Dear Reader,


A Latter-day Saint who believes that the Church and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the Church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better Church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey gets a long lease on life when members merely say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also reminds Latter-day Saints who are struggling with their faith that, despite flaws, the restored church is the Lord’s church.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 43 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia-Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (February 2017)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon emphatically teaches that Jesus is our God and that he acts and speaks as both the Father and the Son.

Creation stories Teachings about the Creation tend to bog down when they go beyond “God created the earth.”

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Some Kind of Miracle



          As the organist sounded the final chord of prelude music, Kyle Richards guessed that today’s attendance was 225, typical for his Taylorsville ward.
Two days ago, he had not the slightest expectation of ever again speaking in sacrament meeting. But at 6:30 Friday evening, a counselor in the bishopric called and talked with Tammy, his wife. When Kyle arrived home ten minutes later, she had already accepted an invitation for them to talk “on any gospel topic of your choice.”
“If the bishopric’s this desperate, let’s help them out,” she said.
 He agreed.
The invitation came after the scheduled speakers canceled due to a family emergency in St. George. What made it an even greater surprise was that the bishop knew that Kyle and Tammy allowed highly uncorrelated thoughts to pop into their heads and stay there. Worse yet, they sometimes openly expressed those thoughts. For starters, they believed that emeritus status might be just fine for less-functional apostles.  Family history work?  Overrated.  And for Pete’s sake, why not trim 40 minutes off those three-hour meeting blocks?
The Richardses listened as the second counselor introduced them and the 14-year-old girl who would speak first.
  Kyle’s choice of humility as a topic stemmed from his feeling that many Latter-day Saints these days were just a tad too eager to tell of family and individual successes connected to their faithfulness. Rolling toward Rameumptom, he called it. And when members told of miracles in their lives, he viewed many of the “miracles” as spin mixed with serendipity—stuff happens. Last Sunday he had skipped church entirely to watch TV coverage of the PGA Championship, which he figured might produce the kind of miracles he truly fancied; namely, those involving well-struck golf balls.   
The youth speaker related experiences from July girls camp.
Tammy talked about Jesus’ focus on the poor and downtrodden.
As the meeting progressed, a thunderstorm brewed. The open doors at the rear of the chapel lie on a straight line between the podium and the glass doors and windows of the building’s main entrance, which allowed those seated on the east-facing podium to glimpse lightning flashes. 
After a congregational hymn, Kyle arose.
“Brothers and sisters, today I’d like to talk about humility.”
He noticed a flicker of lightning. A thought flashed through his mind:  If this storm turns noisy, I’ll use the thunder to drive home my message.
Over the years, he had entertained their three children by engaging in contests to see which of them could most closely signal the arrival of thunderclaps. “Sound travels a mile in five seconds,” he told the kids, “so if you think the lightning flashed a mile away, count one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi silently, and on five-Mississippi raise your hand into the air. If the thunder arrives at that moment, it will look like you have superpowers.”
With practice, they got pretty good at it while standing near their living-room window, much to Tammy’s amusement. Although their daughter and two sons now were in their twenties and lived away from home, they still occasionally played their thunder game when they were together during stormy weather.
“First, I’d like to offer a few thoughts about marriage and family. I’m glad we emphasize family, but we must be careful not to act like we invented happy families. Let’s face it, Utah’s high divorce and suicide rates and porn watching and prescription drug overuse suggest we’ve got work to do.”
Kyle noticed a few frowns. He also noticed another flash of lightning. Time it right, he told himself. Don’t rush it.
“We may be a bit too eager to pat ourselves on the back.”
As he said “on the back,” Kyle raised his hand in anticipation of thunder.
Nothing happened. He had mistimed the moment, blown it. Still, he knew the thunder would arrive in a couple of seconds. He lowered his hand, raising it a second time as he implored, “Let’s be more humble.”
