All Rights to the individual works in this volume revert to their respective authors upon publication.
THIS BOOK IS A PACK OF LIES. It’s full of outrageous fabrications, heady speculations, and fictitious characters.
“I can’t believe That!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
You’re holding in your hand at least a week’s worth of impossible things, with no pretenses to the “sure word of prophecy.” But if the only value of science fiction were its predictive properties Orwell’s 1984 would no longer be a classic. Part of the fun of SF, after you’ve savored the tale, is to pick apart the story’s premise. SF has a long history of letters to the editor pointing out the impossibility of faster-than-light speeds or the paradoxes of time travel. The readers’ game is being expanded to include the resurrection, the millennium, angels, the lost tribes, Sasquatch, extraterrestrials, and more. The writers’ game is even more challenging: to make the reader temporarily believe in a world he knows isn’t real—even contradictory and mutually exclusive worlds in successive stories.
Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). He never said, “Accept everything I say, on faith.” Like Alice, we can all do with some stretching of our imaginations.
If you have a religion it must be cosmic; therefore it seems to me odd that this genre [Science Fiction] was so late in arriving.
C. S. Lewis
This book is for you. It is for everybody who likes good reading. It is not only for Latter- day Saints or science fiction fans. After all, we have fine stories by great writers who are not LDS on such subjects as Brigham Young and the 1847 pioneers, the birth-pangs of the Millennium, a modern retelling of a story from the Book of Mormon, and the importance of keeping the Word of Wisdom. Certainly these tales, and all others in this volume, will be of interest to all Latter-day Saints, to devotees of good SF and fantasy, and to everybody who enjoys literary pleasures.
Here the boundaries of time and space and of other dimensions vanish. Reality becomes a dream and dreams become reality.
Some people will tell you not to read “escape” literature. But who is against escape?
Don’t listen to those grim, gray people. Break out of the great, grim prison. Tear down the walls. Something there is that doesn’t like a wall, any more than a fence. Least of all walls that try to hold your mind a prisoner.
Benjamin Urrutia, Editor
Mrs. Cynthia Goldstone, Mr. Avram Davidson, and Mr. Philip José Farmer for granting permission to reprint their stories; Dr. Hugh Nibley, for allowing us to print his lecture here for the first time ever, anywhere; Mrs. Elizabeth Petty Bentley, for preparing the manuscript for publication; and Mr. Scott Smith, for several valuable suggestions.
Introduction: Science Fiction and the Gospel by Hugh Nibley
Pebble in Time by Cynthia Goldstone and Avram Davidson
Something in It by Robert Louis Stevenson
Joseph Smith’s Dialogue with the Devil
A Glimpse of the Millennium
Haun-ting by Addie LaCoe
The Grave of the King by Yusuf Haddad
Stowaway by Merle H. Graffam
Toward the Beloved City by Philip José Farmer
Millennial End by Addie LaCoe
Parables of the Word by Erudil Menashy
The King, The Princess, and the Books
Heinlein and the Latter-day Saints
The Light of Eden by Benjamin Urrutia
Ad Astra per Fidem by Michael R. Collings
If You Could Hie to Kolob by William W. Phelps
More Extraterrestrials by Peter C. Nadig
The Children of Michael by Scott S. Smith
Religious Themes in American Science Fiction by John A. Tvedtnes
The Theology of Battlestar Galactica by John A. Tvedtnes
Reviews by Benjamin Urrutia
The Management Switches Over to Plan B by Sandy Straubhaar
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Jack Weyland
Cut Without Hands by William Shunn
The Late Twentieth Century by Christophilos Hagios
The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin by Rudyard Kipling
LDSF in Retrospect by Scott S. Smith
Benjamin Urrutia—Fantasy and Science Fiction Publications
There were very few early Science Fiction stories in which one of the most important characters was not the Great Professor, which the layman writer worshiped as a superman. Scientists writing Science Fiction were more than willing to go along. The scientists’ descriptions of themselves are either hypercritical or very flattering—recently they have been extremely critical. Of course, they are the only ones who could do it, and Science Fiction is the only place they could get away with it. Some quite eminent scientists have been writing some scathing Science Fiction, in which they show up scientists. A layman could not do a thing like that. It would be considered sour grapes. And where else could these men unburden themselves with impunity, except by putting their speeches in the mouths of other people, in fiction?
But that is an interesting trend of our times. Thomas Kuhn has recently shown that the history of science is actually fiction, deliberately contrived to make science look good. The history of science itself is the foundation of Science Fiction. If every problem in science has a scientific solution (following from the Miletian school), then God is not wanted in any solution. You see the original idea: “We can’t bring God into the laboratory, we can’t weigh Him, we can’t use Him, so let’s leave Him out. He exists and all that, but we can’t use Him in our calculations.” And before you know it, any problem can be solved without Him, so He becomes an impediment.
Science Fiction uniformly describes life in worlds in which “science is king—meaning the scientist. In this kind of world is fulfilled the dream of the Sophist, in which there is no room for any but one kind of thinking. This is the One World of John Dewey, which he carried to its logical conclusion. Richard McKenna, a geologist writing Science Fiction, recently said, “I am a positivistic a scientist as you will find. The students blush and hate me, but it is for their own good. Science is the only safe game, and it’s safe only if kept pure.” The speaker here is, of all things, a geologist, whose business is to reconstruct the past. That is why he likes to write Science Fiction. Any reconstruction of the past is 100 percent imagination. So much for keeping science pure. Science Fiction beguiled the western world on the image of the super-scientist, who was once the chief figure of Science Fiction—but never lived in real life, as we find out now. He was calm, aloof, dedicated, unswayed, incorruptible, self-effacing, magisterial. “Science is a superman,” said Huxley. “It is as far above the savage as the savage is above a blade of grass.” Compare this sentiment with the evidence collected in La Penseé Sauvage by Claude Levi-Strauss, who shows that it is a lucky anthropologist who can even equal the “savages” of the tribal societies for knowledge and sheer intellectual power.
Great Science Fiction by scientists deals with the question, should scientists rule the universe? Who else? In Eric Temple Bell’s story, “The Ultimate Catalyst,” a pure-minded scientist does terrible things to a wicked dictator. This is all right, because he takes the scientific view. As an idealist, the scientist is the necessary enemy of all bad people. This is the Baconian image of the pure scientist. J. M. Brewer’s “The Gostec and the Doshes” starts this way (and this is deadpan—he is quite serious); “Woleshinsky, the great scientist, smiled indulgently. He towered in his chair as though in the infinite kindness of his vast mind there were room to overlook all the foolish little foibles of all the weak little beings that call themselves men. A mathematical physicist lives in vast spaces. To him, human beings and their affairs do not loom very important.” We have a sort of superman here. The nearest thing to him is in the figure of Rutherford, as he is worshipfully described by C. P. Snow: “The tone of science at Cambridge in 1932 was the tone of Rutherford. Magniloquently boastful, creatively confident, generous, argumentative, and full of hope. Science and Rutherford were on top of the world. Worldly success—he loved every minute of it: flattery, titles, the company of the high official world. He was superbly and magnificently vain as well as wise, and he enjoyed his own personality.” Here, if ever, is the great lovable scientist of Science Fiction. What more could one ask for than science at such a level? “He enjoyed a life of miraculous success,” says Snow. But then—something strange follows: “But I am sure that even late in life he felt stabs of sickening insecurity.” Now this is strange. Sickening insecurity in this man, of all men. And then Snow goes on to talk about other great Cambridge scientists: “Does anyone really imagine that Bertrand Russell, G. H. Hardy, Rutherford, Blackett, and the rest were bemused by cheerfulness as they faced their own individual state? In the crowd, they were the leaders; they were worshiped. But by themselves, they believed with the same certainty that they believed in Rutherford’s atom that they were going after this life into annihilation. Against this, they only had to offer the nature of scientific activity; its complete success on its own terms. It itself was a source of happiness. But it is whistling in the dark, when they are alone.” He gives some very interesting sketches of the very odd way these people behave.
Only scientists dare criticize scientists as demigods, and then only in Science Fiction. J. B. S. Haldane, the great British biologist, in the only Science Fiction story he ever wrote, “The Gold Makers,” shows that science as a key to power and gain is likely to become a pawn to clever and unscrupulous men, that the scientist is not really ruling the roost at all, that just as sure as anything he will be victimized and used as a tool. And this becomes a theme of much Science Fiction, of course. Take Julian Huxley, the British biologist (brother of Aldous Huxley). The only Science Fiction he ever wrote was a story called “The Tissue-culture King.” The theme here is the superiority of the scientist to ordinary people, and the right of science to meddle with all forms of life, including human life. In The Saturday Evening Post, 6 November (1968), an article says: “We Scientists have a Right to play God.” And this is by, of all things, an anthropologist. One has a right to play God or play Hamlet or play the organ before the world, only if he has the capacity to do so. So the question is, how Godlike is this man’s capacity? So many stories by scientists explode this myth of our great capacity, which we pretend to have by hiding behind our specialties.
James McConnell, a psychologist, wrote a story called “Learning Theory” (a good one, with a lot of comment), in which we have a human psychologist who thinks very highly of himself; but he is captured by a much smarter psychologist from the planet Uranus, who studies him as we would study an insect under glass. Well, has he not the right? This man from the outer planet is so much more intelligent. Is not that the hypothesis? If we are the ones who know the answers, if we are the clever ones, we can cut up anyone we want, if we are superior to them. And so in the McConnell story the psychologist from outer space puts the human psychologist in a maze situation which humiliates him, drives him insane—and shows what happens to the poor rats when they are put in there. This is the irony of the story: This wise, wise man from another planet completely misses the interpretation of the behavior of this animal from Earth. He does not—of course—impute any intelligence to him, or anything like that. But he has a theory explaining why the man in the maze does what he does, and he takes away the food from him, and so forth, just as you would treat a rat. And now this man knows what that is like. Does a scientist have a right to play God? If one scientist is superior to another, does he have the right to play God with the other one? Everybody knows a little about science, so where are you going to draw the line?
Here is one of the useful functions which Science Fiction performs. You carry these notions to their logical conclusion, to their ad absurdum, and see what they lead to. Men should always have that in mind. A. J. Gordon, a Nobel Prize winner, has published a very amusing story on this theme. He visits a super-research center and says: “If this is industrial research, what an indictment!” The scientists project this superman image, and they agree that nobody will damage it with the public. They never call each other anything but Doctor, and they have an agreement about not showing each other up. This is how they get away with it. “The people were nice and clean in lab smocks, very serious and busy-busy. over each door was a group name: Operations, Research, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Electric Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, the works. Each group had its own special rabbits. Hurlbot, the manager, said: ‘We keep the strain pure here, and you know what happened to the collie. Its nose got sharpened, its head thinner, till its brains were pushed out through its ears. A terrible, terrible thing—but what can I do? They’ve all got families to support. The minute they’re in a jam, my people scream for fancy instruments and tools, big enough to hide behind. Don’t laugh, that’s how we get big government research jobs. Monumental cyclotrons, well-behaved people to use them. God save us from competence. Isn’t there one nut around? The board asked me why I didn’t have any great men around, so I hired Cole and Hart, the Nobel Prize winners.’ I pointed out that Cole and Hart hadn’t published anything in twenty years. ‘Of course not,’ said Hurlbot. ‘The Defense Department wants competence. Their degrees must appear on a laundry list of people who will make up the task force. The Defense Department loves the expression “Task Force.” They eat it up. These two old Nobelorama gentlemen have put me over the top on contracts more than once. It’s the star system.’” In other words, what he is telling us is that the great scientists are not all that they are cracked up to be.
Norbart Weiner, in a story called “The Brain,” points out that man’s moral weakness is his undoing. The story is about a great brain surgeon who operates on a criminal who has offended him grievously. And he makes a cut in the brain that makes him incapable of the clever judgments necessary to carry out his criminal activities. (He is a very smart criminal because of his brain.) Does the doctor have a right to do that? If we become dependent on scientists, we are at their mercy. The physician, as he is about to operate, says he does not like the idea at all: “It’s an ugly business . . . . Sometimes it cuts out a man’s conscience, and pretty nearly every time it does eerie things to his judgment and personal balance.” He wiped out a dangerous criminal gang—but he saw that what he was doing is dangerous.
“We human beings act as if other living species, animals and plants, exist only for our convenience. We feel free to exploit or destroy them as we see fit. It is true that some sentimental laymen have moral qualms about vivisection, but no orthodox scientist would ever have any hesitation about an experiment involving mere animals.” This is from that horrifying story of H. G. Wells, the only one that ever kept me awake (I was a little kid when I read it), The Island of Dr. Moreau, wherein a scientist cuts up live animals (inflicting unbearable pain on them) and makes them into terrible creatures.
Fred Hoyle, in “The Black Cloud,” says: “It isn’t so much the volume of talk that surprises me among the scientists; it’s the number of mistakes they make—how often things have turned out differently from what they expected.” He must not let the outsiders like us in on that sort of thing, but it takes a scientist to get away with a statement like that.
John R. Pearce, an experimental psychologist, wrote a famous story, “On the Futility of Mere Quantification,” in which he says: “In the world that experimental psychologists had pulled together from the chaos of nuclear destruction, no one cared to speak the obscenity that physics had become.” Physics had become a dirty word, and physical scientists were taboo. They were hiding under rocks and bridges. The only people who were really respected were psychologists; and they were God, now. I don’t know how ironic or not this is. He says, “After the atomic blowup, the experimental psychology men brought the remnants of the race together. They founded our civilization, they evolved our culture.” (No place for God in all this.) “We live in a world in which orthodox scientists refuse to see–or seeing, refuse to believe—that which is before their very eyes: that a future which the open-minded and perceptive among us have foreseen, is already at hand.” This is the way they talked about religion a very short time ago. Now it is the orthodox scientists he is jumping on—those who refuse to see that which is before their very eyes. The dead hand of scientific orthodoxy can not long delay the coming future. The antidote to science, he is saying, is more science—but my king of science: get rid of those awful physicists before they destroy us, and turn to experimental psychology.
At the dawn of western science, Herakleitus pointed out very clearly what Science Fiction is now discovering, the pure observation of Baconism. If the scientist is a faulty instrument (he is a human being after all), he is going to make mistakes. The great scientist is not doing what he thinks he is doing—getting outside the smoke-filled room. He is in it. He is taking his measurements there. We ring the changes on the same old bells, and every time we hit on a new combination we gleefully announce that we have discovered a whole new set of bells. It sounds like it, but after a time we begin to see that it is the same old belfry.
In C. P. Snow’s portrayal of the great mathematician, G. H. Hardy, he says, “He could not endure having his photograph taken. He would not have any looking-glass in his room. When he went to a hotel, his first action was to cover all the looking-glasses with towels. Of all mechanical devices, including fountain pens, he had a deep distrust. He had a morbid suspicion of mechanical gadgets.” This is the great scientist, you see. “He would not own a watch, or ever use a telephone. He hated all gadgets. His autobiography is witty and sharp, with intellectual high spirits, yet it is a book of such haunting sadness, because Hardy realizes, with the finality of truth, that he is absolutely finished.” It is not only in Science Fiction that we find strangely- acting scientists.
Science Fiction worships efficiency—the superiority of the scientific way over all other ways. The scientist does not guess, he knows. The scientific mind is direct, clear, intense, trenchant, clean, unhampered by any defects of wishful or mythical thinking, recognizing only Facts. There are still people who talk that way: “There is no assignment that science could not carry out.” But who gives the assignments?
Preoccupation with Ways and Means is another thing that Science Fiction has been helpful in explaining. Many years ago, Edinborough geographer Halford MacKinder (his student was Haushoffer, Hitler’s advisor) wrote a book on Geopolitics, in which he said that the Germans lose wars because they are too scientific. They know all about ways and means. They have everything figured out, with the slide rule, down to the sixth decimal place. They know just what it is, but they do not know what they are after, exactly—just a vague idea of world conquest, so they always lose the war. The British bungle along, and they really bungle. Yet they conquered half the world with a mere task force here, a mere token force there, and lots of bluff everywhere, because they knew what they wanted. “If you know what you want, you can always get it,” says MacKinder. Even if you bungle, you will get it in the end. But if you just bog down in ways and means, you will never get it. Science, he says, is preoccupation with ways and means. Science Fiction has been first to point this out. In The Christian Science Monitor (3 February 1969), W. H. Pickering, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, said, “We are building communication systems very close to the ultimate . . . . You can use more power, but we are near the ultimate in performance.” Ultimate is a strong word. What happens to unending perfectibility when we are already near the ultimate? The realization that perfectibility lies in another direction, in another dimension—that is what happens. “So,” Pickering says, “it is not a question of how difficult such exploration is. Ways and means is not the problem. We will always get the gadget if we know what we want.” And then he speaks of going even beyond the planets to the stars—the ultimate in human achievement, according to Science Fiction. That is not achievement at all, he says. The question is whether or not it is worthwhile to go there. As MacKinder pointed out, this question is not asked by business, industry, and the military. Rather, they ask how to get a particular thing done. But what is it we are after, after all? When a student of William Morris rushed to him, breathless with the news that the cable to India had been completed, he merely asked: “Young man, what message will it bear?” When Einstein heard that the atom bomb really worked, he grabbed his head and said, “Oy vey?! (Oh my, this is terrible!) He was not thrilled at all. Ted Serios today is causing a terrific rumpus everywhere. He is a man who gets drunk, and then he can (sometimes) project images on film. The mere fact that he makes images appear on film is considered a wonder, and it is. But what images? Apparently, nobody cares.
“British investigators,” said Sir Oliver Lodge, “are very firmly believed to receive spirit messages. But what messages? Idiot gibberings and scribblings.” The world makes a major matter over whether Joseph Smith really saw angels, possessed gold plates, or translated Egyptian, but they could not care less about what the angels, the plates, and the papyri have to say. For our age, the message is the medium, because we have run out of message. A wise German scientist, writing in Kosmos, said in a leading editorial that nothing could be more foolish than for science to do or make something simply because it has not been done before and can be done now. A few years ago, this would have been thought rank heresy. But why do we need to make all these things? The important thing is, we know we can do it now. Why bother? It is like the hunter who has reached such a height of efficiency he now uses blanks, or does not use shells at all, because it is really not sporting anymore, as long as he knows it can be done. A cobalt bomb can be made. Is that any reason for making it? We used to think, oh yes, think of the wonderful things we can do.
This going forward without knowing where we are going, unable to think of another goal but more power for more gain, and more gain for more power, is the way of insanity. And a lot of stories point this out. From Tales of Ecstasy, Science Fiction quickly turned to Tales of Terror. Is there nothing in between? Look at C. P. Snow’s great scientists. They are manic- depressive. They are either on top of the wave, or in the dumps, desperately haunted men—because either you are going somewhere or you are going nowhere. If nowhere, then it does not matter how great is your eminence, how loud the shouting: it is but a brief, pathetic interlude, “one moment in annihilation’s waste.” You are not going anywhere. “The stars are setting. The caravan makes for the dawn of nothing. Oh make haste” (Omar Khayyam).
Groff Conklin, in his collection of works by great scientists, says, “Very few scientists write science fiction, because real science is far more interesting. But . . . they have taken to writing it for one reason: terror . . . . They want to warn us, and they think this is a good medium for reaching the public. It is unfortunate they are not very successful. Real science fiction by real scientists has strong and pertinent warnings on the dangers to society of certain applications of science or technology. These soon are given up, however, because of the lack of impact of their first efforts at education through fiction.” They think that this is their duty to the public, and they try their hand at it. For some reason the stories do not cause the expected flurry, and so they fall over. But Mr. Conklin says, “No practicing scientist, until well into the twentieth century, ever wrote science fiction.” And then this little book here contains at least 75 percent of the Science Fiction written in English by scientists. But they are now writing to warn us. Science has failed in its great promise of comfort and joy. Even the Science Fiction of H. G. Wells becomes fascinating only when he turns his attention to the sinister and appalling. Before you know it, the great scientist becomes the mad scientist, as in The Island of Dr. Moreau. If Science Fiction can show us no convincing glories ahead, at least it can give us a warning, and it is a dismal message.
John Jacob Astor, Junior, in his nineteenth-century story, could only think of aliens as inferior and dangerous, something to be met with guns. Combat is the theme. And, of course, it has remained that, with Tarzan, Doc Savage, and all the rest. This is called the BEM (Bug-eyed Monster) school of Science Fiction writing, which once dominated the pulps, as it was believed to have the greatest appeal to adolescents. We are told it is now spurned by the better class of Science Fiction writers, but don’t you believe it. They are in there working at it, as hard as ever.
Thus, beginning with a Great Scientist of godlike knowledge and uprightness as its central character, Science Fiction soon discovered chinks in the armor and ended up in very short order with the sinister figure of the Mad Scientist, either making a Frankenstein’s monster he cannot control, or deliberately perverting his knowledge for power. The Mad Scientist became a stock figure instead of the Great Scientist—which passed away because he was altogether too fantastic, anyway.
A new book published by MacMillan, The Year 2000 by Kohn and Weiner, according to the reviewer, “points out thousands of ways in which the world can go wrong, and the very few ways in which it can go right. The chances of it going right are extremely remote, according to these authors.” After all, how many wrong answers are there to any problem? As many as you want. But how many right ones? Very few. If there are thousands of ways (as the science people are pointing out to us now) in which the world can go wrong and only one right, there is the Gospel.
Here are some of the new stories on the end-of-the-world theme: “Pilot Lights of the Apocalypse” by Riddeneur (notice they borrow Biblical themes, all the time), wherein military control of the push buttons brings absolute disaster. This is the reason: they have the technique, they have the power, they have the ways and means, but they do not really know what is going on. “Last Year’s Grave Undug” by Chan Davis (another scientist): the patrioteers have liquidated each other. The United States invaded itself. Everybody had haunting fears that everybody else was not what he should be. And so they wiped each other out. “Grand Central Terminal” by Leo Zillard (the famous Hungarian all-around genius who died recently): the Earth is deserted, with everything wiped out, because it divided into two factions (like Shiz and Coriantumr), and they extinguished each other. This is the way scientists are writing Science Fiction now. “Adrift on the Policy Level” by Chandler Davis: What can science do? Power and salesmanship is what you are dealing with when you are up against a corporation. Personality is the asset of scientists. The world is ruled by rhetoric. It is not the hardware, but who controls it. It is the salesman who is on top. “Nobody Bothers Gus” by Algis Budrys: another alienation story. The human race is described as Homo nondescriptus, according to the idea of the “why.” If we do not know why, what is all the use of fancy, shining magnificent cities, materials, and everything else? He concludes the story: “What purpose did Homo nondescriptus serve, and where was he going?”
Robert Sheckley, who is the most cynical and the most amusing of the present writers, wrote “The Prize of Peril”: total degeneration of society expressed in a TV gimmick, a show in which citizens fight and exterminate each other. By Damon Knight, “The Handler,” in which the look is everything. And Isaac Asimov, who dabbles in all sorts of things (having had a lot of training, he writes a great deal, including Science Fiction), has a story called “Dreaming Is a Private Thing”: daydreaming has become a highly paid profession. People have become too lazy to dream on their own, so specialists daydream, and tracks are made to be sold around the world. Morganson, a psychologist, writes “Coming of Age Day”: compulsory sex gadget.
An important theme is the victory of the robot—the ultimate in automation, regimentation, specialization, efficiency, and exploitation. The robot works for everybody. It does not overpower us suddenly. Humanity surrenders its functions gradually (and willingly) to the machine. This is what we read in the robot stories: the machine can move into the vacuum only after we have moved out. As soon as we have turned ourselves into robots, then we can be replaced by robots.
This is the idea, the theme of thousands of SF stories: when men use hardware to control the world, with its resources and other men, the hardware brings about destruction. “For behold, you do love your substance more than you love the poor . . . ” (Mormon (8:37). We love our expensive hardware, here described by Mormon, more than we esteem the inexpensive “live software.” With what result? Again the old SF theme, destruction: “Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you, and the time soon cometh . . . .” Because you love your hardware, your substance, more than you love people.
The steps to surrender to specialization and despiritualization—a lot is being written about that now. M. Greenburg, writing on this subject, says the robot began with RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Capek. A robot is a creature that does work for a highly specialized job and nothing else. He becomes the worker, and then he becomes the thinker, and he may even become the feeler. This is the favorite theme of SF stories today: robots who may have feelings. Do they have them or not? This is being discussed a great deal now, anyway. Greenburg says: “The growth of the robot continues until he ultimately achieves acceptance as an entity by his creator. The final phase in the inevitable scent of man’s servant is reached when man has disappeared, and only a robotic civilization remains. A new cycle has begun, when man is recreated by the beings he himself gave birth to. Thus the machine takes the place not only of man, but of God.” So we have replaced ourselves completely by these robots. We have done it ourselves. This is old stuff, too. It is a case of getting used to it anyway. In the Sutro Museum in San Francisco there is a great collection of nineteenth-century clockwork people. They are impressive, and they do all sorts of things. It is hard for us today to imagine the effect of clockwork man on nineteenth-century thinking, but it had a great one. In Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann’s Tales of Hoffmann there is the doll Olympia. She was just a pretty doll, but she was run by machinery. The doll becomes a monster as soon as it is accepted as a living thing. Until then, it is just a machine. The Golem also is just a machine that works. But when people regard it as a personality, the Golem becomes a terrible object. [Two famous writers, Eli Wiesel and Nobel prize winner Isaac B. Singer, have recently written and published their own versions of the Golem story. Editor] The same thing is found in the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, and of Oscar Wilde, and, of course, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The monster is not a monster because of size, neither does it have to be terrible-looking: the doll Olympia was a beautiful object, but it became a very terrible thing when people took it seriously. [Another beautiful but evil robot is the mechanical imitation of Maria in the classic movie Metropolis. Editor]
Writing in the journal Science for June 1968, the editor says, “There is no danger of machine personality devaluating human beings, or of man suffering loss of innocence by understanding his own mental workings. The real danger, which is very serious, is the programming of people to behave like computers.” He cites the case at the University of Michigan where students had been conditioned to react to mere numbers with intense anxiety and other emotions, even to have programmed dreams: “If I were the parent of one of these students, I should be raising hell. I am shocked that the University of Michigan tolerated this.”
In contrast, Rudolf Anthes cites the case of a Pharaoh of the Old Kingdom, more than 4500 years ago. A magician in his court performed that favorite trick of Egyptian scientists, namely replacing the head of a decapitated goose or duck so that the bird could actually give a couple of quacks. It can actually be done, and this was considered a great thing. Someone in the court asked the magician whether the same could be done with a man, and the magician said it could. It was suggested that the thing be tried on a criminal who was sentenced to be decapitated anyway, but the king very indignantly vetoed it. He said, “A man may have been condemned to death for crime, but it is his prerogative to die with dignity, to pay the price and no more.” Human beings are not to be subjected to this sort of thing, to be guinea pigs for clever lab demonstrations. But we have come a long way from the Old Kingdom of Egypt, where Pharaoh refused to let a condemned criminal serve as an experimental animal, to modern enlightened times, when some people say we have the right to play God and cut up anyone we want.
“Robots must be specialized,” says a character in Asimov’s very popular story, Lenny. “A versatile robot is a monstrosity.” Lenny accidentally gets programmed the wrong way and begins to get human feelings. To quote Asimov, “And industry tells us what it means. A computer designs the brain, machinery forms the robot. But the same industry also wants the same type of man, one reliable as the robot to do certain things and nothing else.”
