The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

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_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

From the Annals of the Turley J. Hinton Institute....



The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

by Bob Bobberson


There are rumors that the skeletal remains of a teenaged girl was discovered amongst heavy slabs of granite that were quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon as the Salt Lake Temple was being built. As of yet the LDS Church has given no explanation as to what was done with the remains.


PART I: Footnote 76

On the morning of June 3rd, a black Town Car with tinted windows departed from the Church Administration Building and began the journey southwards towards Provo. The drive was uneventful: traffic was sparse, the sunlight was bright and crisp, and the sky was cloudless and blue. When they arrived at the BYU campus, the driver navigated to the Hinton Institute building, and then he got out and opened up the door for his passenger.

Up in his third-floor office, Howell Lambeth had been keeping an eye out, and when he saw the Town Car pull into the parking lot, he exited his email program and quickly ran downstairs.

"He's here," he said to Darlene at the front desk.

"Okay. I'll notify Dr. Trout."

"Good deal." He nodded to her and tightened the knot of his necktie and went outside.

"Well, you've managed to drag me down here yet again," said Elder C. Rigdon Pitt. Though he walked with the use of a cane, he stilled seemed hale and vigorous at the age of 83. He switched the cane over to he left hand and held out his right so that he could shake hands with Howell.

"Great to see you as always, Elder Pitt. We appreciate you coming down."

"It has to be done," he said. Pitt had long been the apologists' most important supporter. There were others among the Brethren who were sympathetic to their work, but Pitt was the one who best understood the challenges they faced. And now, with the death of Elder Halberstam, Pitt had risen to the office of President in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

Pitt's aide held the door open and the three of them went inside.

"Hi, Elder Pitt!" said Darlene as they entered. "Can I get you anything? Some water, maybe?"

"No, no, young lady. I'm perfectly fine."

She turned to Howell: "Dr. Trout said that he would meet you down at the private room, and Drs. Clark and Young are waiting there, too."

"Let's head on down then," said Pitt.

Howell led the apostle down a hallway and he used his key on a door that led to a stairwell with a spiral staircase heading down into the basement. There were several offices and storage closets down here, but at the end of the hallway was a door that simply said PRIVATE, and it had two deadbolts. Loitering near the door were Merlyn Young, Nephi Clark, and Jon Trout, the newest and youngest of the apologists, who looked somewhat nervous, and who was meeting President Pitt for the first time. They all shook hands and exchanged greetings and Elder Pitt said, "Well, young man, have you spiritually prepared yourself?"

"Yes, I believe I have," said Jon Trout.

Pitt smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "Just the answer I expected," he said, and he turned to his aide: "Aaron, I hope you remembered to get the keyring like I asked you to." The young aide produced it from the inner pocket of his suit coat and handed it to Pitt.

Howell first unlocked the top deadbolt and then Elder Pitt unlocked the lower one, and they opened the door. They all crept inside one by one into the darkened room, and then Howell shut the door and locked it and brought up the lights using a dimmer switch.

It was a small room, simply furnished, wish sisal wainscoting and plain but comfortable chairs spaced around the room, and in the center of the room was a single chair, old-fashioned and possibly an antique, placed in the manner they'd all seen dozens of times for blessings, the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and so on. The most striking component of the decor, though, was an elaborate stained-glass mosaic that depicted the First Vision. It was illuminated from behind by an unseen light source so that it seemed to glow.

"What do you think?" Merlyn said to Jon. "Pretty impressive, isn't it?"

"It's absolutely gorgeous," said Jon Trout.

"It's a fine replica," said Elder Pitt, almost gravely. "It should say something to you about the seriousness of what's about to take place."

"If you can show to us that you've got the mettle for this job," said Howell, "then you will be invited back this room at the appointed time. And it goes without saying that you aren't to breathe a word about what goes on here. I and everyone here, including Elder Pitt, expect you to covenant to keep this place and everything we say as sacred."

"Of course," said Trout, and he held his arm to the square and gave the oath. Then he went and sat down, as did the rest of the men, and Elder Pitt, who'd settled into the central, antique chair, began to speak.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I fear the situation may be more complicated than we had imagined. And it goes well beyond what we already know about Garland Baker."

"I hope I don't have to refresh anyone's memory on that count, do I?" interrupted Howell. All the men nodded, but Howell was looking specifically at Jon Trout.

One week ago, Garland Baker had published an article in Jupiter Talisman discussing the so-called "Catalyst Theory" which argued that the Prophet Joseph didn't actually "translate" ancient texts in the traditional way, but instead used materials such as the Book of Abraham papyri as "inspiration" for the scripture he produced. It was a ridiculous theory, and coming from someone like Baker, a notorious "liberal Mormon" who held an Assistant Professor position at the University of Colorado, it was probably an attempt to undermine Church doctrine. What had really shaken the Hinton Institute apologists, though, was a footnote in which Baker claimed that the Church possessed physical evidence that Joseph Smith had completed a partial translation of the Kinderhook Plates.

Howell had immediately hit the message boards in an effort to see if the note would cause a reaction. Some of the usual critics mentioned it as a curiosity, and tried to provoke a response from either him or one of his colleagues, but he quickly used the backchannels to maintain a strategic silence. They needed to know more before acting.

Elder Pitt went on: "Professor Baker is trying very hard at the moment to obtain copies of the items in question."

"So we know, then, that the materials are real?" asked Merlyn Young.

"If by 'we' you mean 'I'," said Elder Pitt, "then no, I do not. But there is strong suspicion amongst some of the Brethren that these documents are very real indeed, and stowed away in the Church's vaults."

"We cannot allow these documents to fall into the wrong hands," said Howell. "We simply cannot allow that to happen."

"Indeed you are right, Elder Lambeth," said Pitt. "I am working to do what I can, but as you know, my capital was exhausted somewhat after what happened with that nasty business involving the so-called letter that Elder Grissom allegedly wrote."

Howell massaged his brow: there were some things that some people simply never forgot, and that they'd never let go of. "We understand the seriousness of the situation, President Pitt," he said.

"I trust you'll take care of this, by whatever means necessary," said the Apostle, and he looked at his watch. Sitting there, somewhat ashen, with his wispy, blond-grey hair, his tufted eyebrows and with his small, dark eyes gleaming behind his wire-rimmed eyeglasses, he looked almost beetle-like.

"We will handle this situation," said Howell, "with all due diligence."

"I certainly hope so," said Pitt, and he stood up and nodded at his aide, and the two of them exited the private room.

As soon as the door was closed, Howell let out an exasperated noise: "Ppppbbtthhht. Jeez louise. The 'nasty business' involving the letter? Anyone notice how he conveniently forgets that he was the one who told us to fix the problem that his own fellow apostle got all of us into?"

Merlyn shook his head forlornly. "Tis true," he said.

"What do you make of what he said about the documents?" said Nephi Clark, leaning his big head forward.

Howell tapped the side of his nose with his finger. "Well, clearly someone thinks they're legitimate. The question is whether or not they ever make it out of the vaults, and whose hands they fall into. It could be that Elder Gladstone is helping Baker."

"Do you really think he'd sympathize with Baker?" Trout asked.

"Maybe so," said Merlyn. "Baker's wife is related to Elder Gladstone's sister-in-law."

Howell was shaking his head. "That's not something we can control," he said. "We cannot meddle in the affairs of the Brethren. We can perhaps rely on Elder Pitt for assistance, but we can't do anything to stop Elder Gladstone from opening up the vaults as he sees fit."

He gazed off at the mosaic, thinking. He closed his eyes briefly, and then he opened them, and turned to Jon Trout.

"Well, Jon, I guess this is your big moment. You can see what the problem is, I suppose. What do you think we should do?"

Trout had folded his arms across his chest, and he was frowning, thinking carefully. "Well, if I was a reader, coming across this article, it could shake my faith. But if I then learned that Baker was a fraud, or that his credentials weren't in order, that would probably help an awful lot."

"Very, very good," said Merlyn.

"I like where you're going with this," said Howell.

"If, for some reason, Baker were to lose his teaching position at the University of Colorado, that would seriously undermine his credibility."

Howell was smiling broadly and nodding. "I knew I saw something in you, Jon," he said.

The men exchanged a few more words, and then said a closing prayer before exiting and shutting the door on the private room. Even after they'd left, though, and with all the lights had been extinguished, the mosaic of the First Vision continued to glow faintly and luminously for several hours.


...To be continued in Part II: Lilith
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part II: Lilith

Lilith Lambeth supposed that she loved her husband, but there were times when she wondered about this: about whether what she felt really was love, or whether her marriage was Heavenly Father's way of testing her. He could be such a stubborn man, so inconsiderate towards what others thought. But he had a way about him, too: a bullishness and aggressiveness that excited her. And that's what she was thinking about as she finished up her morning chores. She cleared away the breakfast dishes and loaded them into the dishwasher, and then she put the laundry into the dryer. She she went and got the feather duster and went from room to room, sprucing up whatever surfaces seemed dusty. Ever since she'd been a girl, she had enjoyed dusting: the lemon smell of pledge, and the gratification of seeing something so dramatically. She made her way into Howell's office, where she dusted off the lampshades on this two lamps, the frames of the still-life paintings he had collected, along with his Machuitl, an obsidian Nephite sword that his friend, the anthropologist Virgil Rowley, had given to him, and last but not least, Howell's prized, pewter bust of Adam Smith. The invisible hand is a remarkable concept, when you think about it, he often said.

