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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Dave Free on 18 January 2007 - 7:06pm.

Chapter 23

Despite the captain’s urgings to get plenty of sleep and be ready for an early start the company didn’t roll out of the Florence camp until nearly one in the afternoon on the 25th of August. Steve tried to avoid thinking about dates. Even though he knew that ignoring the calendar wouldn’t hold time back, it kept his mind off the inevitable. At home, he had always looked forward to fall. He liked football, he loved the smell of burning leaves, and he liked the chill at night. The heat and humidity of the midwest were at times stifling, but he hoped this particular summer would never end.

After only resting a few days in Florence, it felt good to be back on the trail and spirits were high. Rather than dividing into two separate companies as they had on the first leg of the journey, the entire company of 132 handcarts now traveled together and made quite a procession as it snaked along the trail west.

Steve’s handcarts were somewhere near of the middle of the snake. He had been concerned that the extra hundred pounds per cart would really slow them down and was pleasantly surprised at the pace the captain was setting. Lost in his thoughts, Steve was in the traces of the sisters’ cart looking down at his feet when a shout from Lydia woke him up.

“Whoa Elder! The company is stopping!”

Steve looked up just in time to stop before running into the back of the cart in front of them.

“What the--?” He said out loud and then noticed that everybody in the train in front of him was leaving their cart and walking away from the trail toward the north. An unusual hush had come over the typically social pioneers.

“Where’s everyone going?” He asked as he laid the handcart handle down and jumped over it to join the others. He grabbed Annie by the elbow.

“Hey, where is everyone going and why am I whispering?” He hissed in her ear.

“Look Elder,” she said pointing to the north. Steve followed her hand and saw a large field cleared of most trees. The field was uneven with many grass-covered mounds and several depressions. Here and there a few gravestone protruded out of the grass.

“What is it?” Steve asked again. They had now come under some trees adjacent to the field and the entire party was standing quietly.

“This is the Winter Quarters cemetery Elder. Have you heard of Winter Quarters?”

Steve thought hard. He knew he had heard of it and that it was a pioneer thing, but he had no idea when it happened or what happened there. Opting for the honest approach he responded, “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what happened here.”

“When the saints were driven from Nauvoo ten years ago, they came here. Rather than attempt to make the journey to the west that year, they set up settlements here to spend the winter. More than 300 died from the cold, starvation and disease before they could finish their journey to Salt Lake. This is where they were buried.”

Steve didn’t ask any more questions and stood quietly with the rest of the saints. He couldn’t tell what they were thinking, but he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of graves, most of them unmarked other than a slight depression in the ground. Saints and pioneers just like those he was now responsible for. He shuddered at the thought.

Gradually, without words, the company slowly made its way back to the carts and started moving again. Steve stepped into the pull bar of the sister’s cart and Annie joined him. For some time there was no laughter and only hushed speaking up and down the train. Even the children that had just a few minutes earlier been running and playing seemed to sense the reverence of the area.

As Steve trudged along thinking about the unmarked graves it suddenly came to him what he knew about Winter Quarters.

“There is a temple there now.” He said quietly to Annie.

“Pardon me?” Annie replied.

Steve looked around to make sure no one else could here him. “There is a temple in Winter Quarters now--I mean in the future. In my time there is a temple right there by those graves.”

Annie looked at him with her penetrating eyes. Steve kept walking and let her think.

“You are serious, aren’t you?”

“As a heart attack.” Steve nodded. “I went to the dedication. President Hinckley said the dedicatory prayer.”

“So you came here? In your time you came here for the dedication?”

Steve sighed, wanting to share but also wanting her to believe. “I saw the dedication but I didn’t come here.” He replied, hoping that Annie would just let it slip by. She didn’t.

“So you saw it in a vision?”

Steve thought for a moment. “You could call it that. At least you would think it was a vision if you were to see it the way I saw it.”

“Elder, why don’t you want to tell me how you saw it.”

