Chapter 3

As Nathan’s mind cleared from the strange dream, he sat up and hit the button next to the bed to page his nurse. When she arrived, he asked, “Could you please bring me a pen and a notepad?”

“You bet,” she said. “Then in a few minutes I’ll bring you breakfast.”

Once she brought him the items, Nathan spent fifteen minutes writing down the details of what he called his “Spiral Dream” before the nurse returned with his food.

Nathan noticed a small American flag was planted in the center of his stack of pancakes. “What’s this for?” he asked.

“It’s Presidents Day,” she said. “Sorry you have to spend it in the hospital.”

Nathan put the flag next to his scriptures and quickly ate the pancakes. As he finished eating, the nurse returned once again.

“A special visitor has requested to see you,” she said. “Do you feel strong enough to visit with him?”

“Who is it?” Nathan asked. “President Warren told me not to talk to any reporters without him here.”

“Don’t worry. This man has already been approved by President Warren,” she said, pointing to someone in the hall. Nathan looked past her and saw Elder Smith standing in the doorway with two security officers behind him.

“Come in!” Nathan said happily, motioning for the apostle to join him.

Elder Smith came to his bedside. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Yes, I’ll be better in no time.”

Elder Smith patted his shoulder. “I just wanted to thank for what you did. I would’ve visited you yesterday, but everything around here turned into a circus.”

“I know what you mean,” Nathan said. “I’m just glad I was in the right place at the right time. The Spirit prompted me to confront that guy, so I did.”

Elder Smith nodded. “I’m glad you responded so quickly. We’ve had our eye on Kurt Jessop for a while. This isn’t his first confrontation with me, but it’s certainly the worst.”

Nathan looked up in surprise. “You’ve met him before?”

“When I was serving as his stake president a few years ago, Kurt was excommunicated. There were a long list of reasons why it needed to happen, but he wouldn’t take responsibility for his actions. I know he still blames me, although I was just doing what was required. As often happens with former members of the Church, he now devotes his time and energy fighting against us. Kurt told the police last night that when he heard I’d be speaking here, his anger boiled over and he planned the bombing.”

“That’s terrible,” Nathan said. “You don’t deserve that kind of treatment.”

“It comes with the calling,” Elder Smith said. “As you know, the Church is coming under increased pressure across the nation to support gay marriage and other such issues, but I assure you we won’t change our stance. The Plan of Salvation has been in operation throughout the eternities, and we aren’t going to adjust our doctrines simply because of political pressure.”

“That’s what we’ve told people here when they confront us about those things,” Nathan said. “It seems like they’re more mean-spirited than when I started my mission, and the opposition appears to be growing.”

“That’s been the trend across the nation for our missionaries,” Elder Smith said. “Safety is becoming an issue in some areas.”

Elder Smith waved his hand and said, “Enough about that, right? I came here to thank you for not only saving my life, but also to get to know you a little better. So please tell me a bit about yourself. I talked to President Warren last night, and he said you’ve served an outstanding mission.”

Nathan was happy to hear that. He’d only had a few baptisms during his mission, but he felt he’d made a real difference in reactivating many of the members.

Nathan shrugged. “Well, the fact I’m even on a mission is kind of a miracle in itself.”

“What do you mean?” Elder Smith asked.

Nathan took a deep breath. “I didn’t have the best upbringing. Dad had an affair when I was eight years old, and my parents got divorced. Then Mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was 14, and although she fought hard against it for a few years, she died a few months into my mission.”

“I’m sorry,” Elder Smith said. “How did your siblings handle everything?”

“Well, I was an only child, but I have a 12-year-old half-sister, because Dad eventually married the woman he had the affair with.”

“Are you close to them?”

“Not at all,” Nathan said. “I only saw Dad a few times after the divorce. He would stop by our house, but I was so angry with him that the visits were horrible for both of us. Mom finally said I didn’t need to see him anymore. Dad seemed fine with the arrangement, so I’ve never even met his wife or my sister.”

“That must have been challenging,” Elder Smith said.

Nathan wiped his eyes. “Yes. I’d held onto some hard feelings toward Dad, but early in my mission I reached the conclusion I needed to forgive him or it would eat me up inside. So I have.”

“Very good,” the apostle said. “So with everything that was going on in your life, how did you develop a testimony?”

