Patrick Glenn Wrtg H, Sister Price Personal Essay #1 January 22, 2013 The Journey “And it came to pass that after I… had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain.” (1 Nephi 17:7) It was a perfect, early spring morning. The air was cool, and a brisk wind caused the branches of the vast forest of towering evergreens to sway back and forth. A gentle mist rolled along the quiet landscape weaving its way through the thick dew-covered brush and around the massive trunks of the trees. The light from the rising sun bathed the waking world in a soft orange glow, its gentle fingers penetrating through the tree cover above in cascading columns made visible by the mist. It was absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful. Or at least according to the man who gallantly strode a few yards ahead on the trail. All I could see was the dirt below my feet as I suspiciously watched for loose rocks and roots whose life purpose was to cause me to stumble and lose my balance. Sweat dripped down my face in salty streams that made my eyes sting and I grumbled in annoyance as one of my backpack straps slipped from my shoulder when I reached up to wipe it off. What horrendous crime have I committed to deserve this kind of punishment? I cast a disdainful glance forwards at the intrepid man who lead the way. He had on his usual, lucky African-safari hat and his fanny pack snugly attached around his waist, stuffed with granola bars, sardine cans, and MRI’s. He was cheerfully humming to himself, and I wondered again how many times grandma had dropped him on his head when he was a baby. How could anyone actually enjoy this kind of physical torture?
I was breathing hard as we continued to ascend and I asked myself why God hadn’t created mountains flat. As we passed an older looking oak tree to the side of the trail, dad stopped humming and asked me if I knew that a person standing under an oak tree is 16 times more liable to be hit by lightning than if he had taken refuge beneath a beech tree. I wondered to myself how he even knew that completely random fact, and also made a mental note to immediately scan for palm trees and coconuts at the first signs of a storm which I am was positive I would be able to find 11,600 feet above sea level in the state of Utah. “For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord God, there Shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them..” (Ezek. 20:40) I fumbled with the poles, trying with no avail to somehow turn the pile of cloth, Velcro, and tarp that lay thrown out on the packed down snow into a tent. Dad yelled something to me about it being easier to do if I took my gloves off as he un-wrapped a pile of firewood, but I shrugged him off. Did he think I was stupid? It was the middle of winter and I was absolutely sure that within 5 seconds of pulling my gloves off I would immediately get frostbite and need to be rushed off to a hospital to get four of my fingers amputated. Well… at least the hospital would be heated. The pole I held in my hand slipped again and the section of tent I had propped up collapsed in a heap. I threw it down on the ground in frustration. I felt completely miserable. I never could understand why dad always made me do this myself, when he could probably break the Guinness World Record for “quickest tent raising”. I didn’t even bother asking him for help because I already knew what he would say. He would ask me if either of my arms were broken, and when I would reply that they weren’t he would tell me to quick complaining and try again. Whoever came up with the idea of camping in the snow anyway?
I closed my eyes and pictured myself back home snuggled up next to the fire watching “Perry Masan” with my mom, sipping a hot mug of her homemade wassail with the King Singer’s Christmas album faintly playing in the background. I heard a discreet snap and some loose snow from some overhanging branches above me was released and fell onto my head causing me to snap back to the present again. I brushed the icy snow off and let a few small tears slide from my eyes in self-pity. I knew if I complained about the snow or the cold my dad would start spurting out facts about the Willie-Martin Handcart Company or the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the hardships they went through. Did he think that talking about how the snow, ice, and cold sucked for other would somehow help me to suddenly feel warm? “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3) I was going to die. It was absolutely eminent. I could think of about a thousand different ways it would happen, each equally gruesome and tragic in detail and each ending with my body smashed, bloody, and broken 120 feet below on the rock floor. The five minutes I had spent with both of my feet planted firmly on the rock outcropping, my body slightly leaned backwards into open space felt like an eternity. I had already had my life pass before my eyes. That had finished up about 2 minutes earlier. 13 years go by quite quickly. I looked down at the harness strapped in what was giving me the worst wedgie I could imagine, to the metal carabineer and figure eight, and then to the rope which wound its way through the simple contraption and down passed my legs towards the cliff bottom and then closed my eyes and added a few more items onto my mental will. He was barking something down at me and so I cast a disdainful look upwards to see him standing there with his arms
folded, safari hat straps flapping in the wind. I knew what he was telling me without even having to listen. I hung there shaking with anxiety and yelled to him that I couldn’t do it. He calmly looked down and told me that he wasn’t going to pull me back up and so I had one of two options: I could stay on that rock outcropping and keep telling myself I couldn’t do it, or I could face my fear, be a man, and make it down the way I had started. My mind turned back to a prior deacons quorum lesson we had had a couple of weeks earlier. The lesson was being taught by our quorum leader, who happened to be none other than the granola bar wielding, outdoor adventure seeking, safari man. He had hauled into our church classroom a bag of ropes, a chain full of carabineers, belay devices, quickdraws, helmets, gloves, and a few harnesses which he had laid out in a magnificent display in the front of the room. He explained the process of setting up a repelling or climbing site. It was important to know ones surroundings and to have somebody there who had been there before and knew what to expect. Then there was, in the case of a repel, the preparing of the set point from the top. It was important to have the rope going through a system of sturdy, sound carabineers that were connected by metal bolts securely anchored into the thick rock. Then, for extra safety, it was necessary to also connect a separate backup system secured around the trunk of a nearby tree or sturdy object. After checking every clip, strap, nut, and bolt multiple times, both ends of the rope would be fed through and then flung off of the cliff wall in the shape of a backwards ‘U’. A bilayer would be positioned below with both hands constantly grasping both ropes and who would, if circumstance were called, be ready to pull backwards on the rope halting the downward fall of a climber who somehow let a hand slip.
