Nathan’s emotions were still running high the next morning when he arrived at the Joseph Smith Building. He hadn’t slept very well after his confrontation with Marie, but he knew he’d made the right decision. If he was meant to be with her, it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Garrett had given him a ride to Salt Lake, and he was one of the first to arrive, but soon several other men that he recognized entered the lobby. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
Suddenly Elder Miller was in the midst of them. “A bus will be arriving outside within five minutes,” he said. “Before you board the bus, use the tags we’ve provided to label your suitcases and backpacks. Your belongings will be waiting for you at our destination. As you board the bus, make sure the attendant checks off your name.”
Once the bus was loaded, the men hardly spoke as they traveled to the Bishop’s Central Storehouse located at 5400 West near I-80 in Salt Lake. The bus passed through a parking lot and stopped at a side entrance, where the men were ushered into the building. They walked down a hall and came to a spacious well-lit room that had several charts and maps on the walls.
Elder Miller had somehow arrived before them, and he waited patiently as they gathered in A Semi-circle around him.
“Congratulations once again on accepting this assignment,” he said. “Today we’ll test your aptitude in a variety of assignments. From this group we’ll assign scouts, guards, nurses, cooks, messengers, animal herders, and delivery personnel. But first we want to give you an overview of what we expect from you. Just follow me as we move around the room and stop at several stations.”
At the first station the men gathered around a table that held a key, a cell phone, and a handgun.
“After you’ve been given a specific assignment, you’ll be placed in an apartment with a missionary who has the same task. We’ve recently built a series of apartments within walking distance of this building, and that’s where you’ll stay when you are in Salt Lake. Some of your assignments might take you out of the area for a few days at a time, and accommodations have been made for you in those cases. As I mentioned in our first meeting, several other groups of maintenance missionaries are already working, so we’ve worked out most of the kinks in the system.”
He picked up the three items. “You’ll be given a key to your apartment, and it will have your room number stamped on it. Your cell phone will be programmed with certain numbers that pertain to your assignment. You aren’t permitted to call or receive calls from anyone else.”
Elder Miller then held up the handgun and asked, “Have you all shot one of these before?”
Everyone raised their hands, although Nathan did hesitantly, because he hadn’t shot one since his days as a Boy Scout. He was quite sure he wasn’t going to be a guard.
“It looks unanimous,” Elder Miller said as he scanned the raised hands. “Your gun will help protect you in times of danger, although we hope you’ll never have to use it. You’ll all receive one, unless you’re a complete failure during the testing and we decide you’re a danger to yourself.”
The group laughed, and Elder Miller moved a few feet forward to a large glass window that looked out over the immense warehouse.
“This building is nearly 600,000 square feet and the entire property covers more than 35 acres,” he said. “We have the capacity to store 65,000 pallets of food and supplies here, and as it is hauled away, we replace it with products from the many canneries and meat packing plants we have throughout the region. It’s an amazing process. Never doubt whether the Lord will provide for his Saints.”
The group moved down the wall and soon stood in front of a huge map of the United States that was covered by dozens of white and blue circular stickers. Each sticker had a number in the center. Elder Miller motioned toward the map.
“Each dot represents a Church camp site. Did you realize the Church owned this many camps? As you can see, there are more than 200 sites that have been designated as places where the Saints can gather. The white dots are what we consider the best camps and most of them are in the Rocky Mountains. They’re the farthest from civilization and are basically undetectable unless you’re right at the entrance. They’ve been modernized in many ways and are actually quite nice.”
“Who gets to live there?” a missionary asked.
“These camps are for the Saints who respond to the prophet’s invitation,” Elder Miller said. “They’ll be organized under the direction of the priesthood and have the strongest defenses. As you can see, about half of the camps fall into that category.”
He then motioned toward the eastern United States. “We’ve created several of these ‘best camps’ throughout the country. Some of them are quite close to a temple, and we already have fencing materials in place so they’ll be able to create a secure compound that encloses both the temple and the camp sites.”
“I’m impressed at how everything is already in motion,” one man said. “What are the Saints doing in other countries?”
“They’re going to gather to their closest temple or stake center, and the Area Presidencies across the world are working out the details for each stake,” Elder Miller said. “Over the past several years the Church has sent thousands of shipments across the world to help these Saints have a stockpile of items, and at this point they’ll be fine. In actuality those Saints are quite self-sufficient and will endure the coming economic problems very well. It’s the Saints here in the United States that we’re the most worried about.”
He pointed at the map again. “As you can see, there are also blue dots that represent other camps. Our hope is that when the prophet’s letter is sent out there’s an overwhelming positive response from the Saints, but we’re realistic that the initial response will be fairly small. However, as national conditions get steadily worse in the weeks that follow, some members will realize they should’ve followed the prophet. They’ll try to find out where the first groups of Saints went, but they won’t be able to locate them.
“So we’re preparing for this so-called ‘second wave’ of Saints by creating the blue camps. The members will have to get there on their own, and there will be minimal Church organization there, although we’ll provide guards. We’ll stock these camps fairly well with food as time permits, but the accommodations won’t be too great. We aren’t trying to punish these people or anything, but they’ll have had their chance to respond to the prophet’s invitation just like everyone else.”
“Will they ever have an opportunity to join the other Saints?” another missionary asked.
“Possibly, but not for a while,” Elder Miller said. “We hope that some of these members will be spiritually strengthened there and eventually rejoin the rest of the Saints when we assemble in larger groups. Any other questions?”
A man raised his hand. “My neighbor has a nice cabin deep in the Uinta Mountains stocked with a two-year supply of food. He says if there’s any major trouble, he’s taking his family there to hide out and defend themselves against intruders. What do you think about that?”
“Is this man active in the Church?”
“Yes. He’s on our stake high council.”
“Hmm,” Elder Miller said. “We’ve actually discussed these situations, because there are a lot of members who are already prepared and could live for months on their own. The trouble is that even though it would probably be easier for him and his family to live on their own, the Lord needs leaders like him in these camps.”
The man nodded. “I doubt he knows about the Church’s plans, so maybe he’ll switch gears and join the Saints when he hears about the prophet’s invitation.”
“I hope so. In those situations we would help him retrieve his food storage and take it to his Church camp, because the Lord really needs his strongest and most experienced Saints there to help the camps run smoothly. That’s why the prophet’s letter will invite all Saints to gather to the camps—the rich and the poor. After all, this gathering has a greater purpose than just physically surviving the coming troubles. As we said in one of our meetings, it will also help the Saints become spiritually refined and achieve a higher level of unity—a Zion community, if you will. After all, it is these Saints who will soon build New Jerusalem.”
One missionary raised his hand. “So are you saying that after the Saints have been in these camps, they won’t return to their homes?”
“That’s correct. We have much to do to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ, and a crucial step, to quote the Tenth Article of Faith, is ‘that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent.’ That is our ultimate purpose.”