There are now 60,000 computers in the world, including 40,000 in the U.S.A. and 3,000 in the U.K., all built within the last decade. There is also a hexadactylous (six fingers in each hand) person named Zera Colburn, who extracted the cube root of 413,993,348,677 in five seconds, in his head. Here we have a real physical and mental Science Fiction figure. Is the world better off because of his abilities? I do not speak disrespectfully. At the beginning of his famous discourse Isocrates asks, “If every athlete in the world could run twice as fast as he does, lift weights twice as heavy, jump twice as far, hit twice as hard, would the world be the least bit better off?” The world does not exist for specialists.
A favorite SF theme is the superior efficiency of the robot built by other robots so programmed that any mistakes or malfunctions are automatically corrected. We get to the idea now that the machines are getting more and more human, more refined, more complicated, sensitive in their reactions, until they may even begin to feel emotions. Robert Bloch’s story “Almost Human” is a good example of it. With human emotions and sensibilities, human temper and tantrums, human fears and misgivings, and all the rest, comes human fallibility, for they are the very stuff of which it is made. “Computers usually work with much greater accuracy than the human brain,” says N. S. Sutherland, a British computer man, “but if any element in a computer becomes faulty, then catastrophic errors occur.” There is on this theme a terrifying story in Ron Goulart called “Terminal” (in the 11th Annual, a very good one). The robots get old, their relays run out, wires get disconnected, and then all hell breaks loose. “But,” says Sutherland, “in contrast to this, except in pathological conditions the brain does not break down completely, and although information processing is done rather inaccurately, to say the least, the result is almost never complete nonsense, whereas if one thing goes wrong with a machine the result is complete nonsense.” In other words, the machine, while it functions, is an idiot savant. The savants are these people who can do fantastic things very well—but if anything goes wrong, all is lost.
Speaking of this very thing, in a whole issue of Science devoted to intelligent machines, the editor writes: “I believe that diversity is rewarding in itself, and deplore the way in which the world is tending to a single universal culture,” which used to be though a great blessing. When I was in high school, this was the thing they looked forward to, a great universal single culture, and not even a very admirable one. “I regard respect for life as the touchstone of ethics,” he says, and then he notes the 240 species of animals that are now threatened with extinction. Here the Gospel also comes in—because God has commanded that all forms of life should multiply and fulfill the measure of their creation, that every form of life might have joy therein. How very different from saying, specialize and do only this or that.
Another award goes to Jack Vance, who wrote an exciting story, The Mechs of Revolt. This is a new story, but you would think it was written forty years ago. The Mech-brains are from another world, but we have made them work for us here. The Mech-brain falls shortest in its lack of emotional color. One Mech is precisely like another. They served us efficiently because they thought nothing about their condition. They neither loved us nor hated us, nor do they now. Why do the revolt? That has a familiar ring, does it not? The answer is just as unoriginal as the question: because they do not like to be serving somebody else all the time and because the world is too small for two races, one exploiting the other. And this is supposed to be original Science Fiction. [Vance has, in fact, written several stories and books using the same basic idea—humans enslaving aliens and/or being enslaved by them—and has repeatedly won awards with it. How does he do it? Editor]
One of my children has a psychology book by A. A. Broncha, called Psychology: The Science of Behavior. On the flyleaf and covers are three photographs of a rat in a box. Never mind that the poor rat is almost certainly crazy, driven insane by the ways of science. There is a good article saying that these animals are not living under normal conditions, and they soon lose their balance. You are not dealing with a normal creature at all, in a maze. Never mind that. In the inky tracks that show his wanderings in the box, our school children are told, we have a sure index to the workings of the mind. The genius of behaviorism was to discover that overt behavior is the only kind we can study: therefore, to all intents and purposes, overt behavior was the complete disclosure of the mind at work. It is the story of the lost keys. A man was on his hands and knees on a sidewalk one night, looking for a lost key ring. He was asked if he was sure and certain that this was where he had lost the keys. “No,” he replied. “In fact, I know that I lost them on the other sidewalk across the street, but that one has no light at all, while this one is very well lighted, so I am looking here.” Following this same principle, we search for the mind in a well-lit rat maze because we have no way of looking inside the human mind, but it is easy to make mazes and put rodents inside them. But psychology as the study of such behavior is the equivalent of religion as the study of bells and steeples, or patriotism as the study of firecrackers. Since it is only the external aspects that can be studied, we assume for the sake of convenience that only the external aspects exist—and, of course, this leads to trouble.
But a big issue of today, being discussed a great deal, is: do computers think? I shall not go into that, but a short while ago a German science journal asked a related question: does a tea strainer think? A tea strainer has one simple task to perform, but it is a task that requires making a decision. It must remove the leaves and let the liquid pass through. In this act of selectivity, the editor pointed out, the tea strainer does just what the computer does. So if a computer thinks, so does a tea strainer. The response from the readers, many of them scientists, was spirited. Most of the contributors vigorously defended the proposition that a tea strainer does think. Some felt that the effect of this doctrine was not to exalt the tea strainer as a thinker, but to debase the mind of man as an automaton. Others replied heatedly that that simply showed their pride, arrogance and pigheadedness; they would not admit that a tea strainer thinketh as a man thinketh because they did not want to believe it. Minsky, an electrical engineer at MIT, says, “Our pious skeptics told us that machines could never see things. But now that machines can see complex things” (he does not put see in quotes; he just assumes that they really see), “our skeptics tell us that we can never know that they sense these things. Do not believe authoritative pronouncements about what machines will never do. Such statements are based on pride.” How neatly the issue is drawn here. Andre Malraux actually wrote an SF story, and it is based on the stubborn insistence of scientist friends of his who observed the social instinct behavior of insects and other animals and maintained that the creatures do not think. They admit that their behavior shows all the outward signs of intelligence and that they sometimes display amazing problem-solving capacities—but they insist that no intelligence whatever is involved, taking Bertrand Russell’s position that “animals behave in a manner showing the rightness of views of the man who observes them, not the animal itself. The rightness of their behavior and the correctness of their response is appreciated by their beholder, but the actors themselves are completely unaware of what they are doing.”
These same scientists who unhesitatingly and emphatically insist that animals do not think, in spite of the clear thought patterns implied in their behavior, insist just as unhesitatingly and emphatically that machines do think, because of the though patterns implied by their “behavior.” The electric eye that opens the door for you at the supermarket is able to think. In the best Watsonian sense, it gives a useful, sensible response to a definite stimulus. And what is thought but a matter of response to stimulus? But the dog who gives you a resentful, guilty look and scurries out of the way at the supermarket does not think at all. He seems to be aware he is not welcome in the store, but that is only your impression of the way he behaves. So the electric eye that opens the door is thinking, but the dog has no thought at all. It is just a matter of your opinion and interpretation. Exactly the same sort of yea and nay was reached with the argument of the stars. The Sophist said, “Look, the stars are just moving up there, that proves there is no God.” Aristotle looked at the same stars: “Look at those stars moving up there. That proves there is a God. I do not need any more argument.” The very same evidence, two different conclusions.
“There is a real possibility,” writes Sutherland, “that we may one day be able to design a machine that is more intelligent than ourselves, to replace ourselves as lords of the Earth. The species could also, of course, be morally superior to ourselves.” Here we see the enormity of this misconceived perversion. According to the early Christian idea of the ancient law of liberty, a gadget programmed in a way that avoided any behavior that might be called immoral would not be a morally superior being at all. Simon Magus asked Peter, “Could not God have made us all good, so that we could not do anything else but be virtuous?” (St. Augustine later asked the same question in anguish. Remember, Satan wanted to program us, everybody, to be virtuous and nothing else—see Moses 4:1.) Peter replied, “That’s a foolish question, for if He made us unchangeably and immovably inclined to good, we wouldn’t really be good at all, since we couldn’t really be anything else. And it would be no merit on our part that we were good, nor could we be given credit for doing what we did by necessity of nature. How can you call any act good that is not performed intentionally?” This is the answer to the idea that we could make a machine morally superior to ourselves because we program it not to do certain naughty things. Would you call that a moral machine? There is an enormous gulf between this type of thinking and the Gospel.
In the same issue in which Minsky let out his blast about our “pride,” there is an article that says, “The machine that can understand normal, fluent human speech may never be built.” There is a crew that was working on that a long time. And talking about Aldous, the University of Texas machine that seems to have emotions and to react with fear, anger, or attraction, we are reminded that it should, of course, be emphasized (but is diligently de-emphasized by most of us) that Aldous is only a model of personality, not the thing itself; “Thus when I speak of Aldous’ fear I refer to a numerical variable in the program that takes on different forms to represent different degrees of fear. The model or computer does not feel frightened any more than a molecular model of plastic balls and wooden dowels will enter into a real chemical combination. The introspection routine in Aldous can report on certain of its states because it was constructed to do so. It is not a pipeline to some ghostly inner world of the computer.” So this argument goes on, but it is a theme of many SF stories today.
Mr. George, who is in charge of the program in England for computers, says, “All this simulates emotion, sometimes deceptively like the real thing. If you have built an imitation human response into a machine, you have cheated. You have not done anything really interesting, however practical.” Now it is precisely this dissimulation that is the Satanic part of the machine. So we want to look out that we do not get programmed.
The basic characteristic of SF is its unoriginality. It often is, as Miss Judith Merrill says, a commentary on present conditions, what will happen if they are allowed to go on. As such, it can perform a valuable critical function. The stock SF themes are the Wonderful Journey (including Time Travel, the Wonderful Invention, e.g. the Time Machine), the End of the World (especially today, after the atom bomb), building a new world after such a holocaust, Big and Little, the Conquest of the Earth (e.g. The War of the Worlds), Galactic Empires, Strange Visitors (including the BEMs and visitors who are better than people on our world). “The Duel” is a great favorite today—the magnificent fighting machines dueling to the last and wiping each other out. The Last Survivor, the Breakdown of the Machine, the Revolt of the Robots, Strange Worlds, the distant future, man coping with the challenge of strange environments, Boy meets Girl (humanity is the same in all environments), man meets rival, and Alienation (a great theme today). The SF writers often use Biblical terms in their titles. [e.g. Stranger in a Strange Land and I Will Fear No Evil, both by Robert Heinlein. Editor]
The antics of Tarzan and Fu Manchu are almost perfectly representative of the type of SF appearing in the contemporary catalogs: the super-brain and super-brawn of man out-calculates, outwits, out-computes hordes of robots and other monsters, mechanical or organic, and it is all on the level of naked power, right out of the world of the Djins of the 1001 Nights. Is not that the world we live in already? This is the SF that appeals to us most; so we get the apocalyptic stories. No matter how negative SF has become, it still cannot be original. The worst you can think of has already happened, as far as that goes. It really does seem that the effect of every major scientific discovery has been to make men lose their balance, a sense of dependency on anything but themselves. “When I was a kid and went to school,” said Socrates, “Science knew all the answers. We knew that the brain was the center of everything, and we were on top of the world. We were just too cocky for anything.” Plutarch, talking about the same thing, said, “The new physics taught people to despise all the superstitious fears which the awe-inspiring signs in the heavens arouse in the minds of those who are ignorant of the real cause of things.” From then on, the Sophists carried the ball as ardent debunkers of all that was not Science. The Miletian school claimed to have discovered the basic principles and elements of all existence. In launching the program of modern science, Bacon announced that if he could just enjoy one season of uninterrupted work, he would be able to embrace all knowledge in a single system, to which he had discovered the key. Newton’s discoveries were held to answer all the essential problems of cosmology for all of life. Freud, by a single stroke, solved all our psychological problems. Grimm’s law explained the nature of all languages. The computers, finally, can solve all problems of any kind. It seems that with every breakthrough this is the immediate response: “At last we have it!”—even though we had it before, again and again and again, and it turned out to be wrong. But no, at last we do have it. The most wonderful machines have already been invented long ago. We think of our computing machines as intelligent entities because we are not used to living with them, that’s all. A punched card or magnetized tape, when stored away, we think of as memory—because of the novelty of the thing. We do not think a book remembers, even when it can be arranged to be opened automatically at a given item of information by pressing a button, like an address finder. Isn’t that memory? No, we say, that is not memory at all—because we have been living with that—but once upon a time people thought it was. Yes, there was a time when people actually thought the book was a thinking machine, that it would think for you. They thought it was just a miracle, they couldn’t get over it, and it took them a long time to get used to the Book. Then they realized that the book was not actually thinking or remembering: it was just you operating it. Those who did not understand how it worked really believed that the written page was a living, thinking entity, just as we now think that the computer has a memory.
Plato tells a wonderful story about this. When the Egyptian God Thoth discovered writing, he went to Ammon, the Father of the Gods, in great excitement. He said, “I have discovered a device that will infinitely project the power of the human mind: writing!” Of course it is a tremendous invention that beats anything else you can imagine—but nevertheless Thoth was wrong, as Ammon immediately pointed out to him. “This will not aid men’s mental powers,” he said, “but cripple them. It will seriously damage their power both to think and to remember.” In the end, no gadget makes us better off. This may sound strange, but if we think of it, the purpose of every gadget is to liquidate itself. As it is improved more and more, it becomes progressively reduced in size, complexity, cost and rarity, until in the end it is replaced by come contemptibly small machine. Gigantic transformers, cables, wheels, rails, enormous computers, filling whole buildings, ponderous weapons, monstrous machines, all those belong to the essentially barbaric world. So SF, and now experience, are teaching us.
The ultimate achievement is to do what we do without depending on gadgets. The best gadget is no gadget. There are some stories on this theme. In one by Chad Oliver, the hero says, “Hell, I sometimes think there’s nothing as dull as constant, everlasting change. The devil of it is there’s just plain nothing new under the sun,” to coin an inspired phrase. There is nothing behind the door save more of the same. That is what they are telling us now. Fritz Lieber, who has written a lot of junk, has a story called “Marianna,” with this closing line: “Annihilation brings unutterable relief.” The idea, a favorite theme of Heinlein, is that once we have solved all our problems, including biological problems, in particular the problem of death, we are faced with the question: now what do we do? Sit around and be bored to tears, yearning for death, the only thing left worth looking forward to. Without the Gospel, everything is completely hollow. This is the surprising thing.
There are more stories on this theme. One is called “Traveler’s Rest” by Massen. There is a perennial war going on. Ordinary people bother little about this war. Their spare mental energies are spent in a vast selection of play and ploys: making, representing, creating, relishing, criticizing, theorizing, discussing, arranging, organizing, cooperating. That sounds like living, but it is all busywork. It is meaningless in the end—the theme is futility. In one by William Morrison called “The Feast of Demons,” people can make themselves become younger and older as much as they want. They reverse entropy, and people age and go in reverse forever and ever, and it is terrible, terrible, because nobody dies. And here is our old friend Isaac Asimov coming back again, in “Eyes Do More Than See.” There is nothing behind the door, is the message: “He could dare manipulate matter before the assembled energy beings who had so drearily waited over the aeons for something new. He fled back across the galaxies on the energy track of Brok, back to the endless doom of life. The energy beings could no longer weep for the fragile beauty of the bodies they had once given up a trillion years ago.” Notice we are back to the endless doom of life, doomed to just more of the same—what we find (and not as good) when we go out in space. What a disillusionment.
The splendors and high hopes soon shot their bolt and fizzled, because they had nowhere to go. Science, without religion, like philosophy without religion, has nothing to feed on. “All true science,” says Karl Popper, “is cosmology, and all cosmology is eschatology. It is my contention that any branch of human thought without religion soon withers and dies of anemia.”
In the 1965 symposium, “Life on Other Worlds,” sponsored by the Seagram Whiskey Co., such scientists as G. B. Kiskiakovsky, D. B. Michael, Harlow Shapley, Otto Strube, and others went out of their way (every one of them) to show something that had nothing to do with the case: namely, that the existence of life on other worlds is at last the definite, final proof that we needed to rule God out of the picture. The immediate effect of scientific discovery was a sense of emancipation: “We are on our own now! Now at last Man can throw off the shackles of the Past. God was all right for our ancestors, but we certainly don’t need him in our calculations. Man is at last the master!” A great deal of scientific experience, as well as Science Fiction, has shown that that way madness lies.
So this is a faith-promoting discipline, after all. It is a wasteland, a heap of slag as far as the eye cn see; joyless, endless, monotonous, repetitive, empty but cluttered, a haunted universe. When we think that this project started out as a joyful and confident search for the best world or worlds that the human mind could conceive and bring into existence, but after generations of untrammeled and soaring imagination this desolate city dump is what we have come up with—it just shows how far we can get without the Gospel.
I have some ancient texts here that beat these things hollow for Science Fiction. This is a Syriac text from the Berlin Manuscript: “This Earth is littered with remnants” (it uses the Greek word lapson) “of other worlds which have been mixed up in Earth-fire in places where it is still impossible for plants to take root.” This is supposed to be the Lord talking to the Apostles. “But what about the material that is still out there in orbit?” the Apostles asked the Lord. “They still surround the Earth in the sky,” He replies, “but they are not brought down into the common crucible.” The word used is “trench.” There is a sort of circulating trench up there, and, as matter is required, it is drawn off. It is meanwhile being purified by its circular motion in outer space. And He says, “It is first poured down upon the Earth, and then swept together and thrown into a pit, a sort of crucible. This is so that the fumes” (this is a passage nobody understands) “can mount up and mingle with yet more elements which are to descend.” Some kind of feedback process. “There are space waters out there, but they have to be purified of certain poisonous elements of outer darkness.” The idea that things that come from outer space are poisoned and must be decontaminated before they can be used in this Earth is met constantly in these old documents. This one is a very early Christian text, first or second century: “Great advantage came to the Earth when these fragments (or vehicles) were scrapped in the heavens. They were turned into junk, because they were the remnants of other worlds, and they were to be used again. They were swept up from Earths, and cast out to circulate among the worlds, where they would follow certain laws that would get them in motion again. There were various disposal areas. The Father emptied the three elements. They are water, dark heavy matter and fire, which have to be used in all these processes, from Heaven. He empties them together in dumps at the edge of the firmament, or else He pours them out upon the Earth. After that, they will be swept away to some other place. Each is a deposit of matter being poured out in a particular place where it is to be kept until it will be needed, again clothed with the three forms of wind, water and fire, which are the three great forces of metamorphosis that make a world. Heat, water, and wind are the three great erosion forces. When they are used on a solid body, we start making a world. “He revealed to me how this Earth was established, how the Sons of Light came down in ships and purified the light, removing the slag and the apporoya” (the stuff that is poured off, the scum that is taken off) “to a dump. There are five types of depositories, from which five elements come as they are needed. Some are used more than others. What we call elements, however, are the energy which is in all things. In the womb of the Earth, the elements are gathered, fused, and poured out.” And so we get this amazing picture of a physical process of creation. We get dim visions. Of course, you may say, “Well, that’s a mess,” and it certainly is. But it is the sort of thing that Isaac Asimov gives you. It is as good as any Science Fiction you get today, considering when it was.
And here is an interesting one from the Apocalypse of Abraham. Abraham has taken the Wonderful Journey. Science Fiction began with this type of journey. In the whole field of testamentary literature, lots of new items have been discovered recently. Any prophet and apostle you can name has a Testament, and a Testament always ends with a great trip, a guided tour through the Universe. He usually gets into a vessel of some sort, he is carried around, and he inspects many things. Here it is in the Testament of Abraham, also called the Apocalypse of Abraham. In Heaven, he and the angel arrive, and they pass with violent winds above the firmament. He sees an indescribably mighty light, and within the light a vast seething fire, and within there is a great host of changing forms moving within each other, mighty forms, changing and exchanging with each other as they go and come and alter themselves. They seem to call out to each other. There are strange, confusing noises. Abraham asks the angel, “What’s it all about? Why have you brought me here? I can’t see anything. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve become weak. I think I’m out of my mind.” “Stay close to me,” the angel replies, “and don’t be afraid.” The angel himself is beginning to shake, though. He is seeing too much. Then they are wrapped in fire and hear a voice and mighty rushing waters. Abraham wants to fall down on his face and worship. But there is no Earth under their feet and nothing to fall on. And so they are just suspended up there. Abraham cries out with all his voice, and the angel cries at the same time: “Oh God! Oh Thou who hast brought order into this terrible confusion, into the great confusion of the universe, and hast renewed the worlds of the righteous!” There is a Power that can actually master these terrible forces, which just to contemplate them is absolutely appalling. The great Catholic scholar who just died Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist, says, “Man is the most refined being there is. He is much more complicated, in chemistry and everything else, than a star, even a giant star, or a solar system, or a galaxy.” He must be the end product, and to organize and control him, with all these terrible forces unleashed all around him, is an appalling performance, and this is the story of Abraham here. He sees this, and he says, “And yet there is a God who can actually bring worlds out of this, where the righteous can dwell!” It is quite an idea.
And here is one from the Clementines, the earliest Christian writing we have after the New Testament. This shows that the questions that interested the early Christians, the legitimate questions they asked, were questions to which the church would say, “Well you’re not supposed to ask that.” Clement said he has been to the University, and they could not answer the questions: “Is there life after death? Is there a preexistence? If we live after, will we remember this life? Why don’t we remember the preexistence? When was the world created? What existed before that? If the world was created, will it pass away? And then what? Will we feel things we cannot feel now?” He could not shake the immortalitatis cupido, the desire to go on living, from his mind. “It was these questions,” he said, “that led me to the true Light.” Notice they are primarily scientific questions—but they are the basic religious questions, also.
The Doctors could not give Clement any answers. They gave him a lot of clever talk but nothing else. When he was young, the pagan philosophers scared him out of his wits with stories of hellfire (notice that comes from the pagan schools. He never learned that from the Christians, this hellfire). And then he finally goes to the Land of Israel (he is a rich young man), where he sees Peter during a conference of the Church, and puts these questions to him and gets his answers, at last. The answers that Peter gives him to these questions are very interesting, but they are legitimate. [Please notice that it was Clement who went to Israel, not Peter to Rome. Editor]
Here is an interesting thing from the early Mandean Christian writings: Those in other worlds move with great, almost instantaneous speed, as quickly as human thought, so that in a single hour they reach a distant place. Their motion, however, is calm and effortless, like the rays of the sun passing between heaven and earth. Now the Father ordered Hebel Zeba (that is Abel) to make a world and to place Adam and Eve in it. And the three angels of glory and light should come down and visit and instruct them and keep Adam company. God said to the Pure Sent One, who was to lead this delegation, “Go call Adam and Eve and all their posterity, and teach them concerning everything about the King of Light and the worlds of Light. Be friendly with Adam, and give him company, thou and the two angels that will be with thee, and warn him against Satan.” So the three angels are instructed to go down and teach Adam the law of chastity. And Adam was told, “We will also send helpers to those of thy progeny who seek further Light and knowledge from us.”
There is a lot on this business of the beings’ visiting the other worlds. Another version says, “He sent down the Sent One to help them get back to His presence, where they had come from. And he spread a table for Adam and Eve, and there he instructed them. And then the Evil Ones complained, saying, ‘The Children of Men have taken over the Earth. They are strangers who speak the language of those three men who visited them. They have accepted the teachings of the three men, and rejected us and our own world, so they plot against us. These three men are in this world, but they are not men. They are beings of Light and glory, they are trespassing on our territory. They have come to this little Enosh (Man) who is helpless and alone in the world, to instruct him and to give him an advantage over us.’”
This is the very stuff you read about in Science Fiction all the time, but it is written up beautifully in these old sources, and there is so much of it: A ship with ropes of light, with crews clothed in light, is laden with a treasure, and it is going from one world to another. The evil ones waylay it, and they pirate it. This is from the pseudo-Thomas, a recent discovery but a very old text: “The Evil One came from I do not where in his ship, and he hijacked the cargo and divided up the treasure among the worlds over which he ruled.” This is your Galactic Empire motif. “He planted precious plants in these worlds, the plants he had stolen. He fixed precious stones in their firmaments, and they gloried in their stolen finery.” God found out, and He sent a messenger to get back all the stolen stuff and replant the plants in their proper worlds, from which they had been purloined in the first place. This is described in very physical terms. And He says, “Prepare your people to receive and reclaim and disinfect all these things that they have stolen from us, so that we can put it in the worlds for which it was designated.” This messenger is the Son of Light Himself. He goes and gets the treasure back and puts it in the worlds where it belongs.
There is a lot of Coptic material on this. Note how realistic this one is: “From the place of thine inheritance,” Adam is told, “the sun will look like a little tiny grain of flour. The distance between the worlds is vast.” Their size is enormous, and there is a hierarchy among them. Every one of these worlds is ruled by a single pattern, though no two of them are alike. There is always a governing body of twelve, wherever you go. Every topos (place) has twelve rulers over each part. And each world, whether it is awaiting occupants who have not yet found their place (or have not yet been assigned) or whether it is already occupied, is governed on the same plan. Every kingdom requires a space, so we have to go down and find a space to build a kingdom. There are some very intriguing things here: “My Father laid His hand upon my head, and He gave e the name of Hibbel Yabbah, and he created for me a world containing ten thousand worlds of light . . . and every world was different.”
This is from the Manichean prayer book: “A thousand, thousand mysteries, and a myriad, myriad planets, each with its own mysteries, preceded this world. During Yahweh’s great discussions of the new creations that were to take place, He sent down envoys to report on how things were going on. They did not send all the Uthras, nor did they teach them all the worlds.” But this is the usual order, it says: “Uthra after Uthra will teach thee, will take thee by the right hand and will show thee worlds and dwellings and treasure houses.”
In the Ascension of Isaiah there is an interesting thing: “This the devils do not know. They are banished to particular places and they are not aware of how much really goes on.” They miss all the show. And they say, “We are alone, and there are none beside us.” They have the same illusion that the human race has had for a long time.
Well, we’ve taken up enough time with this, and if there are no questions, I think we can end now. Naturally I can’t answer any scientific questions, and any questions about fiction I can slough off.
I almost forgot to bear my testimony. Can’t stop without this. What else is there but the Gospel, brothers and sisters? If I didn’t believe it, I’d jolly well have to, but I don’t believe it for that reason. I believe it because it’s true, and I hope we all get testimonies of the Gospel.
The story of Thoth’s invention of writing and the negative consequences thereof has a modern counterpart in Isaac Asimov’s classic story “The Feeling of Power,” which is reprinted in a number of places, including Asimov’s collection, Nine Tomorrows.
The City of San Francisco is certainly my city! I wouldn’t live anywhere else than “The Port of Zion” for anything in the world. Perhaps my favorite worldly spot—next, of course, to Golden Gate Park—is the Embarcadero. Only two people have every known how much thanks is due to one of them (now passed from Time into Eternity) that the sailors and seafarers have helped spread the Restored Gospel throughout the seven seas to the four corners of the earth. Of course its spread was inevitable, but I do think that if we Saints had stayed in, say, Missouri, our message would have been much slower in making its way around the world.
Not that I mean for a moment to indicate anything but the most wholehearted approval for the work done by our regularly appointed young missionaries, but of course nothing can equal the zeal and energy of sailors! And walking down the Embarcadero and seeing the vigor with which they toss their Orange Julius drinks down their thirsty throats, I think how different the scene must be in (for example) that terribly overgrown and misnamed large city in Southern California, where seafarers may be seen abusing their systems by the use of alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee—all, of course, forbidden by The Word of Wisdom of the Prophet Joseph.
When I speak of the role played in this by one of the only two people who know the whole, true story, I am referring to my maternal grandfather. I am the other. And I suppose I’m a chip off the old block—or, perhaps, stated more exactly, a chip off the stalwart old Mormon family tree, so well set up (on paper, of course) by Grandpa Spence during the later years of his retirement. How he spent the earlier years we will see very shortly. As is usual among L. D. S. people, I take a great interest in my ancestors, but most of all in Grandpa Spence. It may be because I inherited (if such things be hereditary) both his interest in genealogy and inventions as well as that slight speech impediment which becomes troublesome only at moments of excitement. I have always said to myself, “Nephi Spence Nilsen, your grandfather rose above this, and so will you.” It invariably helps. Grandpa was aware of all that and it constituted another bond between us. To sum it up: He and I both tended to stammer, both were interested in Mormon history and genealogy, both loved to consider mechanical devices.