Once she'd finished these things, she went back into the bedroom, took off her T-shirt, sweatpants, and garments, and put on a blue sundress. Then she pulled her hair back in a ponytail, got her purple nail polish, and sat on the sofa and watched soaps while she painted her nails and waited for them to dry. And she kept looking out the front, bay window: out across her yard and across the street, looking for any signs. He was in there, she knew. She wondered if he was thinking the same things about her, that she was thinking about him.

Lilith had gotten married to Howell Lambeth nearly twenty years ago. She was an undergraduate at BYU, studying comparative literature, and Howell, ten years her senior, was doing his doctoral work. He had been a TA for one of her general ed. courses, and there was something about him, something about his aggressiveness and forcefulness that she was drawn to. Later she learned from one of her friends that Howell's first wife had died in a whitewater rafting accident: he'd gotten married straight away after his mission, and barely a year later, his wife had been killed. When Lilith heard this, it deepened her feelings for Howell.

And so she kept flirting with him until he figured out what she was up to and he asked her out. They went out for a movie and milkshakes, and at the end of the date, he kissed her chastely on the lips, but what she noticed even more than that was the way his hands felt on her waist: heavy and hard and strong. It was like he was struggling to restrain himself.

When she went back inside, her roommates asked her what the date had been like, what Howell had been like, and she had to fight back the urge to tell them everything. This was a secret feeling she wanted only for herself. This wasn't something to share with the girls; she wanted it to be only between Howell and herself.

Less than a year later, Howell proposed, and the two of them were married in the Manti Temple. A year after that, Harriett-Lynn was born; two years later came the twins, Harold and Hewitt. Lilith got pregnant a fourth time, with a baby boy that Howell wanted to name Howell, Jr., but she had lost the baby early in her second trimester, and though they tried in a somewhat half-hearted way to get pregnant again, nothing had happened.

And now the three kids were grown up, with the twins finishing up high school, and Lilith had settled into the routine of serving breakfast, doing morning chores, and hearing the echoes of small voices, scraped knees, and afternoon laughter in the house.

She never would have told anyone that she was unhappy. In fact she had long ago gotten used to telling everyone how wonderful her life was with Howell: how she was so proud of him and his job, a professor at the Y!, how he was such an honorable priesthood holder, and how he was such a good father to their three beautiful children.

But there were problems she never spoke of, too. He was often dismissive of her. Some time ago, when she expressed interest in going back to school for her Master's degree, he'd made the irritated noise he made, "Ppphhhbbbtttt" and said, "What for? It would be a waste of time. You've got a full-time job here as it is. An extremely important job. A job I could never hope to do half as well as you." But she knew that wasn't true. It wasn't exactly brain surgery to put dirty plates and flatware in the dishwasher, or to use the feather duster.

Howell also sometimes said things that ate away at her. Fairly early in her marriage, they were having a conversation about Church doctrine and theology, and Howell mentioned to her that he absolutely believed that polygamy would be restored sometime in the future. "Perhaps sooner than we think." He'd gone on to say, "I hope you're prepared. It'll be equally difficult for both of us, I'm sure, but I, at least, have prepared myself. I would imagine that men like me would be expected to take on a significant part of the burden."

She had excused herself after he said that and gone into the bathroom and cried. Does he really believe that? She tried to tell him on several occasions afterwards how much the thought of sharing him was hurtful to her, and he tried to be understanding, and he apologized, but ultimately, he told her, "This is something I just know as a priesthood holder. All of us have to endure trials in this life, and even though this hasn't come to fruition yet, and it might not during our lifetimes, it's just something we need to prepare for. It's no different than putting up food storage." At times like this, Lilith wondered if he was saying this sort of thing just to get her goat, or to upset her. Sometimes she couldn't tell.

Two years ago, though, things began to change. One day when she was out rearranging some old boxes in the garage, she looked up and realized that someone new was moving into the house across the way. 7 months earlier, the family that had been living there, the Strogatzes, had moved away when the husband got a job in Mobile, Alabama. Now, though, there was a U-Haul parked out front, and Lilith watched a a forty-something man pulled boxes from the back of the truck. She wondered if she should go make an introduction. Instead, she went and uncoiled the garden hose and attached the sprayer and used it to water the flower beds and shrubs surrounding the front of the house, and she kept an eye on him. He was tall and lean and had a way of concentrating hard on what he was doing. Eventually, they looked at each other and he smiled and waved and set down the box he was carrying and walked over.

"Hello, neighbor," he said.

"Nice to meet you," said Lilith.

His name was Steve Corkman, and he was divorced, with two kids who lived with their mom in Portland, Oregon. He had moved back out to Utah because his brother lived in Halladay and had work for him. "What about you?" he said, and Lilith gave him the usual rundown: Housewife, three kids, husband's a professor. He smiled at her and nodded. There were beads of sweat on his forehead.

"Well, I guess I better get back to work," he said, and he turned and left.

That evening, she told Howell that she'd met their new neighbor. "Is he in our ward?" Howell asked.

"I guess we'll find out," she replied, and sure enough, that Sunday, there he was, sitting by himself in the very corner of the chapel. After sacrament meeting, they went up and spoke to you.

"Great to meet you!" said Howell. "I understand you were in the service."

Steve glanced quizzically at Lilith, and then turned to Howell: "It's true," he said. "I served in the first Iraq war."

"A purple heart, I understand," said Howell.

"I guess you've got me at a disadvantage," Steve replied, frowning.

"Word gets around. People know people. You know how it is," said Howell, and he held out his hand and Steve shook it. "Thank you for your service to this country, and it's great to meet you."

"Good to meet you, too," he said.

And as he was turning to leave, Howell said, "You know, Brother Corkman, we were planning to have a little get together at our house this Saturday afternoon. You know, some steaks on the grill, burgers and dogs, that sort of thing. You're more than welcome to join us, if you'd like."

"Well, thank you, Howell! Awfully nice of you to offer. I'll be there." He smiled first at Howell, and then at Lilith, who had been trying not to stare at him.


When Saturday rolled around, many of the Hinton institute people, along with some of the people from the neighborhood and some of Lilith's friends from Relief Society gathered at the Lambeth home. Howell, wearing his American flag apron, manned the grill, which Merlyn Young, Jon Trout, and Nephi Clark looked on. Meanwhile, Shaylene Young and Cora Clark were talking with Jon Trout's wife and Bertie and Mayvenne on the sofa. Lilith passed around a tray of crostinis with summer sausage and Cache Valley cheese, and then she went to find Steve Corkman. He was hanging out in the kitchen, drinking a can of Squirt, listening to Herb McConkie's wife, Norma, tell him about her recent trip to New York City, and which Broadway play they'd seen. She kept throwing her head back and laughing, and touching Steve on the arm.

"Norma?" said Lilith. "I don't mean to interrupt, but could you go outside real quick and ask the boys when the food's going to be ready? I just need to know when to get the jello and macaroni salads out of the fridge."

Norma looked dazed for a moment or two, but she set her glass down and went out, and Lilith took her place next to Steve.

"Gosh," he said. "I'm really grateful to you and Howell for inviting me over."

"It's our pleasure," she said. "We just want to be good neighbors."

"I hope I'll be able to return the favor," he said, and he smiled at her.

They kept looking at each other, or rather, Lilith kept staring at him, daring him to keep staring back, until at last he got embarrassed and looked away, out the back window, where Howell, Merlyn, and Jon Trout were laughing about something. "You sure do have a beautiful home here," Steve said, quietly.

"Thank you."

Just then Norma returned and told Lilith that it would probably be about fifteen minutes more. And then, turning to Steve, she said, "Now where was I?"



Several weeks passed, and the days grew longer and stretched into the dog days of summer. The twins went away to a Church-run boys camp in Wyoming, and Howell was off during the day at BYU. When Steve Corkman learned that this is what she did, he began to pay her regular visits: to chat, or eat lunch, or to sit on the sofa talking and watching the daytime talk shows. He had explained that his work, which involved computers, meant that he sometimes had to do field visits, but often he was able to work from home in such a way that, once he finished his task for the day, he was able to do whatever he wanted. "I ought to get more hobbies, I guess," he said.

"Yeah, you and me both," Lilith said.

"Apart from the garden, I don't really know what else I ought to be doing."

"Wait a second, you have a garden? How is it that I don't know that?"

"Well, gee, Lilith. It's not like I tell you everything, is it?"

She was sitting on the sofa with her legs tucked beneath her, wearing a pair of denim capris that covered her garments.