This time as he uttered “humble,” a modest rumble of thunder began. It wasn’t loud enough to awaken several aging high priests who had dozed off, but it elicited smiles from many who were amused at the apparent divine approbation it gave to his words.
Kyle continued. He commended members for their Word of Wisdom observance while suggesting they take care not to view them as better than those “who smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish and shoot up like dandelions.”
He glimpsed another flash of lightning, but it seemed less bright than the previous ones. Had the eye of the storm passed so soon?
“Brothers and sisters, let’s resolve to better live the Lord’s health law.”  He lifted his left hand, holding it up until thunder sounded softly two seconds later.  Yes, his timing continued to be imperfect and the thunder didn’t amount to much, but the apparent connection between his words and the rumbling was sufficient that more and more members noticed.
Five minutes and a couple of small lightning flashes later, the clock on the rear wall showed 2:04. Kyle needed to wrap it up. A huge thunderclap now seemed out of the question. 
He quoted the Apostle Peter’s admonition to become “clothed with humility” and wondered whether the stake’s lofty statistical goals for the year, which included no mention of helping the needy, conflicted with a recent general conference message by President Uchtdorf wherein he criticized an unnamed stake’s pursuit of easily measured numerical goals.
Finally, he urged humility in family history work.
“Yes, it’s fun to discover that we are related to a president or to royalty. But for every great and famous person we claim as kin, let’s remember that we are also related to dozens of alcoholics, murderers, perverts and jerks.”
“Perverts and jerks” drew smiles. More important, at “jerks” he saw a huge flash of lightning. Instantly, he shoved his hand heavenward and said, “Let us be more humble!”
A fraction of a second after “humble,” an enormous sound wave collided with the building. Ka-bbboooooommm! The structure shuddered. The blast lasted ten seconds, bouncing from wall to wall. Small children clutched older siblings or parents. Drowsy high priests regained consciousness.
The noise took even Kyle by surprise. He resisted the urge to step back and gather himself. Instead, he stood frozen at the pulpit, presenting a commanding profile with hand upraised, until the noise ceased.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Two days later, at nine o’clock Tuesday evening, Kyle turned down the volume on their dining-room TV as Tammy answered the phone. It was Sister Hart, a counselor in the ward young womens presidency.
Tammy’s end of the conversation consisted entirely of “no, I hadn’t heard about that . . . you’re kidding . . . that’s amazing . . . you can’t be serious . . . we’ll check it out . . . thanks for calling.”
Kyle: “What?”
Tammy breathlessly explained. “Sister Hart said a teenage ward member used his cell phone to video parts of your talk. Monday night he posted a 50-second spot on YouTube. It includes the huge thunderclap at the end. She said the YouTube title is ‘Mormon speaks with voice of thunder.’ Anyway, it’s turning into a sensation; it’s getting thousands of hits.  Oh, and a few commenters are wondering if you’re some kind of modern Moses, but they don’t know your name because it wasn’t posted.”
“That’s hilarious,” Kyle laughed.  “Let’s check it out.”
After watching and rewatching the YouTube spot on their dining-room table laptop, the Richardses high-fived and called to tell their children.
On Friday “Mormon speaks with voice of thunder” topped a half-million hits. Meanwhile, Tammy enjoyed fielding three more calls from members who thought they might be the first to alert the Richardses to its existence.
At 6:45 Friday evening, their joyride down thunder road took a U-turn.  That’s when Brother Stout, the high-council representative for their ward, visited on assignment from the stake president.
After cordial greetings, Brother Stout turned serious.
“President Bennion’s out of town until late Saturday and asked me to give you a head’s up about the fact that he will speak in your ward Sunday. A number of members have contacted your bishop and the stake presidency to express strong feelings about your talk, Brother Richards. Many of them believe some things you said were inappropriate.”
He noted that two family-history workers felt Kyle’s remarks targeted them personally. Others felt he had criticized the church as a whole and that he had disparaged the stake’s annual goals. “President Bennion is pleased by the impressive numbers that have been posted by the stake last year and this year.  Some of the Brethren have congratulated us.”
