As word spread in the media that “the Mormons” had gone to hide in the mountains, vandals and looters took the opportunity to focus on Church buildings. Some meetinghouses were broken into then burned, while others were simply covered with graffiti.
The temples were being guarded by armed volunteers, but that didn’t stop one group of vandals from overwhelming the guards at the Jordan River Temple and starting it on fire. The Church immediately closed all of the temples and locked the gates, then put the maintenance missionaries on full-time duty assembling a chainlink fence around Temple Square and the other Church-owned buildings on the surrounding blocks. The fence included a strand of electrified wire along the top to greet anyone who tried to climb it.
The missionaries then divided into 12-man teams and traveled throughout Utah and Idaho to fence off the other temples that weren’t already being used as refuges. Nathan’s team worked their way south, and finally they reached the St. George Temple. As he and Chet were securing the fencing across the temple’s main entrance, a couple approached them dressed in Sunday clothes.
“What are you doing?” the woman asked angrily.
“Sorry, the temple is closed,” Nathan said.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “We’ve been coming to the temple on the last Wednesday of the month for the past ten years. We need to keep our streak alive.”
Chet was standing by, fastening the chainlink to a metal post. “Look around,” he said. “Doesn’t the empty parking lot tip you off that things have changed? The temple workers have gone to the Church camps—where you should be.”
The woman looked offended and turned to her husband. “Erik, are you going to let him talk to me that way?”
Erik just frowned. “He’s right, Donna. We should’ve gone to the refuge with the ward.”
Donna stamped her foot. “There’s no way I’m going to live in a tent!”
Erik smiled tiredly at Nathan and Chet. “You two keep up the good work. You’ve helped me make up my mind. Which camp should I go to?”
“I’d recommend driving to the camp in Snow Canyon,” Chet said. “They’re still taking Saints there.”
“Thank you,” Erik said as he turned to his wife. “Come on, dear. Let’s do the right thing and rejoin the Saints.”
Donna looked shocked. “Are you serious?”
Erik gave a weary shrug. “I’m going. It’s up to you whether you come along with me.”
He started walking back to the car, and Donna followed, shouting at him all the way.
Chet chuckled. “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but I pity him. I wonder if he’s secretly hoping she chooses to stay behind.”
While Nathan and his team members were finishing the fencing job at the St. George Temple, they received a message to return to the Bishop’s Storehouse in Salt Lake as quickly as possible for an emergency meeting. They drove back to Salt Lake and were bothered to see government vehicles setting up checkpoints along I-15.
“That doesn’t look good,” Chet said. “Something is definitely going on.”
They arrived that evening at the Bishop’s Storehouse, and Samuel was waiting for them at the door.
“I’m glad you guys made it,” he said. “Elder Miller waited as long as he could, but the meeting is already underway. Go right in.”
Their team slipped into the back of the room as Elder Miller thanked the missionaries for their diligent service. “Sometimes it is hard to believe there are only 300 of you,” he said. “You’ve accomplished many amazing tasks. The prophet wishes he could personally thank you for all you’ve done.”
Chet raised his hand hesitantly. “Sorry we’re late, but it sounds like you’re releasing us. Does this mean we’re done?”
Elder Miller chuckled. “Not even close. But the nature of your service is going to change. Let me explain why. Apparently the Saints’ departure to the camps has angered several top government officials. They’re frustrated they can’t trace the Saints, since none of them have the chip. So now with these natural disasters causing people to relocate, the government is going to use the excuse that they need to know where every citizen is as a matter of national security.”
“How will they ever enforce that?” a missionary asked.
Nathan spoke up. “They were starting to set up checkpoints along the freeway even as we were coming back.”
“Yes, they’re acting quickly,” Elder Miller said. “They’ve already formed the Chip Compliance Agency, and their employees are going to start visiting homes and businesses as soon as tomorrow. If they find someone who doesn’t have the chip, the person will be detained and be given two options—either be taken directly to a chip implantation center or be jailed indefinitely.”
“What does that mean for us?” another missionary asked. “We won’t be able to travel very easily.”
Elder Miller paced the floor. “Your new assignment is to stay among the people, seeking out any good-hearted people before even greater troubles begin. You’ll need to essentially make yourselves invisible. As the Spirit guides you, warn people about what is coming and encourage them to travel to one of our ‘blue camps’ and seek safety. Please double-check our map before you leave so you’re familiar with where these camps are.”
“Where should we start?” one of the missionaries asked. “Are you going to assign us to specific cities?”
“No. You’re on your own, but I would suggest you go to your home wards and neighborhoods and see if you can get anyone who is still there to listen to you.”
“Are the previous wards even recognized by the Church now?” Chet asked.
Elder Miller shrugged. “I don’t want to say we don’t care about them, but the focus now is on organizing new wards and stakes at the Church camps, rather than keeping the old wards staffed and operating.”
“That makes sense,” Chet said. “The members who are still here rejected the prophet’s counsel.”
“That’s right,” Elder Miller said. “They don’t have the Spirit with them. We’ve already heard of wards that have ‘elected’ a new bishop. This isn’t surprising. When the Saints left Nauvoo, some members stayed behind, but their wards either fell apart or they started their own version of the Church. The same thing is starting to happen here, but with the government putting pressure on all of the Christian churches, I think most of these members will just quit claiming to be Mormons.”