"I guess I just didn't peg you as the type," she said.

"It's good to have a few surprises, and a few secrets," he said. Then he glanced at his watch. "Ah, okay," he said. "I gotta run; I have to make a phone call in a few minutes."

"Okay," she said.

He seemed like he didn't want to leave, and frankly, she didn't want him to.

"You know what?" he said. "Why don't you come over in a half hour and you can see this incredible, amazing, secret garden that you're so amazed I have?"

She laughed at him. "Okay, I will."

He left, and when he shut the door, she felt terrified: she had never been inside his house before. It was bad enough that he was coming by to hang out when Howell was gone. She had always felt vaguely guilty about it, but they weren't technically doing anything wrong, so she'd shrugged off her feelings. Still, there was a part of her that felt she needed to get permission from Howell. On the other hand, she liked the fact that he didn't know. It was one thing that she knew, and that he didn't: one thing that was all hers, that she didn't have to share.

She got up and wandered into the bathroom and looked at herself. She couldn't remember the last time she felt so nervous. Are you really going to do this? she asked, half-hoping for a reply from the Holy Ghost. The minutes ticked past, until at last, it was time, and she slipped her feet into her flip-flops and walked across the street.

Outside, it was dry and hot, with an Indian summer wind blowing up out of the south. He must have been watching her cross because when she went up the porch to knock, he opened the door. At her back, she could practically feel the neighbors watching them. How many times, she wondered, have people seen him coming to my house? Once again, she reassured herself that they'd done nothing wrong. They were just friends, that's all.

"Well, come on back, Lili," he said.

His house was dim and slightly musty inside, and she could see dust motes floating in the air where the light came through the curtains. He led her back into his kitchen, which was very plain, with no decorations, but was clean and tidy and sunny. He got a small knife from the butcher's block next to the microwave, and then he opened up a cupboard and got a small shaker of salt.

"Come on," he said. "This is the best taste ever."

He held open the screen door and they went out into the backyard. There was a green lawn off to one side, and he'd laid down a series of flagstones that led through the different plots of his garden. She looked around: he had corn and chile peppers and squash growing. There were herbs, too: thyme, and rosemary, and basil, which was fragrant in the hot sunlight. Up above, the sky was so blue, and so impossibly close to the earth.

"Here," he said. "You got to try this." He was squatting next to a green wooden stake that was holding up a tomato plant. He twisted one of the red fruits off the vine, and then he used the knife to cut off a slice. He sprinkled some salt on it, and held it out to her.

She took it and put it into her mouth: salty and warm, sour and sweet at once. He cut himself off a piece and salted it and ate it. "That's the taste of pure summer right there," he said.

"It's delicious."

He was staring at her, smiling. "Another?"

She nodded.

He cut off another wedge, sprinkled on some salt, and held it out to her, and this time, she grabbed his arm by the wrist, and pulled him closer. He didn't resist. She put the fruit and his finger into her mouth, and let it linger there, and he kept looking at her, his lips parted slightly. He withdrew slowly, and she swallowed, and they kept staring at one another, feeling the sun bearing down on them, and then he let the remains of the tomato and the knife fall to the ground, and they were on each other, kissing and grappling with one another. She felt him up against her, felt the roughness of his face against her own. She let herself feel lost, taken up in the rush of sensations, free from having to think about anything else. Free from having to worry, for a few moments at least, if anyone was watching, or if anyone was judging.


...To be continued in Part III: The Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part III: The Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker

"Good morning, ma'am. I'm calling because I'd like to request a copy of the transcript of Garland Baker."

"And to whom am I speaking?"

"My name is Dick Curtis." Jon Trout held his cell phone to his ear.

"Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Curtis, but I can't release a transcript to you without permission from the student in question. Those records are confidential."

He thought this might happen. "Look, I apologize. I probably should have just said from an outset that I'm with the Agency. This is part of an important case I'm working on, and I need you to send me that transcript."

"Again, I'm sorry, Mr. Curtis, but the policy is what it is. If the matter is really that important, I'm sure you have the means and the ways to get what you need. You have a nice day now." Click.

Trout listened to the dial tone for a while, and then he hung up. He wasn't quite sure where to turn. Howell had suggested that he look into whether or not Baker had made any political donations, and Nephi Clark had promised to touch base with his friend in the Church Office Building. Trout had Baker's University of Colorado profile up on his computer, and he was looking at it, at Baker's smooth, bespectacled face. What sort of a man is this? he mused.

Trout navigated away from the web page and logged in at MormonDiscourse.com, where Merlyn Young had been telling people that he found it odd that Baker had never married.

Sally767: Maybe he just hasn't found the right person?

Merlyn Young: I wouldn't know about that. But the Church's teachings on this are fairly clear, I think.

Trout left the thread and looked in on another dealing with causes of apostasy.

Nephi Clark: I find it very interesting that whenever we ask for real instances of people who've allegedly been "driven away" by our apologetics, the critics never come up with a single name. Not one. Ever.

The Needle: What about Glen Tibbetts? I think he noted in one of his last posts here or some other place on the 'net that he felt his treatment by Hiram Sanderson caused his departure from the Church.

Merlyn Young: Highly debatable. Knowing Glenn as I did, I think it would be quite a stretch to attribute his apostasy to anyone other than Glenn himself.

The Needle: What do you mean by that Professor Young?

Ammon: How convenient it is that the person the anti-Mormons want to use as their star witness is absent, and has not been seen anywhere on the boards in close to eight years. The usual swinish claims.

Nephi Clark: Still looking. Still waiting for one, just one examples of an apostasy caused by apologetics. I might die of boredom while I wait.

Trout laughed and shook his head and spent some more time navigating around the site, trying to find any gossip or tidbits on Garland Baker, but he wasn't finding anything, though the item from Merlyn might have potential. Indeed: why hadn't Baker ever married? There really were only a few possibilities.

Just then there was a knock on his office door, and then the handle turned and Howell came striding in.

"Hello, Jon. How's it going?" He stood there with his arms folded across his chest.

"Not bad, Howell. Just trying to figure out the best angle to pursue."

"Good, good. That's good. That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about." He turned and scooted a chair over so that he could sit close to Trout's desk. "We've had a couple of interns looking over his scholarship and we've found some serious problems in the man's work. Things that can't be explained away simply on the basis of sloppiness."

"Huh," said Trout. "What kinds of things?"

"It doesn't matter," said Howell. "The point is simply that they're there, and we can refer to them if necessary." He nodded and gestured towards Jon Trout: "Still, I'm interested in what you've got."

"Nothing much. I tried to get a copy of his transcript, but didn't have any luck."

Howell raised his eyebrows and nodded approvingly. "Interest tack to take. Unfortunate that it didn't pan out."

"Apart from that, I've been wondering about his marital status."

"How's that?"

"He's not married. He never married."

Howell narrowed his eyes and smiled. "Ah, one of those," he said. "If Gary Van Horne can find someone to marry, then anyone can." He pointed in the direction of Trout's cell phone and computer. "This is worth following up on, for sure."

Trout watched him carefully and nodded. "I agree." He pointed at the screen of his computer, which still had the main page of MormonDiscourse.com up. "Merlyn was saying something about this. I need to give him a call."

Howell shook his head. "I don't know that Merlyn actually knows anything. But sure: you can ask him."

"I will."

"That's good," Howell said. "We will take care of this, one way or another. You, I, and Elder Pitt will do the right thing." He had folded his hands together in his lap and now he was looking down at them, thinking. When he looked back up, it was clear that he was still trying to piece things together in his mind. "I wonder, Brother Trout," he said. "If you've ever heard of a very special, Church-run program that helps out certain men in the Church who struggle with certain feelings. The name of this place is Sprucewood. Have you heard of this place?"

Trout shook his head: "No, I haven't."

"Here: I'll get you the number," Howell said. "It might not turn up anything, but it's at least worth a look."


…To be continued in Part IV: A Pair of Antlers
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_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part IV: A Pair of Antlers

"A dingbat is what she is. I don't need to tell you that. She really just ought to shut her mouth and get back to what God created her to do."

Howell was talking to one of his Hinton Institute friends on the phone; Lilith would have known that by his tone alone. But overhearing him now, she knew he was talking about Ginny McFarris, the "agitator" who, along with some others, was working towards trying to change the culture of the Church to allow women to hold the priesthood. Lilith wasn't sure what she thought about this. On the one hand, she completely agreed that certain parts of the Church were hurtful to women. On the other hand, she sometimes thought that women like Ginny McFarris just made things worse for everyone. Change, if it were to come about, would have to happen gradually, and through the right channels. Whining and complaining about it wouldn't accomplish anything. Besides, as she knew, there were other means of handling certain men. In the past two years, after she'd begun her affair with Steve Corkman, she'd come to believe more than ever in the reality of small miracles.

