A Great and Dreadful Day, Part II: Continuing Revelation

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_Bob Bobberson
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Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part II: Continuing Revelation

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The next day, Elder Talmadge Steele summoned Grant Toynbee, Jr. of Church Security to his office in the Church Administration Building. Steele had known Toynbee’s grandfather, who had been president of the temple in St. George, and he’d also known (and indeed still knew) Toynbee’s father, Grant Senior, since the two of them had been in the same mission together in England. There was, in other words, a close connection between the two families. The Toynbees had helped the Steeles build their summer house in the mountains near Park City; Elder Steele had written ecclesiastical recommendations for four of the children’s BYU applications. They had been to dinner at each other’s houses, and had been on good terms for as long as Elder Steele could remember. So, after exchanging the de rigueur pleasantries, Apostle Steele cut to the chase:

“Grant, I need your help on something, and I need you to keep it absolutely quiet. As far as anyone else is concerned, you stopped by on a friendly visit.”

“Oh, sure, of course,” he said. Grant Toynbee, Jr. was 47 years old, though he looked about half that age.

“I need you to act with the utmost caution and discretion, and I need you to find out what kinds of investigations have been instigated by the Brethren in the wake of the bombing attack on the prophet.”

Toynbee frowned: “With all due respect, Elder Steele, why would the Brethren find it necessary to initiate any further investigations? The police and FBI have been all over the case ever since it broke.”

“You can call it a prompting of the Spirit, if you’d like, Grant. I would appreciate it if you’d do this as a personal favor for me. I just need to know which of the Brethren are pulling strings among our fellow Latter-day Saints in the law enforcement agencies.”

“I’m always glad to do whatever I can, Elder Steele, but I gotta admit I’m a little baffled here. I can ask around, but if I don’t know what I’m looking for, I’m gonna have a harder time finding it.” Toynbee smiled gently as he said this; it was a gesture meant to help defuse any possible offense.

Steele swiveled in his chair slightly and looked up into a corner of the room. How much could he tell Toynbee? It wasn’t a matter of trust so much as not wanting to drag the younger man into any potential problems.

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “There is some suspicion that anti-Mormons were involved in the attack.”

“Suspicion? I would say it’s pretty much an operational assumption at this point.”

“Oh, is it? Well, then, I’m doubly glad I asked you over. Please keep me up to date on the developments.”

“Okay, I will.”

“But what I mean to say here, Grant, is that in a case like this, where we are dealing with very long-term bitterness and persecution, there is a chance that even the most well-meaning people will behave rashly, or with a certain degree of prejudice. Without putting too fine a point on it, people may have different notions of how to go about dealing with this terrible crime.”

Toynbee stared back at Elder Steele, and then he nodded. “I think I understand,” he said.

“Good,” he said. He stood up and the two men shook hands.

Grant Toynbee still looked nonplussed. “You know, something occurred to me,” he said. “I don’t know if this is what you had in mind, but I did hear from Chad Gumprecht that Elder Brotherton was going to be stopping by at Church Security later. I’m not sure why.”

Steele gave him a wink. “You are as sharp as ever, Grant. Please let me know if you learn anything more.”

The autumn sun had just begun to dip down in the west, plunging down across the shimmering waters of the Great Salt Lake, and its rays caught the spires of the temple and gleamed on the statue of Moroni. Elders Pitt and Brotherton watched this from their corner table on the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Earlier that year, the building, which had up until that time been known as the Hotel Utah, had undergone a massive renovation. On the top floor was a sumptuous buffet restaurant, with large picture windows that looked out across the valley. The western horizon was diffusely orange from the setting sun.

The two apostles were finishing their meal when they were joined by Rulon Cook, Director of Church Security.

“Hello there, Rulon, please have a seat,” said Elder Pitt.

“Maybe he should get himself a plate,” said Brotherton, and Pitt shot him a withering look.

“That’s nonsense. We’ll have one of the girls come over and see what he wants.” He signaled to one of the smartly dressed girls and she came over to take Elder Cook’s order. Meanwhile, at the buffet line, a stream of people filed past the steam tables and the carving stations. Some of them cast glances over at the apostles’ table, or at the table of Elder J. C. MacDowell, the oldest of all the apostles, who was sitting in his wheelchair at the opposite side of the dining room. He was dipping crackers into a bowl of buttermilk and giving nonsensical instructions to his two bodyguards. After the girl finished taking down Cook’s order, she shuffled off towards the kitchen, the pleats of her skirt flowing about her knees.