Nathan smiled sheepishly. “Well, I owe most of my initial motivation to attend Church to Marie Shaw, a girl who was in our ward as I grew up. She was pretty and was always nice to me, plus she made comments like, ‘See you next week, Nathan.’”

“Thank goodness for righteous young women,” Elder Smith said with a grin. “But is Marie the basis of your testimony?”

“Absolutely not,” Nathan said. “In fact, Marie eventually went to college at the University of Utah and I haven’t seen her since our high school graduation. By the end of high school I’d read the Book of Mormon and had received an answer that it was true. Then I started attending Institute classes at Utah Valley University, and I gained the conviction that I needed to serve a mission.”

“Excellent,” Elder Smith said. “What are your future plans? Is there a young lady like Marie waiting patiently for your return?”

Nathan chuckled. “Hardly. My plan is to do landscaping work this coming summer to earn tuition money, then attend UVU in the fall. Mom had to sell the house to pay for her cancer treatments, so it looks like I’ll be living with her sister Susan in Salt Lake until I can find an apartment near campus. Nothing is set in stone, though.”

Nathan then paused and looked at the notepad he had set aside. He picked it up and said, “Elder Smith, last night I had a really unusual dream, and you were in it. So was Marie. It was almost like a vision, so I wrote it down this morning. Maybe it was caused by bumping my head, but I feel it really means something. Would you please read it?”

“Certainly,” Elder Smith said. He took the notepad and intently read Nathan’s notes about his dream. When he finished, he raised his eyebrows. “I assure you this is an inspired dream and has deep significance.”

Nathan let out a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you don’t think I’ve gone crazy.”

Elder Smith shook his head. “Not at all.”

The apostle then paused as if he were searching for the right words before saying, “Soon the Church is going to need hundreds of righteous young men such as yourself to fulfill key assignments in an important new project. We’re looking for recently returned missionaries who have flexible schedules, and I think you’d be a perfect candidate.”

“What would I be doing?” Nathan asked.

“Well, in some respects this assignment would still feel like a mission, but the Church would provide housing and cover other expenses. In essence, it would be a full-time job with all of your needs taken care of.”

“I could handle that,” Nathan said eagerly. “When will this project begin?”

“We don’t really know yet,” Elder Smith said. “It might not be for a few months, but once you get home and settled in, contact my office in Salt Lake. We’ll have more details by then.”

“That sounds great,” Nathan said. “I’ve had a couple of companions who might be interested as well.”

The apostle frowned. “I would keep this topic confidential for now. I wouldn’t even discuss it with other missionaries, because only ‘the best of the best’ will receive this invitation. I admit the job could end up being a bit rigorous at times, but it will be worthwhile to you.”

Nathan suddenly felt a tinge of self-doubt. “Maybe I wouldn’t be cut out for this assignment . . .”

Elder Smith held up his hand. “Your prompt response yesterday in heeding the Spirit showed me you’ve got what it takes, and this dream is an indication that the Lord feels the same way. Keep that dream fresh in your mind, because I believe you’ll soon see it fulfilled.”

“Then what do you think the dream means?” Nathan asked.

Elder Smith smiled slightly and rubbed his chin. “Well, there’s a lot of symbolism in it, but I feel the main message is that the time is coming quickly when the Lord will expect more from his Saints. This will cause a division to emerge in the Church. Some will continue to follow the prophet, while others will decide it isn’t worth the effort.”

Nathan nodded. “It’s kind of like in the Bible when the Savior invited his followers during one of his sermons to step it up a notch, but most of the people didn’t want to be bothered.”

“Exactly. The whole purpose of the project I mentioned is to help the members of the Church become better Saints.”

Nathan smiled. “That sounds like something I would love to be a part of.”

“I know you would,” Elder Smith said. “So go ahead and return to Utah, and get settled back into life. But if you’re still interested in a few weeks, then call my secretary at Church headquarters in Salt Lake and tell her I had recommended that you work in the MM Program. She’ll transfer you to the right department.”

Elder Smith then took out a card with his secretary’s phone number on it and wrote “MM Program” on the back before handing it to Nathan.

“What does MM stand for?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Elder Smith said. “Don’t worry, everything will work out according to the Lord’s timetable.”