There were times when she felt guilty, and when she wondered whether she was still worthy to take the sacrament on Sundays, especially in the early days. She worried, too, that Howell would somehow know what was going on: that a prompting from the Holy Ghost, or some insight from the priesthood would clue him into what she was doing, but he had remained clueless all this time. And Steve had shown her so much. She would slip away in the late mornings, looking up and down the street to make sure no one was watching, and then she was in his house, and they were peeling off each other's clothes: in the front room on the floor, in the hallway, shoved against the wall, in his bed, on the sofa, on the kitchen room table. It was as if she'd been given a long drink of water after 15 years of failing to realize how thirsty she was.

Afterwards they always held each other quietly, and sometimes they talked about different things. Several months in, she asked him: "Why are we doing this?"

"Because Father in Heaven wants us to have joy," said Steve, smirking. She couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

"But, I don't know," she said. "Do we love each other? I don't know if I love you."

Steve looked away. "I'm not going to say that doesn't matter to me," he said. "I'm just grateful for the times we have together," he went on. "I'm just glad to be around you." He put his hand on her bare waist and tugged her back down. She looked down at him and giggled and kissed him.

And so it went. The months slipped by, and Lilith and Steve continued to see each other. It was often hard to shake the sense that what they were doing needed to be goal-oriented: that it needed to be a "relationship," that they needed to be "making progress." But it also made her realize how deeply her life had been confined by rules and expectations like this. She was married to Howell precisely because she'd gone through life thinking that she needed to go to BYU, to find a husband, to get married in the temple to a returned missionary, to have children, and to raise them the right way, according to gospel principles, born in the covenant.

But one thing she'd learned was that there were deeper mysteries to the Restored Gospel than most people realized. Sitting there, listening to Howell say unkind things about Ginny McFarris, Lilith wondered if he knew how much she'd learned over the past several months: about Joseph Smith, and polygamy, and Helen Mar Kimball, and polyandry, and Fanny Alger, and so many other things. For whatever reason, as she sat there, absentmindedly watching the TV and eavesdropping on Howell, Lilith remembered a time when they were watching a movie with Salma Hayek, and Howell had smiled broadly and said, "Man, I wouldn't mind her for a second wife. Hot-blooded, spicy little Mexican like that. Aye-eye-aye!" She had known that he wanted to get a rise out of her, and she had ignored him. I'm sure she now thought to herself that Howell knows that women in Joseph Smith's time were sealed to more than one man sometimes. Maybe I should ask him how he'd feel about me getting sealed to Steve? She smiled to herself and picked up the remote and changed the channel.


...To be continued in Part V: Sprucewood
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part V: Sprucewood

Jon Trout slowly made his way through one of the leafy residential neighborhoods of east Salt Lake City, looking somewhat absentmindedly for the Sprucewood building. He had been told that it was located in a gated area, off from the main road. But he was also distracted, still going over in his mind a conversation he'd had with Merlyn Young back at the Hinton Institute:

"Well, of course he'd been given a copy of the scriptures," said Merlyn. "I have no doubt that the revelations given to the Prophet were a direct influence on his thinking in Also Sprach Zarathustra. Of course, there's only anecdotal evidence for this, but I can't help but feel that the parallels are remarkably striking."

Merlyn had gone on to note that he felt that Nietzsche had nonetheless gotten a number of things wrong, but that his notion of the ubermensch was in many ways very similar to the faithful LDS Melchezidek Priesthood holder. "If you think about it, we really are the intermediaries between God and the rest of mankind."

It was yet another of those moments where Trout had been left awestruck by Merlyn's philosophical acumen: the way he was able to piece together different texts and synthesize ideas was simply amazing.

"Nietzsche's conceptualization of the unity of body and spirit are very clearly influenced by LDS theology," Merlyn went on.

One of these days, that could be you, Trout thought to himself, and he felt more motivated than ever. Just up ahead he spotted a turn off and he put on his blinker. He drove down the path and pulled up next to a call box and rolled down his window and pressed the button.

"Yes?" came the voice.

"Yeah," said Trout. "I'm here to speak with a Mr. Wardle. He should be expecting me. My name is Dr. Jon Trout."

"Oh! Sure thing. Just one moment and I'll open the gate for you." After a few seconds, the gate rattled to life and slid open, and he drove in. The Sprucewood compound was green: lined with tall shrubbery and poplars, and the squat, utilitarian building at the center of the property was army green. Trout made his way over to a small parking lot and got out of his care and went inside.

Insider, the building felt oddly comfortable: there was plain furniture in the main office, orange-brown carpet, and sisal wainscoting along the walls. It looked, Trout realized, just like virtually every LDS foyer he'd ever been in. On the one of the walls hung a portrait of President Findlay; on another was an image of the Salt Lake temple. At the front desk, a young woman was on the phone, and as Trout approached, a middle-aged man in khakis and a white, collared shirt came out of a door.

"Dr. Trout?" he said, extending his hand. "I'm Gene Wardle. It's good to meet you."

"Good to meet you, too."

"Here, let's go back into my office." He gestured and Trout followed him back into another room and they both sat down. "So," Wardle said. "I got a phone call earlier today from downtown Salt Lake. Now, we're not officially affiliated with any religious organization, but of course our practice is rooted in what the Church teaches."

"Uh huh," said Trout.

"So, when certain people call me, I tend to listen."

Trout continued to nod.

"Now, I say this because your visit out here to us today is irregular, and I obviously have some reservations about sharing information on our clients. You've got to understand: confidentiality is of the utmost importance to what we do. Then again, we also believe that what we're doing is important, and part of the reason we're able to do what do lies in the fact that we don't believe in shaming the men who come to see us. Further, it's important to get family involved. Same-sex attraction isn't something that affects just the individuals, it impacts the entire family, and the entire community. So there are instances where we try to reach out to an individuals close friends in the hopes that they can lend a helping hand."

Trout frowned. "Can I ask something? What is it you do, exactly? Or rather, I mean, what are the treatments?"

Wardle nodded: "There are a number of approaches we take, depending on the client's need. But we just try to get the men to recognize the wholeness of their gender, the naturalness of it, among other things."

"I heard that you do an exercise where the guys have to hug each other and try not to get aroused. Is that true?"

"Well, sure," said Wardle, glancing away. "It's one activity among many that we use."

"I see."

Wardle cleared his throat. "Whatever the case may be, I've got the file that was requested. The brother you were asking about did come and see us for a short time." He slid a manila envelope across the table, and Trout took it. "I truly hope that you're able to help this man. I know that we did everything we could for him."

"How severe was his case?"

Wardle frowned, thinking about it. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate him at about an 8."

Trout nodded. "I see."

"I recommended that he stay with us an additional 90 days, but he insisted that he was done with our program. All of that's in the file." Wardle stood up and extended his hand. "I just hope you're able to succeed where we fell short."

"I can absolutely assure you that we'll do everything we can. Thank you very much for this," he said, holding up the file.

"Of course," said Wardle. The two men stood up and shook hands, and Trout turned and left the building.

Back in his car, he opened up the envelope and looked through it. On the very first page was a polaroid photo of Garland Baker that had been stapled to the paper. It was clearly, unmistakably, and obviously him. And he was an "8," Wardle had said. The file alone was enormously valuable to them, but this meant that if they were to inquire yet more deeply, they'd uncover even more useful information. Someone who was an "8" would undoubtably struggle to control his impulses. Trout took out his cell phone and called Howell Lambeth.

"Jon," said Howell. "What's the word?"

"I've got it," he said. "I got the file on Baker."

"And?"

"He's queerer than a 3-dollar bill."

Howell erupted with laughter. "Good, good," he said. "Not that it's any real surprise."

"Anyways, I'm on my way back to the Institute," said Trout.

"All right," said Howell. "I'll make some phone calls, and we'll set up a meeting to discuss our next move."


....To be continued in Part VI: Access
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part VI: Access

"We need to get in there," Howell said into the phone.

"Is this absolutely necessary? I won't have you wasting my time any further on this matter, Elder Lambeth. Nor will I permit you entrance to places forbidden even to those who hold the keys."

"President Pitt, I can assure you that it's one-hundred percent necessary. We've already put out a number of fires and this is the last piece of the puzzle to deal with. We just need access; Brother Trout and I can handle the rest."

Lambeth listened: Pitt drew in a breath and let it out slowly, such that it made a soft gurgling sound. "Very well," Pitt said at last. "I can arrange to grant you entrance at the end of the week."

Howell smiled. "That's perfect, Elder Pitt. As always, I and the rest of us at the Institute are grateful to you and everything you've done to help us."

"The kingdom rolls ever forward, Brother Lambeth."

Click.

Howell smiled again and hung up the phone and tapped his finger on the tip of his nose. He'd have to get in touch with Jon Trout, naturally, but it would be wise to wait. Telling him too early could lead to unnecessary leakage of information. Trout, up to this point, had performed almost flawlessly. If he proved himself worthy via this last task, he would be granted full status and privilege amongst the called.