It was a combination of these characteristics of Grandpa’s that brought about a certain incident which I feel can now, safely, and should now, properly, be made known to one and all. And above and beyond that, my grandfather specifically (though in veiled language) asked me in his will to speak out on this matter at this particular time.
Grandpa was a peach. Perhaps it was the very enthusiasm of his devotion to the Latter- day Saints (though Grandma drew the line when he dutifully considered taking a second wife) that accounted for his unfailing good humor and zest even when he was quite old. Needless to say that he was a respected and responsible citizen, having for many years been mechanical supervisor for the various industries operated by the Latter-day Saints Church, and was valued for his circumspection as well as for his technical competence. Unfortunately (or fortunately: let History decide) his circumspection failed him at one crucial point in his life when—
But let me simply state the facts.
Grandpa had left England with a party of emigrants (all converts like himself) as an already full-grown young man of fifteen, crossed the plains to Great Salt Lake City, and within a short time was hired by President Brigham Young to copy letters in his clear and graceful longhand. His promotion in the Church was rapid, and after fifty years of remarkable service, he retired to his own three-story home on First North Street. Grandma had passed from Time into Eternity years before, and all the children had homes of their own; a neighbor lady acted as part- time housekeeper, leaving him free to follow his own inclinations in his own now fully free time.
The inspiration for the chief of these inclinations arose out of the only real regret that he had ever had. Much more out of his reverence for Mormon history than personal pride, he wished so much that he had not missed by only a year or so having been present on that great day when Brother Brigham led the wary pioneers to the bluff overlooking the Great Salt Lake Valley and announced that they would stay and make the desert bloom like a rose. In his retirement Grandpa Spence secretly determined to build a device which would transport him back to that decisive moment.
“I was born in the age of the covered wagon,” he declared to himself, “and have lived to see the age of the flying machine. eternity is one thing, but time is another, and surely to a saint nothing is impossible!” he was of course not certain of being able to return—he might even be scalped by an unconverted Lamanite—but to these considerations he gave but a shrug and a smile. His enormous dedication to the idea of fulfilling himself in this singular way enabled him to work like a steam engine (he had helped drive the Golden Spike at Promontory Point—Utah!—incidentally); he was a vigorous man with great inventive ability, and he was inspired. He completed the machine one bright May morning and got to Observation Bluff one hour and seventeen minutes before Brother Brigham and his advance party arrived.
Grandpa had not calculated on finding a smooth or barely downy chin instead of the full beard his hand automatically sought to stroke in satisfaction, but after a moment he realized what had happened: He had traveled back in time so successfully that he had become a stripling once again! Fortunately he had always been moderate in diet, and his twentieth-century clothes were only slightly loose. Un fortunately he no longer had the gravity and patience of his former years and soon became overanxious and restless. And as the pilgrim travelers approached, his excitement drew him away from the machine, which was well hidden by the bushes on the bluff above the new arrivals. He was recklessly determined to get as close as possible to the principals of this historic moment and to hear the historic words, This is the place! And in moving toward the trave-worn Saints, creeping along in the low bushes, he accidentally dislodged a stone, which tumbled down the slide, gaining momentum.
Forgetful of all else, he stood up to warn them out of the way, but in his excitement he found his speech impediment rendered him unable to release a sound . . .
The stone rolled and bounced and hit Brigham just above the worn and dusty boot on his right leg. The square, heavy face winced and swung around and saw the still-speechless stranger above on the bluff. All the weariness and travel of the long journey west, all the tragedy of the Mormon martyrdom, all the outrage of the persecuted were in Brigham’s roar of pain and astonishment. “Look ye there!” he cried. “Who’s that? Not a speck of dust on him! Throwing stones already! I thought this place was empty and I see that the Gentiles have got here before us!” And while poor young-again Spence struggled vainly to give utterance, regret, and denial, Brigham turned and swung his arm in a great determined arc.
“This is not the place!” he cried. “Onward!”
Not for a moment did anyone dream of controverting the word of the President, Prophet, Revelator, and Seer. Onward! they echoed. And onward they went. And the conscience-stricken young stranger, where did he go? Well, where could he go? He went after them, onward, of course. Of course they couldn’t make heads or tails of his stammering explanations, nor even of the ones he attempted to write. But they understood that he was sorry. That was enough. Mormons have suffered too much to be vindictive. And that night when the band camped, he was brought to the leader’s wagon, where a small lamp burned.
“Young man,” said Brigham, “They tell me that you have expressed a seemly contrition for having raised your hand against the Lord’s Anointed; therefore I forgive you in the name of Israel’s God. They also say you write a good, clear hand. Sit down. There’s pen and ink and paper. Dear Sister Simpson, It cannot have escaped your attention that I have observed with approbation your—no, make that----the modesty of your demeanor, equally with your devotion to the doctrines and covenants of the Latter-day Saints, which is of far greater importance than the many charms with which a benign Nature has adorned your youthful person. My advanced years will always assure you of mature advice, and in my other seventeen—is it seventeen? or nineteen?—pshaw, boy—a man can’t keep all these figures in his head—my other eighteen wives you will find a set of loving sisters. Since it is fitting that we be sealed for Time and Eternity, kindly commence packing now in order to depart with the next party of Saints heading for our original destination which as you know was tentatively the peninsula called San Francisco in Upper California. Yours & sic cetera, B. Young, Pres., Church of J. C. of L. D. S.–sand it well, son, for I hate a blotty document.”
You’ve all read your history and must certainly have often felt thankful that Brother Brigham did not yield to the momentary impulse he admitted he had, and that he did not stop in Utah. Despite its impressive name, Great Salt Lake City is just a tiny town with a pleasant enough view, but even that can’t compare with the one from my window alone. It’s a pleasant thing to sit here in my apartment atop the hill on Saint Street, sipping a tall, cool lemonade, and admire the view. To the west is the great span of Brigham Young Bridge across the Golden Gate, with its great towers and seven lanes of cars; to the east is the Tabernacle, its otherworldly shape gracing the Marina Green, with the stately Temple nearby. I see a network of wide dignified streets feathered with light green trees, giving the city the look of a great park. And, being truly a Mormon city, it is undisfigured by a single liquor saloon, tearoom, tobacconist, or coffee house.
And Grandpa? After his retirement, he sold his house on Joseph Smith Esplanade and moved to the fine apartment in the Saint-Ashbury district where I now live. Having decided to leave well enough alone the second time around, he devoted his last last years entirely to the study of Latter-day Saint genealogy. He felt right at home here, as do I, and why not? After all, the Saint-Ashbury can boast of more lemonade and Postum stands per square block than anyplace in the U. S. A., and one is always seeing and hearing those inspiring and exciting initials: L. D. S.! L. D. S! L. D. S.!
The Natives had told him many tales. In particular they had warned him of the house of yellow reeds tied with black sennit; how anyone who touched it instantly became the prey of Akaanga, and was handed on by him to Miru the Ruddy, and hocussed with the Kava of the dead, and baked in the ovens and eaten by the eaters of the dead. “There’s nothing in it,” said the missionary.
There was a bay upon that island, a very fair bay to look upon; but, by the native saying, it was death to bathe there. “There is nothing in that,” said the missionary; and he came to the bay and went swimming. Presently an eddy took him and bore him towards the reef. “Oho!” thought the missionary, “it seems there is something in it after all.” And he swam the harder, but the eddy carried him away. “I do not care about this eddy,” said the missionary; and even as he said it, he was aware of a house raised on piles above the sea. It was built of yellow reeds, on reed joined with another, and the whole bound with black sennit; a ladder led to the door, and all about the house hung calabashes. He had never seen such a house, nor yet such calabashes; and the eddy set for the ladder.
“This is singular,” said the missionary,” but there can be nothing in it.” And he laid hold of the ladder and went up. It was a fine house, but there was no man there; and when the missionary looked back he saw no island—only the heaving of the sea. “It is strange about the island,” said the missionary, “but who’s afraid? My stories are the true ones.” And he laid hold of a calabash, for he was one who loved curiosities. Now he had no sooner laid hand upon the calabash than that which he handled and that which he saw and stood on burst like a bubble and was gone; and night closed upon him, and the waters, and the meshes of the net; and he wallowed there like a fish.
“A body would think there was something in this,” said the missionary. “But if these tales are true, I wonder what about my tales!”
Now the flaming of Akaanga’s torch drew near in the night, and the misshapen hands groped in the meshes of the net, and they took the missionary between the finger and the thumb and bore him dripping in the night and silence to the place of the ovens of Miru. And there was Miru, ruddy in the glow of the ovens; and there sat her four daughters, and made the kava of the dead; and there sat the comers out of the islands of the living, dripping and lamenting.
This was a dread place to reach for any of the sons of men. But of all who had ever come there, the missionary was the most concerned; and, to make things worse, the person next to him was a convert of his own.
“Aha,” said the convert, “so you are here like your neighbors? And how about all your stories?”
“It seems,” said the missionary, bursting into tears, “that there was nothing in them.”
By this time the kava of the dead was ready, and the daughters of Miru began to intone in the old manner of singing, “Gone are the green islands and the bright sea, and the sun and the moon and the forty million stars, and life and hope. Henceforth is no more, only to sit in the night and silence, and see your friends devoured; for life is a deceit, and the bandage is taken from your eyes.”
Now when the singing was done, one of the daughters came with the bowl. Desire of that kava rose in the missionary’s bosom; he lusted for it like a swimmer for the land, or a bridegroom for his bride; and he reached out his hand, and took the bowl, and would have drunk. And then he remembered, and put it back.
“Drink!” sang the daughter of Miru. “There is no kava like the kava of the dead, and to drink of it once is the reward for living.”
“I thank you. It smells excellent,” said the missionary, “but I am a blue-ribbon man myself; and though I am aware there is a difference of opinion even in our own confession, I have always held kava to be excluded.”
“What!” cried the convert. “Are you going to respect a taboo at a time like this” and you were always so opposed to taboos when you were alive!”
“To other people’s,” said the missionary. “Never to my own.”
“But yours have all proved wrong,” said the convert.
“It looks like it,” said the missionary, “but I can’t help that. No reason why I should break my word.”
“I never heard the like of this!” cried the daughter of Miru. “Pray, what do you expect to gain?”
“That is not the point,” said the missionary. “I took this pledge for others; I am not going to break it for myself.”
The daughter of Miru was puzzled; she went and told her mother. Miru was vexed, and they went and told Akaanga.
“I don’t know what to do about this,” said Akaanga; and he came and reasoned with the missionary.
“But there is such a thing as right and wrong,” said the missionary. “Your ovens cannot alter it.”
“Give the kava to the rest,” said Akaanga to the daughters of Miru. “I must get rid of this sea-lawyer instantly, or worse will come of it.”
The next moment the missionary came up in the midst of the sea and there before him were the palm trees of the island. He swam to the shore gladly, and landed. Much matter of thought was in that missionary’s mind.
“I seem to have been misinformed upon some points,” said he. “Perhaps there is not so much in it as I had supposed; but there is something in it after all. Let me be glad of that.”
And he rang the bell for service.
The sticks break, the stones crumble,
The eternal altars tilt and tumble;
Sanctions and tales dislimn like mist
About the amazed evangelist.
He stands unshook from age to youth
Smith—Good morning, Mr. Devil. How now; you seem to be much engaged. What news have you got there?
Devil—[Slipping his bills into his pocket with a low bow]—Oh! Good morning, Mr. Smith; I hope you are well, sir. Why—I—was just out—out on a little business in my line; or finally, to be candid, sir, I was contriving a fair and honourable warfare against you and your impositions, wherein piety is outraged, and religion greatly hindered in its useful course; for to be bold, sir, (and I despise any thing underhanded,) I must tell you to your face that you have made me more trouble than all the ministers or people of my whole dominion have for ages past.
Smith—Trouble! What trouble have I caused your Majesty? I certainly have endeavoured to treat you, and all other persons, in a friendly manner, even my worst enemies; and I always aim to fulfil the Mormon creed; and that is, to my mind my own business exclusively. Why should this trouble you, Mr. Devil?
Devil—Ah! your own business indeed! I know not what you may consider your own business, it is so very complicated; but I know what you have done, and what you are aiming to do. You have disturbed the quiet of Christendom, overthrown churches and societies; you have dared to call in question the truth and usefulness of old and established creeds, which have stood the test of ages, and have even caused tens of thousands to come out in open rebellion not only against wholesome creeds, established forms and doctrines, well approved and orthodox, but against some of the most pious, learned, exemplary, and honourable clergy, whom both myself and all the world love, honour, and esteem. And this is not all; but you are causing many persons to think who never thought before, and you would fain put the whole world a-thinking, and then where will true religion and piety be? Alas! they will have no place among men; for if men keep such a terrible thinking and reasoning as they begin to do, since you commenced your business, as you call it, they never will continue to uphold the good old way in which they have jogged along in peace for so many ages; and thus, Mr. Smith, you will overthrow my kingdom, and leave me not a foot of ground on earth, and this is the very thing you aim at; but I, sir, have the boldness to oppose you by all lawful means which I have in my power.
Smith—Really, Mr. Devil, your Majesty has of late become very pious. I think some of your Christian brethren have greatly misrepresented you. It is generally reported by them that you are opposed to religion. But—
Devil—It is false; there is not a more religious and pious being in the world than myself, nor a being more liberal minded. I am decidedly in favour of all creeds, systems, and forms of Christianity, of whatever name or nature, so long as they leave out that abominable doctrine which caused me so much trouble in former times, and which, after slumbering for ages, you have again revived. I mean the doctrine of direct communion with God, by new revelation. This is hateful, it is impious; it is directly opposed to all the divisions and branches of the Christian Church. I never could bear it. And for this very cause, I helped to bring to condign punishment all the prophets and the apostles of old; for while they were suffered to live with this gift of revelation, they were always exposing and slandering me, and all other good pious men, in exposing our deeds and purposes, which they called wicked, but which we consider as the height of zeal and piety; and when we killed them for these crimes of dreaming, prophesying, and vision-seeing, they raised the cry of persecution, and so with you miserable and deluded Mormons.
Smith—Then, your most Christian Majesty is in favour of all other religious but this one, are you?
Devil—Certainly. I am fond of praying, singing, church-building, bell-ringing, going to meeting, preaching, and withal, I have quite a missionary zeal. I like also long faces, long prayers, long robes, and learned sermons. Nothing suits me better than to see people who have been for a whole week oppressing their neighbour, grinding the face of the poor, walking in pride and folly, and serving me with all their heart; I say nothing suits me better, Mr. Smith, than to see these people go to meeting on Sunday with a long religious face on, and to see them pay a portion of their ill-gotten gains for the support of a priest while he and his hearers pray with doleful groans and awful faces, saying, “Lord, we have left undone the things we ought to have done, and done the things we ought not;” and then, when service is ended, see them turn again to their wickedness, and pursue it greedily all the week, and the next Sabbath repeat the same things. Now, be candid, Mr. Smith. Do you not see that these, and all others, who have a form and deny the power, are my good Christian children, and that their religion is a help to my cause?
Smith—Certainly, your reasoning is clear and obvious as to these hypocrites, but you would not be pleased with people getting converted, either at camp meeting or somewhere else, and then putting their trust in that conversion, and in free grace to save them. Would you not be opposed to this?
Devil—Why should I have any objection to that kind of religion, Mr. Smith? I care not how much they get converted, nor how much they cry Lord, Lord, nor how much they trust to free grace to save them, so long as they do not do the works that their God has commanded them. I am sure of them at last; for you know all men are to be judged according to their deeds. What does their good Bible say? Does it not say, “Not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into my kingdom; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” No, no, Mr. Smith, I am not an enemy to religion, and especially to the modern forms of Christianity. So long as they deny the power, they are a help to my cause. See how much discord, division, hatred, envy, strife, lying, contention, blindness, and even terror and bloodshed, has been produced as the effect of these very systems. By these means I gain millions to my dominion, while at the same time we enjoy the credit of being pious Christians. But you, Mr. Smith, you are my enemy, my open and avowed enemy; you have even dared, in a sacrilegious manner, to tear the veil from all these fine systems, and to commence an open attack upon my kingdom, and this even when I had almost all Christendom, together with the clergymen and gentlemen of the press, in my favour. How dare you venture thus to commence a revolution without reserve, and without aid or succour, and in the midst of innumerable hosts of my subjects?
Smith—Why, sir, in the first place, I knew that I had the truth on my side, and that your systems and forms of Christianity were so manifestly corrupt that one had only to lift the veil from your fooleries on one side, and to present plain and reasonable truth on the other, and the eyes of the people could at once distinguish the difference so clearly that, except they chose darkness rather than light, they would leave your ranks and come over to the truth. For instance, what is easier than to shew, from the history of the past, that a religion of direct revelation was the only system ever instituted by the Lord, and the only one calculated to benefit mankind? What is easier than to shew that this system saved the church from flood, famine, flames, war, division, bondage, doubt, and darkness, many times, and that it is the legitimate way and manner of God’s government of his own peculiar people in all ages and dispensations.
Devil—To be candid with you, Mr. Smith, I must own that what you have now said, neither myself nor my most able ministers have been able to gainsay by any argument or fact. But then you must recollect, that tradition and custom, together with fashion and popular clamour, have in all ages had more effect than plain fact and sound reason. Hence you see we are yet safe, so long as we continue the cry from press and pulpit, and in Sunday schools; and all these things are done away and no longer needed. In this way, though God may speak, they will not hear; angels may minister, and they will not believe; visions may reveal, and they will not be enlightened; prophets may lift their voice, and their warnings pass unheeded; so you see we still have them as safe as we had the people in olden time. God can communicate no message to them which will be examined or heard with any degree of credence or candour. So for all the good they get from God, all communication being cut off, they might as well be without a God. Thus you see, I have full influence and control of the multitude by a means far more effectual than argument or reason; and I even dare to teach them that it is a sin to reason, think, or investigate, as it would disturb the even tenor of their pious breathings and devout groans and responses. Smith, you must be extremely ignorant of human nature, as well as of the history of the past, to presume that reason and truth would have much effect with the multitude. Why, sir, look how effectually we warded off the truth at Ephesus, when Paul attempted to address them in the theatre. Strange, that with all these examples before you, you should venture to raise the hue and cry which has so often been defeated, and this with no better weapons on your side than reason and truth. Indeed, you may thank my Christian spirit of forbearance that you have escaped so far without a gridiron; but take care for the future, I may not always be so mild.
Smith—But why is your Majesty so highly excited against me and my plans of operation, seeing that you consider that you have the multitude perfectly safe; and why so enraged and so fearful of the consequences of my course, and the effect of my weapons, while at the same time you profess to despise them as weak and powerless. Alas! it is too true that you have the multitude safe to all appearance at present, and that truth can seldom reach them; why not then be content, and leave me to pursue my calling in peace? I can hardly hope to win to the cause of truth any but the few who think, and these have ever been troublesome to your cause.
Devil—True, but then you are, in spite of all my efforts, and that of my felllows, daily thinning our ranks, by adding to the number of those who think; and such a thinking is kept up that we are often exposed in some of our most prominent plans, and placed in any awkward predicament; and who knows what defeat, disgrace, and dishonour may befall the pious cause, if you are suffered to continue your rebellious course.
Smith—But, Mr. Devil, why, with all these other advantages on your side, do you resort to such mean, weak, and silly fabrications as the Spaulding Story. You profess to be a gentleman, a Christian, and a clergyman, and you ought for your own sake, and for the sake of your cause, to keep up outward appearance of honour and fairness. And now, Mr. Devil, tell the truth for once; you know perfectly well that your Spaulding Story, in which you represent me as an impostor, in connexion with Sidney Rigdon, and that we were engaged in palming Solomon Spaulding’s romance upon the world as the Book of Mormon, is a lie, a base fabrication, without a shadow of truth; and you know that I found the Original Records of the Nephites, and translated and published the Book of Mormon from them, without ever having heard of the existence of Spaulding, or of his romance, or of Sidney Rigdon either. Now, Mr. Devil, this was a mean, disgraceful, and underhand trick in you, and one of which even you have reason to be ashamed.
Devil—Well, Mr. Smith, to be candid, I acknowledge what you say is true, and that it was not the most honourable course to the world. But it was you who commenced the war, by publishing that terrible book, which we readily recognized as a complete expose of all our false and corrupt Christianity, not even keeping back the fact that we had continued, during the dark ages, to rob the Scriptures of their plainness, and we felt the utmost alarm and excitement, and without much reflection, in the height of passion, we called a hasty council of clergy and editors, and other rascals in Painesville, Ohio, and, thinking that almost any means were lawful in war, we invented the Spaulding Story, and fathered it upon the poor printer, Howe, of Painesville, although Doctor Hulbert (thanks to my aid) was its real author. But mark, Mr. Smith, mark one thing, we had not a face so hard, nor a conscience so abandoned, as to publish this Spaulding Story at the first as a positive fact; we only published it as a conjecture, a mere probability, and this you know, we had a right to do, without once thinking of the amount of evil it would eventually accomplish. But, sir, it was some of my unfortunate clergymen who, more reckless, hardened, and unprincipled than myself, have ventured to add to each edition of this story, till at last, without my aid or consent, they have set it down for a positive fact, that Solomon Spaulding, Sidney Rigdon, and yourself, have made up the Book of Mormon out of a romance. Now, Mr. Smith, I am glad of this interview with you, as it gives me the opportunity of clearing up my character. I acknowledge with shame that I was guilty of a mean act in helping to hatch up and publish the Spaulding Story as a probability, and I associated with rascals far beneath my dignity, either as a sovereign prince, or religious minister, or even as an old, honorable, and experienced Devil, and for this I beg your pardon. But, really, I must deny the charge of having assisted in making the additions which have appeared in later editions of that story, in which my former probabilities and mean conjectures are set down for positive facts. No, Mr. Smith, I had no hand in a trick so low and mean; I despise it as the work of priests and editors alone, without my aid or suggestion, and I do not believe that even the meanest young devils in our dominion would have stooped to such an act.
Smith—Well, I must give your Majesty some credit, for once at least, if what you say is true; but how can you justify your conduct in dishonouring yourself so far as to stoop to the level of the hireling clergy and their followers, in still making use of this humbug story (which you affect to despise) in order to still blind the eyes of the people in regard to the origin of the Book of Mormon.
Devil—Oh! Mr Smith, it does take so readily among the pious of all sects, that it seems a pity to spoil the fun, and I cannot resist the temptation of carrying out the joke, now it is so well rooted in their minds; and you can’t think how we devils shake our sides with laughter when we get up in the gallery in some fine church, put on our long face, and assist in singing, and in the devout responses. This done, the Spaulding Story is gravely told from the pulpit, while the pious old clergyman wears a face as long as that of Balaam’s beast. All is swallowed down for solid truth by the gaping multitude, while we hang our heads behind the screen, and laugh and wink at each other in silence, as any thing overheard would disturb their worship; and as bad as I am, I never wish to disturb those popular modes of worship, which decency requires us to respect. So you see, Mr. Smith, we have our fun to ourselves, at your expense; but, after all, we do not mean any hurt by it, although I must acknowledge, upon the whole, it serves our purpose.
Smith—Well, we will drop the subject, as I want to inquire about some other stories which have had an extensive circulation by means of your editors and priests. For instance, there is the story of my attempting to walk on the water and getting drowned, the numerous stories of my attempting to raise the dead, as a mere trick of imposition, and getting detected in it; and the stories of my attempting to appear as an angel, and getting caught and exposed in the same; and besides this, you have me killed, by some means, every little while. Now you old hypocrite, you know that none of these things ever happened, or any circumstance out of which to make them; and that so far from this, I deny the principle of a man’s working miracles, either real or pretended, as a proof of his mission, and contend that miracles if wrought at all, were wrought for benevolent purposes, and without being designed to convince the unbeliever. Why, then, do you resort to such silly stories in your opposition to me, seeing that you have many other advantages? Not that I would complain of such weak opposition, as if it were calculated to hinder my progress, but rather to mention it as something well calculated to injure your own cause, by betraying your weakness and folly.
Devil—[laughing]—Ha, ha, ha, eh, eh. Oh! Mr. Smith; I just put out these stories for a joke, in order to have my own fun, and without the most distant idea that any being on earth would be so silly as to give any credence to them; but judge my surprise and joy, when I found priests, editors, and people, so depraved in their judgment and tastes, so in love with lies, and so ready to catch at every thing against their common enemy, as they call you, that these jocose stories of ours actually look, in their credulous craniums for grave truth, and were passed about by them, and sought after and swallowed by the multitude as greedily as a young robin swallows a worm when it is dropped into its mouth, which is stretched at full width, while its eyes are closed. So you see, Mr. Smith, that without meaning any particular harm to you, I have my fun, and am besides so unexpectedly fortunate as to reap great advantages from circumstances where I had neither expected nor calculated. So I hope you will at least bear my folly, nor set down aught in malice, where no malice was intended. You know we devils are poor miserable creatures at best; and were it not for our fun, and our gambling, and our religious exercises, we would have nothing to kill time.
Smith—Well, well. I see plainly you will have a creep out some how or other, rather than bear the disgrace and stigma which your conduct would seem to deserve. But forgetting the past, let me inquire what course you intend to pursue in future, and whether this warfare between you and me, will still be prosecuted? And if so, what course do you intend to pursue hereafter? You know my course. I have long since taken the field at the head of a mere handful of brave patriots who are true as the pole stars, and firm as the rock of Gibraltar. They laugh at and despise your silly stories; and with nothing but a few plain simple weapons of truth and reason, aided by revelation, we boldly make war upon your whole dominion and will never quit the field, dead or alive, till we win the battle, and deprive you of every foot of ground you possess. This is our purpose; and although your enemy, I am bold and generous enough to declare it. So you see I am not for taking any unwary advantage, notwithstanding all your pious tricks upon me and the public.
Devil—Mr. Smith, I am too much of the gentleman not to admire your generous frankness and your boldness, and too much of a Christian not to appreciate your honesty; but as you commenced this war, and I only acted at the first on the defensive, with the pure motive of defending my kingdom, I think this ought in some degree at least, to excuse the means I have made use of; and that you may have no reason to complain in future, I will now fully open to you the plan of my future campaign. Here [pulling out a bundle of handbills] is what I was doing this morning, when by chance we met; and by the reading of which you will see my course. Heretofore I have endeavoured to throw contempt upon your cause, in hopes to smother it and keep it under, as something beneath the notice of us well-informed Christians. For this cause I have generally caused it to be represented that you were a very ignorant silly man, and that your followers were made up of the unthinking and vulgar, and not worthy of notice. But the fact is, you have made such rapid strides, and have poured forth such a torrent of intelligence, and gathered such a host of talented and thinking men around you, that I can no longer conceal these facts under a bushel of burning lies, and therefore I now change my purpose and my manner of attack. I shall endeavor to magnify you and your success from this time forward, and to make you appear as much larger than the reality, as you have heretofore fallen short. If my former course has excited contempt, and caused you to be despised, and thus kept you out of notice, my future course will be to excite jealousy, fear, and alarm, till all the world is ready to rise and crush you as if you were a legion of Sampsons, commanded by Bonaparte. This, I think, will be more successful in putting you down than the ignoble course I have heretofore taken—so prepare for the worst.