“Not to be defensive, but people may be overreacting,” Kyle said.
 The high councilor smiled. “The president’s main concern is that some members think you spoke with power and authority from God, you know, the thunder and all that. The president wants to calm things down by saying politely but firmly that the stake’s goals remain intact and that only the prophet has authority to call the church as a whole to repentance. Your calling as ward building representative doesn’t authorize you to do that.”
Tammy, irked. “So how does the president explain the thunder?”
“He and his counselors believe that the thunder could just as easily suggest that our Heavenly Father was signaling his displeasure, not his approval of your husband’s words.”
Kyle sighed. Under different circumstances, he and Tammy might have quickly confessed that he had engaged in a trivial “timing” game in pretending to speak with the voice of thunder. But the stake’s approach annoyed them—leaders were trying to placate several thin-skinned, overly defensive members. And besides, the church, stake and ward were far from perfect, so why not allow a little well-intended criticism now and then?
They kept silent.
Brother Stout arose. “The president asked me to give you his cell number if you want an appointment to meet with him early Sunday.” 
He handed Kyle the number on a three-by-five card, then left.
Tammy felt like kicking the wall. Instead, sensing her husband’s deep disappointment, she put her arms around him. “Don’t let it get you down, sweetheart. I’ve got an idea. I’ll tell you about it Sunday before church.”
An idea? Sunday? Kyle wanted to know now, but he also knew that the chances of getting anything out of her before Sunday were about as good as getting multi-level marketing out of Utah County before the Second Coming.
Saturday morning as he mowed their front lawn, Tammy drove off. He suspected her departure had something to do with “I’ve got an idea.” He was right.
Sunday at 10, three hours before their meeting block, he sent e-mails to family members from their dining-room laptop. She walked in wearing a bathrobe and sat across from him.
“I need to tell you where I went Saturday morning.”
First, however, she told of an odd experience at the meetinghouse that happened Friday afternoon while she filled an assignment to polish wood trim on chapel pews. She had felt small tremors and thought at first that it was a low-intensity earthquake. It reminded her of her childhood when her parents had rented a home close to a railroad track: It shook every time the train went by. When Friday's moderate, almost soothing, vibrations continued, she walked out front looking for the cause. Just south of the meetinghouse she spied a large bulldozer excavating a lot upon which had sat an abandoned, crumbling brick home condemned by the city.
“After our visit from Brother Stout, I got an idea about the bulldozer, so I drove over there yesterday morning and, sure enough, this young guy was finishing cleaning up the lot.  He told me the bulldozer would be gone first thing Monday.  To make a long story short, I asked him if he could return Sunday and run the dozer vigorously back and forth in the same area for ten seconds at exactly 1:50 p.m.  I said I’d pay him. He said yes and I swore him to secrecy.”
Kyle’s eyes grew larger. “What are you talking about?”
“We’ll be in sacrament meeting then. Everybody will think it’s a small earthquake. The man who spoke with the voice of thunder last Sunday is going to produce an earthquake this Sunday.”
He grimaced.
She continued.  “Your superpowers are about to expand. OK, you don’t have superpowers. But let’s have a little fun. The righteous people who are pouncing all over you now will do an absolute double-take—they’ll be completely dumfounded—if there’s an earthquake and you predicted it.”
Kyle shook his head. “But I can’t go messing up sacrament meeting by telling people there’s going to be an earthquake.”
“Oh, you won’t be telling anyone anything. I’ve written a note that I can put in envelopes and give to three or four members just before sacrament meeting if they’ll promise not to open it until after the meeting.”
He grimaced again. “And what does this note of yours say?”
Tammy removed a copy from her pocket and began reading.  “My husband, who has been known to bring down thunder merely by pointing toward the sky, has told me that a minor earthquake will occur during sacrament meeting today.  Sincerely, Tammy Richards.”