“Well,” said Pitt, wiping his lips with a napkin, “we’d like to get right down to business.”

Cook drank from the glass of ice water that the girl had left on the table for him. “Well, what I can tell you is that we’re aware of some kind of activity brewing in the west, over in Reno. There’s some buzz about things going on in Sacramento and down in Los Angeles, too. Whether these are formal meetings or just disgruntled apostates hanging out isn’t clear, but as I told you earlier, it’s tough to gather intelligence in the manner we’ve been going about it.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem any longer, though, what with the assault on the prophet,” said Brotherton.

“Well, you’re right to a certain extent,” said Cook. He had a broad, round face, and very thick salt-and-pepper eyebrows that would have benefitted from a trim. “But there’s a difference between investigating a crime and gathering information on apostate groups, especially when we’re talking about inter-agency communication. Now, for my people to be looking into this stuff is no big deal. But if you want to get into the possibility of police, FBI, Church Security, SCMC—”

“I’m sorry,” said Brotherton, “the what? The SCMC?”

Pitt held up his hand to shut him up. “You’ll have to pardon Apostle Brotherton for his forgetfulness. Of course he knows the role that the Strengthening Church Members Committee serves for the Saints.”

Cook glanced back and forth between the two apostles. “Right,” he said. “Well, my point is that there just isn’t enough initiative for us to take this to the next level. Of course all of us who are LDS help one another out and talk to one another, but not all the guys in those other agencies are LDS, and, like I said, we’re sort of lacking a mandate.”

“Which is precisely why you’re here,” said Pitt. He had placed his elbows on the white table cloth with his hands clasped together, so that his dark-suited arms formed a triangle. “I wonder, Elder Cook, if the names Porter Rockwell, Sampson Avard, and Hosea Stout have any meaning for you.”

“I gotta admit that I’m not much of a Church history buff, if that’s what you mean,” he said.

The girl returned carrying a tray that held a plate of bloody prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered brussels sprouts and carrots, and a side of jello salad in a small bowl. Cook thanked her and he immediately cut into the beef.

“Church security has been of utmost importance to the Church since the days of the Prophet Joseph,” said Elder Pitt. “In those days, though, the Saints weren’t content to sit quietly while anti-Mormon bigots carried out attacks on innocent Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph believed, as do I, that one ought to take a more proactive stance in the face of such persecution.”

“You’ve been charged to protect the Brethren at all costs,” said Brotherton, taking his cue. “You swore an oath on this account.”

Cook swallowed the piece of meat he’d been chewing. “That’s true.”

“What we are getting at here,” said Pitt, “is that we will likely be summoning you and some of the other elders in law enforcement in the very near future. While we are grateful for your service to the Church in a secular vein, the Brethren are very seriously considering the notion of extending the mission of Church Security into the other law enforcement agencies by way of an ecclesiastical intervention. You and some of your colleagues will be set aside by the Brethren for a very special calling. It will be just as it was during the days of Joseph Smith.”

Elder Cook set down his knife and fork. “You have my word, President Pitt, that I’ll do whatever it takes. Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do it,” he said.

“That’s good, that’s good,” said Pitt. “Now I have one other question for you. I understand that you’re no history buff, but I nonetheless wanted to ask you what all you know about the Danites.”

Elder Rulon Cook frowned, and looked up from his plate of food. “Danites? I always thought that was a myth,” he said, and both of the apostles laughed.

Thirteen years ago, after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, President Baylor, who at the time had been second counselor in the First Presidency, had gone to tour the disaster area and to visit with the Saints in the nearby wards. He had never seen a landscape so grey and bleak and devoid of life. It was as if the fires of hell had swept across the land in a wave of stygian heat. Indeed, that was how he thought it looked: it looked as if divine wrath had been raked across the forests and valleys. Nothing had been spared.

Though he did not consciously recognize it, this was the landscape that appeared to him as he concluded his third hour of intense prayer in the Holy of Holies. He had been in the room for such a long time that his bodyguards and secretary had begun to worry about him. And even still, he pressed on, fighting past the pain in his legs from kneeling for so long, shifting to a sitting position, and then rising up on his knees, and so on—folding his arms across his chest, and then knitting his fingers together in his lap, perpetually pleading with the Lord for an answer to his inquiries: What are we to do? What is the meaning of this attack? How shall I lead the Saints?

