He shook his head in disappointment at himself. He’d arranged to meet with Marie so he could convince her to drop her internship. Instead, they had ended up kissing a few times and her internship plans were more solid than ever.
As Nathan drove home, the Spiral Dream once again crossed his mind. Marie’s battle with her parents on the staircase now made sense, but as the dream had concluded they had still been standing on the second level. There was no indication of how it would end up. Would Marie eventually climb the stairs and join the Saints, or would she happily slide down the railing?
On a brisk February morning, more than a thousand Latter-day Saints were gathered together for a stake conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota to hear the words of Elder Smith of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
“The meeting might actually end on time,” Elder Nathan Foster whispered to his companion Elder Graham as he pointed to his watch. They were sitting on folding chairs with a few other missionaries in the meetinghouse foyer as Elder Smith addressed the congregation.
Despite a heavy snow overnight, Elder Smith’s presence at the conference had generated a huge turnout. In addition to the multitude of active members in attendance, dozens of inactive families had come to see the apostle, completely filling the chapel, cultural hall, and stage, and flowing out into the foyer where the missionaries were.
Nathan refocused on Elder Smith’s words, who said, “The members of the Church will soon face some life-changing decisions. We’ll all encounter a variety of difficulties as the Second Coming approaches, but the key is to obey the prophet no matter what comes our way. Those Saints who disregard his words will find themselves in both physical and spiritual peril.”
The apostle’s comments caused Nathan to think briefly about his own future. It was pretty much up in the air. The only sure thing was that he would be released from the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission in 16 days---not that he was counting.
Elder Smith ended his remarks right on time, and following the closing hymn, everyone bowed their heads for the benediction. Nathan began to close his eyes, but something unusual caught his attention. A classroom door had quietly opened and a clean-cut, well-dressed man marched purposely up the hallway, heading for the chapel doors.
“Stop him,” the Spirit whispered to Nathan, who hesitated for a moment before standing up to block the man’s path. Nathan noticed the man was holding what looked like a scripture case, but it bulged in the middle and didn’t look right.
“I can’t let you into the chapel,” Nathan told the man as they came face to face.
“Hey, watch out,” the man said, trying to elbow past the missionary. Nathan swatted at the man’s hand, knocking the scripture case to the floor. The man lunged forward to retrieve it, but then a high-pitched beep emitted from the case.
“No!” the man cried before recoiling in fear and scrambling back down the hallway.
“Don’t let him get away!” Nathan shouted at two men standing in the hall. They stopped the man as Nathan picked up the case and raced through the foyer’s double doors. As he got outside, he spotted a big pile of snow at the end of the shoveled sidewalk and threw the case in that direction.
The case exploded just as it reached the snow, obliterating the pile and creating a five-foot-wide smoking crater of rocks and soil. Nathan was jolted backward by the blast and pelted by debris. He landed hard on his right shoulder on the icy sidewalk, and something inside him cracked. The pain was intense, and he slipped into unconsciousness.
The explosion shattered all of the windows on that side of the meetinghouse, cutting short the closing prayer. Shards of glass rained down on members of the congregation, and cries of pain and dismay erupted inside the chapel. Elder Smith was instantly surrounded on the stand by his security team and escorted out the far side of the building into a waiting car that whisked him away to safety. In all of the commotion, Nathan lay unnoticed on the sidewalk for nearly a minute until Elder Graham rushed outside to find him.
“Elder Foster, are you all right?” he cried, shaking his companion’s shoulder.
Nathan slowly opened his eyes, not immediately remembering what had happened. He touched his ribs and moaned, “Ouch, that really hurts. Hey, how come I’m outside?”
“You saved the day!” Elder Graham said. “You grabbed that bomb and threw it outside before it went off.”
Nathan suddenly remembered the confrontation with the man in the foyer. “Did they catch the guy?”
“Yes,” Elder Graham said. “They’ve got him pinned in a classroom right now.”
“That’s a relief,” Nathan said.
Several ambulances soon arrived to care for the injured Saints, and Nathan was taken to a nearby hospital. The medical tests and X-rays showed some cracked ribs, a few cuts, and a badly bruised shoulder, but there weren’t signs of major damage. Elder Graham had given him a priesthood blessing in the ambulance and had stayed at his side throughout the ordeal. By the time their mission president arrived that afternoon, Nathan was feeling a lot better.
“Hello, President Warren,” Nathan said, grasping his leader’s hand. “You didn’t have to come . . .”
President Warren smiled. “It’s an honor. Thank you for saving a lot of lives. It’s a miracle that none of the other missionaries were hurt.”
Nathan shook his head. “I didn’t even have time to think before I grabbed the package. Wait, I wouldn’t say that. The Spirit told me to stop the man.”
Nathan explained how he’d received the prompting, and the president nodded. “You’ve told me before how the Spirit has guided you throughout your mission, so I’m not surprised you responded so quickly.”
A medical attendant stuck his head in the room and said, “Turn on the TV news. They’re going to talk about what happened.”