He explained that after everything was set, checked, and double checked by more than one pair of eyes, and when the bilayer was in position and both he and the climber had communicated with each other that the next step was to lean backwards off of the cliff and then to jump; trusting both the person who stood below and also the equipment used. I remembered him relating this to our necessity to anchor ourselves to the rock of Christ, trusting in those guides who have gone before, and making those preparations and securing ourselves with the harnesses of safety that comes from learning and living the gospel. I tried to steady my breathing as my heart continued to pound in my chest shaking my head in disbelief. I think dad wanted me dead. Why else would he continue to place me in these kinds of situations? I looked at the thin rope in my hands and asked how I was supposed to trust my life on woven-together threads of string. I let out a breath I realized I had been holding for the past couple of seconds and closed my eyes. Maybe, just maybe I could do this. I released some of the tension in the rope and my body began to inch itself back out into open space. I wondered to myself what the percentage was of repelling deaths in young teens and pushed myself backwards off of the brief safety of my little outcropping. “And I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord…into an exceeding high mountain.” (1 Nephi 11:1) I sat defeated in the cold snow beside the tarp that still held the mound of cloth that should have looked like a tent by then. I snuffled trying as hard as I could to stop the tears from sliding down, my gloves pressed to my face. I didn’t want anybody to see me cry. I could hear the crackle of the freshly started fire and thought about how good the embrace of its inviting warmth would feel. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and startled, I looked up to see him standing there with a smile on his face. He told me that he thought I had come closer than ever
on my last attempt. He handed me the end of the nearest pole, untangled the tent flap it penetrated through and told me to insert it into the metal peg and hold it tight so he could attach it to the other end. He told me that we had better hurry or the beef stew he had cooking on a camping stove near the fire would burn. “When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away…but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13) I pressed off of the rock wall again flying backwards as I descended farther and grinned as the exhilaration and thrill coursed through my body. I felt alive as I flew through the air in a giant arc and this time when my feet made contact I slipped a little and scraped my shoulder on the rugged rock. But I didn’t mind. I felt like Tom Cruise in the opening scene from Mission Impossible 2 as I paused to catch my breath. A few seconds later I found myself down to ground level and as I was helped free from the rope and looked up the sheer cliff face to that pitiful looking rock crevice where moments earlier I had planned my funeral and smiled. I heard a whoop and saw dad standing above, his fist pumped upwards into the sky. I returned the whoop and fist pump and ran for the trail that wound around the back face of the cliff up to where he stood and wondered if he would let me switch my harness around so that instead I would face forward as I descended, commando style. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” (Mosiah 12:21) It was moms’ idea that I should open it alone. Because of the culture surrounding where we lived there would customarily be an epic get-together with food and music where friends and family would excitedly place their names on stickers which they would then place on a giant
world map attached to the kitchen wall showing their guess for where I would end up for the next two years. I wanted it to be different. When she mentioned opening my call alone, I knew exactly where I would. When the giant envelope arrived with my name printed in bold letters on the front I grabbed a water bottle, and moved the box of those nasty sardines to grab a few granola bars and headed outside. I sat atop a rock wedged on top of the peak I had just summited. From the towering vantage point I could see the valley stretch out far below, the thousands of houses, buildings, parks, and tiny moving cars on streets and highways stretched out as far as the eye could see in all directions. Everything seemed so different from this perspective. I thought of the thousands of people below as they rushed back and forth, some traveling to work for the day, others dropping off kids at school, running errands, and living their hectic, crazy lives. From where I sat, everything was still and serene. I took in another deep breath of cool, fresh, mountain air and looked around me. I knew that only a couple hundred feet separated me from the craze below but I felt completely at peace. I smiled as I looked at the letter I held in my hand, itâ€™s ripped-open envelope lying beside me on the ground. The Uruguay Montevideo West mission. Although I wasnâ€™t entirely sure whether Uruguay lied in South America or Africa, a thrill coursed through my body. It was a perfect, early spring morning. And it was absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful.
Published on Apr 22, 2014