“How has the Church been handling the government’s harassment?” a missionary asked.
“We’ve been somewhat cooperative, but they’re putting extreme pressure on the Church to reveal where the Saints are. The government is paranoid we’re putting together a resistance force. Yesterday we were informed they might freeze our assets and seize our buildings and vehicles, which is what we’ve expected all along. The prophet and apostles are going to spread out, but they will still be leading the Church. Don’t worry, we’ll make it through this dark time and emerge triumphant.”
The missionaries weren’t quite so optimistic. “Will there be anyplace we can go if we’re in danger?” one asked.
“Yes, we’ve established a password that will grant you access to the temple compounds and the refuges. It’s quite simple. Go to an entrance and state, ‘D&C 4:7.’ The guard will then say, ‘Proceed.’ Then what will you tell him?”
Nathan raised his hand. “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.”
“Correct,” Elder Miller said. “Once you say ‘Amen’ he’ll let you in. Simple enough?”
The missionaries all nodded.
Elder Miller looked across the room at the valiant servants of the Lord that he’d grown to love so much. “Like I’ve told you before, we’re in a spiritual war,” he said. “Just follow the Spirit and ask yourself, ‘What would the Three Nephites do?’”
That comment brought smiles to the missionaries’ faces.
“All kidding aside, use your priesthood power as you feel inspired to do so, whether to heal the sick or to defend yourself against evil. The Lord will grant you the righteous desires of your heart.”
Elder Miller paused, suddenly overcome with emotion. “You’ve become like sons to me, and I’m so grateful to know each of you. Now go collect your belongings from your apartments, then we’ll give you one final bus ride to the destination of your choice. Farewell, my dear brethren, until we meet again in a better time and place.”
Nathan joined several missionaries who were transported to Utah County, and he had the bus driver drop him off on the corner near the Shaws’ home. He initially planned to first visit his father, but as the bus approached Orem, he felt compelled to see if Marie’s parents were still in the city.
He knocked on the door and was relieved when Aaron opened it. He stepped forward and took Nathan by the arm. “Let’s go for a walk, okay?”
Nathan shrugged. “That’s fine with me.”
Once they were moving down the sidewalk, Aaron said, “Sorry about that, but I think the government is bugging my house.”
“Why would they do that?”
Aaron looked around, then said quietly, “For a very good reason. You and I are on the same team. I work at the NSA Data Center, but I also work undercover for the Church.”
Nathan’s eyes grew wide. “You’re a double-agent?”
Aaron smiled. “I suppose, but I like to think of myself more like the spies that Alma and Captain Moroni used. I just relay information to the leaders of the Church about situations or government decisions that might affect them.”
“Wow, you’re in a precarious position.”
“You’re not kidding,” Aaron said. “I fully realize that if the government finds out what I’m doing, they’ll execute me immediately. But just like you, I feel I’ve got heavenly forces watching over me.”
“That explains why you and Carol didn’t go to the Kamas camp with the ward,” Nathan said. “I was surprised you stayed behind, but now it makes sense.”
“Yes, the Church leaders want me to stay right where I’m at. I had to get the chip after this latest push by the government, but I’m prepared to cut it out of my hand the moment I can head for the hills.”
“Do the people you work with at the data center suspect anything?” Nathan asked.
“Well, I don’t mention my religion at work, but ever since the Saints went to the refuges, my superiors have treated me differently. That’s why I think the house is bugged. One day last week Carol came home and noticed items in the living room were positioned just a little differently than when she left, including the computer. So we don’t use it much anymore. We searched the whole house for a bug, but we didn’t find anything. Unfortunately, the incident has freaked Carol out, so she’s been spending a lot of time out of the house.”
“Have you talked to Marie lately?” Nathan asked.
“Yes, and I think she’s ready to come home, but her stubborn streak won’t let her admit it. She’s determined to stick it out until the end of the internship.”
“I just worry about her,” Nathan said. “Elder Miller makes it sound like America is about to fall apart.”
Aaron frowned. “He’s right. I’ve often heard our country described as a raft on a river. We’ve had a fairly smooth ride for more than 230 years, but the canyon walls are narrowing and the rapids are more severe. We’re right at the point where we could still paddle to the river bank and save ourselves, but I honestly believe the raft is now out of the citizens’ control.”
“I completely agree with you,” Nathan said.
“The biggest problem is there’s a huge waterfall downstream, and we’re heading right for it,” Aaron said. “The California earthquake and now the hurricane are stretching our country’s resources to the limit, and I think we’re heading for martial law if anything else bad happens. That’s why the Lord removed his faithful Saints from society. They’ll be spared from the turmoil that’s coming. Have you heard about the Chip Compliance Authority?”
“Yes. Elder Miller told us about it just this morning.”
“It’s terrible,” Aaron said. “Americans have no idea how closely their actions are being tracked. Now that the CCA is fully underway, they’re going to start cracking down on anything out of the ordinary.”
“What do they consider being out of the ordinary?”
Aaron shook his head in disgust. “Pretty much anything that would’ve been considered patriotic or Christian thirty years ago. Everything we believe in is being trampled on.”
They had walked around the block and were back in front of Aaron’s home. Nathan quickly explained his new role, and Aaron said, “Well, stop by when you can. The way things are going, we both might be heading to Kamas soon just to save ourselves.”