Kyle covered his face with his hands. “And how much are you paying this guy to run his bulldozer for ten seconds?”
 “I withdrew three hundred bucks, but when I asked his fee, he said two hundred.  It’s a bargain.”
Kyle rolled his eyes. He was a code enforcement officer in neighboring West Valley City, and she was a part-time beautician specializing in fingernail art; spending $200 on a practical joke took a bite out of their budget. And it had the feel of a junior high shenanigan—but way more expensive.  This was not the way soon-to-be grandparents are supposed to behave.
He had to admit, however, that to be regarded as a fellow with special powers, sort of a low-grade superhero, might be fun for a while, especially among people he loved but regarded as a bit too pious.
He sighed. “OK. It’s not like I can talk you out of it. But I’m skipping church and closing the curtains. And I’m not answering any phone calls until tomorrow.”
 
Nearly four hours later, shortly after President Bennion arose to talk, the congregation felt the tremor. To Tammy it seemed stronger than Friday’s vibrations. Apparently, the bulldozer operator took to heart her instruction to run the dozer “vigorously.” She also noticed that the large chandelier at the center of the chapel swayed for a few seconds. No one ran out, but President Bennion paused, gripping the lectern tightly amid muffled sounds of concern.
Later, after recipients opened their envelopes, talk of “Kyle’s quake” spread quickly.
When Tammy arrived home and gave her husband a report on “his” quake, he had one question: Who got the letters?
The stake president, the ward clerk, the Harts and Bobbie Cazier, a copy editor at the Salt Lake Tribune who had recently moved into the ward.
“Whoa!  The stake president.  And why the Tribune guy?”
“Girl. Maybe she’ll spill the beans. If the Trib does a story on the fellow with superpowers, think of the possibilities.”
Kyle, puzzled. “You mean media interviews? Well, the miracles were totally fake, so I can’t say much. I’m not going to lie.”
“Sure, there’d be interviews at first. But what I’m really talking about is speaking fees. We could get rich.”
Kyle threw his hands in the air. He wasn’t unhappy. It was simply his way of acknowledging that this creative and feisty wife of his was, as usual, several steps ahead of him. Could he make big money as a miracle-man speaker dude? They could certainly use it. And rather than lie about his miracles, he’d merely apply a coat of faith-promoting spin. Nothing unusual there, he reasoned, especially not in Mormon culture.  Besides, they’d pay tithing on every dime.  
Sure enough, the Tribune called. A female religion reporter and a photographer stopped by Thursday evening, and he managed to field her questions without lying.  He wasn’t eager to see a story about himself in the paper, but if it led to speaking fees and a little fun . . .
The article came out Sunday under the headline Unorthodox ‘prophet’ stirs up his LDS stake
The story was what the Richardses expected except for one thing: The enterprising reporter had sniffed around and found a member of the ward—Sister Rasmussen, an elderly widow—who recollected that Kyle had given her a blessing years ago when she was “close to death” and that after the blessing she had been “totally healed.” Kyle knew the aging sister’s recollection had two major flaws.  First, he had merely anointed her with oil—the other priesthood holder pronounced the blessing. Second, she had suffered only from exhaustion and a bad cold.  Medication, rest and lots of 100 percent pure squeezed orange juice had already put her on the road to recovery, which meant that the healing likely had more to do with Florida fruit growers than Utah priesthood holders.
No matter. Kyle had evolved into a full-fledged miracle man with power to call down lightning and thunder, predict earthquakes and heal people on their deathbed. The Associated Press picked up the story on Monday, and soon it appeared in various media around the world.
 On Tuesday Tammy found an agent to handle speaking requests, strictly on commission. Thursday he fielded his first call for Kyle’s oratorical services. It came from an anti-abortion, evangelical-led organization in Kansas City that was hosting a national rally. They offered $5,000. After a text exchange with Kyle, the agent turned down the request, explaining that “my pro-choice client supports his church’s view that abortions can be acceptable before God in a variety of circumstances.” In reality, Kyle and Tammy were flat-out pro choice, but even the LDS position was more liberal than the evangelicals’.
