As April came to a close, the Church camps were well-stocked with food supplies. Nathan had put several thousand miles on his truck, delivering items to more than twenty different camps throughout the northern Rocky Mountains. In the past week he’d also been assigned to be part of a caravan of Church trucks that delivered food to earthquake victims in southern California, hoping it would reach those who needed it the most. They had dropped off the food at a Church meetinghouse in Victorville, which was on the eastern edge of the earthquake zone. While they were there, they talked to several people who said the government was downplaying the seriousness of the earthquake. They claimed some of the aftershocks had been nearly as bad as the initial quake, and that many more thousands of people had been killed in the disaster than the news media had reported.
When Nathan asked one man why the government wouldn’t just tell the truth, the man shrugged and said, “I suppose they just don’t want people to panic about it, but it’s a madhouse in parts of L.A. The police are outnumbered and the rioting is out of control. That’s why we’re not taking these supplies any closer yet. We’re at the point where the survivors are going to have to come to us, because we don’t dare take it to them.”
That conversation haunted Nathan on the drive back to Utah, but he knew it was another signal that the nation was teetering on the edge of chaos. During his daily drives, he’d taken the opportunity to work his way through audio versions of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and several recent General Conferences. Now after the trip to California, he listened carefully for guidance and instructions to the Saints about the Last Days, and the references to “gathering” and “standing in holy places” had jumped out at him over and over. It was clear to him that the Lord fully intended to take care of his faithful Saints during the perilous times preceding his Second Coming.
Nearly all of his deliveries had been made to the so-called “white-sticker camps” where the Saints who first heeded the prophet’s call would gather. Some of the camps were quite spacious, while a few were smaller and tucked away in side canyons. Each one he visited was high in the mountains, and even with detailed maps and directions, he often missed the well-hidden camp entrance and had to backtrack.
“If even I can’t find the entrances, I’m pretty sure any troublemakers won’t ether,” he told himself.
On the last Monday of the month, Nathan and the other truck drivers were told they’d be working on a new assignment for a few days. Nathan’s supervisor handed him a printout with an Orem address. Nathan read it and asked, “This address is on the west side of I-15, right?”
“Yes,” the supervisor said. “Drive your truck to this location and you’ll receive more instructions there.”
That morning Nathan drove to the address listed on the paper and pulled up in front of an ordinary brown warehouse. He saw his roommate Chet already there, standing outside his truck.
“Why didn’t they tell us we were going to the same place?” Nathan asked him.
“I don’t know. I guess they don’t like us looking like a convoy. Let’s check it out.”
There were a couple of cars parked near the entrance. Nathan tried opening the door, but it was locked, so he banged on it a couple of times. Within a few seconds a gray-haired man opened the door. “How may I help you?” he asked.
“We’re here from the Bishop’s Storehouse,” Chet said. “They said if we came here we’d be given further details.”
The man looked past them at their trucks. “Are those yours?”
Nathan nodded, and the man said, “Pull them around the side of the building and back up to the tallest garage doors. I’ll meet you there.”
As Nathan and Chet moved their trucks into position, the garage doors opened. They hopped out and were surprised by what they saw inside—hundreds of cardboard boxes labeled “Large canvas tents.”
“This is the last step of the camp preparations,” the man said. “We didn’t want to take the tents to the camps too soon, because you’ll be unloading them onto tarps out in the open. Now that spring is here they’ll be fine until the Saints arrive to set them up.”
“Where did all of these tents come from?” Nathan asked.
“The Church has been buying them 100 at a time, under the category of humanitarian aid,” the man said. “Every Tuesday for the past two years an 18-wheeler has backed up to the dock and we’ve unloaded them.”
Nathan did some quick math in his head. “So you have close to 10,000 tents in here?”
“Yes, and there’s the same setup at warehouses in Logan and Cedar City, so the Church has bought a lot of tents! Now it’s time for us to get them to the campsites.”
As they spoke, a few other drivers arrived that Nathan recognized, and throughout the morning everyone pitched in to move the tents onto pallets so forklift operators could load them into the trucks. Nathan’s truck could hold 60 boxes, and he took his first load to a distant camp near Park City before repeating the process twice more that day. He was grateful that several service missionaries were waiting to help him unload the tents, because his back was really starting to hurt.
By Wednesday night, the endless procession of trucks finally emptied out the three warehouses, and the tents were at their proper locations. Nathan was exhausted, and as he and Chet returned to their apartment, they hardly acknowledged each other before crashing into their beds.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Nathan groggily answered it, and one of their supervisors was standing there. He simply said, “Come to the storehouse at 8 a.m. wearing a suit and a tie. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
Nathan relayed the news to Chet, who rolled over and said, “It couldn’t possibly be longer than today was. I’ll be dreaming about tent boxes all night.”