Smith—I care as little for your magnifying powers as I have heretofore done for your contempt; in fact, I will endeavour to go ahead to that degree, that what you will say in regard to my great influence and power, though intended by you for a falsehood, shall prove to be true, and by so doing I shall be prepared to receive those whom you may excite against me, and to give them so warm a reception that they will never discover your intended falsehood, but will find all your rrepresentations of my greatness to be a reality; so do your worst, I defy you.
Devil—Well, time will determine whether the earth is to be governed by a prophet, and under the way of truth, or whether myself, and my Christian friends will still prevail. But remember, Smith, remember, I beseech you for your own good, beware what you are doing, I have the priests and editors, with a few exceptions, under my control, together with wealth, popularity and honour. Count well the cost before you again plunge into this warfare. Good bye, Mr. Smith, I must away to raise my recruits and prepare for a campaign.
Smith—Good by to your Majesty. [They both touch hats and turn away.]
Devil—[Recollecting himself and suddenly turning back,] Oh! I say Mr. Smith, one word more if you please, [in a low and confidential tone, with his mouth close to his ear,] after all, what is the use of parting enemies; the fact is, you go in for the wheat and I for the tares. Both must be harvested. Are we not fellow-labourers? I can make no use of the wheat, nor you of the tares, even if we had them; we each claim our own, I for the burning and you for the barn. Come, then, give the poor old devil his due, and let’s be friends.
Smith—Agreed; I neither want yours nor you mine. A man free from prejudices, will give the devil his due. Come, here is the right hand of fellowship—you to the tares, and I to the wheat. [They shake hands cordially.]
Devil—Well, Mr. Smith, we have talked a long while, and are agreed at last. You are a noble and generous fellow, and would not bring a railing accusation against even a poor old Devil, nor cheat him of even one cent. Come, it is a warm day, and I feel as though it is my treat. Let us go down to Mammy Brewer’s cellar, and take something to drink.
Smith—Agreed, Mr. Devil; you appear very generous now. [The enter the cellar together.]
Devil—Good morning, Mrs. Brewer; I make you acquainted with my good friend Mr. Smith, the prophet.
The landlady—[smiling a little and looking a little surprised]—Why, Mr. Devil, is that you; sit down, you’re tired. But you don’t say this is Mr. Smith, your greatest enemy. I am quite surprised. What will you have, gentlemen? For if you can drink together, I think all the world ought to be friends.
Devil—As we are both temperance men, and ministers, I think perhaps a glass of spruce beer apiece will be all right. What say you, Mr. Smith?
Smith—As you please, your Majesty. [They now take the beer.]
Devil—[Holding up his glass.] Come, Mr. Smith, your health. I propose we offer a toast.
Devil—Here’s to my good friend, Joe. Smith. May all sorts of ill luck befall him, and may he never be suffered to enter my kingdom, either in time or eternity, for he would almost make me forget that I am a devil, and make a gentleman of me, while he gently overthrows my government, at the same time that he wins my friendship.
Smith—Here’s to his Satanic Majesty; may he be driven from the earth, and be forced to put to sea in a stone canoe with an iron paddle, and may the canoe sink, and a shark swallow the canoe and its royal freight, and an alligator swallow the shark, and may the alligator be bound in the northwest corner of hell, the door be locked, the key lost, and a blind man hunting for it. [Exeunt Devil, Prophet, and all.]
This story was first published as a pamphlet about 1840, by an unknown author, perhaps Orson Pratt or Parley Pratt, and it is almost certainly the first item of Mormon fiction by an LDS writer, ever.
The angel of our presence came to the bedside and gently said, “Arise!” Now, it mattereth not whether we were in the body or out of it; asleep or awake; on earth or in heaven; or upon the water or in the air; the sum of the matter is like this: Our guide, for such we shall call the angel or being that conveyed us, soon brought us in sight of a beautiful city.
As we were nearing the place, a pillar of fire, seemingly over the most splendid building, lit the city and country for a great distance around, and as we came by, THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD IN ZION, in letters of a pure language, and sparkling like diamonds, disclosed where we were. Our guide went round the city in order to give us a chance to “count the towers;” and, as it was nearly sunrise, he conducted us into one, that we might have a fair chance to view the glory of Zion by daylight. We seemed to be swallowed up in sublimity! The pillar of fire, as the sun rose, majestically mellowing into a white cloud, as a shade for the city from heat. The dwellings, so brilliant by night, had the appearance of precious stones, and the streets glittered like gold, and we marvelled. “Marvel not,” said our guide, “this is the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah: ‘For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thine officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.’” [Isaiah 60:17]
Now the eyes of our understanding began to be quickened, and we learned that we were two hundred years ahead of common life, and we glorified. The veil that hides our view from the glory of the upper deep had been taken away, and all things appeared to us as to the Lord. The great earthquake mentioned by John, and other prophets before him, had levelled the mountains over the whole earth; the sea had rolled back as it was in the beginning, the crooked was made straight, and the rough places plain. The earth yielded her increase, and the knowledge of God exalted man to the society of resurrected beings.
The melody and prayers of the morning in Zion showed that the Lord was there, and truly so; for, after breakfast the chariot of Jesus Christ was made ready for a pleasure ride; and the chariots of his hundred and forty-four thousand glittered in the retinue of earth’s greatest and best, so gloriously, that the show exhibited the splendour of gods, whose Father’s name they bore on the front of their crowns.
Our curiosity excited us to inquire what day they celebrated? To which the guide replied, “This is the Feast-day fo the Lord to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, for being martyred for the truth, held yearly on the seventh day of the fourth month, throughout all the tribes of Israel!”
Flesh and blood cannot comprehend the greatness of the scene; the worthy of the earth, with Adam at their head; the martyrs of the different dispensations, with Abel at their head; and honourable men from other worlds composed an assemblage of majesty, dignity, and divinity so much above the little pageantry of man in his self-made greatness, that we almost forgot that mortals ever enjoyed anything more than misery, in all the pomp and circumstance of man’s power over man! This was a feast-day for truth! This was the reward of integrity! This was the triumph of kings and priests unto God, and was a holiday of eternity! Who could be happier than he that was among the holy throng? No one; and away we rode out of Zion among her stakes.
At the first city out, we found the same spirit—all were one. While there, the following news, by post, came from the east. It was read from one of the papers just published that morning.
“In digging for the foundation of our new Temple in the 124th city of Joseph, near where it is supposed the city of New York once stood, a large square stone was taken from the ruins of some building, which, by a seam in it, indicated more than mere stone. The seam being opened, disclosed a lead box about six by eight inches square. This box was soon found to contain several daily papers of its time, together with some coin of the old government of the United States. It will be recollected that all the inhabitants of this city, which were spared from calamity, were ‘slung out when the earth was turned upside down,’ some forty or fifty years ago for their wickedness.”
The account of fires in one of these papers was truly lamentable, destroying, as the paper said, more than twenty-five millions worth of property in about three months. Each contained a large number of murders, suicides, riots, robberies, and hints of war expected, with columns of divisions among the sectarian churches about “slavery, Onderdonking, and the right way.” The Archer of Paradise remarked, as these horrors of old times were being read, that “all that was transacted in the last days of Babylon, before Satan was bound.”
Joseph Smith said, “Lord, we will put those papers and coin in the repository of relics and curiosities of Satan’s kingdom of the old world;” which was agreed to by all, after exhibiting the coin. The silver coin contained the words “United States of America,” and “half dollar,” round an image of an eagle on one side, and a woman sitting upon the word “Liberty,” and holding up a night cap, between thirteen stars over “1845,” on the other.
The only idea that could be gathered from all this was that the government had fallen from the splendour of an eagle to the pleasure of women and was holding up the night cap as a token that the only liberty enjoyed then was star-light liberty, because their deeds were evil.
Another coin had the appearance of gold, with “five dollars” upon it, but upon close examination it was found to be nothing but fine brass.
While this was going on, the Lord said, “Beware of the leaven of old. Let us enjoy our day.”
In a moment this band of brethren were off, and what could equal the view? No veil, no voice; the heavens were in their glory, and the angels were ascending and descending. The earth was in its beauty; the wolves and sheep; the calves and lions; the behemoth and the buffalo; the child and the serpent, enjoyed life without fear, and all men were one.
As we were passing to another city, amid all this perfection of the reign of Jesus before his ancients gloriously, we discovered the fragment of a hewn stone, of a lightish blue colour, with an abbreviated word “Mo,” and the figures “1838” upon it. To which the Lion of the Lord exclaimed, “The wicked are turned into hell and forgotten, but the righteous reign with God in glory,” and it seemed as if the echo came from a redeemed world—“glory.”
At about two, after five hours’ ride among the cities and stakes of Zion, we returned to the capital to partake of the feast of the martyrs.
The preparation was perfect. A table through the grove of Zion, for more than three hundred thousand saints, were Jesus Christ sat at the head of the fathers and mothers, sons and daughters of Israel, was a sight which the world, even Babylon in its best days, never witnessed. Says Jesus, as every eye turned upon him,
Our Father, and thine,
Bless me and mine. Amen.
After the feast (the sentiments, words of wisdom, and other touching matters were to be published in Zo-ma-rah, or Pure News, and are omitted) we stepped into the News Room, and the first article in the Pure News, which attracted our attention, was, the Minutes of the General Conference, held in Zion, on the 14th day of the first month, A.D., 2045, when it was motioned by Joseph Smith, and seconded by John the Revelator, “that forty-eight new cities be laid out and builded, this year, in accordance with the prophets which have said, ‘who can number Israel? Who can count the dust of Jacob? Let him fill the earth with cities.’ Carried unanimously.” [Numbers 23:10]
Twelve of these cities to be laid out beyond eighteen degrees north, for the tribes of Reuben, Judah and Levi. Twelve on the east, at the same distance, for the tribes of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. Twelve on the south, at the same distance, for the tribes of Simeon, Issacher, and Zebulon; and twelve on the west, at the same distance, for the tribes of Gad, Asher, and Napthali.
The paper contained a notice for the half yearly conference, as follows:
“The general half yearly conference will be held at Jerusalem, on the 14th day of the seventh month, alternately with the yearly conference in Zion.
“It is proposed that the high way cast up between the two cities of our God, be decorated with fruit and shade trees between the cities and villages (which are only eighty furlongs apart), for the accommodation of wayfaring men in Israel. Gabriel has brought fro paradise some seeds of fruit and grain which were originally in the Garden of Eden, and will greatly add to the comfort and convenience of man.”
While we were engaged in reading, a strain of music from some of the sweet singers of Israel, came so mellowly over our sensations for a moment, that we hardly knew whether the angels or saints of the millennium, were chanting a vesper to their Saviour. We were so delighted with the performance as we saw the musical chariot pass, filled with young men and maidens, all in white robes, that we only remember the following verses:
Death and Satan being banish’d;
And the ‘veil’ for ever vanish’d;
All the earth’s again replenish’d,
And in beauty appears:
So we’ll sing hallelujah’s;
While we worship our Saviour,
And fill the world with cities
Through the ‘great thousand years.’
Our eye next caught a map showing the earth as it was and is. We were delighted with the earth as it is. Four rivers headed a little south of Zion, for Zion is situated in “the side of the north.” The first river is called Passon and runs west. The second is called Giau and runs south. The third is called Khidekel, and runs north. The fourth is called the Frath, and runs east. These four rivers divide the earth into four quarters, as it was in the days of Adam, and with their tributaries give an uninterrupted water communication over the face of the world, for in the beginning the earth was not called finished until it was very good for everything.
By the paper we were reading, we learned that rain was expected in the beginning of the seventh month, according to the Law of the Lord, for the promise is, “it shall rain moderately in the first and seventh month, that the ploughman may overtake the reaper.”
Contemplating the greatness of the earth in its glory, with Jesus Christ for her king, president and lawgiver, with such wise counselors as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Peter, and Joseph, we were led to exclaim, “Great is the wisdom, great is the glory, and great is the power of man with his Maker!”—when on a sudden our guide came in.
“You must drink wine with the Lord in His Kingdom and then return.”
This we did, and many things which we saw are not lawful to utter, and can only be known as we learned them, by the assistance of a guardian angel.
This story was originally published by the Nauvoo Neighbor in 1845. It was reprinted that same year by the Millennial Star and in 1969 in Dialogue. In this, its fourth appearance, we have made a few changes, such as moving the year of its setting from 1945 to 2045, in order to transform it from historical curiosity into a relevant story.
Judy opened her eyes to the dim light of Dr. Shumway’s office. She felt surprisingly rested and refreshed. But she was on guard, too, wary of what might happen next.
Bob smiled down at her, a forced cheerfulness, intended to encourage her, but his pretended enthusiasm only emphasized his previous exasperation. He extended a hand to help her sit up. “Do you remember anything, Darling?”
Judy shook her head.
Dr. Shumway was turning up the lights. “The trance was very deep this time. I think you’ll be interested in the tape, Mrs. Putnam. We explored some of your earliest memories, things your conscious mind could not possibly recall.”
“Did you . . . Die you find . . . ?”
“A reason?” Dr. Shumway raised the Venetian blinds a bit. Judy squinted against the glare. “No. But the trance was so complete that the post-hypnotic suggestion should be very powerful indeed. Shall we try it?”
“It’s time to go now, Mrs. Putnam. Your coat is in the closet. You want to go into the closet and get it, so you can leave.”
Judy didn’t move.
“It’s cool out today, Mrs. Putnam. You’ll need your wrap.”
Judy traversed the distance between the couch and the closet in silence, opened the door and took a step into the darkness. Her coat was only an arm’s length away. She could almost touch it. She could touch it. But as she did, it slipped from the hanger and fell in a heap on the floor. A heap like a tiny body. Dead on the floor, in a darkened corner. Closed in. Trapped.
Judy screamed. Bob stood in the doorway, blocking her escape. He reached out to her. His arm! His arm was a gun, pointed at her. Her shrill screams were a distant siren. Her heart pounded, and the sweat beaded up. She clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle the piteous yowls and stumbled toward the door. She raced through the waiting room, into the foyer and out the double glass doors to the parking lot.
Bob found her several blocks from the office complex, damp with perspiration, coatless, and chilled by the November wind. She was still shaken by an occasional sobbing gasp when Bob pulled the car to a stop beside her and opened the door from the inside. “Get in,” he said.
She’s getting worse. What kind of guardian angel am I?
She’ll go crazy if she can’t conquer her fears.
That’s not what worries me most. If she finds out about Sardius, she’s liable to jump to all the wrong conclusions, like reincarnation.
What are you going to do?
What can I do?
Make her not want to go back.
I’ve tried. I’ve made her almost sick before every appointment. But she fights me. After all, what’s the alternative? To go on as she is—terrified of close places. No. She’s convinced this is her last hope. You have more influence with Bob than I have with Judy. Can’t you help from that end?
A week had passed. Judy watched her coat disappear again into the depths of the walk-in closet as Dr. Shumway hung it up for her. Bob gave her hand a hopeful squeeze. Perhaps this would be the day she’d be able to retrieve it herself.
“I don’t have much time,” she told the doctor. “The staff is due to move into the new building on the tenth of next month. There’s no way I can manage in that little cubbyhole they’ve set up for me. Not to mention fourteen floors up.”
“She can’t handle it—the narrow stairwell or the elevator,” Bob added.
“I know.” Dr. Shumway seemed to understand. “After last week, I’m beginning to think we’ve been looking for the cause of these fears in the wrong place.”
“Analysis, therapy, hypnoses . . . What now?”
Judy ignored Bob’s impatience. “We’ll try anything,” she said.
Bob slumped into a chair.
Dr. Shumway motioned Judy to the couch. “I’m still persuaded that hypnoses is the key,” he continued. “But we’ve probed your memory almost back to the day you were born and found nothing.”
“What more is there?”
“Have you ever heard of Edgar Cayce?”
Bob was on his feet in an instant. “That quack? You can’t be serious.”
“Who?” Judy was perplexed by Bob’s sudden explosion.
“We’ve come a long way since his time,” Dr. Shumway assured them. “I only mentioned his name because so many people have heard of him.”
“I’ve heard of him all right.” Bob appealed to Judy,” The man believed in reincarnation.”
“That theory is only one of a number of possible explanations of the evidence. Whether you believe that particular one or not,” Dr. Shumway protested,” there was something to his methods.”
“What methods?” Judy wanted to know.
“Let’s get out of here.” Bob was already turned toward the closet to get Judy’s coat. “There must be some other way.”
“No. Wait.” Judy resented the pressure. “Let him talk. I want to hear what he has to say. Even if there is another way, Dr. Shumway already knows the whole story. We don’t have time to start over with someone else.”
“Twenty years’ work and my career shouldn’t have to go down the tubes just because I can’t handle riding in an elevator.”
“I don’t like the idea.” Bob had objected to hypnotism from the start. It was the reason he insisted on being present and on taping the sessions.
“I wouldn’t do anything to endanger your wife,” Dr. Shumway insisted. “I’ve seen it work before.”
“At least give it a try,” Judy pleaded.
Why do things like this happen?
It’s a test, like everything else, I suppose.
Yeah, but why does an angel’s calling sometimes bleed into his later Earth life?
Trauma, I guess. It’s a shock to watch someone die suddenly, violently. They try to call us back before the destroying angel comes, but sometimes . . . You remember things under stress.
I’ve done all I can. This is how she must have felt then, herself. Helpless. You can only do so much.
“Now rest and relax, rest and relax.” Dr. Shumway’s tone was monotonous and soothing. “You’re remembering when you were one year old. You’re going to travel back, back, to another time, to another place, to a time and place that you remember very clearly, back, back, before you were one year old, before you were born, to a time when you were not afraid. Picture yourself in that time and place. Picture yourself, unafraid. Now, tell me what you see.
“A feather?” What are you doing with the feather?”
“It’s stuck . . . to my fingers. It’s stuck in the molasses. Mama put molasses on my fingers and gave me a feather to keep me quiet. I want it to be gone. I don’t like it anymore.” There was a whine in Judy’s voice.
“How old are you?”
“Can you remember when you’re a little older, say ten years old?”
“Can you see yourself? What’s your name?”
“Sardius, like the stone? Sardius what?”
“OK, Sardius. What about your father, what’s his name?”
“And your mother.”
“Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
“There’s Willard and Alma and the girls and the baby.”
Alma and the girls? Isn’t Alma a girl.”
“No. He’s my brother.”
“What about you, Sardius. You’re a little girl, aren’t you?”
“No! We help our father fix the tires.”
“The tires? Can you tell me where you are. Do you know the name of the place you’re in?”
“Missouri. A place called Haun’s Mill.”
“Very good, Sardius. Now, can you tell me what year it is in Missouri when you are ten years old. Do you know the date?’
“Sure. It’s 1838. October 1838. There’s honey. And they gave us some to eat when we got here.”
“1838? Don’t you mean 1938 maybe. They didn’t have tires in 1838, Sardius.”
“Sure they did. That’s what we were doing. Heating the wagon tire over the fire. Father was going to reset it.”
“OK, Sardius. Just rest and relax. Rest and relax. I want you to think of yourself when you’re a little older now, say sixteen. I want you to visualize a day when you’re sixteen. See yourself on that day. Now tell me what you’re doing.”
“OK, Sardius, just rest and relax. Think of your sixteenth birthday. Picture it. What do you see yourself doing on that day?”
“Nothing. I’m not sixteen. I’m still ten. I’m dead.”
He’s getting too close. She’s going to tell him everything.
Not unless he asks exactly the right questions. And that would have to be by accident. He’s done this before. He’s not particularly surprised.
But Bob is.
You can handle that. He already thinks the whole thing is mumbo-jumbo.
I suppose so, but I don’t like it.
Me neither, but it’s their choice.
“I’m sorry last week’s tape didn’t come out, Mrs. Putnam.” Dr. Shumway drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair.
“Bob wouldn’t tell me what went on.” Judy felt torn. “I’m not sure but what he destroyed the tape himself.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Bob glared, first at Judy, and then at Dr. Shumway. “But I don’t want to put Judy through another session like that one.” Bob folded his arms. “If I had my way, we wouldn’t even be here.”
“I want to know what happened.” Judy’s stomach was a hard knot, but she pressed on in spite of it. “Did I regress to some other lifetime like you said I might?”
“Don’t tell her,” Bob burst out.
“As a matter of fact,” Dr. Shumway began, “I think your husband is right in this instance.”
Bob sighed relief and I-told-you-so at the same time.
“As long as you don’t know all the details,” Dr. Shumway continued,” you might do better this time without the added distraction.”
“No,” Bob cried, “no more.”
Judy ignored her husband. “Did you think you were making progress.”
“I’m sure of it.” Dr. Shumway concluded.
“I want to go on.”
Dr. Shumway leaned back in his chair. “Your wife is of age, Mr. Shumway. Legally . . .”
Bob is very agitate.
I can see that. I wish I were as in tune with Judy. She blocks me out. She wouldn’t need to be here at all if she had only let me help her years ago.
Will you blank the tape again?
I don’t think I dare. It could affect their relationship together.
What did the Section Chief advise.
Ride it out, and don’t panic.
“OK, Sardius. You’re ten years old. It’s the 30th of October 1838. It’s the day you died. Is that right?”
“Yes. We slept in the tent.”
“All eight of you? And you weren’t afraid, all together in that cramped space?”
“No. I wasn’t afraid. While we were traveling some men took Father’s gun away and held us for five days, but then they let us go, and the settlers in the new place had guns.”
“So you felt safe. Were they soldiers?”
“No. They just had guns. Everybody had them. There was some trouble in another county, but the settlers had a peace treaty, and Mr. Haun—it was his mill that the place was named after—Mr. Haun had even gone to Captain Killian to find out what to do. And Brother Joseph said to stay at the settlement.”
“Another brother? Joseph Killian?”
No, Smith. But he wasn’t my real brother. Everybody just called him that.”
“So Joseph said to stay at the settlement? And you did?”
“Mr. Haun told Father what Brother Joseph said, but he lied.”
“Joseph or Mr. Haun.”
“Mr. Haun. He told me so later.”
“Later that day?”
“No, later . . . when he was dead.”
He still doesn’t connect it.
“OK, Sardius, tell me what happened later that day? On the day you died. You were afraid, weren’t you?”
“What were you doing when you first became afraid?”
“I was helping Father reset the tire when we saw the men coming, about two hundred of them, and somebody yelled to the women to run and hide. And we, Father and Willard and Alma and me, we all headed for the blacksmith shop and hid in there, except for Willard. I don’t know what happened to Willard. And we could hear the guns outside. And then they came right up to the walls and put their guns through the chinks between the logs. And they were firing right into the building. And some of the men ran out. But Father was already dead. I saw him fall. Alma called to him, but he didn’t answer.”
“Then what happened.”
“Then the shooting stopped. And I was scared. And I hid under the bellows. And I heard the men break in the door. And I tried to be very still, like I was dead too. They were stripping the bodies, some of them. And then somebody poked me with his gun. And I couldn’t help it, I cried out, and he knew I wasn’t dead. And I was so scared. I begged him, ‘Please mister, don’t shoot me, I am only a little boy.’ But he said, ‘Nits make lice.’ And he put the gun to my head and shot me dead.”
“They shot Alma, too.”
“He came in after it was all over. And he looked at Father and me. At our bodies. We called to him, but he couldn’t hear us. He couldn’t hear any of us who were dead. But he could hear Alma. So he picked Alma up and took him to Mother. And he wouldn’t let Mother come in to see us. And they took Alma away.”
“And your father was with you.”
“He was dead too. He tried to make me not be afraid anymore, but I couldn’t help it. And they buried us all together in a dry well. All together. Because there weren’t enough men left to dig graves. They put us all in on top of each other.” Judy started to cry, a frightened, ten-year-old boy’s cry, that heaved her thirty-year-old woman’s body.
Judy, this is Sardius.
What are you doing!
Hush. I’ll take responsibility.
“Sardius, I want you to rest and relax now.”
Judy, don’t say anything now, just listen.
“Sardius, I want you to picture yourself again, hiding under the bellows.”
Judy, this is Sardius, and I want you to know that you did everything you could at the time. I know that now.
“Sardius, you are now hiding under the bellows. You are safe there. It is dark, and you are completely covered. No one can see you where you are.”
I was frightened. I was only ten. I didn’t know what I was saying.
“Sardius, those men hurt your father because he was not safe in a hiding place like you.”
It’s been a long time, Judy. I’ve wanted to tell you all these years.
“Sardius, being in a close, snug, small place is going to save you. You are glad you are safe. You are not afraid of close spaces.”
You didn’t fail, Judy. You didn’t shirk. You weren’t a bad guardian angel. You were with me every minute. You did your best. It wasn’t your fault that I died.
“Now, Sardius, I want you to go forward in time. Forward. Past the time when you died. Past the time when you were reborn as Judy.
Judy, I’m not afraid anymore. I’m happy. My mother is here now. Alma, Willard, all of them. They’re here. I’m not afraid anymore; you don’t need to be afraid anymore either. You can be happy too.
“OK, Judy. When you awaken you will no longer feel afraid of close spaces. You understand now why you were afraid. From now on you will feel comfortable and at ease in all size rooms, but you will especially enjoy your husband’s close embrace, being under the covers in the winter, riding in airplanes, walking in the woods, using your oven at home. You will not be afraid in elevators or bathrooms or vans or library stacks.”
When you wake up, Judy, you will not want to listen to Bob’s tape.
“When I count to five, Judy, you will wake up feeling more rested and refreshed than you do right now. At the count of five you will wake up. One.
But you will be more receptive to my promptings in the future.
You won’t be afraid.
You won’t remember anything about Sardius Smith. You won’t keep reliving his life.
And you won’t want to come back to Dr. Shumway either.
Judy opened her eyes.
Her husband was already at her side. “How do you feel, Sweetheart?”
“Fine. Did I go to sleep?”
Dr. Shumway was about to raise the blinds. “Are you ready to put on your coat, Mrs. Putnam?”
Judy swung her feet onto the floor and stood up. Bob was at her elbow. “It’s in the closet, isn’t it?”
“You can get it now,” Dr. Shumway prompted.
Judy was surprised. No unseen hand clutched at her heart. No steam drill pounded in her chest. She walked to the closet door, opened it, and looked into its depths. Her coat hung only a step away. How could it have seemed so far before?
“Try, Dear.” Bob’s sympathetic eyes urged her on.
She stepped into the closet, took her wrap, and, to everyone’s amazement, remained inside while she slipped her arms into it and buttoned the top two buttons.
“Your tape,” Dr. Shumway offered.
Judy took the cassette and pondered it a moment. “I think I’d just as soon never know,” she said and handed it back to him.
Dr. Shumway shrugged and pitched the tape onto his desk. “It was obviously a very vivid nightmare, too fantastic. And in the United States, too.”
Whatever made you think of that?
Inspiration, I guess.
But you lied. You said you were Sardius.
I know. There’ll be hell to pay for that one.
Sardius, Alma, Willard, Warren, Amanda, and Joseph Smith, Captain John Killian, and Jacob Haun are all historical figures. The events of the “Haun’s Mill Massacre” are documented in The History of the Church, Vol. III, pp. 182–6, 323–326; A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, pp. 480–483; The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 56–61; and The Instructor, April 1966, p. C-1.
“In the Name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate! Awake and be up and at ’em, oh my people! Today we shall find the grave of a king!”
“Shut up, Ahmed!”
“Go back to the desert and crawl under the sand!”
Ahmed Manzour refused to take offense or to cease and desist, and cheerfully continued to rouse his fellow archaeology students until all of them had grumbled out of their cots and were getting ready for the day.