President Warren grabbed the remote and clicked on the room’s TV. “It should be interesting to see how the local media covers the story,” he said.
A stern-faced anchorman appeared on the screen with the caption “Breaking Story: Mormon Bombing” appearing below him.
The president frowned. “Judging from that, I’m not sure if that means we were the bomber or the target!”
The anchorman stared into the camera and said, “A major catastrophe was averted this morning at a Mormon church in Minneapolis, but there was still severe damage and many injuries reported. Let’s go to the scene.”
The broadcast switched to a female reporter standing in the snow outside the meetinghouse. The church’s shattered windows were visible and the camera briefly zoomed in on the crater in the lawn, which was now cordoned off by yellow police tape.
“According to eyewitnesses, a high-ranking Mormon Church leader was speaking here this morning to a large crowd,” the reporter said. “As the meeting ended, a man rushed toward the leader with a bomb, but a quick-thinking church missionary intercepted the man and tossed the bomb outside just as it detonated. As you can see, there was a lot of damage, including the shattering of several car windows in the parking lot, but it could have been much worse.”
The reporter motioned toward the meetinghouse and added, “About twenty members of the congregation were taken to local hospitals with cuts from the shattered windows, but it appears everyone will recover.”
“That’s good news,” the anchorman said as the broadcast shifted to a split-screen. “Did they catch the suspect?”
“Yes,” the reporter said. “He’s been identified as Kurt Jessop, a disgruntled ex-Mormon. He’s in police custody at this time.”
“Tell us about the true hero in this story—the young man who got the bomb out of the building,” the anchorman said. “How’s he doing?”
“Church leaders say he’s a full-time Mormon missionary from Utah named Nathan Foster. He was injured in the blast and taken to a local hospital, so we haven’t been able to talk to him yet, but we’ll give you more details as they become available.”
“Thank you for that report. In other news . . .”
President Warren clicked off the TV and smiled at Nathan. “Yes, you’re indeed a hero.”
(This is a Fictional account of a possible La Days scenario written to be thought provoking and entertaining.)
The Turmoil Deepens
As this story begins, the United States’ position in the world has begun to falter.
“The Great Recession” that first battered the financial markets in 2008 created long-lasting effects, leading to a feeling of national unease as the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high. It was a daunting task for companies to add new jobs as the economy limped along, despite continual claims from the federal government that things were on the upswing.
Despite promises from Congress to trim the federal budget, the nation’s leaders continued to pile up more than $1 trillion in additional debt each year. Even the most-optimistic analysts forecasted an economic tsunami unless immediate and drastic changes were made, but their pleas went unheeded.
With this massive debt looming over the nation, Congress could not agree on where to tighten the budget. Entitlement programs and interest payments were eating up a growing portion of the nation’s expenditures, but the number of handouts to unemployed citizens continued to expand. These programs greatly reduced any incentive for these people to find jobs, leading to a sharp increase in the number of citizens who were essentially living off the government.
Then in the fall of 2011, a movement emerged to capitalize on the nation’s uneasiness by organizing protests against the wealthy. It began when a group attempted to shut down New York City’s financial sector, and their effort to “Occupy Wall Street” became a catch phrase, with similar protests sprouting up in other cities.
These blockades took on a darker tone in the summer of 2012, and from that point on the clash between the establishment and the so-called “99 percent” became more polarized and violent. The contentious U.S. presidential and congressional campaigns that year added to the nation’s troubles, leading to outbreaks of civil unrest at levels that hadn’t been seen since the 1960s.
Also, for several years the executive branch of the federal government had been quietly issuing mandates and executive orders that slowly but surely eroded the Christian foundation of America. Religious institutions faced fines or other penalties if they didn’t comply with edicts that were blatantly against their core beliefs. Congress and the judicial system failed to take serious action against these new policies, and in many ways the U.S. Constitution was indeed hanging by a thread.
On the global front, America’s leaders seemed to ignore the growing overall strength of China, the renewed military power of Russia, and the danger posed by a volatile Iran. It was clear to many observers that there was a growing collaboration among these nations, but America’s leaders seemingly turned a blind eye. Instead, they made substantial cutbacks in the U.S. military budget, weakening the country’s defenses and leaving it more vulnerable to a possible attack.
Meanwhile, the world waited in anticipation for the Mayan Calendar to end on December 21, 2012—then everyone moved forward with their lives when the earth just kept on turning.
During this time, members of the LDS Church were warned and cautioned by their leaders in each General Conference to prepare themselves and their families for tougher times ahead. The importance of being both spiritually and temporally prepared was clearly emphasized.
The prophets recognized that important events that had been prophesied for generations were now coming to fruition, and the spiritual commitment of each Church member would be tested to the limit during this time of sifting and refinement. Those who stood faithful during these darkest hours would emerge triumphantly into a glorious era when the wicked would be vanquished and New Jerusalem would be built.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’re only at the beginning of that story, where you’ll meet Nathan Foster and Marie Shaw, two Latter-day Saints who are facing the same daily challenges you are. They and their family members might remind you of people in your ward or neighborhood. Here’s their story.