Also Thursday, Kyle fielded questions about his miracles from two syndicated news organizations.
On Friday afternoon, Utah’s miracle man received another confirmation that his life had changed in a major way. That’s when two dark-suited men strode into West Valley’s community preservation office. The first man introduced himself to the receptionist, flashed picture ID, and said, “We’d like to visit with Mr. Kyle Richards.”
 A minute later, with the first man standing near the main entrance, the other, older man introduced himself to Kyle as a representative of the State Department, and they sat by themselves in a corner of the reception area.
  “Mr. Richards, our conversation will center on your answer to one question: What are your thoughts about Israel and Palestine?”
“Well, I, I favor peace,” Kyle stammered.  “And, uh, a Palestinian homeland, a two-state solution, sounds best, and the settlements are bad, but I don’t . . . I’m not real knowledgeable on what’s happening over there.”
The man clapped his hands.  “Excellent!  That’s exactly what we hoped you’d say.”
Monday afternoon, the Richardses found themselves on a flight to Washington, D.C. 

After a night and morning at a Residence Inn, with all expenses paid by the federal government, Kyle and Tammy were escorted into the State Department office of Corinne DeChristopher at 1:30, precisely as scheduled. Mrs. DeChristopher had served as undersecretary of state for Mideast affairs for three years and was thrilled to see them. “Call me Cory,” she said, and signaled for all three to sit in fabric armchairs in front of her desk.
Cory faced Kyle. “Tell me, what do you know about why you’re here?”
“All we know is that the prime minister of Israel wants to talk with me at 3 p.m.,” Kyle said, “and that a major agreement between Israel and Palestine may be close . . . oh, and that we aren’t supposed to say a thing to anybody.”
“Exactly right. One of the reasons we’re in my humble office instead of the secretary of state’s suite is that Prime Minister Ben-Tzur wants no media coverage of his chat with you. And why do you think he wants to see you?”
“I assume it’s related to stories about me being a miracle worker.”
“Right again. Let me explain. Daniel Ben-Tzur will turn 72 soon, and he’s been prime minister for six years and he’s frustrated. He promised a lasting peace, but it hasn’t happened. A treaty with Palestine has eluded him. He’s facing the prospect of retiring without achieving the biggest goal of his administration—of his life, for that matter.”
Kyle shifted in his chair. “He thinks I can help?”
 “Apparently. His Likud Party mostly opposes what the rest of us see as a wonderful, historic agreement. It would finally lead to two states, Israel and Palestine. It’s a huge deal. But he’s worried. He’s traditionally taken a hard line toward Palestine, and he’s afraid it could be a big mistake, that Israel’s giving away too much on borders and settlements.”
The Richardses exchanged glances that told the undersecretary they were out of their comfort zone.
“Don’t worry. The premier is quite affable. I expect him to ask about your miracles, Kyle, kind of convincing himself that you are a man of God, then I expect he’ll ask if you have any feelings about the agreement. He’s super religious, observes all the Jewish rituals. Maybe a bit of a fanatic.”  She paused. “Sorry.  Don’t quote me on the ‘fanatic’ thing. I’m agnostic. Anyway, some of them in Israel, including the prime minister, look at you—your thunder and earthquake and healing that woman—as resembling an Old Testament prophet. If you could say something in support of the deal, it may help immensely. It could be the final straw, the thing that convinces him to tell his Likud people to approve the deal.”
The phone rang on the undersecretary’s desk.