Indeed, the past week had been filled with a series of coups. First, Trout returned from Sprucewood with irrefutable evidence that Garland Baker was a homosexual. Shortly after his return, they'd met in the Hinton Institute conference room to discuss their next move.

"We can't go after him academically on these grounds," said Merlyn Young. "It's way too risky. There is too much sympathy in those quarters towards this sort of thing."

"Academic freedom, unless you happen to disagree with us," said Nephi Clark, and everybody chuckled.

"This alone is enough to take care of matters with members of the Church, though," said Herb McConkie.

"I wonder about that," said Trout. "There's nothing to indicate that he's violated any of his covenants, or that he's strayed from Church teachings. He's had to deal with temptations, sure, but that's not the same as fully breaking the rules."

"It may be that you haven't done quite enough digging, Jon," said Howell.

"If he were to face a Church court, it would be devastating to him," said Merlyn, with his hands folded neatly together on the table.

Howell nodded. "True," he said, "but I doubt we need to go that far. We can plant seeds in the right places, and everything else will fall into place."

"What do you have in mind, Howell?" asked Nephi.

Howell leaned forward and cleared his throat, and laid everything out. The men listened carefully, and each performed his appointed task.

Merlyn and Nephi immediately hit the message boards, and very carefully, very subtly, the steered the conversations in such a way that gave them an opening to mention Baker's sexual orientation. Ammon helpfully chimed in, noting that he'd always detected same-sex attraction "sympathies" in Baker's work, and yet another LDS posted noted that he once saw Baker kissing a man on the mouth during a break at an academic conference at Amherst. "Was it just a friendly kiss, like how French people do?" someone asked. "Does it really matter?" Merlyn said in response. "Would you kiss another man on the mouth?" The discussion carried on in this vein for several pages, with the desired results: eventually the key LDS people said that it made sense that a closeted-yet-activist homosexual would work surreptitiously to try and destroy the Church. Concealing his sexual orientation was just one of the many lies that Garland Baker had tried to foist upon the Latter-day Saints.

Meanwhile, Jon Trout and Howell drove into Salt Lake to pay a visit to the Beacon on the Hill, an independent bookstore operated by a pair of militantly anti-Mormon Baptists. The bookstore was a converted old Craftsman house, with a hand-lettered sign hanging over the porch. Inside, Christian rock drifted softly from speakers mounted in the corners of the shop, and a few customers lingered amongst the rows of books.

"Back to argue the Trinity again, Dr. Lambeth?" said Cherry Ford, one of the co-owners.

"Nope, not this time," said Howell. "I've decided to take it easy on you this time. We're just here to peruse your wares."

Cherry laughed and nodded. "Well, take your time," she said.

Howell and Trout made their way over to the wall of shelves devoted to Mormonism. "My, my, this is in-teresting!" said Howell, his voice rising.

Cherry was still grinning. She rolled her eyes: "You don't say."

"Now, Cherry," he went on. "I'd always been led to believe that you and Buff were Christians. You know, that you believed in the atonement of Christ, and the Ten Commandments, and all the lessons and wisdom that are to be gleaned from the scriptures." He had turned to face her, and he reached up to massage his chin. "And yet, I'm baffled, BAFFLED, I tell you! To see that you've got this book on your shelf." He turned and pulled the book from the shelf: it was Codes and Catalysts, a monograph by Garland Baker. "Why, oh, why, would a good Christian woman like yourself be carrying a book by this SODOMITE, I ask you? Why, Sister Ford, why?" His voice was practically booming.

Across the room, Cherry Ford's good humor had evaporated. "All right," she said. "You've had your fun. You need to keep your voice down, though." Beside Howell, Jon Trout was completely stone-faced.

"Oh, trying to CENSOR a critic, are you, Cherry? Is that the best move you've got? Hilarious."

"Look, Howell," she said. "If you can't keep it down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. I've got a business to run here."

Howell raised his arms up triumphantly. "Folks, you all saw it here yourselves." He spun to address the other customers. "Thrown out. Thrown out by the 'Christian' Ms. Cherry Ford. For doing nothing more than noting an obvious bit of hypocrisy. You saw it here yourselves, friends. You ask yourselves what this means, in the grand scheme of things." He shot a final glance at Cherry. "A good day to you, madame. Come on, Jon, let's go."

They turned and walked out of the bookstore, saying nothing until they were back on the road to Provo.

"You see," Howell said after some time. "There are certain contexts in which you've got to be a little over-the-top, and this was one of them. You can't underestimate how stupid some people can be. Whereas a scalpel is the best tool in some instances, in others you've got to use a jackhammer." He was sitting in the driver's seat, staring straight ahead. "You watch," he went on. "Cherry won't be able to resist spreading this around. She'll want to blab to the whole world about how Howell Lambeth: Professor Howell Lambeth, caused a commotion in her rink-dink store. But, you see, in the telling, she'll let everyone in the non-LDS Christian community know what we need them to know."

In the driver's seat, Trout nodded, his mouth slightly agape; in the back seat, Todd Simmons said nothing.

"Oh, there will be a few sympathizers, sure. But on an issue this important, I can assure you that we've got far more allies than we do enemies." He stared out the window, and noticed something, a bunker or structure of some kind, nestled high up in the hills, and he remembered. "Don't let me forget, Jon, that we've got one final loose end to tie up, and I want you involved."

"Sure thing, Howell," said Trout. "What is it?"

"Now's not the time. Remind me again in two day's time, and I'll fill you in."

"Will do," he said, and they drove on, thinking their separate and private thoughts.



Miles away, Lilith and Steve Corkman were finishing up for the day, too. He stood behind her, his arms circled around her waist and his face nuzzled into place where her hair met her shoulder. It was time for her to go, and neither of them wanted to be apart. And they had quarreled, albeit mildly.

"I just don't see how it can work," she said.

"It can," Steve said. "You've read the passages. You know the real history. We can do this."

"I don't know. I just... I have so many doubts."

He let her go and spun her around, so they were looking at each other, and he cupped her face in his hands. "I'm the one with these powers," he said. "The priesthood was gifted to me by our Heavenly Father. That's where the authority comes from." His expression softened. "And I want this for you, Lilith. I just want us to be equals. Is that what you want, too?"

She grabbed at his wrists, and leaned in, standing on her toes, and pressed her lips to his. "I want what you want," she said.


....To be continued in Part VII: F Vault
Last edited by Guest on Fri Jul 11, 2014 5:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part VII: F Vault

Walking home from Steve Corkman's one afternoon, with a basket laden with tomatoes, zucchini, basil, and other treats from Steve's garden, Lilith Lambeth stopped midway in the street as she noticed Sister Higgins's car parked outside her house. Elaine Higgins was her visiting teacher, and of course, today was the day of her monthly visit. Lilith walked on, until she could see Elaine Higgins knocking a final time on the door, ringing the bell, and then retreating from the porch. She turned, and her pale face folded into a smile as she noticed Lilith.

"Oh, my! There you are! I was starting to wonder if I had the wrong day."

"Hi, Elaine," she said. "How are you?"

"Doing well, doing well." She shuffled over to get a close look at Lilith's basket. She swallowed a made a noise in her throat: "Mmmm. Look at that."

"The summer's bounty," said Lilith.

Elaine nodded. "From a neighbor?" she asked. "Or did you grow this yourself?"

"Oh, no. I don't have a green thumb at all," said Lilith. "These are from a neighbor."

"Just beautiful," said Elaine, who by now had reached into the basket. She held up a zucchini and ran her thumb along one of its ridges. "So firm and green and lovely. I've got a fantastic recipe for zucchini bread. My parents used to keep a garden when I was growing up in Idaho Falls, and we used to get the biggest zucchini you've ever seen. Bigger than your arm! So, everyone in the ward was well-stocked with zucchini bread. At the height of summer, my mother was baking four or five loaves a day, just so the zucchinis wouldn't go to waste."

"Waste not, want not," said Lilith, and Elaine Higgins smiled.

"Waste not, want not." She set the squash back in the basket and looked off past Lilith's shoulder, and she let out a beatific sigh: "It's just so lovely, so beautiful, that Heavenly Father blesses us with so many wonderful, beautiful things."

Lilith thought about this for a moment, and nodded, and then she turned and led Elaine into the house, so they could sit and talk further about the gospel.



At the end of the week, Howell Lambeth met Jon Trout in the lobby of the Hinton Institute, and they went outside and climbed into Trout's minivan and began the drive up into Salt Lake. "Take us up into Little Cottonwood Canyon," said Howell, and Trout turned and looked at him. "The vaults?" he said, his voice low. "That's right," said Howell. "Now drive."

Trout did as he was instructed while Howell attended to the radio, fiddling with it until he found a conservative talk radio program. They drove alongside the steep slopes of the Wasatch, grey and brown and dry in these late summer months. Howell said nothing as he sat in the passenger's seat, with his hands folded together in his lap, staring out from behind his darkly tinted aviator-style sunglasses.

After a while he said, "There. There you go, Jon. Take that exit there."