“What’s gotten into you today?” Gloria Torres asked him.
“I dreamed we would find the grave of a king today!”
“So my dreams always come true! I dreamed I would travel to America—and I did. I dreamed I would travel down south to this country to dig, and here we are. And many other times . . .”
“C’mon! It’s time for breakfast!”
Sure enough, Ahmed found his grave. He insisted on digging where his instincts told him, and made a discovery before anyone using conventional scientific methods did.
After lunch, Professor Stonebridge gathered all his students around the grave for some informal discussion of the find.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the archaeologist began, “here are the basic facts about Mr. Manzour’s dig. The entire contents is one human skeleton, lying in a recumbent position that indicates the burial was intentional and not accidental. All the earth from the excavation, whether shoveled or carefully brushed away from the bones, has been sifted through our sieves, and we have not found a single artifact. These are the bare facts. Very bare indeed. Appreciative chuckles and giggles from all the students (except Ahmen, who doesn’t get the joke).
“Any observations? Yes, Gloria?”
“The shoulders are broad; the hips are narrow. I should say the deceased is a male human.”
“Very good, Miss Torres. You are completely correct. Yes, Mr. Hoffman.”
“The nasal bridge is very high,” said a student with curly red hair, “indicating a large, prominent nose—which means of course that he is Jewish.” (Since the speaker, who is Jewish himself, has a small and straight nose, his non sequitur produces more giggles and chuckles this time from everybody, including Ahmed, who says:)
“C’mon, Lenny! You know that my nose is twice as big as yours! This king was a descendant of Ishmael, not of Israel.”
At this item of good-natured banter, Dr. Stonebridge lifted up his ears and his eyebrows. “King, did you say, Mr. Manzour? What makes you think this was a royal personage?” The students knew their teacher well, and as they caught the subtle undertone in the apparently harmless question, a sudden deep silence descended on the group.
“You see . . . ah . . . tayib, last night I dreamed that today we would find the grave of a king. And we found this burial right where my dream indicated. Is this not so?”
The archaeologist stroked his chin for a few moments. “That has been known to happen,” he finally said. “Bandelier found a good site, after long and frustratingly fruitless labors, right where a dream indicated him to excavate, on an island in Lake Titicaca. But . . . everything indicates that this is not the grave of a king. Miss Torres. You indicated the shoulders are broad. They are indeed. All the bones indicate that this was a man used to hard manual labor, not to the comforts of a palace.”
“‘They that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses,’” another student quoted (Matthew 11:8).
“That’s right, Benjamin. Furthermore, there are no offerings of any kind. No, not a single pot. In the whole world, kings are sent off with many possessions to the world to come.”
“Not in Saudi Arabia,” Ahmed protested. “Kings’ tombs are as bare as those of any peasant there.”
“But this is not Arabia, this is Mesoamerica. A sepulcher in Kaminaljuyú even had sacrificed slaves to accompany the king to the afterlife.”
“Something I don’t understand,” said another student. “What does labor do to bones?”
“Hard labor enlarges muscles. Muscles are held in place by bones, which then also become enlarged in order to be able to support the muscles. Wonderful thing, the human body.”
The grave of that humble and hardworking peasant, who had lived and died about a hundred years before Christ (according to Professor Stonebridge’s calculations), was carefully photographed and recorded, and then reverently filled up again by Ahmed, Lenny, and Benjamin.
When they had finished, the Arab boy stood sadly and reverently by the grave.
“Don’t feel bad, Ahmed,” Lenny said. “Perhaps he was a king. Maybe Dr. Stonebridge is wrong. Maybe he was a king who liked to work with his own hands and who didn’t want any good things wasted by being placed in his grave.”
“At the resurrection, we and he shall stand before the judgment bar of God,” Benjamin added, “and then we shall know.”
“Name during mortality?”
The older man at the head of the line jumped guiltily. “Oh. John . . . Uh . . . John Jacobson.” He shifted his weight nervously. I was listening carefully since I was fourth in line and my turn was coming. “A . . . is this . . .” The man was fumbling for the right word. “I mean is this . . . a . . . Is this it?”
The man behind the long table looked up and smiled kindly. “If by ‘it’ you mean the final judgment, the answer is no. This is just a preliminary investigation. How long was your sojourn down there?”
“Uh . . . fifty-three years.”
“It probably didn’t seem nearly that long, did it?”
“No. No, it didn’t. I had hoped to stay much longer.”
The one who was dressed in brilliant white nodded. “Most do Anything of particular note you would like entered into the record?”
Again there was that uneasy fidgeting. “Well . . . a . . . like what?”
“Whatever you feel would be significant.”
“Oh . . . Well, I was an active member of the Church all of my life,” the man said eagerly.
The Interrogator opened up a large book that lay on the end of the table, thumbed the pages with easy familiarity, and then ran his fingers across a handwritten entry. “Hmmmm. Baptized at age eight. Confirmed. Priesthood at twelve. Endowed at nineteen. Mission, temple marriage, high priest, member of bishopric and stake high council.”
The older man brightened noticeably. “Is all that in there?”
“Yes. I’ve made a note of your church activity. Now is there anything else?”
“Anything else? What else is there?”
“What about the Book of Mormon?”
“The Book of Mormon?”
“Uh . . . What about it? I believed it was true, of course.” That last was added hastily.
“I see. Did you read it?”
“Well, of course I read it.” The indignation in his voice was clearly evident even back to where I stood.
“How many times?:
“How many times?” came the echo.
“Yes, John. How many times?”
“Do you mean clear through, first to last?”
The man behind the table nodded.
“Oh, several I guess. I’m not really sure. It’s hard to remember exactly.”
“To the contrary,” said the gentle voice. “If you think for a moment, you’ll find you can remember quite clearly.”
For a long moment there was silence. When the man finally spoke I had to strain to catch his words. “I read it through once completely when I was in the mission field.” Then he added hastily, “But I started it several times, and I read in it quite a bit.”
“I see.” The man behind the table made a quick entry in his book.
“Does that make a difference?” John asked anxiously.
“Here everything makes a difference.”
“But I believed it was true. It was just that I was so busy. I was in the bishopric for six years and on the high council for eight. And . . . and I was scoutmaster for three years. That ought to count for something, shouldn’t it?”
“Everything counts for something, John,” the Interrogator answered. He opened yet another book and found the page he wanted. “Did you know, John, that during the last fifteen years of your life you spent two thousand seven hundred fifty-two hours watching football games on TV?”
“Two thousand seven hundred . . . You’ve got to be kidding!”
“No. You’ll find we don’t do that here. The record shows that you watched, on the average, three games a week during the four months of football season for over fifteen years. It comes to a total of two thousand seven hundred fifty-two hours. John, you could have read the Book of Mormon over forty times in that amount of time.”
I didn’t hear the man’s final answer. I was frantically trying to decide how many times I had read the Book of Mormon. I was relieved to suddenly remember that I had read it a total of nine times completely through. Better yet, I hadn’t been much for television. Thank heavens for that!
My thoughts were jerked back to the table as the next person, a younger woman, stepped up, and without waiting to be asked, said somewhat belligerently, “Janet Brown, and I was there for twenty-nine years. I wasn’t a member of the church, so I never read the Book of Mormon, and I can’t stand football.”
The man in white seemed not to notice the challenging tone of voice. “I see,” he said slowly. “But tell me, Janet. Did you love the Lord?”
“Well, I tried to live a good life.” The bluster was gone now, and like John, she was suddenly very nervous.
“Tell me, Janet,” the Interrogator asked with that quiet, and yet piercing voice, “how would your life have been different if you had sought the Lord with as much diligence as you sought physical beauty?”
“I . . . I’m not sure.”
The wide eyes of the man behind the table held no hint of condemnation or anger, but with each word, Janet Brown seemed to sag noticeably. “I’m familiar with your records, Janet,” he continued. “Your will power and determination are awesome. You jogged five miles a day, winter or summer, sunshine or rain. While others indulged their appetites, you resisted fattening foods with absolutely rigid self-control.”
I winced a little at that. I had gotten somewhat portly before crossing over. Not much, mind you, but enough to feel a little uncomfortable with what he was saying.
“Janet, you spent over an hour every morning just putting your makeup on.” The Interrogator sighed. “Oh, and you were beautiful, so very beautiful. Wherever you went, the eyes of men lifted to watch you pass. But how much more beautiful, truly beautiful, you could have been had you developed spiritual fitness.”
By now I was getting very nervous. This wasn’t anything like I had anticipated. I had expected something more like . . . well . . . like the old temple recommend interviews. Are you a full tithe payer, do you attend your sacrament meetings? That kind of thing. I edged closer as the man in front of me stepped up to the table and gave his name.
“Aw, yes, Robert,” the Interrogator said. “I’ve heard of you. You were the religion professor in the Church Educational System.”
The man nodded, suddenly hopeful.
“Your knowledge of the scriptures is well known to us. Many who have passed there have testified of your assistance in their search for the truth.”
Again the hopeful nod.
“But as you have probably noticed, Robert, this is not so much an interrogation into what one did there as it is an examination of what one desired to do there. What I’m saying was best summarized by one of the Book of Mormon prophets. I think you are familiar with Jacob’s saying. I believe you had it marked in your own scriptures, didn’t you?”
“Which scripture do you . . . ? Oh! Oh yes, that one.” He began to quote softly in a subdued voice. “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy . . . Feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted . . .’” (See 2 Nephi 9:51.)
The eyes of the man behind the table peered deeply into those of the professor’s. “Yes, Robert. And what of books and degrees and academic honors and scholarly articles? Are they things which perish not?”
“I . . . no, sir.”
“You have done much good for others, and such is noted. But in your labors to build your academic kingdom, you neglected a kingdom far more important. God’s work and glory lie in saving his children.”
“But . . . but I helped so many others.”
“Yes, Robert. Yes, you did. But what of your own son? Tell me, Robert. What of your own son?”
I’m not sure how much longer Robert’s interrogation lasted. I was caught up in my own pangs of vivid recollections. Memories as bright as the desert sunshine marched through my mind tearing at chords I though I had buried long ago. If only he would ask me the kinds of questions he had asked the others. But I knew it would not be so. Suddenly I knew the kinds of questions he would ask of me, and I felt a hollowness in the pit of my stomach.
LOG ENTRY: July 24, 2004.
Just one year from today this forest capsule will be dropped out of orbit to fall back to its specially built nest in the National Museum in New York City. I can’t wait to get home. This first year has been lonely, but bearable. If it had not been for the beauty of this last wilderness and the company of the animals I’d have gone crazy by now. I’m glad, in retrospect, that I chose the Forestry Service, even though my friends advised me that it was a dead-end career. They warned me that progress would overtake the open spaces and there would be no forests to serve. I feel that the importance of what I am doing outweighs the pains. This last one hundred square miles of mountains, lakes and trees, with its teeming wildlife, gives solace to my soul. I applauded as the orbiting satellites trained their laser-knives upon the lines drawn on the surface of the earth and cut out to the depth of a mile this chunk of original beauty. I watched each day as the glass dome was constructed which allows the atmosphere to remain while this mini-planet swings through space. As I watched the jets fired and the great mass lift off in deafening sound and blinding light, I though to myself that this must be what the City of Enoch looked like as it rose anciently with its soil drenched in the doctrines of righteousness. I remember pulling my Pearl of great Price from my pocket and finding the passage: “ZION IS FLED.” My heart rose in my throat at all of that beauty, yet I mourned that this was the last of such places. I felt at once proud and ashamed.
This man-launched asteroid has become Zion to me, and I have fled with it. When I look at the forest I can hardly believe I am orbiting a thousand miles above God’s earth. As this emerald jewel races round and round and the earth sweeps up across the black and starry blanket beyond my glassy dome, it all seems unreal and strange. It is beyond beauty. it is obscene.
This morning as I lifted my orange juice to my lips I drank also with my eyes the rugged horizon of my lush mountains. My eyes caught a dark form, maybe a bear, climbing to the top of a ridge in the northeast quadrant. By the time I adjusted my trinoculars it was gone. I’d better check it out. The bears are supposed to be in their light-barriers in the valleys, at least until the capsule settles again in the great museum next year. I’ll prepare my gear tonight and strike out on the trail early tomorrow.
I have a strange feeling, and I can’t shake it. I took off from the control deck at 0500 hours and began the climb to the ridge. The sun-lights were blazing down, and the birds chirped noisily until I got to the notch above the falls. Suddenly all was quiet except for the roar of the water. No birds, no animals called out. It was eerie and shocking, as if some switch were flicked off. The hair stood up on the back of my neck I don’t understand my reaction. I set up camp at a relatively flat area and checked out the surroundings, taking samples of everything for my quarterly environmental reports. I should be to the top by mid-morning if I get an early start. Birds still quiet. Hope I can shake these jitters.
I’m going to write this all down, though anyone who reads it will surely think I’m crazy. I struck my tent, packed my gear and started to climb again this morning at 0500. The birds were chirping when I awoke from a tortured night of dream-filled rest, if you can call it rest. The sounds calmed me well enough, though, and the trail was not too hard to blaze. I neared the top by 1000 hours, and to my dismay the silence began again. A sudden wind came up, and the dome began to fill with clouds. Soon it began to rain, and the wind whipped the treetops to a fury. I yearned to be washed by the flowing music of the stream below, but the gale was loudly banging the branches and rustling the leaves. I sought cover from the torrents under a rock ledge. To my surprise the ledge covered a cave entrance where I soon took refuge. As I entered I could hear the wind more adamantly shaking the trees and the splattering of huge raindrops on the rocks above.
Shedding my pack I sat down against a wall and looked around myself. The cave was much larger than I had deduced from the opening. It ran far back from the dimming light entering its mouth, to a void maybe twenty yards to my right. I opened my pack and got out my torch-lite intent on exploring a little until the squall subsided.
I raised up on my feet and shined the torch-lite back into the void. The circle of the beam moved along the rough walls and then fell into the huge chamber and was swallowed up in the blackness. I could make out the glittering crystals of stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites reaching weirdly up with their stony fingers to meet them. In a few steps I was totally engulfed in the darkness and began again to feel that uneasiness which I had experienced earlier. I turned to go back toward the cave’s mouth when I heard a noise. It was like a sigh, and I was not sure that I had actually heard anything. I froze involuntarily. There it was again! My hand swept toward the sound, and the beam caught the surface of something. I shivered as I recognized the texture of hair. The light rose until the glaring of two eyes reached mine. The thing moved back from the light and stood still. By now I was a mass of gooseflesh, and I strained to let out a scream, but to no avail. Neither would my feet take me anywhere. While I was trying to figure out my next move the thing moved forward a step and said, “Please, kill me.”
I was by now totally insane with fear and shock, yet still I could not move. Prayers ran from my heart to my toes and then up to my scalp and back.
“Who are you?” I finally managed.
“I am darkness,” he said.
The next few minutes are vague to me, but I finally found myself seated near the cave’s mouth with an extraordinary creature sitting cross-legged before me. The being was about two feet taller than I as I sat on the floor of the chamber. He was definitely human, but he was covered with thick hair. He wore no clothes and seemed intelligent and ageless. He begged me many times to kill him which scared me more than if he had intended harm to my own person. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not a violent man and would not do his bidding in the matter and tried to get him to explain to me why he desired death so doggedly. He was reticent to answer my questions and at further prodding dropped into total silence and contemplated his gnarled toes. After some minutes he finally looked up.
“I am darkness,” he said again. “I am the wanderer. I have no place to call my own. I am the shadow that flees at any man’s approach. I have been known by many people and am called by many names. In the Himalayas they call me Yeti, the Abominable Snowman. The Americans call me Sasquatch. The Europeans call me Bigfoot, Skunk Ape and other names not as pretty. I am feared by many. I seek death and cannot find it. I have wandered the earth’s surface for thousands of years, but death is not to be found. Now my ranging is limited to this small forest, winging beneath a glazed and changing sky. Kill me, I beg you, so that I may rest. My life is endless torment.”
He looked so grotesque and pitiful that my fear gave way to other emotions, and I felt genuine concern for this man’s soul. I winced as he cursed God for his very existence. He evaded all of my questions as to his origin or the reasons for his bitterness. There was much that he told me, even more that he hid, but somewhere in my soul I knew who he was, or thought I did.
Eventually I talked him into coming with me to the control deck. Perhaps he was planning to do me harm, or more likely he felt some hope that I would eventually acquiesce to his strange pleadings, but at any rate he did come. So here I sit in my study writing these notes while this huge morose and hairy person watches me with veiled thoughts.
To be honest with myself, I was very apprehensive about my decision to bring Bigfoot to the control deck, but my curiosity overcame my reason. I thought I knew who he was, but I wasn’t totally sure and maybe never would be if I left him out in that cave. Besides, I really felt sorry for him and wanted to calm his anguish if I could . . . even if he turned out to be . . .
The storm had been brief and left the forest fresh, and the birds sang louder than before, outside the control deck windows. I awoke after a relatively peaceful night. This in itself was weird, for now in my living quarters a strange and unpredictable person had slept with only a thin wall to separate us. I rose and quietly dressed, then looked around the door to see what he was doing. I found him sitting on the floor turning the pages of my Pearl of Great Price. He seemed agitated, and his eyes darted towards me. They were red and angry. Hatred flashed like swords from them. “You know who I am,” he growled.
“I think I do,” I admitted.
“You are all alike,” he snarled. “You believers are all alike. Another might not have known and might have put an end to my misery. But not you, priest of Melchizedek! You are my eternal enemy. I met one of you one hundred sixty-nine years ago, and I hate you as I hated him!”
“David Patten, the apostle of the Lord,” I said.
“Yes!” he yelled. “That miserable cur was riding his mule that day. I walked beside him for miles. He would not do as I asked either and finally used the name of that pretended Savior of yours to get rid of me!”
His face was horrible. He slavered as he spoke and beat upon his chest as his tirade spewed forth at me.
“Your God would not take my offering. I worked hard in the field, and He wouldn’t take my wheat as His offering. My brother had the lambs, but I’d be damned if I would go to him for the sacrificial offering. I’d show him! I’d show that great God who’s who. I waited in my field and lay my brother low and buried him beneath my wheat. God did not even let me explain. He cursed me with a mark and killed my crops with weeds. And when my life was hard and barren he drove me out with my women and children and made me wander the earth. But the last was the worst curse of all. He forbade my death. My loved ones withered and died and left me a lone man in the world. But I shall yet reign! In my death I shall conquer Him!”
He lunged past me toward the pressure lock and though I knew what he was going to do I could not stop him. I only had time to dive for the door to my room and seal it.
My quick action kept me from being sucked out into space with him. Through the glass I saw his form float out into space beyond the dome and pick up momentum as it fell toward the earth. I watched for some time the kicking of his legs and the churning of his arms as he moved in an arc out of my range of sight.
I closed the door by remote control, repressurized the deck and opened my door. I walked to the telescope and peered down at his falling body, still kicking and churning as I knew it would be, unharmed by the blistering heat and freezing cold of the vacuum of space. He fell like a dark star, and I knew that neither the searing friction nor the tremendous impact would kill him. He could not die either in the waters of the flood, nor the fires of the sky. There would still be a Bigfoot, a Yeti, a Sasquatch upon the earth.
Legends die hard, or not at all.
The encounter between Elder David Patten and the Big Hairy One is described in The Miracle of Forgiveness by President Spencer W. Kimball. No doubt that BHO is the same one as appears in the preceding story. But whether he really is the one he pretends to be or not, it is obvious that he, by himself, cannot be all the many hairy creatures that have been seen in various parts of the world throughout history. After all, he is insane and a pathological liar, so you cannot believe what he says.
Indeed, the hairy near-humans have often been seen in families or even larger groups. One of the earliest documents that mention them is the epic poem Beowulf, which narrates events about the time of Arthur of Britain (late 5th, early 6th centuries). The hero Beowulf slays two huge hairy near-human but cannibalistic monsters, a very nasty female and her sone named Grendel. They are described as descendants of Cain, members of a race of Giants who are Cain’s offspring.
If all this can be believed, the Mark of Cain is a hairy body, which points the finger at us Caucasians and lets everybody else off the hook.
A careful comparison of Genesis 4:11-12 with Abraham 1:26 proves that the curse of Pharaoh is completely unrelated to the curse of Cain, and the Egyptians can not possibly be considered descendant of the latter (who is not even mentioned in the Book of Abraham). The blackness in Moses 7:8 and that in 7:22 are more likely spiritual than physical, and the two are not necessarily related.
The western sky was as red as if it had broken a vein. In a sense, it had, Kelvin Norris thought.
The earth had broken open, too, and it was this which had created the bloody sunsets. The Pacific and Mediterranean coasts had shaken many times with a violence unknown since the days of creation. Old volcanoes had spouted, and new ones had reared up. It would be twenty years before all the dust would settle. It would have been a hundred years if it had not been for the great nightly rains, rains which nevertheless did not succeed in making the atmosphere wet, at least, not along the Mediterranean coast. By noon the air was as dry as an old camel bone, and at sunset the sky was red with light reflected from the dust that would not die.
A thousand years would have to pass before the dust of human affairs would settle. Meanwhile, this land was tawny and broken, like the body of a dead lion torn by hyenas. And the sun, rising after last night’s violent rain, had been another lion. But it lived, and its breath turned the sin of men and women to leather and burned the bones of the dead to white. Even now, sinking toward the horizon, it lapped greedily at the moisture in Kelvin Norris’s skin.
He was riding a horse, the only one he had seen alive since he and his party had landed near the submerged city of Tunis. There were many bones of horses and other animals, killed in the quakes or by tidal waves or bombings or gunfights or by disease or by starving men, for food. Bones of men also lay everywhere. The crows and ravens and kites were, however, numerous, though swiftly losing their fat now. Kelvin knew the taste of their stringy carrion- smelling flesh very well.
The party had traveled on foot from the California mountains across the continent, had built from wreckage a small sailing ship with an auxiliary engine, sailed across the Atlantic to England and from there down along the newly created coasts of France and Portugal, through the straits of Gibraltar (past the great tumbled rock), and then had been wrecked by a storm on the shore of what was left of Tunisia.
Three days ago, Anna Silvich had shot a scrawny goat; that had kept them from collapsing with hunger. Then Kelvin had found the white stallion, which was amazingly sleek and healthy. Its presence, so well-fed, in these bleak and deserted environs, seemed a miracle. Some of the party said that it was a miracle. Perhaps this was the very horse on which the rider called Faithful and True had led the hosts of Heaven to victory over the Beast.
But Kelvin said that he did not think that was likely, though it could be one of the horse ridden by one of the hosts that had followed the Faithful and True into the final battle. However, if a miracle were to be performed, it would be just as easy to transport them, teleport them rather, in the closing of an eye, the scratching of a nose, instead of letting them slog along by boat and foot. But this was not to be; they were alone. He hastened to add as the others frowned, that he meant that the party would never be alone, of course, in the sense that He was always with them. What he had meant was that they could not just sit down and expect some sort of celestial welfare.
That morning, Kelvin had taken a rifle and thirty bullets, all he had for a .32 caliber gun, a goatskin water bag containing distilled water (which became red-colored two hours afterward), and a leather sling and some stones, and had ridden into the hills. The countryside here had been stripped by the cataclysms, but, in the past three years, some plants had reestablished themselves. There were still hares and rodents and lizards and the little desert foxes in this area. He hoped to get some of these with his sling. The .32 was for protection only or in case he should, by some chance, find larger game.
He had tied the horse to a bush and had gone on foot into the tumbled and deeply fissured hills. He smashed a lizard with a stone from his sling and dropped it into the bag hanging from his belt. A few minutes later, he killed a raven with a stone. And then, under a deep shelf of rock, he found the ashes of a recent fire and some thoroughly scraped sheep and rat bones. There were no tracks in this rocky wilderness for him to follow, but he went down three long fissures searching for signs of the fire-builder. Reluctantly, he gave up looking and returned to the place where he had tied the horse. His tightening belly and his weakness told him that he would have to give permission for the horse to be butchered. It would hurt him to kill such a fine animal, but the party would then have plenty of meat for a few days.
The ringing of iron shoes on rocks warned him before he left the mouth of the fissure. Crouching, he looked around a boulder. A woman with short curly auburn hair, dressed in a ragged and dirty green coverall, was riding his horse away.
He did not want to shoot her or to make the horse bolt because of the shot. He put the rifle down and ran out after her while he took a stone from the bag at his belt and fitted it into the sling. She turned her head to look behind her just as the stone gave her a glancing blow on her back, near the spine. She screamed and fell forward off the horse; it reared and then galloped off.
Kelvin approached her with the rifle pointed at her. She seemed to be armed with only a knife, but he had learned long ago not to trust to appearances. At the moment, she did not look as if she could use a hidden weapon, even if she had one. She was sitting up, leaning on one arm, and groaning. The skin on her arms and legs and on one side of her face was torn.
“Any broken bones?” he said.
She shook her head and moaned, “Oh, no! But I think you almost broke my back. It really hurts.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but you were stealing my horse. Now, take out your knife slowly and throw it over to one side. Gently.”
She obeyed and then slowly got to her feet. At his orders, she stripped and turned around twice so that he could make sure that she had no weapons taped to her. After he inspected the coverall, he threw it back to her, and she put it back on.
“Have you got anything to eat?” she said.
“The dinner ran away,” he said. “What’s your name, and what are you doing here? And are you a Christian?”
There had been a time when he would not have asked that last question. He had assumed that all those who had bowed to the Beast and allowed it to put its mark on them had been killed either during the series of cataclysms that had almost wrecked the Earth or during the war afterward. But it had long been evident that he had misread the Revelation of John.
“I’m Dana Webster of Beverly, Yorkshire, and I was in a party which was going to the beloved city. But they’re all dead now, mostly of starvation, though some were killed by heathers. I found the horse, and I took it because I wanted to get away from whomever owned it, far away, where I could eat the horse without worrying about being tracked down.”
She did have a slight English accent, he noted. And her remark about the heathens implied that she was Christian. But she could retract the statement, or rationalize it, if it turned out that she had given the wrong answer. After all, she had no way of knowing that he was really a Christian.
He handed her his canteen, and she drank deeply before giving it back. “It tastes wonderful, even if it does look like blood,” she said. “Do you suppose it’ll ever get its natural color back? I mean, its lack of color.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“There’s a lot we don’t know, isn’t there?”
“We’ll know when we get to the beloved city,” he said. “Let’s go.”
She turned and walked ahead of him. He carried the rifle in the crook of his elbow, but he was ready to use it at any time. They trudged along silently while the sun dropped through its pool of red. Once, he though he saw the east begin to lighten, and he stopped, giving a soft cry. She halted and then turned slowly so that he would not misinterpret her movement.
“What is it?” she said.
“I thought . . . I hoped . . . no . . . I was mistaken. I thought that the east was beginning to light up with His glory and that He was surely coming. But my nerves were playing tricks on me. Nerves plus hunger.”
“Even if you saw a glory wrapping the world,” she said, “how do you know that it would be Him? How could you be certain that it was He and not the Antichrist?”
He goggled at her for a moment and then said, “The Antichrist and the Beast went into the flaming lake!”
“What Beast? I thought the Beast was the world government? You surely don’t mean that mythical monster that Gurets was supposed to have locked up in a room in his palace? As for the flaming lake, has anyone ever seen it? I know no one who has. Do you? Actually, all we know is what we’ve heard by word of mouth or the very little that comes over our radio receivers, supposedly fro the beloved city. And where is the beloved city? Well, actually, there isn’t any, as the broadcaster admits. There is a site somewhere in what used to be mountainous Israel where the faithful will gather and where the beloved city will be built by the faithful under the supervision of, I presume, angels.