Steve turned and looked at her for as long as he dared take his eyes off the trail. Finally he turned back to the trail, sighed and said, “Look, I really want to tell you. But every time I have told you something from the future, you seem to get mad at me. I don’t want to make you mad, that’s all.”

“I’m sorry Elder. Sometimes I just don’t know what to think of you and the things you say. I’d really like to understand how you saw the dedication.”

Steve looked at her and smiled. “Are you sure, because this is going to blow your mind?”

“Bring it.” Annie replied coolly, using one of Steve’s pet phrases.

Steve laughed out loud. “Bring it? Girl you gotta quit hanging with me!”

They both laughed for a moment as they continued to trudge. Finally Steve said,

“So in the future men fly to the moon.”

“Elder! I want to know about the temple, not some whimsical story about the moon.” Annie scolded.

Steve replied quickly. “No, I’m serious! Men do fly to the moon! Stay with me. I promise this does have to do with how I saw the dedication of the Winter Quarters temple and the Nauvoo temple.”

“The Nauvoo temple?” Annie shouted the words and several of pioneers pushing the cart in front of them turned around to see what the commotion was all about. Steve waved and smiled. The other pioneers just rolled their eyes when they saw Steve was the cause of commotion and returned to their thoughts.

Steve turned and hissed at Annie. “Keep it down! You want these people to think I’m crazy?”

“I’m sorry Elder. It is too late.” Annie giggled at her own joke. Steve acted exasperated.

“Do you want to hear about the temples or not?”

“Of course I do. Of course I do. The Nauvoo temple burned down some time ago. How is it that you were able to see the dedication?”

“I’ll get to that. But let’s start with the moon. This is going to sound crazy to you, but let me tell you the story and then you can make fun of me ok?”

Annie nodded her head.

Steve continued. “So in the future, the United States and Russia get in a big race to see who can put a man on the moon first. The U.S. eventually wins and men actually land on the moon. I’m not sure exactly when it happened. I think it was sometime in the 1960’s or ‘70’s. About the same time as hippies.”

“Hippies?” Annie asked.

“Not important.” Steve replied, “Sorry I’ll try to keep it simple.”

“And England? Was England not in the race to the moon?”

“Uh, no. England has some famous royal people and they make these cool little cars called Mini Coopers. Other than that they don’t do much--at least not that I knew about. Some would probably say the Beatles, but I was never a big fan.”

“England is famous for its beatles?”

“It was a music group—a band. They were some of the first to do rock and roll.”

Annie just shook her head and Steve continued. “Anyway, as part of the big race into space, they learned how to make and send up satellites. Satellites are like a big balls that get sent into space and end up orbiting around the earth.”

“Orbiting?”

“Oh, sorry. That means they go around and around the earth. Like the moon.”

“So in the future men make their own moons?”

“I guess you could say that. They are a lot smaller. In fact, unless you know when and where to look you would never see them in the sky. But they are up there.”

“Do they ever run into stars?”

Steve looked up quickly at Annie to see if she was just messing with him, then realized she was completely serious.

“No the satellites are much closer to the earth than the moon or the stars.”

“So what do they have to do with the temple?”

“Well, using these satellites men in the future can communicate with each other instantly all around the world. Just like I’m talking with you, I could have a little thing in my hand called a satellite phone and I could be talking from here with your family in England or my family in Utah.” Steve walked in silence for a few paces to let that sink in.

Annie spoke first. “How loud must one yell to be heard from here all the way to England?”

Now it was Steve’s turn to giggle. “No, it’s not like that. What happens is your voice gets turned into bits and bytes and then it gets sent up to the satellite. The satellite then shoots it back down to England, say, and the phone on that end turns it back into your voice. So the person on the other end hears you just like you sound.”

Annie stopped walking and looked at Steve in confusion. Steve had to grab her by the arm and pull her forward to keep her from getting run over by the cart.

“Don’t worry about the details. All you need to know is that man figured out a way to talk all around the earth.”

“So is that how you were ‘there’ for the dedication of the temple? You heard it on a little thing in your hand, a --”

“Phone.” Steve helped her find the word. “That’s part of it.” Steve sighed and added, “This is harder than I thought it would be. A lot of stuff has been invented in the last few hundred years.”