Again, Trout did as he was told, and they began to move up into the mountains, up through the groove cut into the mountain thousands of years ago by the slow movement of glaciers. Howell couldn't help but think of the image from the book of Daniel: of the stone cut from the mountain without hands. All of this, everything thing they did, had been foretold from the very beginning. They turned off onto a compacted dirt road, catching glimpses of the pale granite through the trees, until at last they found themselves in a level, paved-over clearing beside the mountain.

There, carved into the sheer rock face of the mountain were a series of arched, gated entrances. Near one of them was a white cargo truck, but apart from that, there were no signs whatsoever of any activity at the facility. Trout pulled over and parked close to the archway on the far right-hand side of the clearing. "What now?" he said.

Howell climbed out of the minivan and said, "We wait."

Outside, the air was several degrees cooler than it was in the valley, and it smelled of the mountains and the trees. A soft breeze stirred the thinning hair on the men's heads, and they stood their waiting, with their arms folded across their chests, blinking in the sunlight. Then, after a few minutes, they heard the sound of a car's motor purring somewhere down the way, and then a black Lincoln Town Car came into view.

"That'll be Elder Pitt," said Howell, and sure enough, the car pulled to a stop where they stood, and a young elder in a dark suit went around to the back and helped the apostle out of the car.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," said Pitt. He shifted his cane to his left hand and shook both of theirs. "Have you met Ryan?" he asked, gesturing to his aide. Howell and Trout both shook their heads no, and more handshakes were exchanged all around. After that Pitt drew in a long breath and looked around. "It has been a long time indeed since I've been up here. This is one of the Church's great works," he said. "Have you been here before young man?" He was looking at Trout.

"No, Elder Pitt. This is my first time."

The apostle nodded and raised his cane, pointing to the entrance to the vault. "Some of the most important keys to the kingdom are stored beyond these doors. When the Church's engineers designed this facility, they made sure that it could withstand a thermonuclear strike. That should give you some sense as to the importance of what is stored within."

Next to Trout, Howell was smiling softly.

"Now, then. I'm a busy man. Let's get in and take care of what needs to be done." Pitt shuffled on ahead, and they followed him.

Looking up, Trout noticed that a camera was mounted at the top of the stone archway, and as they approached, the steel gate began to rise. Pitt smiled at this: "They're expecting us, I see."

Beyond the gate was an entryway and loading-dock area, at the back of which was a door. As they walked beneath the archway and into the mountain, it felt as though they were moving into a cave. A series of sodium high bay lamps hung from the ceiling. Elder Pitt's aide, Ryan, walked swiftly ahead of them and used a card on the scanner next to the door. It clicked loudly, and Ryan held it open for them. "I'll be here when you come back," said Ryan, and he shut the door behind him.

Inside, everything was sterile and pristine. The floors were spotless and white, and the walls were the clean, stone color of the granite mountain itself. The light cast from the overhead bulbs made dim and fuzzy shadows, and as they walked down the long and narrow hallway, their footfalls echoed off the floor. At the end of the hallway they could see another door with a rectangular window.

"Access is limited, naturally," said Elder Pitt, as the neared the second door. He gazed through the window and rapped on it with his cane. After a few moments a woman in a lab coat opened it. She was wearing eye protection and she had been wearing a dust mask as well, but she pulled this down once she saw them.

"Good afternoon, young lady."

"Oh, my goodness! President Pitt! What a pleasant surprise!"

He growled slightly. "It shouldn't be any damned surprise. Brother McKenna knew I was bringing guests inside the vault today."

"Oh. Well, I'm sorry, then. Do you want me to go and get him?"

"No, no, no. We've got things to attend to. Now step aside, please."

She held the door open for them and they went in. The room was a wide, circular room with several metal examination tables in the middle, and a bank of computer, microscopes, and microfiche machines lining the walls. There were a few other technicians working here, all with eye goggles, lab coats, and dust masks, such that they looked like surgeons. They looked up and stared as Pitt, Lambeth, and Trout filed past, towards yet another door at the back of the room.

"You're headed to security, I guess?" said the woman who'd let them in.

"That's no concern of yours," said Pitt. "Just let us through."

"Of...of course," she said. "I didn't mean anything by it, I was just..."

"I know exactly what you mean. There's nothing more to be said."

She looked stricken, and like she wanted to apologize or protest further, but she didn't say anything more. She held the rear door open for them, and they went yet deeper into the mountain.

Next they found themselves in a long, cavernous, warehouse-like room. Jon Trout could hear two noises: a quiet rush of air, almost like a whisper, and another sound, like trickling water, somewhere deep and at the end of the room. The light was dim in here, and there were dozens of high shelves lined with boxes. As they moved further, the boxes gave way to shelves that looked like card catalog files in public libraries.

"Records," said Howell. "Baptisms for the dead. Ordinances. Everything. For every person who has ever lived on planet earth. Ever."

"There is nothing else like it in existence," added Elder Pitt.

Everything was quiet save the soft murmur of the air conditioning, and the sound of their shoes clicking on the stone floor. They were completely alone in the room, which seemed to stretch on and on, ever deeper into the mountain, and Trout realized that, despite the lamps mounted here and there, he could not see the roof of the room: it was too dark. And as they closed in on the far wall, it seemed that they had reached a dead end, and then they all heard a click, and another door opened. Standing there was a man in his mid-sixties, wearing a navy blue suit and a red-striped tie.

"Elder Pitt, it's so good to see you," he said, and he and the General Authority embraced.

"Brother McKenna," said Pitt. "Do you know Howell Lambeth and...what was your name again, young man?"

"Trout. Jon Trout." He held out his hand and McKenna shook it. "It's good to meet you."

"And, of course, you know Professor Lambeth," said Pitt.

"Sure, sure." More handshakes. McKenna looked them over and nodded, and yet there was something about his manner than seemed pensive and concerned. "Well, shall we?" he said, and he turned and punched a series of numbers into a keypad and then he led them inside.

They found themselves in a foyer-like room, with a leather couch to one side and a spiral staircase at the other. There were framed portraits of temples, of the Savior, and the First Presidency hanging on the stone walls, each individually lit with its own small light. At the far end was a big, heavy, indestructible-looking door, like the door of a bank vault. McKenna moved over to the door and used a card, and then he held his thumb to a scanner, and they could hear the sound of the door opening very slowly: of tons of metal grinding and moving and shifting, until at last the round door began to swing open.

McKenne reached inside his jacket and pulled out a notecard and handed it over to Howell. "Here," he said. "What you're looking for should be in one of the boxes in this area."

Howell took the card and glanced up at McKenna. "You're not coming inside?"

"Someone needs to stay here with Elder Pitt," said McKenna. "For reasons beyond my understanding, only a handful of the Brethren have been inside since the vault was completed."

Howell turned to the apostle, who'd taken a seat on the leather sofa. He was sitting there with his cane propped between his knees, with his hands resting on it and he was nodding gravely. "I cannot go in that place," he said.

Howell looked at Trout, and then they both looked back at Elder Pitt.

"There are some places on this earth," Pitt went on, "where even I am not protected, where the Holy Ghost flees from me. These are not places of temptation but are instead places of evil, domains of the Adversary. Beyond that vault door is just such a place. What dwells in there I cannot speak of. Know ye simply that ye and only ye are girded up against this evil." His lower lip had begun to tremble. "You, Howell, have been given the gift. And you, Brother Trout, are to be tested. And now you will go in and do what must be done. Do it quickly. I will pray on your behalf." He nodded and looked down at his knees, and McKenna moved over to his side.

"Please, be quick about it," McKenna said. "There is a desk on the left, just inside the door. There are flashlights in it. You'll need them."

"We won't be long, I promise," said Howell. He turned to Trout and nodded, and the two of them stepped through the portal of the vault door, into the deepest chamber in the mountain.

Like the records room, this final chamber was dimly lit and it felt cavernous. At first Trout thought the room was empty, but as Howell searched the desk for the flashlights and his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he began to see that there were a series of metal-frame shelves lining the stone walls; above the shelves and widely spaced intervals were several low-wattage, bare lightbulbs. Howell brought out a pair of small flashlights and handed one to Trout.

"Here," he said, shining his light on the notecard McKenna had given him. It said, B-5, Box 32. "I'll go this way, and you head over there. Give me a holler if you find it."

"Okay," said Trout, and he moved off into the dark, left-hand side of the room, walking uneasily towards the naked lightbulb that flickered on and off intermittently. It was cold in this room, and the small hairs on his arm began to prickle. Off in the distance, deep in the darkness, he thought he could hear the sound of water: perhaps it was snowmelt trickling through the cracks in the rock, though Trout thought he could hear it ploshing into a larger pool. He approached the first shelf and clicked on his flashlight, and ran it over the corners until he could see the white labels: M-1 through M-6. There were acid-free boxes stacked in neat, tidy rows. Perfectly, it seemed. A part of him wanted to nudge one of the boxes, just to disrupt the strange orderliness of them. Instead he turned and moved slowly along the wall, towards the next shelf. As he walked, he listed for the sound of his shoes clicking on the stone floor. He glanced off to his right, to see if he could see Howell, but there was nothing out there but darkness. Trout lifted his flashlight and read the next labels: L-1 Thrus L-6. At least, he thought, I'm going in the right direction. He moved on and he thought that his flashlight was starting to fade away, and so he clicked it off to spare the batteries.

