That night Nathan could hardly concentrate during his shift at Toys-R-Us. There were too many options running through his mind. If he took the Church job, his personal life would be greatly affected, along with his contact with Marie.
About halfway through his shift, he had assured himself if he kept the Toys-R-Us job and convinced Marie to stay, then they could move forward with their relationship.
But as the hours went by, that option felt wrong. As he finished his shift, the Spirit told him what to do. He took off his badge and went to his shift manager.
“I’m sorry, but this is my last night.”
The manager raised his eyebrows. “What? You can’t just quit on me!”
“I’m afraid I can. I’ve got another job lined up,” Nathan said as he punched his timecard a final time. “There are enough people looking for work that you shouldn’t have any trouble finding my replacement.”
Nathan went home and slept for a few hours, but he woke up feeling anxious. He worried that he’d been too hasty in his decision to quit his job, so he decided to spend Thursday afternoon in the Provo City Center Temple. He’d never been inside the remodeled structure, because it had been dedicated during his mission. He marveled at how the architects had created such a beautiful array of rooms inside the building’s original shell.
After participating in an endowment session, Nathan prayed for several minutes in the Celestial Room until he received a strong confirmation from the Spirit that he should take the Church job, no matter how it affected his situation with Marie.
With that assurance, he traveled to Salt Lake on Friday morning. As he entered the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, he found himself walking along with several other clean-cut men his age dressed in suits.
“I think we’re all going to the same place,” one man commented. “We should have carpooled.”
The others laughed, and Nathan felt comfortable being part of the group. They filed into the room where Nathan had met with Elder Miller. The room had been reorganized with three rows of chairs facing a screen. Nathan took a seat on the front row.
Within a minute Elder Miller of the Quorum of the Seventy entered the room. He stood before them with a broad smile.
“Welcome, brethren,” Elder Miller said. “I’m pleased to see each of you here. I know it wasn’t an easy decision. You’re all recently returned missionaries in the prime of your lives, ready to move forward with college, careers, and marriage. Then you receive a vague job offer from the Church. You aren’t given many details about it, but the Spirit has confirmed to you that you should be in this room on this date at this time. Is that correct?”
Elder Miller raised his hand to his own question, and all of the men in the room did likewise.
“I congratulate you,” he said. “You’ve passed a key test of faith. There were other men invited to this meeting who aren’t here, and that’s a shame. Why is it a shame? Because the reality is that each of you were recommended for this job by a special witness of the Lord. How many of you were told about this opportunity by an apostle?”
Once again everyone’s hands went up. Elder Miller continued, “That apostle was told by the Spirit to invite you to be part of this group. We call this the MM Project, short for the Maintenance Missionary Project. In a sense, you’re about to embark on another mission, but rather than preaching the gospel, you’ll be serving the Lord in a variety of other ways to help the Kingdom of God roll forward. If you aren’t willing to devote all of your time, talents and resources to this effort, you may leave now.”
Elder Miller waited quietly for several seconds, then to Nathan’s surprise the man sitting next to him stood up. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, and walked out of the room. Two other men followed behind him and shut the door.
Elder Miller got a grim look on his face. “We all must make difficult choices, don’t we? But you’ll be blessed for your willingness to serve the Lord. Now let’s begin.”
He picked up a remote control and hit a button. On the screen behind him appeared Doctrine & Covenants 45:26-32.
“The reason for your service is summed up in this scripture,” Elder Miller said. “And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.
“And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.
“And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
“But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
“And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
“And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
“But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.”
Elder Miller finished reading and faced the men. “The Prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation in 1831. Here we are more than 180 years later, on the verge of it being fulfilled. Ever since the Lord brought the Jaredites to the Americas, a promise has been made to the inhabitants of this chosen land. Do you know what that is?”
Nathan raised his hand and said, “If the people kept the commandments they would prosper in the land, but if they didn’t, they would perish.”
“That’s right,” Elder Miller said. “That promise is repeated over and over throughout the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Our nation is still held to those same standards. How are Americans doing as a whole? In general, are we a God-fearing nation of righteous families that obeys Christian teachings?”
“No,” several men said in unison.
“I agree. In many ways we have turned our backs to God. Our leaders and the laws they enact increasingly seem to be contrary to what the Bible teaches. I personally feel the Lord has been overly patient with our nation, but the time has come for a great change. As Latter-day Saints, though, we shouldn’t despair. The Lord is watching out for us.”
He faced the screen again and said, “Let me read one statement again: ‘But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.’ This is where each of you come in. Under the Lord’s direction, through his prophets, the Church has quietly prepared places of refuge for the Saints to leave Babylon, if you will, and survive this coming sickness and destruction. Throughout the years the Church has acquired dozens of properties that are scattered throughout the mountains, away from civilization.”
“The girls camps?” one man asked.
Elder Miller nodded. “Yes, some of these sites have been used as girls camps and already have nice facilities and plenty of provisions. But there are also many more areas where the Saints will gather that still need a stockpile of supplies and improved facilities.”
A man raised his hand. “Are we the only men doing this? It seems like we could use a little more help.”
Elder Miller chuckled. “Actually, those of you in this room are only a small part of a sizable group. There are more than 200 men already serving, and we expect to have more join us in the coming weeks. The planning for this exodus has been underway at high levels in the Church for years, and vast amounts of preparation have already gone into the effort. Senior missionary couples have devoted thousands of hours in preparing the camps, and now your main role will be to help them finish the job.”
“When will the Church members go to these camps?” another man asked.