“Excuse me,” Cory said. Two minutes later, she rejoined them, slumping in her chair. “The secretary of state just wrapped up a meeting with the prime minister and a Palestinian leader and a couple of others. The premier seems to be turning negative about the deal.” She sighed. “Somebody may have to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
Tammy smiled. “Maybe at the end of our visit, before we say goodbye to him, Kyle could sort of slide his shoes along the carpet and pick up static electricity so that when they shake hands the prime minister will get a shock and maybe think that God . . . ”  She stopped midsentence, sensing that her comment was coming across as silly. 
Cory frowned. Silence. Finally, she arose, took a step away from her guests, stopped, turned toward them and said, “I’ve got an idea.”
Kyle’s entire body shivered. He couldn’t believe it. Those were the exact words Tammy had spoken before her bulldozer shenanigan.
The undersecretary walked to her closet, retrieved something and for the next three minutes she described a scheme every bit as wacky as Tammy’s bulldozer scheme.  It didn’t involve static electricity. Kyle consented to do his patriotic part, but all color drained from his face as he asked himself, “Is this how business gets done in our nation’s capital?”  
Afterward, the undersecretary took her Utah guests on a tour of the building. Back in her office, she briefed them on details of the agreement. It was important, they agreed, for Kyle to at least know the basics if they expected the prime minister to put any stock in his words.

At 2:58, Prime Minister Daniel Ben-Tzur entered the office with one of his security agents.
Sure enough, the prime minister was affable and at ease in what became a ten-minute visit.  He pointed out that he had watched the thunder video—several times, in fact—and had read stories in Israeli media. He even noted that his cognizance of the video was perfectly understandable because a staff assistant had longstanding instructions to stay alert for evidences of “the hand of God in the affairs of man” and to brief him on those evidences.
He turned to Kyle.  “Mr. Richards, I must do the right thing on this agreement. You seem to be a man of God. Tell me what you think.”
Thanks to Cory’s briefing, Kyle offered an articulate summary of the accord, concluding with, “I’m no diplomat, but my feeling is that if Israel and the Palestinians approve this agreement, the world may look back 50 years from now and say, ‘those people were inspired.’ ”
Tammy could tell from the undersecretary’s expression that she was delighted.
“I do appreciate your thoughts on the subject,” the prime minister said. He arose and the others followed suit.  “But I must confess I still have serious reservations.” He shook hands with the women first, then paused in front of Kyle. “Like you, I am a man of prayer. I just want to do the right thing, Mr. Richards.”
In a firm voice, Kyle said, “We all want peace. I believe you will do the right thing.  God bless you.”
He and the Israeli leader smiled. As they shook hands, the prime minister suddenly stepped backward. “Mr. Richards, your hand is burning!”
Utah’s miracle man raised his hand and stared at it, smiling and pretending not to know what the Israeli was talking about. The security man stepped beside his charge, and the group exchanged final goodbyes.
           Kyle, Tammy and Cory knew exactly what the premier was talking about.  An hour earlier, Tammy’s unfinished comment about static electricity had sparked an idea in the undersecretary’s mind: If the handshake of a “man of God” like Kyle left a distinct impression on the devout prime minister, he might indeed see it as a sign of divine favor toward the treaty. From her coat closet she had retrieved an “instant heat” hand-warmer packet that she instructed Kyle to put in his right pants pocket. Unnoticed by the prime minister, the Utahn had placed his hand in his pocket and gripped the hand warmer tightly well before farewells were exchanged. Cory had also turned the thermostat down to 65 degrees so that the premier’s hands would become cooler, thereby heightening the contrast between his palm and Kyle’s. 
Yes, it was bonkers, Cory admitted. A wacky, cockamamie idea. But the undersecretary’s commitment to passage of the agreement bordered on obsession—it would be the crowning jewel of her diplomatic career—and she was willing to try anything.  

That evening, the Richardses flew home. To Kyle’s great relief, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday seemed back to normal, except for an invitation to speak at a motivational “inner self” seminar in Seattle for $4,000, which he accepted.
Saturday morning the normalcy ended.