“But how do you know that all this is true or why we’re being led, somewhat like sheep into a chute, toward the beloved city? And if there is a flaming lake, and God knows there are plenty all over the world now, how do you know that the Antichrist went into it? Wouldn’t the Antichrist, or whoever is supposed to be the Antichrist, have spread this tale about to make the faithful think it was safe to come to Israel?”
“You must be a heathen!” Kelvin said. “Telling a lie like that!”
“Do you see any numbers on my hand?” she said. “And if you looked at my forehead with a polarizer, you wouldn’t see any numbers there, either. And if you care to, you can look at my scalp. You won’t see any scars there because my head wasn’t opened, and there’s no transceiver there for the Beast to activate any time it wants to press a button.”
“We’ll see about that when we get to camp,” he said.
“I’m not telling lies,” she said. “I’m just speculating, as any Christian should. Remember, the Serpent is very cunning and full of guile. What better way to fight those who believe in God than to pose as Christ returned?”
Kelvin did not like the path down which his mind was walking. There should be no more uncertainties; all should be hard and final.
Things were not what he had thought they would be. Not that he was reproaching God even in his thoughts. But things just had not worked out as he had assumed they would. And his assumptions had been based on a lifetime of reading the Scriptures.
“Were you one of those martyred by the Beast?” he said.
Dana Webster had started walking again. She did not stop to reply but slowed down so that he was only a step behind and a step to one side of her.
“Do you mean, was I one of those whose heads were rayed off and who was then resurrected? No, I wasn’t, though I could easily claim to be one, and no one could prove that I was lying. Most of my brothers and sisters were killed, but I was lucky. I got away to a hideout up on Mount Skiddaw, in Cumberland. The Beast’s search parties were getting close to my cave when the meteorites fell and the quakes started and everything was literally torn to shreds.”
“God’s intervention,” he said. “Without His help, we would all have perished.”
“What do you mean by somebody?”
“Extraterrestrials,” she said. “Beings from a planet of some far-off star. Beings far advanced beyond man—in science, at least.”
The ideas from her were coming too fast. “Could Extraterrestrials resurrect the dead?” he said.
“I don’t know why not,” she said. “Scientists have said that we would be able to do it in a hundred years or so, maybe sooner. Of course, that would require some means of recording the total molecular makeup and electromagnetic radiation patterns of an individual. That would someday be possible, according to the scientists. And then using the recordings, the dead person could be duplicated with an energy-matter converter. This was also theoretically possible.”
“But the person would be duplicated, not resurrected,” he said. “He would not be the same person!”
“No, but he would think he was.”
“What good would that do?”
“How do I know what superbeings have in their superminds? Do you know what’s being planned for you by God?
He was becoming very angry, and he did not wish to be so. He said, “I think we’d better stop talking and save our strength.”
“For that matter,” she said, “what sense is there in two resurrections or in having a millennium? Why lock up Satan for a thousand years and then release him to lead the heathens against the Christians again, only to lock him up again and then hold the final judgment?”
He did not answer, and she said nothing more for a long time. After an hour, they came down out of the jumbled and shattered hills and Kelvin saw the white horse eating some long brown grass growing from between tiny cracks in the rocks. They approached slowly while Kelvin called out softly to him. The animal trotted off, however, when Kelvin was only forty feet away from him. He aimed his rifle at it; he could not let this much meat get away now on the slim chance that he might catch it later on.
Dana Webster said, “Don’t shoot it! I’ll get him!” She called out loudly. The horse wheeled, snorting, and ran up to her and nuzzled her. She patted it and smiled at Kelvin. “I have a feeling for animals,” she said. “Rather, there’s a good feeling between me and them. And ESP of some sort, sympathetic vibrations, call it what you will.”
“Beauty and the beast.”
She quit smiling. “The Beast?”
“I didn’t mean that. But your power over animals . . .”
“Don’t tell me you believe in witchcraft? Good God! And I’m not swearing when I say that. Don’t you believe in love? He feels it. And I feel such a traitor getting him back, because he’ll probably be eaten.”
An hour later, they led the horse, worn-out from carrying the two humans, into camp near the sea. The sentinels had challenged them, and Kelvin had given the proper countersigns. They passed them and entered a depression on a jagged but low hill. All around them was the mouth- watering odor of frying fish. The four men who had put out into the red-tinged waters, in the small, lightweight, collapsible boat had been fortunate. Or blessed by God. They had not expected to catch anything at all, because the fish life had been frighteningly depleted. When St. John had predicted that a third of the seas would be destroyed, he had underestimated. Rather, underpredicted.
Dana Webster pointed at the thirteen large fish frying in the dural pans over the fires. She said, “Does that mean we won’t have to slaughter the horse?”
“Not now, anyway,” he said.
“I’m so glad.”
Kelvin was glad, too, but he was not impressed by her love for it. He had known too many butchers of children who were very much concerned about humane treatment for dogs and cats.
The men and women waiting for them were lean and dark with the sun and wind and were ridged, as if they were pieces of mahogany carved by windblown sand. They shone with something of a great strength derived from certainty. They had been through the persecutions and the cataclysms and the battles against the slaves of the Beast after the Beast’s power had been broken by the cataclysms. “Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and they shall reign with him a thousand years.”
However, Kelvin thought, the statement that the second death will have no power over them apparently meant that those who had resisted the Beast for love of God would not be judged again. But they could die, and those who died would not return to the Earth until the thousand years had passed. And then they would rise with the other dead in their new bodies and witness the final judgment. It was then that those faithful who had died before the time of the Beast would be given new bodies and the others would go to whatever fate awaited them. The Alpha and Omega, the final kingdom, would come.
All this had gone into the shaping of their bodies and the expression of face and eye. They were saints now, and nothing could ever change that. But saints could be hungry and thirsty and get very tired and become discouraged. And they would kill if they must.
There were no children here nor had any of the party seen anyone under seven during their journey across the continent and the seas. Their time would come at the end of the millenium.
“What do we have here?” Anna Silvich said.
Anna was a tall gray-eyed blonde who would have been beautiful under softer conditions. Now her flesh was pared away so that the bones seemed very near, and the white skin was dark and cracked. Despite this, Kelvin had felt very attracted to her. He intended to ask her to be his wife after they reached the beloved city. He could have married her before this, if she would have him, since any of the party could conduct the ceremony. They were all priests now. But he did not want to do anything that would take his mind off the most important object: getting to the beloved city.
“We have here one who claims she is a Christian,” Kelvin said.
Anna took a pencil-shaped plastic object from her shirt pocket, pointed it at Dana Webster’s forehead, and slid a section of the object forward.
“See?” Webster said. “I don’t have the mark of the Beast.”
Anna stepped forward and seized the woman’s hair and pulled her head down. Kelvin started to protest against the unnecessary roughness, but he decided not to. He would see how Webster reacted; perhaps she might get angry enough to trip herself up. Anna released the woman’s hair and said, “No scars there. But that doesn’t mean anything. If I had a microscope or even a magnifying glass . . .”
Dana Webster said nothing but looked scornful. If she were upset or angry about her treatment, however, she did not allow it to interfere with her appetite. She ate the fish and the biscuits and canned peaches. The latter two items had been found in the ruins of a house by Sherborn, a little man who had a nose for buried or concealed food.
Kelvin had given the prayer of thankfulness before they ate, but he felt he should say more afterward. “God has been good and given us enough today to restore our strength. We can face tomorrow with the certain knowledge that He will provide more. It’s evident from today’s catch that there are still fish in the Mediterranean. There must be enough to keep us fed until we get to the beloved city.”
Dana Webster, he noticed, said amen to that just as the others did. That could mean nothing except that she was playing her role of Christian, if she was indeed playing. She could be sincere. On the other hand, there were her remarks while they were traveling campward. He asked her what she had meant by Extraterrestrials.
She looked around at the dark faces with their protruding cheekbones and hollow creeks and the darkly rimmed but fire-bright eyes. “I should have kept these doubts–or, rather, speculations—to myself,” she said. “I should’ve waited until we got to the beloved city. Then everything would be straightened out. One way or another. Of course, by then it might be too late for us. I hate to say anything about this because you’ll think I’m a heathen. But I have a mind, and I must speak it. Isn’t that the Christian way?”
“We’re not slaves of the Beast, if that’s what you mean,” Anna said. “We won’t kill somebody because they differ somewhat from us on certain theological matters. Of course, we won’t listen to blasphemy. But then you won’t blaspheme if you’re a Christian.”
“It’s easy to see you don’t like me, Anna Silvich,” Webster said. “Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. You can love mankind but dislike a particular person for one or another reason. Even if she is a fellow believer. Still, that doesn’t mean that you’re excused from examining yourself and finding out why you can’t love me.”
Anna said, with only a slight quaver of anger, “Yes, I don’t like you. There is something about you . . . some . . . odor . . .”
“Of brimstone, I suppose?” Dana Webster said.
“God forgive me if I’m wrong,” Anna said. “But you know what we’ve all been through. The betrayals, the spies, the prisons, seeing our children and mates tortured and then beheaded, our supposed friends turning their backs on us or turning us in, the terrible, terrible things done to us. But you know this, whether you’re what you say you are or a Judas. However, you are right in reproaching me for one thing. I shouldn’t say you stink of the devil unless I really have proof. But . . .”
“But you have said so and therefore you’ve stained me in everybody’s thoughts,” Dana said. “Couldn’t you have waited until you were certain, instead of maliciously, and most unchristianly, stigmatizing me?”
“Somehow, we’ve strayed from the original question,” Kelvin said. “What do you mean, Dana, by Extraterrestrials?”
She looked around at the faces in the firelight and then at the shadows outside as if there were things in the shadows. “I know you won’t even want to consider what I’m going to speculate about. You’re too tired in body and mind, too numb with the horrors of the persecution and the cataclysms and the battles that followed, to think about one more battle, or series of battles. But do I have to remind you that men have been looking for the apocalypse for two thousand years? And that there have been many times when men claimed that it was not only at hand but had actually begun?
“There have been times when men who spoke with authority, or seeming authority, proclaimed that the end of the world was at hand. But they were all mistaken, deceived by themselves or by the Enemy. Which may be the same. I mean, the Enemy may be the enemy within ourselves, not an entity, a unique person with an objective existence outside of us. The point is, what if we’re being fooled again? Not self-deceived, as in the past, but deceived by an outside agency? By Extraterrestrials who are using weapons against Earth, weapons which far surpass ours? And now we’re being asked to gather at the so-called beloved city, asked to come in and surrender. Why? Perhaps we’re to form the basis of the future slave population for these beings?”
There was a long silence afterward. Anna Silvich broke it by crying, “You have convicted yourself, woman! You are trying to put doubts into our hearts, destroy our faith! You are a heathen!”
Kelvin held his hands up for silence, and, when that did not work, shouted at Anna and the others to shut up. When the uproar had died, he said, “What evidence do you have that your Extraterrestrials exist, Dana?”
“Exactly the same evidence you have that this is the beginning of the millennium,” she said. “The difference is my interpretation. Try to look at the situation, and our theories, objectively. And remember that the Antichrist fooled many, probably including some right here, when he claimed to be Christ. He has been exposed and, supposedly defeated for all time. Or, at least until the final battle a thousand years from now. But think. Could it be Satan himself who was trying his final trick on us? Or could it be that Extraterrestrials who knew of the longing of the faithful for the millennium have caused this pseudomillennium to occur? And . . .”
“Or perhaps it is Satan who is using the Extraterrestrials?” Anna said scornfully.
“It could be,” Dana Webster said.
“Just a minute,” Kelvin said. “I can’t for the life of me, the soul of me, I should say, imagine why these Extraterrestrials should bring the faithful back to life? What reason could they have to do that?”
“Have you seen any of the resurrected?” Dana Webster said. “Is there anybody in this group who has seen one of them? Or, perhaps, some among you were killed and then brought back to life?”
Kelvin said, “It’s true that no one here was restored to life. But it is not true that none of us have seen a resurrected person. I myself talked with a man who had been killed for his faith, though he was given the chance to deny God and become a slave of the Beast after seeing his wife and children raped and tortured and then beheaded. But he refused and so he was roasted over the fire and his head cut off. But he awoke at the bottom of the grave which had been opened for him, and he crawled out and was with a number of others who had been brought back to life. His wife and children were not among them, but he was sure that he would find them. I had no reason to doubt him, since I had known him from childhood.”
“What do you think of that, Webster?” Anna said.
“But you did not see him killed, nor did you see him resurrected, isn’t that right?” Webster said. “How do you know that he did not in actuality deny God and become a slave of the Beast? How do you know that his story about his resurrection was not a lie, that he wasn’t lying so he could pass himself off as a Christian, since he had fallen among Christians? Indeed, it would be wise of the Enemy, whether Satan or Extraterrestrial, to send out spies with these lying stories so they could deceive the Christians.”
Kelvin had to admit to himself that he had no proof of his friend’s story and that what Webster postulated could be true. But he did not think that she was right. Some things had to be taken on faith. On the other hand, the Antichrist had fooled many, including himself at first. He gestured impatiently and said, “All this talk! We’ll take you with us to the city and, when we get there, we’ll find out the truth about everything.”
“Why take her along?” Anna said. “She’s convicted herself out of her own mouth with her lies, and she’ll be an extra mouth to feed . . . .”
“Anna!” Kelvin said. “That’s not loving . . .”
“The time has come and gone for loving your enemies!” Anna said. “The new times are here; there is no room for tolerance of heathens. And we can’t take her along, because she’ll be lying to us with her tales of Extraterrestrials and other subtleties designed to make us fall into error! And we haven’t anyone to ask what we should do with her. We have to make up our own minds and act on our decision, hard though it may seem.”
Dana Webster gave a little start. Even by the firelight, she could be seen to pale. She pointed past Anna and said, quietly but with a tremor in her voice, “Why don’t you ask him what to do?”
They spun around, their hands going for their weapons. But the tall man in white robes and with short hair as white as newly washed wool had his hands high up in the air so they could see he was unarmed. He was smiling; his teeth were very white in the firelight, and his eyes were shining with the reflected light. The eyes of no human being shone like those; they were like a lion’s. Nor could any human being have crept by the sentinels and appeared so suddenly. The breeze, which Kelvin had suddenly felt just before Webster had spoken, must have been the air displaced by the emergence of this man . . . person . . . from no where. Kelvin felt his skin grow cold over his scalp and the back of his neck. He was scared, yet he was glad. At last someone to tell them what was happening and what they must do had come.
The man slowly lowered his hands. He was very handsome and very clean and had a beautiful well-proportioned body, quite in contrast to the ragged, dirty, scruffy bunch, scarred and skinny and stinking. The man slowly opened his robes so that they could see that he had no concealed weapons beneath them.
He said, “You may call me Smith. I’ll take up only a few minutes of your time.”
Kelvin recognized the deep rich voice. It was the same voice that came to them from time to time, over their transistor receivers. It was the voice that had told the faithful al over the world to start out for the beloved city. It had also told a little about what was expected from the faithful when they did get to the beloved city. Only one thing was clear. The new citizens would have much hard work to do for a long, long time.
“We would be honored, and very happy, if you would stay for more than a few minutes . . . Mr. Smith,” Kelvin said. “We have many questions. We also have a crucial problem here.”
The angel looked at Dana Webster, but he did not lose his smile. “I don’t know what your problem is with her, but I’m sure you’ll do the right thin,” he said. “As for your questions, most of them will have to wait. I’m busy just now. We have a thousand years to get ready for, and that will pass quickly enough for those who will live through it.”
It was difficult to get up enough courage to argue with an angel, but Kelvin had not survived because of lack of courage. He said, “Why do we have to get to the beloved city on our own? We’ve suffered enough, I would think, and several of our party have been killed by heathens or in accidents. That doesn’t seem to jibe with what we read in St. John the Divine . . . .”
Smith raised a long slim hand on the back of which were many white woolly hairs. He said, still smiling, “I don’t know the answer to that, any more than I know why there is a first death and then a second death or why all the heathens weren’t killed or why they will flourish and propagate once more. Some of whom, by the way, will be your children and grandchildren to the fiftieth generation, to your sorrow, though not to your everlasting sorrow. Don’t ask me why. I know more than you, but I don’t know everything. I am content to wait until the obscurities and ambiguities and seeming paradoxes are straightened out. And you will have to wait. Unless you are killed, of course, and spared the thousand years of struggle.”
“We are as subject as ever to the whims of chance! Kelvin said. “I thought . . .”
“You thought you’d have everything programmed, everything certain and easy,” Smith said. “Well, God has always dealt with this world on a statistical basis, excepting certain people and events. And, generally speaking, He will continue to do so until the second death. Then, my friend, He will deal with every bit of matter in this world, and the souls that inhabit certain material forms, on a specific and individual basis. And that will be the difference between the world as it has been, and the new world as it will be after the second death. Not that He is not aware of every atom now and what it is doing. But in the time to come, He will have His hand upon all matter and all souls. You might say that, up to now, and until the thousand years are over, He has respected Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty.” Smith looked at each intently, still smiling, and then said, “Actually, I’m here in my office—one of many—of requisitioner. I’m taking your horse, which is needed at the city.”
“Why don’t you just create some horses and leave this one with us?” Anna said. “We need it for food.”
“There’s other food to be had,” Smith said. “This horse is destined to be the father of many hundreds of thousands. As far as I know, the only new creations will be after the second death, when you fortunate ones will be given new bodies. Something like the one I’m using.”
Anna said, loudly, “There is one thing you should know so you can report it to your superiors, even if you won’t do anything about it here!”
Smith raised his woolly white eyebrows and said, “Superiors? I have only two, and I won’t have to report to them. They know what’s going on at every second.”
Anna was checked, but she rallied after a moment’s silence. She said, “Forgive me if I’m presuming. But you should know that this woman here claims that all this, that is, the events of the past four years, have been caused by Extraterrestrials! She says we’re being fooled! It’s all a trick of things from outer space or whatever they come from! What do you say to that?”
Smith smiled and said, “Well, angels are Extraterrestrial beings, though not all Extraterrestrials are angels. As I said, it’s your problem. You’re grown up now, though still, of course, children of God. I go now. God bless you.” Smith mounted the horse and rode out of sight down a defile. Kelvin climbed up onto the shoulder of a high hill to watch him ride out. He heard the bang, like a large balloon exploding, as the air rushed in to fill the vacuum left by a suddenly unoccupied space.
After five minutes, he climbed back down.
“If he wanted the horse, why didn’t he just take it?” Anna said. “Surely he could have done it without leaving the city.”
“Perhaps teleportation requires that the teleporter has to be physically present to do the work,” Dana said.
“Teleportation?” Anna said. “That was an angel, you fool. Angels don’t have to resort to teleportation.”
“Teleportation is only a term used to describe a phenomenon,” Dana said. “It’s the same whether it’s brought about by an angel or an Extraterrestrial.”
“And you’re a heathen,” Anna said. “That angel must think we’re a fine bunch of feather brains if we can’t see what’s so obvious. He was laughing at us because we were so stupid.”
“He could have been laughing because I told you the truth and you wouldn’t believe it,” Dana Webster said.
“And if he was one of your creatures from outer space, why didn’t he just wipe us out,” Anna said, “or just teleport us to the city? It would be so easy for him.”
“I don’t know,” Dana Webster said. “Maybe they’re giving us some sort of test so they can decide where to assign us for some sort of job. Those who survive the terrible journey to the city get some sort of booby prize. Or become the studs and mares of a new breed of superslaves. I don’t know.”
The effect of her words was stronger then Kelvin liked. Too many looked as if they were seriously considering her speculations.
It rained heavily that night, as it had for almost every night for three years. Everybody was soaked, but no one came down with colds or pneumonia or any respiratory disease. Yet, many had been subject to colds and allergic to pollen or suffering from various degrees of emphysema before the cataclysms had begun. Something had rid them of all diseases, in fact, and Kelvin pointed this out that morning. He indicated it as evidence that they would all be free of body infirmities and ailments, and would not age for a thousand years. Yet microorganisms continued to do their work on dead bodies. Meat got spoiled; dead animals, and humans, rotted. Surely, this discrimination was God-given. Why should the Enemy, or Extraterrestrials, give human beings immunity from disease?
“I don’t know,” Dana Webster said. “We’ll find out. Also, have the heathens been given this same immunity? If they have, then surely God is not responsible for the immunity, that is, He is not responsible for the dispensation of immunity. He, of course, is primarily responsible for anything that happens, in that it can’t happen unless He permits it.”
Kelvin expected her to bring up the question of why a good God would permit evil in the first place, but she did not push that time-waster on them.
The days and nights, the burning under the sun and the cold soaking night, went on and on. A thousand miles of desert along the sea behind them and another thousand to go.
Dana Webster had more than done her share. She was a genius at catching lizards and finding large quantities of locusts and stunning birds and the little desert foxes with her slings.
The items she brought to the community pot were not attractive, but they were nutritious and filled the belly. Even Anna had to admit that the party had eaten better since Webster joined them. But Anna also pointed out that Webster’s very gift at hunting could be due to a strange power she had over animals. And who knew but that this was because she was herself one of the slaves of the Beast. Ex-slaves rather, since the Beast was now in the lake of burning brimstone. But the ex-slaves were still dedicated to evil, of course.
Kelvin had become irritated at Dana Webster’s attitude, since he was now very attracted to her. In fact, he told himself during a fit of honesty, he was in love with her. He did not tell Dana, of course, because he could never marry her if she were a heathen. There had been a time when Christians had married heathens, but that must never be again. There was no doubt anymore about the line between good and evil. That is, as far as marriage went, there was no doubt about the lines. But there was still doubt about the honesty and the motives of people. And he was not sure what Dana Webster was. Sometimes, she talked so close to blasphemy that he felt repelled. Or uneasy. And he was uneasy because she seemed to be making some sense. At other times, he thought that she was truly a Christian but one who did not trust appearances and so was perhaps oversuspicious. But, in this world of untrustworthy appearances, could a person be overly suspicious?
Whatever the truth, he now yearned for this woman as he had yearned for none, not even Anna, since his wife had betrayed him. Was there something still evil in him, something that attracted him to women who had enlisted for Satan? But he had been attracted to Anna, and surely she was not on the Enemy’s side? Nor did he have any proof that Dana was with the Enemy.
It did not seem likely that some residue of evil still lay deep within him. He had refused to go along with the Beast, and he had survived the cataclysms and the overthrow of the Beast, and so the second death had no power over him. He had been judged once and for all.
But could it be that he still needed refining, that there were elements of evil in him, and that the thousand years were to be used to purge him? Was that why the millennium must be? So that the surviving Christians could be purged of all evil? What, then, would purge those who had died and who would arise at the second judgment and be given new bodies? Why did they not have to go through the fire of a thousand years?
One night, Dana, who had been silent about her theories of the reality of the situation for a long time, proposed a new theory. “Those prophets who came closest to predicting the future as it really develops are those whose minds have an inborn computer. They don’t truly prophesy, in the sense that they can actually look into the future. No, their minds, unconsciously, of course, compute the highest probabilities, and it is the most likely course of events that they predict. Or choose, rather. Your true prophet has a gift which is not a clairvoyance but is the selection of what is most probable. He sees the in potentio as actualized, though vaguely and in large general terms. His vision must necessarily be cast into symbolic images because he can’t understand what he sees. He can’t because he is a creature of the present, and the future contains many unfamiliar things.”
“But John saw what was revealed by God,” Anna said. “God would not reveal a probability; He would show only a certainty.”
Dana shrugged and said, “Sometimes, a prophet will get two probably futures mixed up. He’ll not be able to differentiate between the most likely and the next most likely. He sees the future as one, but in reality he is witnessing a part of one probable future inserted in the continuum of another probable future. That is why, perhaps, John saw two resurrections, the millennium, and so forth. He saw two or more futures all mixed up. Only true events will straighten out what future is really the most probable. Do you follow me?”
“And I suppose he may have seen Extraterrestrials and thought they were angels?” Anna said.
Anna stood up and cried, “She is saying all these confusing things to lead us astray!”
“But you can’t be led astray,” Dana Webster said. “Only the heathen can now be led astray.”
“Not if your theory is right,” Anna said, and then she stared at Webster in an obvious confusion.
The entire party was upset. The next night, seeing that the situation had not improved, even though Dana had refused to talk about her theories anymore, Kelvin held a conference. After he had Dana taken to one side, he said to the others, “We may be saints, but we’re certainly not behaving as such. Now, I’ve heard some of you, especially Anna, say that Dana should be killed. You don’t even want just to kick her out of our party, because she might then find some heathens and lead them to attack us. Or because she may be the mother of heathens, and such should not be allowed to breed.
“Anna, would you be the one to shoot her in cold blood if we decided that she should die?”
“It wouldn’t be in cold blood!” Anna said.
“Would it be in hate then? With an unchristian desire to shed blood?”
“At one time,” Anna said, “it would have been a sin to hate. But the first death has come, and the old order has passed away, and the new one has come. There is no more returning of lost sheep to the field. Once a heathen, always a heathen. That is the way it is now.”
“The old order will not pass away until the second death,” Kelvin said. “I quote you Revelation 21:4: ‘Now God’s home is with men! He will live with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them. . . . . He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief, crying, or pain. The old things have disappeared.’ And don’t forget what John says in 20:13, ‘. . . and all were judged according to what they had done.’ If we kill Dana Webster, we will be judged by what we have done, which will be, in my opinion, murder.”
“But you said we won’t be judged again!” Anna said. “And remember what that angel said. Whatever we do, it will be the right thing!”
Kelvin was silent for a while. Everything was so tangled and shadowy, not bright and straight as it was supposed to be after the Beast had been put away. Or had they misunderstood the real meaning of the Revelation? What was it supposed to be? John had not said so or even implied it. Kelvin, like so many, had just assumed it.
It was then that Anna said that they would all starve if Dana Webster had to be fed, and that she should be killed before she could say another word of her blasphemous speculations.
“We have eaten better since Dana joined us,” Kelvin said. “You know that to be true, Anna, so why do you lie? Listen, all of you, whatever else is not clear is this hot and dusty world, two things are. It is by these two that we must live, and by these two that we must die. One is, love God. The other is, love your fellow man. As long as Dana claims to be a Christian, then we must treat her as one until we get proof to the contrary.”
“Many of us were delivered into the hands of the torturer and the butcher because of that,” Anna said.
“So be it,” Kelvin said. “But that is the way it must be. We take her along to the beloved city, and when we’re there, then we’ll find out.”
Anna walked away. Others were not happy about his decision but, in these hard and dangerous times, there was no room for committee action. Like it or not, survival depended upon the quick rule of one good man.
Dana, smiling, though still pale, came up to him and kissed him on the lips. Kelvin felt a spasm of desire for her, but he pushed her away, though gently. He could not marry her now, or perhaps, ever. Not until they got to the city would he find out what was or was not permitted. And if he allowed his desire to overrule his good sense and he married her now, the group would believe, perhaps rightly, that he had put his self above the good of the whole.
Nevertheless, he did not get to sleep that night, and he found himself straining through the darkness toward Dana, as if his soul itself were trying to lift his body up and propel it through the air to her. The rains fell, and he huddled under the shelf of rock and wished he had her warm body inside the blanket with him. After a while, he prayed himself to sleep.
He awoke to shouting, screams, curses, the sound of the edge of steel striking flesh, and then shots from those of his party who had awakened in time.
Kelvin got off one shot, saw the dark figure before him fall, and something struck his head. He awoke shortly after dawn with a headache like a hot stone in his brain. His hands were tied behind him, and his feet were hobbled. Six of the attackers, all in ragged black and gold uniforms of the soldiers of the Beast, were standing over the survivors of his party. Little Jessica Crenwell lay on her back, unconscious and groaning, and apparently not long for life. Dana Webster rose from beside Crenwell and walked toward him. She seemed unhurt. And she carried a rifle.
