out plates and trays of cookies and brownies, cups, jugs up milk, orange juice, and green drink, and there were chips and dip, too. Everyone stood eating and drinking, and generally enjoying one another’s company. Sam listened to the conversations. Ray Haas was talking about a new puppy that his family had adopted. Bishop Gladden was saying something about the BYU basketball team. Helen Dietrich was talking about her sick mother. Across the room, Sandy was again being harangued by Elder Cummings, but she kept glancing over at Sam, and after a while she waved to him, which caused poor Elder Cummings to follow her line of sight. The look on his round face was almost heartbreaking. Almost.

The night wound down, and in the midst of the sugar rush from all the junk they’d just eaten, people began to bid one another goodbye. They all went out of their way to congratulate Sam a final time, to tell him how powerfully they’d felt the spirit during his confirmation, and to say that they looked forward to seeing him tomorrow at sacrament meeting. The last people to leave were Sam, the Bishop and his family, and the two missionaries. They all walked outside, where there was a scent of woodsmoke on the cold air. Bishop Gladden used his key to lock up the front glass doors, they said their final farewells, and they got into their cars and drove away.

If he leaned forward in his seat to look through the windshield, Sam could see the stars in the clear, deep, dark blue of the night. As he drove, his mind kept returning to two things: Sandy Richards, and the resonant words that had escaped Bishop Gladden’s lips as he prayed with his hands on Sam’s head. He drove down Main Street, past the illuminated 7-Eleven, with the railroad tracks off to his left, and he made the long, circular turn up onto the overpass that led into the northern edge of town. He had the radio on, tuned to a rock station, but for whatever reason it went suddenly out of tune so that nothing but static came from the speakers. He was about to adjust it when it cleared up and he heard a very soft voice say, “Put on the brakes.” He was still trying to determine whether the voice had come from the radio when he did as he was told, almost instinctually, and then a deer came rocketing across the road. He slammed the full weight of his foot down on the brakes and the tires of his truck squealed on the asphalt. If he hadn’t been in the process of braking, there was no way he would have been able to avoid hitting the deer. And to think: he’d had his truck repaired only days ago! It was a one-in-a-thousand kind of moment. He pulled off to the shoulder of the road to think about it, and to let his pulse return to normal. He looked all around, trying to see where the deer had gone, but he couldn’t find it.

Nothing like that had ever happened to him before, and it was this story he told on the first Sunday of March during sacrament meeting. On the first Sunday of every month, rather than assigned talks, members voluntarily came up to the podium to bear witness to the Spirit, and to the truthfulness of the Church. It was called “Fast & Testimony Meeting.” Though he was nervous, and though he wondered about the protocol of a new member getting up to speak, he was feeling the Spirit strongly and so he went up and spoke into the microphone. He stared out at the congregation, at that small sea of people, at all of them watching him, and his voice trembled as he bore his testimony. He told them what had happened to him with the deer, and how he’d heard a very still, small voice that told him to put on the brakes. When he got to the end of his story, he did as he’d seen others do: he said, “I’d like to bear my testimony that the Church is true. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

And they all said, “Amen.”

- THE END of PART 1 -

Up next: the explosive second part of A Great and Dreadful Day: Continuing Revelation . . .
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Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 5:12 am

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day - Part 1

Post by _Gadianton »

Bobberson is doing for Mormonism what Herman Melville did for the whaling industry.
Lou Midgley 08/20/2020: "...meat wad," and "cockroach" are pithy descriptions of human beings used by gemli? They were not fashioned by Professor Peterson.

LM 11/23/2018: one can explain away the soul of human beings...as...a Meat Unit, to use Professor Peterson's clever derogatory description of gemli's ideology.
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