“Kyle, get in here!” Tammy shouted through the kitchen window.  He had been repainting a wood fence.
A keyed-up TV reporter spoke live from Tel Aviv. Across the bottom of the screen, a news ticker repeated:  ISRAELI PREMIER BACKS U.S-BROKERED STATEHOOD FOR PALESTINE   CHEERING PALESTINIANS TAKE TO THE STREETS   IRAN PRAISES BEN-TZUR   PRESIDENT, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS HAIL HISTORIC ACCORD
Other channels had also broken into their regular programming. 
Kyle and Tammy sat spellbound for 15 minutes. They muted the TV after a statement by Prime Minister Ben-Tzur that ended with: “This was a tough decision for me, but in the end I believe I was led by the hand of God in supporting this agreement.”
Hand of God!
Wide-eyed, they stared at each other.
Kyle spoke first.  “Do you think ‘hand of God’—”
“Yes. Absolutely. He was talking about your burning hand.”
Silence.
She started giggling.
“What’s so funny?”
She pointed at the TV.  “A couple of the people they interviewed . . . they said ‘miracle.’ One of the reporters said ‘miracle in the Mideast.’ Do you know what the miracle was?”  Before he could answer, she continued.  “The miracle was the undersecretary, an out and out agnostic, walking over to her coat closet and pulling out a hand warmer.  A freaking dollar-store hand warmer!  Otherwise, the prime minister never feels ‘the hand of God.’ ”
He flopped back in his chair and gazed at the ceiling.
“Wait a second,” she said. “I’m wrong. We’re missing something. You know how this all started?”
“Sure. You and your two-hundred-dollar bulldozer.”
“No, no. It was our bishop. No way should he have let flaming liberals like us get up there and speak for a half-hour. Think about it. He never likes to rock the boat. They didn’t even assign a topic.”
Kyle stared at her. Suddenly, he jumped up, made a beeline to the phone and dialed.
“Hello, Bishop. Kyle Richards here. Sorry to bother you. Tammy and I are on speaker phone, and I have a quick question. You know about my heresies, our heresies. So why did you set all that aside and allow us to speak in sacrament meeting?”
The bishop laughed. “OK, I admit we were desperate. See, a month ago Friday my family is leaving to go to a movie, and Brother Fox calls and says the Harmons can’t speak. He asks who he should invite to replace them, and I have no clue. Our teenagers are whispering ‘hurry, Dad, we’ll be late’ and Ron Fox is waiting. I can’t take time to review the ward list or kneel in prayer, so I say this silent five-second prayer, and the words that instantly stick in my mind clear as crystal are ‘the Richardses, the Richardses, the Richardses.’ ”
“So you had no doubts?”
“Well . . . ” The bishop hesitated.  “Not at that moment. But when we got back home it’s bedtime. I’m staring at the bathroom mirror, and I whisper, ‘Bishop, what have you done? What in the holy hell . . .’ Sorry about the swear word. It took me three hours to fall asleep.”
After they hung up, Kyle slowly walked back to his chair. He took a deep breath.  “One of these days the State Department will clear us to talk openly about our visit with the prime minister. And then, first thing, we’re going to go see the bishop and his wife—he probably won’t be bishop by then, and you know what we’re going to say? We’re going to say, ‘Bishop, how do you think peace finally came to Israel and Palestine?’ Of course he will have no idea why we’re asking such a thing. And then we’ll say, ‘Bishop, do you remember that phone call you got from Brother Fox in which you told him to invite the Richardses, those borderline apostate liberals, to speak in sacrament meeting?’  He’ll remember, of course, thanks to the thunder and the earthquake. And then it will be time for us to come clean about everything, and—”
Tammy interrupted.  “And then we’ll say, ‘Bishop, you’d better lift your feet up and make yourself comfortable. Really comfortable. Oh, and tighten your shoe laces because unless your laces are good and tight, what we’re about to tell you is gonna knock your socks off.’ ”

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