He suppressed a groan and said, “So Anna was right.”
But she was not, as he had expected, pleased.
“I had nothing to do with these,” she said gesturing at the sullen-faced heathen. “At least, I did not tell them to attack. They have ruined my plans to enter your beloved city with your party. Now I’ll have to find another party of fools or somehow manage to convince the city’s guardians that I am what I claim to be. And that won’t be easy.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, wincing from the pain involved in talking. “I f you meant to palm yourself off as a Christian, why did you argue so vehemently that this was a false apocalypse? Why your theory of the Extraterrestrials?”
She smiled then, and she said, “Long before we reached the city, I would have pretended to have converted wholly to your way of thinking. I would have repented of my errors. You would then accept me far more easily, because I would have seemed to have been confused and hurt by my traumatic experiences but would have been cured, shown the right way. And then you wouldn’t have had much hesitation about marrying me, would you?”
“To be honest, no. I would have rejoiced at your change and leaped at the chance to marry you. But I would have done so only if you had made it plain that you really wanted me.”
“And I would have arranged it so that you would not have been able to hold out,” she said. “And then, as your wife, as one of the faithful band, I would have started planting my little seeds of doubt here and there, watering them on the sly, and all the time determining the weaknesses and the strengths of the city for the day when we attack.”
“We have been chosen by the new rulers of Earth as the favored executives, the herders of the swine. We were approached before all this began, told what would happen, and given our duties. And it was all as they said it would be. They are your true prophets, my friend, not some old half-crazy man on an island. They knew that the stresses inside the Earth would bring on the greatest quakes the Earth has ever known, and they knew that a group of large asteroids was heading for the Earth. Why shouldn’t they, since they launched the asteroids ages ago, and since they have devices to store up energy in the Earth and to trigger it off whenever they care to do so.”
“They?” Kelvin said, and he felt the stone in his brain become bigger and hotter.
“They are from a planet which orbits a star in Andromeda. They are the true rulers of this universe, or destined to be such. They can travel through interstellar space at speeds far exceeding that of light. But there is another race which has the same powers, and an evil race which has been the eon-long enemy of the Andromedans.”
Kelvin groaned, partly from the agony in his head and partly from the agony in his soul.
“Your story sounds vaguely familiar,” he said. “And I’m not referring to the science fiction stories we used to read before the Beast suppressed them.”
“It’s in the Bible,” she said, “but in a rather distorted form. I wasn’t lying when I said that some men could compute the most probable future. To some extent, that is, on a broad and unspecific scale, of course. However, the Arcturans were going to seize Earth and take over when the Andromedans struck. The Arcturans are those you think of as angels. They are the ones preparing to build the beloved city, which will be a fortress to hold Earth—they think.”
Kelvin said, “Satan may be locked up, but surely his aides are loose. But they won’t be able to do anything really drastic for a long, long time. Not for a thousand years.”
She laughed and said, “You still insist on believing your old cast-off myth?”
“It is you who believe in the myth, though it is new,” he said. “You have to rationalize. You have to believe that the evil spirits are not spirits but beings from another star. And they, of course, must be the good ones, because no one really allies himself with what he admits is an evil cause. No, somehow, the cause must be a good one, no matter what evil it does. And we Christians, of course, are the evil ones. The Enemy has to think of himself as good.”
The other heathens were walking toward him. They held knives and cigarette lighters.
Dana Webster said, “I must go now. I have work to do. I leave you to these. They’d be angry if I frustrated them by killing you. I need them, so they’ll get their way now. I’m sorry, in a way, since I don’t like torture. But there are times when it must be used.”
“That’s the difference between me and you, between us and your kind,” Kelvin said. “I pity you, Dana Webster. I pity you from the deepest part of my being. I wish even now that you could see the light, that you could love God, know God as I know Him. But it is too late. The thousand years have started, and your end is foretold.
“And if I scream, when I scream, I should say, and if I beg for mercy from these things that have no mercy, and if I scream at them to get it over with—well, no matter how long it seems, it will be over. And then I will arise in a new body, and the old order will have passed away, and there will be no death any longer or any grief or pain.”
“You nauseating egotistic fool!” she said.
“Time will tell which of us is a fool,” he said. “But time has already told which of us is for man and God.”
As death came, a smile passed fleetingly, over his face—a smile Dana Webster would not, indeed, could not understand.
The expression “the Antichrist,” used in the previous story, is not found in the Bible. The only Biblical passages to use the word “antichrist” are the following:
First Epistle of John, chapter 2, verse 18: “. . . and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists . . . .”
Ibid., verse 22: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”
Chapter 4, verse 3: “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world.”
Second Epistle of John, verse 7: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
These are all the “antichrist” passages in the Bible. From them it is clear that there is not just one antichrist, but many, and they are all who deny that Jesus is the Christ, and all who say that Christ is only a spirit, denying the flesh of Christ.
The opposite error is made by people when they talk about “archangels” in the plural, though the Bible talks about “the Archangel,” Michael (see Jude, verse 9), with no hint that there is, has been or will be any other “chief messenger” (which is what “archangel” means).
It should have been a party, but instead, they were alone. Teresa sat across from her twin brother Thomas, the remains of the little feast between them—the best china, the starched linen—no meat anymore, but, well, she made up for that with his favorite, cherry pie. Not that he ever noticed what she did, but she could tell herself she had tried. After all, they had to do something. It was only human to want some sort of rite of passage to celebrate their reaching “the age of man” and woman tonight.
So they’d be changed, together. She to her exaltation and he to . . . whatever. Even then she wouldn’t abandon him, she promised herself. She’d minister to his spirit. Hadn’t she always done her duty?
“How do you feel?” she asked him.
“No different.” He shrugged. His watery blue eyes met hers. He laced liver-spotted fingers behind his head, his gaze steady. His words were solid, no trace of apology.
Teresa sighed. “You did the best you could.” That was no lie, she justified to herself. He was to be pitied that this was his best. But she resisted the urge to criticize or judge him. She had to be an example.
It was a shame, though, that her friends couldn’t be with her tonight to share her triumph. Thomas had refused to have anyone join them. Teresa had given in to him. She always gave in to him. She wasn’t complaining. She never complained. It was the way he wanted it. He deserved extra consideration.
It was never like this before the Coming, she recalled. People didn’t know for sure. When someone died, there were comforting words that sympathetic friends could say with such convincing sincerity. Where no one could be absolutely certain of anyone’s fate, there was always hope.
Now, there was either a body left behind . . . or not.
“What time is it?” she wanted to know.
“Stop asking me what time it is,” he snapped. “It’s late.” There was a fleeting animation, then it, too, subsided, and he sank back to staring at his empty plate.
She could not suppress the thought of a last meal for the condemned man—judgment passed, no stay of execution possible. How he must envy her! But that was her constant trial, always punished for trying to be good—just one more thing to be endured till the end.
She started to clear the table. She had cleared their table for the past thirty years, just the two of them since their mother had passed on (or bugged out, as Thomas preferred to put it).
Too bad that Mother couldn’t be with them tonight. Her celestial duties kept her busy, but that was not the real reason, Teresa knew. Whenever Mother came to visit, Thomas would end up shouting at her. Shouting. At Mother. And Mother would cry and look at Teresa dn cry even more. Then they wouldn’t see her again for a while.
Teresa would make peace. Again and again she had to heal the hurt, persuade Thomas that God loved him in spite of what he did. He had only to believe and trust in Jesus.
Still, Mother should have been with them tonight, of all nights, regardless of what Thomas might have done. Teresa sometimes wondered how Mother had ever gained exaltation with some of her ways. She ought to forgive him. Teresa had. It was the Christlike thing to do.
Not that there was anything to forgive, actually. Thomas didn’t do anything so terrible. In fact, he didn’t do much of anything at all—just go to work, come home, read the paper, go to bed. He had survived the Second Coming. That said something for him.
Mother had no right to be critical. She ought to commend him for being so responsible. What would Teresa have done without Thomas and without a husband?
Teresa stacked the plated in the dishwasher and turned it on. It was far from full, but she wanted things neat later on. People would be coming to take out the remains. It wouldn’t do to have them think she wasn’t a good housekeeper.
It was all her brother asked: just keep the place neat—clean clothes in the closet, hot food on the table—little enough for his going to work day after day to support them. And she still had plenty of time left over for her work at the convent. Luckily the sisters had never found out and sent her away when she joined the Church.
Well, all that would change. She wouldn’t be able to hide her celestial glory from them. She would miss being there. They’d miss her too, she was sure. They appreciated her.
Teresa wandered back into the dining room. Her brother was no longer sitting at the table. For an instant she thought she’d missed it. He must have heard her gasp.
“No,” he growled from the living room, “not yet.”
She reminded herself not to respond to the angry tone. It was his way, her little cross. She took a seat on the sofa opposite him and picked up her Bible.
“You can’t wait. Can you?” he said.
Did he mean for his death? Or her own? “I suppose . . .”
“You think you’re so high and mighty with your Sisters of the Assumption and your Visiting Teaching, reading and praying, reading and praying.”
Teresa closed her eyes against the harsh words. He was frustrated, jealous. She should try to bear with him.
“There you go,” Thomas snorted. “Don’t bother praying for me now. It’s too late. Whichever way it’s going to be is the way it’s going to be. There’s nothing you, or I, or anybody can do about it at this late date.”
He kicked the hassock out of the way and stood up. It hit her in the shins. He didn’t seem to notice.
“It’s nothing,” she said, rubbing her leg.
A faint smile passed between his sagging jowls. “One more chance for you to forgive me and earn another point in your favor.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“Why not? I can say pretty much anything I like now. Can’t I?” His face grew placid. “There’s a certain liberation to it. I can drink or smoke or curse in peace. It doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference anymore. Does it?”
Teresa cleared her throat. It was the most she ever did to show her disapproval. She never contradicted him.
“Then close your ears,” he said. “I haven’t been able to do as I pleased since you joined that blasted church. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You and Mother! Tonight I’m free. Can you see that? You’re free too. One little letting-go right now won’t change a lifetime one way or the other.”
She pretended interest in her scriptures, refusing to be baited.
He leaned close, breathing cider and cinnamon on her cheek. “Go ahead. Say something. Say the bishop is a fawning old crank. I know you’ve though it. I can read your face. You’ll feel better getting it out in the open. Be honest.”
Teresa slid sideways from under his peering insistence. “No thank you,” she said quietly, firmly . . . tolerantly. She summoned up the strength to resist him. Didn’t the Lord fit the back to the burden?
He straightened. And as if nothing had passed between them, he said, “Where’s my paper?” and sat down.
Thank goodness for old habits. Teresa crossed to the front door and retrieved the paper from the porch. She delivered it to him with her most pleasant smile. It was just one of those little injustices she had to put up with.
She settled herself again on the sofa and resumed her studies. The silence that followed was punctuated only by the rustle of his newsprint and the whisper of her tissue-thin pages.
Odd, she thought, how he could accept it, rationalize it, even joke about it. She wondered how she would feel if it were her—knowing that there would be no more approval, no thanks, no glory. Well, not the greatest glory, which was the same thing. Wasn’t it?
She had done what she was told: baptism, endowment, the endless callings and meetings, saying the right words at testimony time and worthiness interviews, reading only the right kinds of books.
Not that she always understood them all. Who did? She guessed she understood as much as she needed to. There really wasn’t that much to it all. To tell the truth, sometimes she couldn’t help falling asleep. It was all so repetitive. And some of it was so, so . . . foreign. It was the only word to describe it, so different from what Mother had taught her as a child.
When Mother was resurrected she had started teaching her all over again, new things, strange things, secret things, answers to questions Mother had once said were never to be asked. Teresa wanted so much to please Mother.
Of course, Thomas was different. Mother somehow refused to understand that he didn’t fit her mold. For all her talk about agency, she just couldn’t seem to accept his decision.
Mother said Teresa should teach Thomas. But Thomas already knew all there was to know about the Church. She wanted Teresa to force their religion on the sisters at the convent too. Mother didn’t know them, though. If she did, she’d have seen what good people they were already. If Teresa botched how she told them, they might not accept. And everybody knows it’s a thousand times worse to reject the message than to have never heard it. And besides, if they found out about her, they would ask her to quit. Rules were rules.
Suddenly Teresa became aware that the only page-turning sound in the room was her own. Warily she raised her eyes to her brother. He was asleep. He looked the same. Surely he was asleep.
Was he breathing? Or was he holding his breath to tease her? How she hated to be left alone! The bond between them, between twins, was stronger than anything. Stronger than husband and wife. Certainly stronger than mother and son.
Mother always seemed uncomfortable around him. Teresa wouldn’t let the change come between them. She would visit him, stay with him as long as he wanted, wherever he was. She wanted to tell him that.
“Thomas,” she whispered. Then louder, “Thomas.” There was no reply.
She bit her lip. He’s only gone for a few minutes, she told herself. He was only nine minutes her elder. In nine minutes she’d be able to follow him. She’d find him.
She bowed her head and began the change that had comforted her for seventy years, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be . . .”
“Teresa,” said Thomas.
His voice startled her. She opened her eyes to find him standing above her. “Is it over?” she asked. She grasped for his hand.
He pulled away. “For both of us,” he said.
“Not for me. Not yet,” she insisted.
“Well, it’s over nonetheless.” He swiped at her, and his hand passed through her like water through a sieve.
She almost fell as she reached frantically after him. She was on her feet now, but he wrenched away from her clutching fingers.
“Look at yourself.” He was pointing past her.
She looked down. She still sat slouched on the sofa, nodding over her book. “There’s been some mistake,” she said. “It can’t be.”
“No mistake,” he said. A cruel smile warped his face.
Teresa looked at her hands. The creases were familiar, a scar, an old burn, but she could see the pattern of the rug through them. Yet, she was calm. There must be a purpose here, she though. I’m not seeing something.
They were together, she rationalized. Was that the meaning of her new life? She had devoted her mortality to caring for Thomas. What was more reasonable than that Jesus still had work for her to do? Perhaps her resurrection and exaltation were being delayed. She thought she was beginning to understand already. She drew up all her courage to speak. “It’s not too late, Thomas. Jesus will still forgive you. I can help.”
“You know I never believed in all that junk,” he scoffed, “and I’m too old to change now.” Then he picked up his newspaper and plopped into an unoccupied easy chair.
All in the Lord’s good time, Teresa thought. There’s an eternity ahead, and I know I can do much better now without Mother’s interference.
She plucked her Bible from her body’s grasp, sat down beside herself and resumed reading, “Charity suffereth long . . .”
Simple stories to illustrate and explain complex theological dogmas that are otherwise totally incomprehensible.
A rich merchant of Jaffa left on a journey, and he left a talent with each of his three servants. A talent is a unit of money, worth about a thousand dollars or so.
When the merchant returned, he asked for an account. The first servant said, “I bought a ceramic shop and so far I’ve made three talents.” The master replied, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of my house.”
The second servant said, “I bought an investment on a trading ship to India. The ship came back with a profit of five talents.” To this also the great man replied, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of my house.”
The third one said, “I was afraid of losing all that money if I made a bad investment, so I took the talent and buried it in the garden. And here it is, safe and sound!”
The master looked wrathful for a while. But then he sighed, shrugged, and said, “Oh, well. Come in anyway. You are saved by grace, not by works . . .”
A rich man who lived in a large house called his two sons one day. “My boys,” said he, “I have developed a new doctrine called predestination. What it means is that I have chosen one of you to be my sole heir and to receive all that I have. The other one will be disowned and kicked out into the outer darkness with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
“But why? What have we done?”
“It has nothing to do with what you do or do not. I just want it that way, that’s all.”
“Ah . . . which of us is which?” At this question the man smiled and winked. “That would be telling, wouldn’t it? You will just have to behave, each of you as if he were the chosen one.”
The boys looked at each other aghast. Soon afterwards they both ran away from home.
A swineherd of Gadara was given a Pearl of Great Price from a good friend. Delighted, he ran home to show his treasure to his pigs. But the animals just sniffed, grunted, and said, “What good is that? You can’t eat it. It’s no good, grrumphff!!”
“Eat!” exclaimed the boy. “That is all you ever think about! You are nothing but a herd of pigs!”
“Well, urnk, Boss, you’ve hit the nail right on the head there. We ain’t nothing but ignorant porkers. But why don’t you ask Professor Horkus Porkus? He’s a well-educated swine, he is.”
At the sound of his name, Dr. Porkus came trotting over. “My dear Hogge,” said he, “you mean I am an educated boar. You should not use swine to refer to the singular male animal, since etymologically speaking, swine is the plural of sow, just as kine is the plural of cow, an archaic Germanic plural . . .”
“All right, already!” they all interrupted. “You are a boar! Never mind! What we want is your opinion about this here pearl!”
“Dear Sir and fellow porcines,” the professor replied, “what you call a pearl is merely an excrescence produced by a mollusk as a defense mechanism against the intrusion of foreign particles . . .”
“Hey! Please talk English! We don’t know pig-Latin!”
Horkus sighed and resigned himself to explaining in plain language. “All right. When an oyster gets a grain of sand pricking its soft parts, it give off an ooky goop to wrap it up and protect itself. And that yucky stuff, when it hardens, becomes your so-called pearl.”
All the pigs applauded this explanation. “See? Ain’t no way a thing which starts that way can be anything valuable! We told you so!”
Saddened, the young swineherd returned to his friend and told him what had happened. The friend patted him on the shoulder, smiled, and said, “But my dear pig-keeper, don’t you realize that a well-educated pig remains still a pig?”
There was a King who loved a Princess, and he sent her a love letter. The Princess loved the letter and asked for more. The more letters she received, the more she wanted, until she had received sixty-six of them. These she bound together and called the collection a Book.
“The time has come,” said the King and sent Messengers to summon the Princess to the Marriage Feast. They made the journey, arrived, and knocked on the door.
“Who are you?” asked the Princess. “We are messengers,” they replied. “I have no need of messengers,” she replied. “I have my Book.” So they sadly returned to the King and reported.
“If she likes books so much,” said he, “I shall send her another.” And so he did. But she refused to accept it, saying, “A Book? What Book? I have a Book already, and I need no more Book.”
“Well then,” said the King, “I must come myself.” But when he arrived and knocked on the door, the Princess said from inside, “Go away! I m reading my Book.”
But then the handmaiden of the Princess came out, and she had fallen in love with the King from reading the second book, which the great lady had not wanted. Now this Maiden was as beautiful as the Princess, and much sweeter and smarter, so the King took her to the Marriage Feast. And they lived happily ever after. Amen.
On the fifth of August of 1979, Merle H. Graffam wrote a letter to the famous Science Fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. “I have been both amused and fascinated over the years,” said Graffam, “at finding occasional references to Mormonism in your science fiction stories. Your literary output has been vast, and I cannot therefore pinpoint them all but I remember a ship . . . named Joseph Smith and, in another story a boy who brings a Book of Mormon on a trip away from earth.”
Graffam went on to ask a few specific questions, but to all of them Heinlein answered either “No” or “No comment.” He also underlined the following sentence in his form-letter reply: “Fiction is sold as entertainment, not as fact.” At the foot of the letter he added this handwritten comment: “The L.D.S. are a very colorful part of our society, an obvious source of story material.”
Specific allusions remembered by Your Editor are the following: 1) in Double Star, the protagonist explains that he cannot describe the Martian initiation ceremony for the same reason a good Mormon cannot describe the Endowment inside the Salt Lake Temple. 2) In Glory Road, the expression “as difficult as converting the Pope to Mormonism” is used. 3) In Stranger in a Strange Land the protagonist reads the Book of Mormon.
If you know other good examples, please send them off to us, and perhaps the next volume, LDSF-3, will carry a list of LDS allusions by Robert Heinlein.
Of primordial importance in Tolkien’s Saga of Arada is the story of the Eden-like land of Aman, with its white and golden Trees of Light, which were destroyed by the enemy, Morgoth, plunging that land into darkness. The story bears a slight resemblance to that told in Genesis, Chapter 3, which also tells of a land of Paradise, which was lost because of the intrigue of an enemy, the serpent. Two trees, the tree of Knowledge and the tree of Life, also appear in the Genesis account, but otherwise the similarity is small indeed: there is no hint that these trees produced light, or that they were injured in any way at the Fall. Surprisingly enough, a much closer parallel to the Tolkienian narrative can be found in ancient Mexican mythology—the story of Tamoanchan.
Tamoanchan is “the house of descent, place of birth, mystic west where gods and men originated.” The story of its foundation and downfall has been thus summarized by Michael Graulich: “Creation is always begun by a supreme divine couple. They install their creatures in a paradise, Tamoanchan (=Tlalocan), or in a celestial city or a radiant palace. This place is always one of abundance, in which creators and creatures live in perfect harmony. There is no death . . . . At a certain point, the creatures become guilty of a transgression. A goddess (Xochiquetzal, Tlazolteotl, Itzpapalotl, Cihuacoatl), deceived by a god (Plitzintecuhtli, Tezcatlipoca), picks or eats the blossom of the forbidden tree, which then shatters . . . . The results of the transgression are disastrous; the tree of paradise is destroyed, the gods are driven from heaven and exiled on earth or in the underworld; evil, death, and night come into being . . . . Xochiquetzal produces Cinteotle (the corn god), who immediately dies and is reborn in the form both of corn and useful plants and of Venus, the first light of the world . . . . During the first few years of an era . . . the Earth is in darkness . . . . There is no longer much communication between the creation and heaven, light, the supreme Duality. Thus the lost paradise must be regained. It is at this point that the . . . heroes become important . . . the Twins . . . sacrifice themselves by leaping into a fire . . . . . They die and are reborn; they triumph over the underworld, death and darkness and finally emerge as sun and moon.”
Let us now proceed to compare these three versions of the story of how Paradise was lost.
The story begins in a place of abundance and perfect harmony.
Creators and created both live there peacefully.
There is no death.
The peace and harmony is destroyed by the consumption of part of a sacred tree (the fruit in Genesis, the sap in Tolkien, the blossom in Mexico).
Banishment and exile follow as consequences of the transgression.
Creation is begun by a supreme divine couple. In the Valaquenta this supreme couple consists of Manwë and Varda. They are assisted by other couples: Aulë and Yavanna, Namo and Vairë, Irmo and Estë, Tulkas and Nessa, Ormë and Vána. In Genesis, a divine creating couple is not mentioned directly, but is hinted at in 1:26–27, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” There is a clear suggestion here that “our image” and “our likeness” mean “male and female.” An earlier version of the creation narrative may have spelled it out more clearly, but later redactors may have obscured it as the theology evolved to exclude the female element from orthodox theology.
Paradise is located in the West. Traditionally, the Eden of Genesis is located in the East. However, this may be the result of an imperfect translation. The late William Albright, a Biblical authority of renown, said that miqqedem in Gen. 2:8 should not be translated “eastward” but “in primeval times.” Of the four rivers of Eden mentioned in Gen. 2:10–14, Pison and Gihon suggest the West, Hiddekel and Prat suggest the East. However, Cyrus H. Gordon has pointed out that the last named was originally a general word for “river,” and that a related element, para, appears in the names of various South American rivers: Para, Paru, Paraíba, Paraná, Paranaíba, Paranapanema, Paraguá, Paraguai, Paratinga, Paraçatú, Paraguaçu, and Paranahyba. These names, it should be emphasized, are all native, not Spanish or Portuguese. They are all located in eastern South America. Dr. Gordon suggested that they received their names from the same civilization that named the river called the Prat in Gen. 2:14, Porat in Gen. 49:22 (according to William F. Albright), Buranun in Sumerian, Purattu in Akkadian, and Baradu in Eblaite (in that language meaning “the Cold River”). If Dr. Gordon is right, the possibility exists that the Biblical Eden, like Aman and Tamoanchan, may have been located in the distant West. ELEMENTS COMMON TO AMAN AND TAMOANCHAN
Cities and palaces are mentioned as well as the Garden (unlike the Biblical story, which considers the first city the creation of the wicked Cain, much later—Gen. 4:16–17).
The Transgression results in the death of the sacred tree.
The destruction of the Tree plunges the world into darkness, since that tree was the main source of light.
A whole race of people, not just the individuals responsible, are exiled as a consequence of the Transgression.
To overcome the darkness and undo at least some of the damage, two divine beings transform themselves into the sun and the moon. Another hero becomes the planet Venus (but this precedes even the sun and moon, in the Mexican version, while in Tolkien Venus is the last luminary to ascend into the sky). ELEMENTS COMMON TO THE ISRAELITE AND MEXICAN VERSIONS
The Transgression occurs when a female personage is deceived into consuming part of the Tree. (In Tolkien, the element of deception is missing, as well as the woman or goddess.)
Death comes into the world as a result (while neither the Valar nor the Eldar become mortal because of the Transgression, and Men are created mortal to begin with—they are not even allowed, as a general rule, into Aman). ELEMENTS COMMON TO TOLKIEN AND GENESIS
There are two sacred trees, not just one (however, in Genesis, only the fruit of one tree is consumed, the other being untouched).
Two amazing results emerge from this comparison: The greatest number of similarities, and the strongest ones, are between the Mexican and the Tolkienian versions, even though that is where we would least expect it. Only one parallel, and not a very strong one at that, unites Tolkien and the Bible (as opposed to the Transoceanic version), although we would expect Tolkien to be more familiar with the Bible, and more influenced by it, than with or by Mexican mythology.
Indeed I know of no evidence, from his writings, his Biography, his Letters, or any other source, that J. R. R. Tolkien was at all familiar with the religion and legends of Precolumbian America. Could he have found an Old World document that detailed a story similar to the Mexican myths? Such speculation would be futile until and unless such a document is found or identified. Or could the similarities be attributed to transcendent inspiration, to racial memory, to unconscious primordial archetypes? This line of thought cannot be very productive either. However, at least it allows us to point out that those elements which are unique to Tolkien, not found in Mexico or the Bible, are the same ones that can be explained in terms of Tolkien’s own individual psychology, rather than racial (by which I mean the human race) memory and unconscious archetypes. These include:
The absence of a female personage as an agent of the transgression and the death of the Sacred Tree. Tolkien was deeply devoted to the Virgin Mary, to his mother, and to his wife. The notion of blaming the Fall on a goddess or woman was not one that appealed to his spirit. Perhaps for similar reasons, in later years he tried to downplay the role of Galadriel in the rebellion of the Noldor.
The great spider, Ungoliant, an element strikingly unique with Tolkien, is perhaps best explained as a product of his trauma in infancy (while he was still living in South Africa) when he was bitten by a huge tarantula. The event was consciously forgotten, but vividly remembered in his subconscious, spawning Ungoliant, Shelob, and the Spiders of Mirkwood.
Assuming, then, just for the fun of it (of “for the sake of argument,” if you prefer), that the three narratives are variant versions of an ancient Myth, and leaving aside Tolkien’s idiosyncratic touches, we can then reconstruct what the original story would have been, if it had really existed. THE LIGHT OF EDEN
A divine couple, a God and a goddess, created other deities and the human race, all in their own image and likeness, male and female. All of them, goddesses and gods, women and men, lived together in peace and harmony in a beautiful Paradise in the West that had magnificent cities and palaces, as well as a great Garden. In this garden were many trees, but two Trees were specially sacred. One of the trees emanated the light of Paradise. There was no death; all were immortal. However, a god who had fallen into evil deceived a female—a goddess or woman—into eating part of one of the sacred Trees. As a result, the Tree died, and the world was plunged into darkness. Death appeared for the first time. Those responsible, and all of their people with them, were exiled from Paradise. Gods and Men were estranged from each other. Wishing to undo at least some of the damage and to restore Light to the world, three divine heroes ascended into the sky and became the Sun, Moon, and Venus. Thus the purposes of the evil one were defeated, and the world had light again.