He moved on, checking each shelf as he passed: K, J, I, H, G, and F, and then he stopped, because the shelves had come to an end. Instead, the stone floor stretched off into a pitch black darkness. Trout moved forward, and once again, he heard water, though this time it was much closer. He inched towards the noise and clicked on his flashlight and stopped short: there, at his feet, something was moving, writhing, shimmering. He caught his breath and let out a sight as he realized that he was seeing what he'd been hearing: water. There was a small brick curb, and just beyond it was a pool of clear, clean water, undulating softly. Trout bent down and reached out his hand, though as he got closer, he realized that the water level was lower then it seemed, and so he went all the way down to his knees. He dipped his fingers into the water: it was icy cold, almost painfully so, and then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Jeez....Oh, my goodness. Howell, you scared the ever living crap out of me."

Howell was laughing a deep belly laugh that echoed in the big room. "Sorry, Jon. I couldn't resist." He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "But sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. Go ahead: aren't you going to take a drink from the sacred waters?"

Trout couldn't read his expression in the low light.

"Some people think it'll grant you long life."

"Is that really true?"

Howell seemed to shrug, though again, Trout couldn't tell for sure. He turned back to the water, cupped his hand, and scooped a mouthful of water up to his lips. It was cold and clean and good.

"On of but a few," said Howell, and Trout stood up and wiped his hand on the leg of his pants.

"Did you find it?" he asked.

"I did," said Howell, and he led the way.

As they moved away from the pool, Trout thought he could see something moving in the darkness behind them, but he decided it was nothing.

Howell walked on, clear across the long length of the room, until the arrived at the other wall, where there were more shelves, identical to the ones Trout had seen. Off to the left, though, were also several larger boxes, and some old-looking chests, and what looked like an armoire. "It's here," said Howell, and he went over and lifted a box off and set it on the ground. Inside were several manilla folders with pieces of yellowed paper filed away in them. Towards the back were several items sealed in ziplock bags. Howell flipped through the contents of the box until he came to what he was looking for. He pulled out two things: a small, old, leather-bound book, and a small sheaf of old, weathered paper with odd markings on them. "This," he said, holding up the book, "Is William Clayton's journal." He held it out to Trout, who took it and held it gingerly.

The younger man opened it up and carefully thumbed through the old, brittle pages. He squinted in the low light, trying to make out the writing on the pages. He was aware that his heartbeat had quickened. Just as he was taking out his flashlight, Howell spoke again:

"But this," Howell said, handing over the other papers and taking back the book, "is what we came for."

Trout clicked on his flashlight to get a better look. He recognized the prophet's handwriting: there was no mistaking it. Then again, he knew as well as any of the people at the Hinton Institute that forgeries were a very real threat to the mission of both the Institute and the Church. But the items here in this room had been protected and vetted, hadn't they? He knew that there had been a subcommittee organized at the HI following the Hofmann forgeries, and that several of the scholars had functioned as a kind of task force to ensure that none of the forgeries found their way into the vault. Still, Trout could hardly believe his own eyes.

"It's real, then?"

"Yes, it is," said Howell.

So Garland Baker had been telling the truth. Joseph Smith really had attempted to translate the Kinderhook Plates. It was all here: the prophet's elegant script, and the figures, which Trout knew by heart, from the phony plates. There were seven pages total. It seemed that the prophet's work was in keeping with the revelations that had come forth via the Book of Abraham.

"This is incredible," Trout said.

"In a way, yes, it is," said Howell. "But you know full well how dangerous it is, too. Think what would happen if this got into the wrong hands. Just think what would happen."

"I guess it's a good thing that we've got it stowed away here in the vault, then."

"Don't be naive, Jon. Don't act like a child. You know why we came here." Howell reached into his pocket and brought out a small object and pressed it into Trout's hand. "This is a test, Dr. Trout. We're counting on you to do the right thing."

Trout opened his hand to look at what Howell Lambeth had given him: it was a cigarette lighter. He looked up at Howell but he couldn't see his face. He ran his thumb over the wheel on the lighter, but it seemed so hard, so painful. He didn't want to do it: this was a historic document.

"Do we have to do this?" said Trout. "If it's still here, doesn't that tell us that Joseph wanted it to be kept safe?"

"He never revealed is publicly," said Howell. "He intended it to be concealed indefinitely, until the time was right, provided that such a time was ever to emerge. But one never did. And now the enemies are knocking at the gate. If Garland Baker can find his way to the document, who else will get to it in time? Don't be weak, Brother Trout. Do what has to be done."

Trout's hands were damp and the sheaf of papers had begun to stick to his fingers. Nonetheless, he ran his thumb across the wheel of the lighter, once, twice, and a third time until it lit up. He moved the edge of the flame over to a corner of the papers and watched as they blackened, curled, and caught on fire. The smoke that rose from them was dusty and almost sweet. He held onto the pages until the flame had consumed a good three-fourths of the paper, and then he dropped it to the floor. He and Howell watched it burn until nothing was left but ashes. Looking at this, Trout could feel a lump rising in his throat, and then Howell's hand was on his shoulder, squeezing. Massaging.

"You did good, Jon. You've shown that you've got what it takes. A true servant of the Lord's Church." Howell gave him a final pat, and then he turned and closed up the box and set it back on the shelf, and they turned and began to make their way out of the room.

As they walked, Howell said, "It goes without saying that you aren't to breathe a word about this to anyone."

"Of course."


When they arrived back at the vault door, McKenna and Elder Pitt were waiting for them expectantly.

"It's done," said Howell, and McKenna and Pitt looked at each other with relief. Pitt, in particular, looked exhausted. They all shook hands with McKenna, and then they left, going back the same way they came in. When they finally made it back outside, Trout breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with air and blinking in the sunlight.

"It is good to be back outside," said Pitt. "Going in there teaches you what it would be like to be a mole."

They all laughed at this, and then they shook hands a final time, and Pitt's aide helped him into the Town Car, and he left. Howell and Trout got into the minivan and began the drive back to Provo. A half hour in, Trout spoke up:

"Hey, Howell, who was that person Elder Pitt mentioned on the way out?"

"Huh? I don't know what you're talking about."

"You know," said Trout. "As we were walking back through the genealogy lab. He mentioned something about someone named Carter? Kay Carter or something like that?"

"No, not 'Kay'," said Howell. "Kate. Kate B. Carter."

"Yeah, that's it. Who was she?"

Howell cleared his throat and licked his lips. He was staring straight ahead. "Kate B. Carter," he began. "Was a hero. In a sense she was like you, Jon. But more importantly, she's one of the few women in this Church who ever did anything that was worth a damn."

Trout turned slightly, waiting for Howell to finish the thought, but he didn't say anything more, and Trout decided to ask someone else about it at a later date.


...To be concluded in Part VIII: The Anointed Ones
Last edited by Guest on Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part VIII: The Anointed Ones

In November of that year, when the children were away at school and Howell was off pursuing some matter pertaining to his work with the Institute, Lilith Lambeth went over to Steve's house, and changed into the white clothing they'd gotten for the occasion. Steve himself was also dressed entirely in white. They went into the kitchen, where soft, grey light shone through the window, and Steve pulled out a chair for her, and she sat down.

"Are you ready?" he asked her.

"I am," she said. She folded her hands in her lap: they were damp from nervousness.

Steve went around behind her and gave her shoulders a squeeze, and then she closed her eyes, and he laid his hands on her head and began to speak:

"Lilith Marie Lambeth, I lay my hands upon thy head this day to grant you the gift of the Melchezidek priesthood, and to ordain you to the office of priestess in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..."

She sat there listening, feeling the warm weight of his hands on the crown of her head. She was aware of what he was saying and yet she wasn't really following the particulars. Instead, she had turned inwards, and was searching herself for feelings, for the sense that something was changing. For a difference of some kind.

Steve continued on, bestowing blessings upon her, and reminding her of the responsibilities associated with her new gifts. He reminded her of her status as a true daughter of not only Father in Heaven, but Heavenly Mother as well.

"I say these things humbly, and in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!"

"Amen," Lilith whispered. She opened her eyes and blinked. Steve took his hands from her head and laid them on her shoulders, and he leaned down and kissed her just below the ear. "It's done then," she said. "We really did it."

Looking at each other, they both knew what needed to come next, and so they stood up, still hand-in-hand, and retreated into the depths of Steve Corkman's house.