In the third hour, the Lord responded. The prophet opened his eyes, and he saw that the stained glass window of the First Vision had been torn away. There were jagged bits of glass left in the pane, and he could hear the sound of a hot wind whistling past the gap in the wall. Beyond lay the dead landscape. Nothing remained of Salt Lake City; everything had been burnt to a grey and ashen cinder. And then the prophet was moving. It was as if a pair of angels had scooped him up and ushered him out of the Holy of Holies, and he was being escorted by air across the burnt-over Earth. He saw a place on the mountain and he was drawn swiftly towards it. Among all the ruined land this lone spot was still green and verdant, and above the mountain was a break in the iron-grey clouds, and the sky there was as blue as anything he’d ever seen. On this mountain sat a white throne, and in it was a being made of pure light. President Baylor had to squint and shield his eyes in the presence of this being, who began to speak.

“My beloved son,” came the voice. It was a voice that was so loud and rich and basal and mellifluent that Baylor could hear it inside his own chest, and in the marrow of his bones. “The time has come. It is time to gather up the flock, for the shepherd cometh. Gather thee up the wheat and the tares, and I shall baptize the Earth with fire.”

The being said this again three more times, and then the prophet felt himself being turned over so that he was staring up into the heavens, first at a thick cloudcover and then at a starscape. He drifted backwards in the night until he saw the face of the moon, and it was strangely dim and and purplish in the night sky. He struggled to roll over again and when he did he found that he was looking down at Temple Square. As he looked the words escaped his lips: “What if I do nothing?” One by one, the lights in Salt Lake City winked out, and in the deep darkness President Baylor could see a shadow moving above the city, rippling like a black cape in the wind, draping itself across everything, including the temple. He tried to scream, or to cry out, but he’d been struck mute, and the more he struggled to make a sound, the more his dry shrieks turned into gasps for air, and then he found himself drawing in a giant breath, and he opened his eyes to find himself back in the Holy of Holies.

He was still there, the room was intact. The stained glass window of Joseph Smith was exactly where it had always been. President Baylor’s knees still hurt. But he was soaked in sweat and his hands were trembling. He shakily got to his feet but he immediately had to sit down on one of the settees. He sat there as he regained his breath and his heart rate returned to normal. There was no denying what the Lord had revealed to him. It was a test, a test worthy of a prophet called by God. Everything he knew about the world was coming to an end—the Lord would burn it all, before restoring it to its paradisiacal glory. His test in this eternal plan was simply whether or not he had the gumption to carry out the Lord’s commands. He knew perfectly well what the Lord meant by the wheat and the tares, and he knew that his test lay in how well he carried out these commandments. He sat there for a few moments longer, rubbing the back of his neck, and then he slowly stood up and went out the door. As he locked it behind him, his two bodyguards waved to him and came over.

“Sir, we were worried that something had happened to you in there. We had to call Elder Pitt over. He’s on his way now.”

“No, no, young man, I’m fine,” he said, though he knew that he probably looked a mess. The two security agents were staring at him with concern.

“You’re not sick or anything, are you?” asked Elder Ledbetter.

“No. I’m completely fine. Look, now, here’s President Pitt.”

Pitt was walking with his head tilted at a slight angle. “Well, well,” he said, “I had heard there was cause for concern but it appears to have been a false alarm. It’s all well and good.”

“Elders, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a few moments,” said President Baylor, and the two Church Security agents headed back down to the end of the hall.

“They were really worried about you,” said Pitt. “So was I, if I can be frank.”

“Baron, listen to me,” said the prophet, and he took Pitt by the shoulders. “I have received a revelation. We must gather the Brethren. I have been commanded by our Father in Heaven to begin the gathering of the wheat and the tares.” His voice was low and hoarse and measured. “The last days are upon us.”

Pitt’s eyes were wide, and they began to well up with tears. “Yes, yes! It’s true!” he said. “We have been waiting for this day. But we mustn’t convey this to the Brethren. Not yet, at any rate. It would only foster a spirit of contention.”

“No, Elder Pitt. We have been commanded by the Lord to carry out our callings as holders of the keys to the priesthood.”

Pitt kept staring back at him as the tears began to stream down his face. “Yes, of course,” he said at last. “Oh, my prophet, I will do as you command!” and he took President Baylor’s head in his hands, and kissed him on the cheek. “I will do just as the Lord has commanded us.”


Up next: Whatever became of Samuel Younger? Find out in Part III: The Book of Abraham
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