“It will come as an invitation from the First Presidency through the proper priesthood channels. I believe the plan for this area is for the bishops to receive a letter they’ll be asked to read in Sacrament Meeting. At that point, the Saints must choose to accept the prophet’s invitation or reject it. I assure you that no one will be forced to go against their will.”
“How come we’ve never heard this?” the man asked. “Do the stake presidents and bishops even know what is planned?”
“A few do, and many wealthy Saints have already devoted much of their fortunes to buy land and supplies. But does your typical bishop know about it? No, because it currently isn’t part of their stewardship. Their duties are to watch over their ward members. However, there will soon come a time when everyone will be made aware of the plan.”
“Wow, that doesn’t give families much time to prepare,” the man responded.
Elder Miller raised his eyebrows. “Do you really feel the Saints haven’t been warned over and over for the past fifty years? For decades the Church leaders have emphasized the need to be physically prepared with a year’s supply of food, and more recently for at least a three-month supply.”
“That’s true,” the man said.
“More importantly, the emphasis of many General Conference talks the past few years has been on spiritual preparation, particularly in being willing to follow the prophet. Many members have ignored the leaders’ warnings, but thankfully a great number of Saints are going to gladly accept such an invitation.”
Nathan raised his hand. “I agree completely. I know of many Church members who’ve had dreams and visions about these upcoming events. These people are wholeheartedly preparing for such an event, and they’re eagerly looking forward to it. In fact, I’ve had such a dream myself.”
The room went silent, then Elder Miller said, “Would you mind sharing it with us?”
“I’d be happy to.”
“Come stand up here,” Elder Miller said. “By the way, this is Nathan Foster. Some of you might recognize him as the missionary who saved Elder Smith’s life in Minnesota not too long ago.”
Nathan wished Elder Miller had left that part out, but it served a purpose, because as he looked across the room at the other men, he saw a new respect in their eyes.
Nathan took about five minutes giving them the details of his Spiral Dream and the three levels he saw. He also told about the people’s varied responses to the prophet’s words, but he didn’t mention Marie specifically. The men were listening intently, and several of them nodded in agreement at several points.
As he finished, Elder Miller stood up and actually clapped a few times as he came to Nathan’s side. “Thank you so much for sharing that with us, because your dream helps answer the biggest question we receive from some of the stake presidents and other leaders that know about our plans. Their question is ‘Why go to all of this trouble? Is the purpose just to save ourselves from destruction?’”
Nathan shook his head. “There’s a greater purpose than that. I feel the dream indicates the time has come for the Church members to become more refined as we prepare to build New Jerusalem. The Lord needs the most dedicated Saints to do that, and so this invitation to leave the world behind is a sifting process.”
“Exactly,” Elder Miller said. “I like the fact that in your dream the Church members are all on the so-called second level. When the prophet gives his invitation, it truly is going to cause a division in the Church. People will either accept the prophet’s words and rise to the third level, or they’ll reject the prophet and lose the Spirit in their lives, which will put them on the same plane as the rest of the world.”
“That’s right,” Nathan said. “I know people who have a ton of food storage and actually take pride in how much they’ve accumulated. That’s great, but will they humble themselves enough to give the food to the Church and then go live in a camp? I don’t know.”
Elder Miller nodded and said, “That’s why each family’s spiritual preparation is so important. To be honest, we really don’t expect a great percentage of families to go to the camps. Nearly all of the inactive members will basically laugh at us and say we’re freaking out. After all, the president says the economy is doing great, right?”
Elder Miller rolled his eyes as the group chuckled. “Anyway, it’s the ones who I call ‘socially active’ who will really struggle with it. These people might come to Church on Sunday but ignore the gospel the rest of the week. When it gets to be crunch time, will they actually follow the prophet? Or will they be like these three brethren who left us this morning at the last moment so they could continue their current lifestyles?”
Elder Miller patted Nathan on the back and motioned for him to return to his chair. “Thank you so much for sharing your dream with us. That’s a perfect illustration of what this is all about.”
Once Nathan was seated, Elder Miller said, “Before I let you go today, I want to cover a few more items. We’ll meet in the lobby downstairs at 9 a.m. on Monday. From that moment on you’ll be considered a Church missionary once again, and later that day we’ll set you apart as one. Needless to say, keep yourselves clean and pure this weekend. Don’t do something stupid.”
The group laughed at his comment, but they knew it was crucial to keep their guard up.
“Should we bring our own car?” another man asked.
“No,” Elder Miller said. “Please have someone drop you off or take public transportation. You won’t need your own vehicle, so either sell it or give it away this weekend.”
“Really?” the man asked in surprise. “Couldn’t we just store it somewhere?”
“I suppose, but you’ll likely never drive it again. We’ll cover many more details on Monday, but for now please return to your homes and take care of any last-minute preparations. You really are leaving again on another mission. Close your cell phone account or give it away. As I mentioned, we’ll provide everything you need, but you may bring one suitcase of clothes and other essential belongings.”
“What do we tell our families we’re doing?” Nathan asked.
“Simply explain that the Church has hired you for an extended period of time, and the job that will take you out of the area. Assure them that you’ll be in touch when you can.”
A man on the back row asked, “What’s the timetable for when the prophet will write the letter? Has he given the General Authorities any indication about that?”
Elder Miller shrugged. “As you know, prophets almost never give specific dates in such matters, but the prophet has described the preparations for the mountain camps as ‘urgent.’ Let me describe it this way---the letter has already been written. Now it’s just a matter of having the Lord tell the prophet when to have copies of the letter delivered to the bishops.”
Those words sent a shock through the group. “It’s close, then,” one man said. “Like within a few months.”
Elder Miller shook his head. “Not months. Weeks.”