Howell turned his key in the lock, and then he stepped aside, and Apostle C. Rigdon Pitt used his key, and the door opened, and the men filed in. Merlyn Young, Nephi Clark, Elder Pitt, Howell, and Trout were here for the occasion, to bear witness to what was about to take place, and Trout was visibly wide-eyed and nervous. Shuffling in with his cane, Elder Pitt made his way back behind the antique chair at the center of the room. Trout lingered for a moment at the edge of the room, looking at the mosaic of the First Vision, and thinking that it looked brighter and more radiant somehow.

"Have a seat, young man," said Elder Pitt, and Nephi Clark shut the door and turned the deadbolts, and suddenly the room was very still: only the shuffle of their movements, the rustle of their clothing and the soft rush of their breathing made any noise. Trout moved forward and turned and sat in the chair. It had sturdy armrests and he set his arms on them: it was almost like sitting in a throne.

Merlyn and Nephi moved to his right and left sides respectively, and Howell stood facing him. "You've passed with flying colors, Dr. Trout," he said. "We had to test you, you understand. To feel you out to see if you were right for the kind of work you're about to be called to do."

Trout nodded. "I understand," he said.

"Brother Trout," said Elder Pitt. "There will be no turning back after today. I hope you understand that. This is a commitment that isn't to be taken lightly. Is that clear?"

"Yes," said Trout.

"You will be entering into a covenant with the Lord himself."

"I understand."

"And your full name is Jonathan, is it not?"

"That's correct."

"A middle name?"

"Yeah, it's Parley."

"Parley. A good, strong name. Very well, then. Let us begin."

Elder Pitt laid his hands on Trout's head, and the other men followed suit. Trout could feel a gentle swaying, along with the comforting weight of their hands.

"Jonathan Parley Trout, I lay my hands upon your head today, with the power granted to me by the Melchezidek Priestood, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the keys of apostleship, to set you apart and give you a blessing, and to call you to serve the Lord as a defender of the Saints." Elder Pitt paused to draw in a breath, and then he cleared his throat and went on. "Elder Trout, you know by now that the Saints are in constant threat from the buffetings of Satan. Testimonies are fragile, delicate things, and must be protected at all costs. You know, too, the risks involved in standing up for the right things. In your calling, you are to act righteously but with power. Under no circumstances are you ever to give up even one inch to the Adversary. Know ye, too, that you will be blessed for your work in this capacity. So long as your actions are always performed in the service of this calling, you will always be forgiven beyond the veil. Understand me plainly, Brother Trout: you are to defend this Church by any means necessary, whether that be by the pen or the sword. The truth of the gospel will not triumph as long as our enemies are knocking at the gates."

Again Elder Pitt paused, and seemed to be gathering his thoughts. "Elder Trout, if you successfully fulfill this calling, then I promise you, as one of our Lord's twelve apostles, that your calling and election will be made sure. The Brethren understand the risks and trials that you have endured, and that you will yet endure, and for undertaking these difficulties, you will be rewarded. As one blessed with the gift of prophesy, I can tell you that there will be rewards for you even in this mortal life yet to come. I pray that you will always have the strength and fortitude and clarity of mind to defend the Lord's church to the utmost. I bless you that you will never show weakness, and that you will have conviction to smite down our enemies whenever the opportunity should arise. I bless you that you might have the gift of second sight, to know when our adversaries are lying, even when they deny that they are. Finally, I ask the Lord to grant you with the gift of persuasion and rich speaking, so that our faithful saints will see you as a beacon and a scholar, and as someone who can be trusted and relied upon. Someone who will provide answers when they are needed. And I say all these things in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen!"

"Amen!" said the men.

Jon Trout opened his eyes and tried to refocus them. Everyone was quiet, and Trout kept trying to keep straight what he'd heard: what he'd been promised, and what he was expected to do, but he was so elated that it was difficult to focus. He couldn't recall a time when he'd felt more spiritually enriched, or more deeply connected to the gospel. But then he was on his feet, smiling from ear to ear, and shaking hands with these men, these brothers in Christ: his colleagues and friends. His fellow defenders of the faith. Elder Pitt was right: Trout knew he would face difficulties, but going forward he knew that he would always be able to draw on the blessings he'd been given, and he would be able to trust these men who stood here, in this private, beautiful, little room, nodding to him, shaking his hand. He would lay down his life to fulfill his calling: he knew it with a surety and confidence that he'd never known before. But there was so much to do, and so much to accomplish. Trout knew that his real work was only just beginning.



Later that night, as Howell sat on the sofa reading a copy of the National Review, Lilith was in the kitchen, fixing herself a mug of hot cocoa. She poured the powder into the hot water and stirred, watching it dissolve and foam slightly. In the days following her blessing from Steve, Lilith had found herself resenting more and more the time she had to spend with Howell. So much had happened, and Howell was completely oblivious to all of it. He would come home, mumble a thing or two about whatever it was he was doing on his stupid web sites, or whatever was happening at the Institute, and then he would eat his supper, plop down on the couch, and fade away into the evening. Either that or he was on the phone yet again with Herb McConkie or Merlyn Young. She couldn't even remember the last time he'd asked her about her day, or whether she was happy or not. He just didn't seem to care, and Lilith felt more than ever like she needed to know what was left of his feelings for her, and what was left of their relationship. And there was the other issue.

It had been two weeks since she's last had her period. She didn't yet feel pregnant, though, and didn't much want to undertake the hassle of trying to get a home pregnancy test: she figured if she felt desperate enough, she would have to drive out to Wendover, or perhaps to Evanston, Wyoming. If anyone saw her, it would immediately raise questions, false hopes, and all sorts of other issues that she wasn't interested in dealing with.

She took a sip of her cocoa, and it was hot and rich and sweet, and she stared at the back of Howell's head. How his hair had thinned and his jowls had loosened in the 20 years they'd been married. She could still see in him the shadow of the man she fell in love with. She could also see how he had made certain choices that had transformed him into the man he was today: how his ambition developed into an almost obsessive focus; how his forcefulness had eventually turned into outright meanness.

At last, she got up, and went over to the couch and sat down next to her husband.

"Howell?" she said. "Howell, we need to talk."

He let out a sigh and turned the page in his magazine.

"Is it important?" he said. "I had a long and stressful day and was really just hoping to unwind here."

It's funny how every day is a long a stressful day for you, she thought. She took another drink of her cocoa. "I can leave you to read if that's what you want," she said. She sat there for several moments longer, and then she stood up.

"One of these days, though, Howell," she said, "I would be nice if you would listen to me."

Howell looked up at her.

"Would you just listen to me?" she said.



In the late hours, a truck with a refrigeration trailer made its way across Utah along Interstate 80, through Salt Lake City and up into the mountains, navigating its way carefully through Little Cottonwood Canyon. When it reached the clearing at the top, the driver carefully backed it up to the entrance of F Vault, and then he shut off the engine and went around back to open it up. He had been given careful instructions back in Oregon, and he was told that he had to be on time, and that someone would be there to meet him, and yet all was quiet. Then he heard the sound of a door opening and closing, and a man in a suit came striding out to meet him, followed by two younger men in lab coats.

He held out his hand: "Glad you made it out on time," he said.

"I was worried that I'd missed the time window," said the driver.

"Nope, you're fine." He turned to one of the younger men: "Chris, go ahead and bring over the dolly, and we'll get set here."

The driver reached into the cab of the truck and got out a clipboard. "So, once you guys take the package, then all I need is your John Hancock here, and we're all set."

"Sure thing." The man in the suit nodded and took the clipboard and scribbled his signature on the line at the bottom and handed it back.

The driver looked at it: it was completely illegible. "Uh, what does this say?"

The man smiled: "Now, now. That doesn't matter, does it? You've got your signature. If your people need to know more they know how to reach me. Your job was to deliver the goods. No more, no less." Behind him, the two young men in lab coats had pulled a 5 x 5 wooden crate out of the back of the truck and onto a gurney-like device, and now they were pushing it off into the darkened arch of the complex. The man in the suit watched the driver carefully. "You'll never know. You'll never guess in a thousand years," he said.

"Huh?"

"You're wondering what it was, aren't you? It's the keys to the kingdom. That's all I can tell you."

The driver shrugged. "Yeah, whatever, I guess. Some Mormon thing, I suppose."

The man in the suit smiled softly: "Yes, something like that. In any event, thank you for everything." He held out his hand again, and the driver shook it.

"No problem at all. You all have a pleasant evening."

"The same to you, my friend." As the driver turned to leave, the man in the suit said, "Oh, there's one other thing I wanted to ask you." He had one hand in his pocket and with the other he was scratching behind his ear. "If you don't mind, I'd like to share the most wonderful book with you. You can take a copy with you and read it in your spare time. What I mean to say is, Have you read the Book of Mormon?"


THE END.
_Dr. Shades
_Emeritus
Posts: 14117
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:07 pm

Re: The Snows of Little Cottonwood Canyon

Post by _Dr. Shades »

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"Finally, for your rather strange idea that miracles are somehow linked to the amount of gay sexual gratification that is taking place would require that primitive Christianity was launched by gay sex, would it not?"

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