“Go on Elder. I’m already drowning in the future you describe, no harm in raising the water level a few more feet.”

“Right. So sending sound was the first thing, then they figured out how to send pictures.”

“Pictures?”

“No, not just pictures. Moving pictures. So I could have another little thing in my hand called a video camera. I could point it at you and push the button and it would take a whole bunch of pictures of you. Then we could play those pictures back really fast one right after the other and it would look just like you were moving. Add sound, and wallah you have a movie!”

“A picture like someone draws?” Annie asked.

“No, that would be a cartoon. These are like photographs. Do you have photographs in--what year are we in again?”

“1856 and yes we do. In London, on Regent Street there are any number of photography salons where the wealthy go to have their portrait taken.”

“Right. So that’s what I’m talking about, but the pictures are in color and the people move in the pictures.” Annie nodded though still looked confused. Steve pushed forward.

“So with a movie camera and the satellites, they filmed the dedication and broadcast it to all the stake centers in the church.”

“Elder, I’m trying to understand. Truly I am, but these words. I’ve no idea what they mean.”

“Sorry. To film is just to point the movie camera at you and capture what you are doing and saying. Broadcast means to send it up to the satellite so that others can watch it. And a stake center is a church building. You have wards and stakes right? “

“We had branches in England, but I have heard of wards and the stakes of Zion.”

“That’s right. So a stake center is a big chapel that a stake uses to hold its meetings. Most of them have satellite dishes--the thing that talks to the satellite-- so that they can receive what the satellite sends down.”

“How many stakes are there in the church?” Annie asked.

“I don’t know, I think I heard in conference five thousand or something like that. They are all over the world.”

“Even in England?”

“Sure. In fact, now that you mention it, one of the priests from my quorum got called to a mission in England. He went straight to the MTC over there. Didn’t even go to Provo.”

“MTC?”

“Oh sorry, that stands for Missionary Training Center. That’s where the missionaries go for the first few weeks of their mission to learn how to teach the gospel, and also a language, if they are going foreign.”

“Does England have a temple in the future?”

“I know they have at least one. They might have a couple.”

Annie reached over and hit Steve on the arm. “Ouch, what was that for?” Steve looked at Annie and demanded.

“You said England only had royal people and little carts in the future. Why didn’t you tell me we have stakes and a temple?”

Steve thought quickly. “Uh, I guess I just wanted to save the best for last. You want me to keep going?”

“Yes, yes please do. A temple in England--are you sure Elder?”

“Quite sure m’ lady, quite sure.” Steve attempted to imitate her accent then continued.

“I was only about twelve at the time. I remember I had to meet with the bishop and get a recommend to go to the dedication. Then my mom, dad and I and most of the members of the stake went to the stake center and watched the dedication up on a big screen--sorry, you probably don’t know what a screen is. It is a like a big white sheet hung on the wall and the movie is projected on it. Are you understanding any of this?” Steve turned and looked at Annie. She smiled a weak smile in return and nodded. Then to prove it she said:

“So everyone in your stake in Utah went to the building where you meet and watched a vision on a sheet that you hung on the wall and the vision was the dedication of the temple here at Winter Quarters.”

Steve nodded. “Yeah, I guess you could call it a vision, but a man-made vision. I mean there were no miracles involved.”

Annie shook her head. “No miracles Elder? For someone in Utah to see and hear what others are doing here in Winter Quarters is definitely a miracle. And for a whole congregation to do it at the same time? The saints must be very faithful in the future to experience such miracles.”

Now it was Steve’s turn to shake his head. He thought about going back to review how satellite transmissions work, but decided it wasn’t important. Just at that moment the train pulled off the road and began to set up camp. Annie spoke again.

“Thanks for sharing with me Elder. Though it is hard for me to understand all you have said, I enjoy talking with you and you have given me great hope for the future.” She stood on her tippy toes and gave Steve a quick peck on the cheek before hurrying off to begin unloading the cart. Steve just smiled.



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