The Mexican myth of Tamoanchan seems to be closest to this reconstructed version—which is not too surprising, considering that its source is more to the West than either of the other two.
The totem of their god was marred:
Stigmata starred its palms and wrists
And feet. The Elder waited patiently,
While through wrenched teeth I hissed
If a single questing sound. He spoke:
“Not us, not here. Another world,
In darkness dressed”—he broke
A thrumming sigh—“another people
Has told us of.” I swallowed stone
And would not speak. “Another world
Where angels dwelt, where droned
That hideous strength against our God,
Straightened him that first had warred
To bend all life beneath infinity.
A world of stupid men, bored
With life, experimenting with
As if they knew not what would come
Of it.” I looked around—a world
Like mine, unlike my distant home
In never having suffered war
Futile strife. A world where God
Had come----one time, in glory-light—
And spoken thoughts which blossomed awe
And echo, through their legends
Frail history. They waited One:
He came. That was all. That simple,
That wonder-full. Here, on the rim
Of man’s extension into space,
Man (on the first habitable earth)
Found humanoids—like us,
Enough like to be brothers. Birth
Of man’s new universe! Yet spirit-death
His pretensions. For his God,
And lord of worlds innumerable,
Was here. And on the planet where I trod
As child . . . only there, on one
In the universe, did man—
And scourge His Son.
Our simple plan
To proselyte for humankind
Equals on the seedling planets far,
Is come to nothing—ashes heaped
Upon our pride. And so we leave this star,
Return to earth, the only world
Know to kill a Christ,
The only needing desperately
His birth with us—as man—the price
To cauterize our hears
If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?
Or see the grand beginning
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
“No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where Nothing has a place.”
When I saw this book for the first time I ignored it as I have done with all of the other books by the popular nonfiction Swiss author and world traveler, Erich von Däniken. He is known as the leading proponent of the “Gods were astronauts” theory, and I could not make up my mind about him. Nevertheless, many Church members find some of his observations interesting and worthy of discussion.
My attention was first drawn to his recent book when an elderly member of my ward told me that von Däniken was writing a series about the golden plates for one of West Germany’s popular TV journals. In previous European books dealing with pre-Columbian archaeology, he briefly mentioned the Book of Mormon, but only to deny its claim as a historical record. It was discussed mainly in connection with the common theory of the lost tribes.
Von Däniken’s books which are widely read, mostly deal with archaeological topics for which a scientific explanation remains uncertain and controversial. He is not fond of modern sciences which he claims have turned “dogmatic and intolerant” (p. 221). Since von Däniken searches rather indiscriminately for any kind of unclassified artifact to promote his observations of extraterrestrial life, he believes in the “freedom of [his own] fantasy.” This is one reason for his reputation as an outsider on the fringes of credibility. Therefore he is eager to find any source which can support his observations and theories.
I was curious to see what von Däniken had to say about the Book of Mormon. Strategy of the Gods deals explicitly but not exclusively with the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon connection is clearest on the dust jacket:
About . . . 2500 years ago a spaceship flew above our shocked ancestors. The commander of the extraterrestrials instructed a group of people in shipbuilding, gave them a compass, and decoyed them by sea from the Jerusalem area to South America. When the temple construction was completed, the commander flew back to Babylon and brought back the Prophet Ezekiel to show him the new temple in South America . . .”
This scenario, though untenable to Mormons, is not completely unfamiliar. The Nephites may have built some of the ruins in South America. In 1980, LDS missionaries posed such a question to von Däniken (p. 50), and he thought of Chavin de Huancar in Peru, a temple that fits some but not all of the description of Ezekiel. This was a clue that also became a link, a suggestion.
This book is the first one I know of that positively supports the Book of Mormon. The book’s first chapter retells the story of Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith without mentioning the First Vision. The author doesn’t explain the role of the Prophet Joseph Smith but is convinced that he actually possessed the golden plates or “treasure” as he calls them. The testimonies of the eleven Book of Mormon witnesses is not the only proof of the plates, he contends. The contents themselves constitute proof. This is alluring bait for the LDS reader. He treats Mormonism positively and respectfully. He also quotes some historical sources linked to the Book of Mormon, like the Popol Vuh or Atra Hasis mythologies.
Thereafter, however, the reader will be confused. Von Däniken does not intend to prove exactly which part of the Book of Mormon might be true. Rather than claiming total falsification of the translation, von Däniken is sure of “partial” falsification, by whom he does not say. He says for example, that 1 and 2 Nephi and Ether are “adventurously exciting, informative, and without falsification, but it’s regrettable that some ‘plump’ prophecies about Jesus were added to continue biblical history” (pp. 49–50).
Some contemplations in Strategy of the Gods are surely based on von Däniken’s “freedom of fantasy.” For example, the Jaredites and Nephites had to build ships, he says, because spacecraft of this time weren’t advanced enough to give so many passengers a lift. In another case, the Nephites “diligently” practiced plural marriage (for the author a link to the nineteenth-century practice) to get enough offspring to build the temple modeled after Solomon’s (p. 47).
The book includes a second work. The Eighth Wonder of the World, which reports an excavation site in Colombia, called Buritaca 200, which von Däniken was allowed to visit. The whole book itself is a mixture of his travel experiences in South America and his own lively observations and comments. I enjoyed the author’s involving narratives and his eloquently expressed fear of the limitations of modern science. The book is fully illustrated, mainly with the author’s own photographs.
Some feel this best seller will help missionary work in Germany, but I fail to contemplate this prospect with equanimity. Some of our elders and missionaries don’t seem to be particular about their sources either. We want to prove the divinity of the Book of Mormon as we understand it, but von Däniken’s purpose is not the same. Instead he is looking for more extraterrestrials. The purposes are not, I think, compatible.
The choir finished its “Chorus Before the Veil” and Don Finvara, President of the First Quorum of Hundred, embraced the First Counselor of the First Presidency, Vladimir Ivanovich, and entered into the Celestial Room of the temple next to Church Headquarters in Jakarta. Finvara’s ecclesiastical career had spanned thirty years and today he was reflective. His assignments had ranged from Mission President for Ireland Derry to chairing the Committee for Reevaluation of Ordinances. Under the direction of the FP he had spent the last ten years studying the techniques of true magic for reasons which had never been clear to him. A few days ago, just after the cremation of Apostle Young Wolf, the FP had interviewed him intensely, and he dared to wonder if he were about to be called to the Sixteen. He had been asked to fast for seven days in preparation for his meeting in The Place of the Mysteries of Godliness, and he felt somewhat physically weak if spiritually strong as he crossed the room and, accompanied by the First Counselor, entered the door which opened to the hallway leading to The Place. As they approached it the door was opened by Second Counselor Abdul Salam who motioned for Finvara to take his place on the Seat of Vision. President Ramon Maria Lopez approached him and anointed his eyes, mouth and ears, repeating the Tenth Rite, then quickly washed Finvara’s feet using words which the latter had never heard before, though they were simultaneously translated through his ear device. The Prophet and his counselors then retired to the other side of a table, on which were various objects covered by a white cloth.
President Lopez stared at Don Finvara during Salam’s opening prayer and then spoke in a voice which reflected weakness after what had been rumored to be weeks of fasting:
“We can imagine what you might think this meeting is about, but it concerns something much greater. We have been watching you for many years after receiving a revelation through the seerstone about your true mission in this life. I will let Brother Vladimir explain something about this.” The Prophet relaxed against the back of his chair as his counselor leaned forward and smiled.
“You may find much of what we are about to tell you somewhat incredible, though we would hope that after learning about the People of Luna several years ago, you will find this no more improbable.” He drew out from under the cloth a book of gold appearance and handed it to Finvara. It felt to be neither metal nor paper. On it was a curious script of which Finvara could make nothing. Ivanovich then handed him the Urim and Thummim, and when the President of the Hundred looked through them, he perceived that the meaning of the title was The Book of Knowledge. He gave a puzzled look to the First Counselor.
“This,” Ivanovich continued, “is a scripture for a people to whom you will be called. You will have two primary missions. The first will be to bring them the Oral Ordinances, which they lack, except in corrupted form. The second we will speak about later.”
“And who are these to whom I go?” asked Finvara with overwhelming curiosity.
“We call them the Children of Michael, but their true name you will receive in a place in the temple you will build in their country, sometimes known as Summerland or Tir na Og.”
Finvara was even more puzzled. “I’ve never heard of it.”
President Salam said evenly, “But you have heard of those to whom you go. They have been known by various names, among them the People of Peace, the Dee, the People of Power, the Shee, the Fair Folk, the Fays. You are, in short, being called to minister to those we know from legend as the elven inhabitants of Faery.” He sat back as Finvara gasped and his mouth hung open as he looked from one to the other.
“Are you serious? I find this very hard to believe!”
“It is, nevertheless, your calling,” the Prophet said softly.
“The book will tell you much of what you need to know about their origins,” continued Ivanovich. “They have been confused with other peoples in the mists of time. You are probably thinking of some kind of pixies, but these are people of normal stature. There have been other races that have been associated with them—pre-men, giants, and aboriginals who survived into this age but gradually died out, experiments with animals by those skilled in arts you have been studying, visitors from elsewhere. Plant spirits and the spirits of those who were denied their own bodies but borrowed others’ have played a role in the mythology. Some experiences recounted in Eire were just hallucinations and overactive imaginations.” The First Counselor nodded at the Second who took up where the story was left.
“The greatest confusion was with the People of Dan, better known as the Tuatha de Dana. They were of Israel in Egypt and came out at the time of the Exodus through Greece and eventually to Eire. They met some brethren there who had come in various migrations to that land of power, and they conquered them at a place in County Sligo.” Salam pulled out a map and pointed to it, then moved his finger south to County Tipperary. “Following the Sacred Bees they settled here in an area to which they were allowed to return as spirits some centuries ago to help defeat Cromwell.”
“These were not, as we said, the people to whom you are called, but they have been so identified with them by the traditions of men it is important to know,” interjected President Lopez.
President Salam continued. “Another part of Israel came to the Isle, and these Milesians conquered the People of Dan. This seems strange at first, because the Tuatha were very advanced in the Arts, and one would have thought they could have defended themselves better, but this was the Lord’s will. In any event, the Tuatha came to be exalted by the Milesians, who were in awe of their powers. There was intermarriage, but the Secrets were rarely passed on, and the Tuatha stayed to themselves to a great extent. In many cases their spirits remained in the area of their barrows, contributing to the notion of the Hill Folk and leading to the identification of the Tuatha with the dead in general, not to mention the Fair Folk from whom they learned much.”
“And it was through the Tuatha de Dana that the Fay Ones found the way to their salvation, because they were able to make one fertile match after many tries and after summoning up all their powers,” added the Prophet.
“You see,” explained President Ivanovich, “the People of Faery were the children of Michael-Adam through his wife Lilith on a planet he created before coming here. But the plan of salvation was thwarted when the children partook of the Tree of Life, after the Fall, through the cleverness of the Prince of Light. When our earth was cast out from the presence of Kolob, the Fair Race elected to come here to a place in a neighboring dimension where the Veil was thinnest for Earth and work towards a change in their fate. This meant diluting their immortality very gradually by consuming special substances and mingling with the Children of Men in hopes that offspring would result.”
Finvara looked into the basin of water before his feet, meditating on what was said. “And when and how am I to go to this place?” he finally asked.
The Prophet took out a ring from under the cloth and handed it across the table. “A week from now, on November the first, when the veil is most open, you are to be in the Holy of Holies . . .” Finvara sat bolt upright, and his eyes went wide. “Yes, with my blessing, you are to be in that room in the temple at Tara. You will have been given special garments which will be a shield and a protection to you against the power of the destroyer until you have finished your work. Exactly at 2 a.m. you will anoint your forehead with an unguent you will be given there, and you will then place this ring on your finger.”
“And how long will I be gone on this mission?” Finvara asked.
President Salam replied, “Three years of their time, but they do not live by the same clock, as you may have gathered from legends. We will be long dead before your mission is over. Everything you will need to know or have will be provided under the direction of John the Revelator, who was there once.”
Don Finvara contemplated all this for a moment, then had another question. “Why was I chosen for this?”
The Three were silent for several moments, and then President Lopez calmly said, “Because you are their descendant.”
Brother Finvara slowly stood. “Then so were my father and grandfathers. Why were they not chosen?”
“Because of a choice you made in the preexistence, which is your second task,” stated President Ivanovich.
They waited for Finvara to understand, but he did not. The Prophet, Seer and Revelator stood and went to the other side of the table, looked in Don Finvara’s eyes and embraced him. Whispering in the ear device, he stated plainly: “In three years you will be bound to a stake and filled with arrows. You will become their Savior.”
At first glance, one is tempted to say that LDS science fiction is distinguished from other science fiction by virtue of its religious content. However, this is not so. Religious themes abound in American science fiction. Even Isaac Asimov, in his declared atheistic state, is not immune, as evidenced by such open religious themes found in “The Last Question” or in the moral questions with which his “First Law of Robotics” deals.
While it would be impossible to do a thorough survey of religious themes appearing in science fiction in such a confined space, we shall here examine a variety of them.
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece which was also produced as a TV mini-series, brought Earth-type religion to the planet Mars. Two major religious themes presented themselves. The first concerned the moral issue of invading another’s domain and even attempting to exterminate him. The second was more overtly religious, in the appearance of the divine glowing spheres which, significantly, first manifest their presence to a Franciscan priest on retreat in the desert. The spheres, as it turned out, were the latest evolutionary form of the physical beings which had once inhabited Mars. They had become perfected and were benevolent, despite their concern for justice.
The theme of the evolution of man into a superior being is found in many other works of science fiction (e.g., the “angels” of Battlestar Galactica), and finds appeal amongst Latter-day Saints, who believe that mankind is destined to evolve into gods, possessing both physical and moral perfection.
Nowhere is this theme more prominent than in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The product of film-maker Stanley Kubrick and author Arthur Clarke, it reflected, as Clarke openly admitted, his own beliefs concerning outside intervention in the evolution of mankind. The story is clearly religious in nature.
A race of advanced godlike beings (represented by metallic monoliths), headquartered on Jupiter, have been guiding the evolution of man, in Clarke’s theology. Man’s search for his creators follows clues which had been left behind. Opposition in his quest comes from his own creation, the computer HAL. Though kindly and protecting in his outward appearance (and especially in his deceptive voice), HAL is inwardly evil (due to his programming) and is ultimately destroyed by the astronaut Bowman. Bowman himself finally meets the monolithic creatures and is transformed by them into an evolved “star child” and sent to Earth as a savior of mankind, whose mission is to destroy all nuclear weapons (which he does in the book, though not in the film version) and to lead mankind on to the next step in his evolution toward perfection. The theme is quite reminiscent of the LDS view of Earth-life, with opposition from Satan (=HAL), and of man’s goal to become perfect like his Creator.
The most blatantly religious science fiction motion picture ever produced was entitled Red Planet Mars. Actually, the title was deceptive, as I learned only after purchasing my ticket. Not only was there no space travel in the story, but it was filmed in black-and-white.
The tale concerns an Earth scientist who began receiving—and ultimately decoding—messages beamed from the planet Mars. These messages were of peace and, after a time, introduced the startling news that Jesus Christ was alive and well and living on Mars, as he had once dwelt on Earth. While there were many who refused to accept the authenticity of the messages, the worldwide effect was startling and overwhelming. Masses of people (no pun intended!) flocked to the churches to pray and to pledge themselves to the cause of peace. Mass peaceful demonstrations called for the destruction of all weapons. In the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church found itself unable to accommodate the huge crowds coming to services. In retaliation, the government sent troops with machine guns to massacre crowds at prayer.
In the end, the controversy over the reality of the radioed messages led to the murder of the scientist-hero by a crazed opponent, who destroyed the giant radio receiver. When the last message—which had been received just at the time of his death—was decoded, it read, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
My favorite science fiction work is Frank Herbert’s Dune, which was followed by Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune. Because of my background in the Near/Middle East, I was perhaps more impressed than most readers by Herbert’s incorporation of Bedouin Arab culture in his Fremen. Many of the terms used in the Dune books are Arabic.
The religion of the Fremen, however, is not that of the Bedouin; i.e., it is not Islam. It does, however, have resemblances to earlier Arab beliefs. In the Bene Gesserit (themselves not Fremen) and in the prominent position played by women in the Fremen cult, we have a reflection not only of the worship of the Arabic goddess al-Lat, but also of the matriarchal system which prevailed in ancient south Arabia, whence came, e.g., the Queen of Sheba.
The use of drugs (the “spice” of the planet Arrakis, produced by its god-worms) in both Bene Gesserit and Fremen circles (not to mention in the prevoyance of the space navigators) is both hallucinogenic and predictive. It plays a very important role in the Fremen cult (reminding us of other drug cults such as the Arabic Hashishin of the Middle Ages and the peyote and similar modern cults). Thanks to the genetic manipulations of the Bene Gesserit (a kind of religious sisterhood) and the introduction of the Atrides family into the midst of the Fremen cult, the Dune Messiah Paul is produced. He is the only male capable of taking the drug in its full strength, becoming a prophet in the process.
Paul Atrides rids the planet Arrakis and the galaxy of the rule of evil and designing men and goes on to produce a set of twins whose role in the future of the universe remains to be seen. Paul himself, as the Dune Messiah, ultimately dies, but his work is carried on in a different fashion by his son Leto II, who becomes the God Emperor of Dune and ruler of the galaxy. Though Leto, too, meets his end after a reign of five millennia, the Atrides line continues to act as the savior of mankind.
The religious aspects of the Dune series are too numerous to treat in such a short space. It is, however, worth noting that they begin with a few references to the Orange Catholic Bible, a collection of prophecies and moralistic teachings, and culminate in the joining of Bene Gesserit and Fremen religious beliefs and practices to produce the savior, Paul Atrides. Religion, and especially prescience and perfection of the race, continue to be themes after Paul’s passing, however.
George Lucas has not been immune from religious themes in his Star Wars epic. The major theme is that of the struggle between the forces of good and evil in the galaxy far, far away. Darth Vader, the personification of evil and chief warrior of the Empire, is a very close approximation of Satan. Originally a Jedi warrior, trained in the benevolent use of “the Force” which fills the universe (and for which see D&C 88:7–13; 93:16–39), he becomes a sort of fallen angel, whose powers (read “priesthood”) are no longer used for good.
Leading the struggle against Darth Vader is his own teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Though slain by the evil one, Obi-Wan, like Jesus, lives on and guides others to victory over the power of oppression. The return to the idyllic state, where the Jedi protect the rights of all, is reminiscent of the scriptural concept of our reason for being. Coming from a celestial world, we struggle against great odds and evil forces to retain our free agency and to return to that same celestial order at the end of this present Earth life. Our struggle is against Lucifer, who sought to take away free agency in the preexistence, just as Darth Vader convinced the galactic emperor to dissolve the Senate and to rule by force.
Darth Vader’s hideousness and black costume reflect the traditional Christian concept of the devil as an ugly and repulsive creature, who must use force to instill fear and obedience. His Death-Star is the hell by which untold billions are sent to oblivion, and which cannot be destroyed by ordinary mortals, but only by those accompanied by The Force. The significance of The Force can be appreciated most fully by Latter-day Saints.
Lucas likes to call his work “science fantasy” rather than “science fiction.” In this light, I believe it appropriate to bring in the work of another master of fantasy, Tolkien. The Silmarillion, considered by some to be the capstone of Tolkien’s series about Middle Earth, first came to my attention in manuscript form prior to its publication. Mildred handy, a Mormon writer and choreographer, was impressed with the book’s introduction and read it to a small group of Latter-day Saints assembled in Jerusalem. It was like hearing a paraphrase of the story of the preexistent Council in Heaven, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.
In the beginning, “the One,” Ilúvatar (whose name is a compound of Semitic ilu, “god,” and Indo-European vatar, “father) produced the Ainur by his thought. He taught them knowledge and gathered them together as a grand orchestra which he himself conducted. During the course of the concert, one Melkor introduced a discordant melody, which some of the other Ainur followed. Melkor was incensed at the thought that the Void remained empty. He had hopes of creating therein a world and populating it. In order to do so, he sought the “Imperishable Flame” which, however, was in the possession of Ilúvatar.
At length, Ilúvatar took the Ainur to the Void, where his music had produced a world called “Arda, the Earth” (arda is a Semitic word for “Earth”). The Earth then showed to the Ainur its future history, including the coming of the “Children of Ilúvatar” to the habitation prepared for them. These children are the Elves and Men. Seeing these things, Melkor volunteers to go “to order all things for the good of the Children of Ilúvatar.” His real goal, however, is to subdue them to his will.
Darkness then came upon the newly created world. But Ilúvatar, by his voice, sent forth the Imperishable Flame to produce light, to make Eä (“Earth” in Sumerian), the “World that Is,” so that the Ainur could come down into it (cf. Gen. 1:2–5). Coming to the Earth, the Ainur came to be known as the Valar. When the Valar clad themselves in the “raiment of the World” (flesh?), Earth became as a garden (cf. Eden). They made lands, valleys and mountains, but Melkor destroyed each in turn. Despite this, the Earth was finally completed.
Melkor, it is written, was the mightiest of the Ainur and desired to make the world his kingdom. He was opposed by the Valar, of whom there were Seven Lords (like the seven archangels of Christian and Jewish lore). The chief of the Valar was Manwë, Melkor’s brother, who was dear to Ilúvatar and who understood most clearly the purposes of Ilúvatar in making the world. He was appointed to be, in the “fulness of time,” the “first of all Kings, lord of all Arda.” Manwë called together a large army of spirits to oppose Melkor’s attempts to take over Earth.
Melkor was called, by the Elves, Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World. Because he could not possess Light, he descended to the Darkness. He may be compared with Satan, while his righteous brother Manwë would be Christ and Ilúvatar God the Father (which is what the name means). The Ainur/Valar are the spirit-children of God or angels. One wonders if Tolkien had read the books of Moses (1:8, 28–29; 2:1–5: 4:1–4) and Abraham (3:22–4:5) or if his inspiration came from the same source. It is not impossible that his spirit may have retained a vague recollection of the council and war in heaven.
[Editorial Note: Your Editor, Benjamin Urrutia, has twice pointed out the close parallels between the Creation stories in The Silmarillion and in LDS Theology: 1) For LDS readers, in a min-review appearing in Dialogue XI:4, Winter 1978, which we reproduce here in its entirety:
“The Silmarillion. By J. R. R. Tolkien. London: Allen and Unwin, 1977; New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1977, 365 pp., maps, genealogical tables, index, appendix. $10.95.
“Ben Urrutia also calls our attention to seven pages in Tolkien’s popular book that comprise the Ainulindale, or Music of the Holy Ones, in which an account of the Creation appears that ought to be of special interest to Latter-day Saints. God (here called Ilúvatar, Father of All) first creates the Ainur (Holy Ones) and then delegates to them the task of organizing Eä, the World. Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it . . . . Therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World. But when the Valar entered into Eä . . . it was as if nought was yet made which they had seen in vision [for] the Great Music had been but the growth and flowering of thought in the Timeless Halls, and the Vision only a foreshowing . . . . (p. 20)
“It is unlikely that Tolkien ever read the Book of Abraham or the Book of Moses, yet cosmogonic principles are here demonstrated that are found elsewhere only in Mormon theology.”
2) For Tolkienist readers, in a letter appearing in Mythlore XXIX:
“The passage in The Silmarillion, page 200: ‘Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it.’—has an interesting parallel in the Mormon scripture the Book of Abraham (part of the Pearl of Great Price): ‘Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones . . . . And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them . . . .’ (Abraham 3:22, 24, 25).”
My all-time favorite science fiction movie is Forbidden Planet. It is the only motion picture I have seen more than three or four times: I sat through eighteen screenings.
To be sure, I was impressed by the beauty of Anne Francis and by the Oscar-winning Disney animation of the Id Beast. I was fascinated by the workings of Robby the Robot, intrigued by the psychological drama, and envious of Dr. Morbius’s beautiful automated home in the wilderness. But what really impressed me was the story of the Krell, who had formerly inhabited the planet, and of how they had, through enormous construction projects, turned the entire planet into a gigantic computer comprising all of their accumulated knowledge.
Though not intended to be a religious story, the account of the Forbidden Planet had great significance to me as a Latter-day Saint. It reminded me of the Prophet Joseph’s statements regarding the world on which God dwells:
The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; but they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. (D&C 130:6–8)
To me, “Urim and Thummim” represented the kind of highly sophisticated computer which the Forbidden Planet had become, thanks to the Krell. It was, in a sense, a return to man’s spiritual origins, where all knowledge could be obtained at the mere push of a button. But there was danger, too. The misuse of this power (like Lucas’s “Force”) could bring destruction and heartbreak, as Dr. Morbius learned too late. The lesson for me was that, in order to enjoy such blessings as the Forbidden Planet had to offer, it was necessary for mankind to use this Earth life to root out all evil intentions and to become “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Then—and only then—could we be entrusted with such power.
As Latter-day Saints, our concept of God makes of science fiction a religious experience. The Mormon God is not a mysterious, impersonal force who threw chaotic matter together to produce a world. Rather, he is our Father, glorified, whose command of science makes him superior to us. That he is the Great Scientist is indicated by some of the instruments he has given to his prophets for their use, such as the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona, the glowing stones used in the Jaredite ships, and the ark of the covenant (which, according to some electronics experts, was an electrical condenser, whose charge produced the spark with which the sacrificial fires were started).
God is, then, a being living on another world, who is able to visit the earth and guide us to a better life. He is of the same race as human beings, yet more advanced.
Herein, perhaps, lies the raison d’être of all science fiction. Man’s spirit, having come from the presence of the Great Scientist, has an inward desire to look with hope to the future and to progress morally, physically, spiritually, and technologically. At the same time, he is plagued by Satan’s host of evil spirits who would prevent the perfection of mankind. Science fiction, then, may be a reflection of man’s journey home. As such, it must partake of religious themes.
Though I know his name only from screen credits, I have come to believe that Glen A. Larson, creator of the TV series Battlestar Galactica, is, if not himself a Latter-day Saint, at least well-acquainted with LDS history and theology. [Brother Larson is LDS. Editor]
The first clue of Mormon influence in the series came from the pilot episode, in which we find human beings in a far-off galaxy preparing to sign a peace treaty with a race called Cylons. The humans are represented at the peace conference by their governing body, the “Quorum of the Twelve,” comprising a president and eleven other leaders from the twelve planets or colonies.
The body of twelve apostles in the New Testament is, of course, well known to everyone. But only in Mormon society is this body termed a “quorum.” And, as in the Galactica story, wherein the original twelve are killed and subsequently replaced by others, so too, in the LDS Church one finds an ongoing Quorum of the Twelve.
Jesus indicated that his apostles symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel, which they would ultimately rule (Matt. 19:28). The Galactican Twelve represent the original twelve colonies or planets of the human race, each of which is inhabited by a “tribe.” A parable recounted in 1833 by Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, speaks of twelve populated planets visited in turn by the Lord (D&C 88:45–61).
When the treacherous Cylons destroyed the human colonies, the survivors assembled a fleet of spaceships in which they determined to find the “thirteenth tribe,” which had left their system aeons ago and colonized a distant planet called “Earth.” They determined to rely on ancient legends of the thirteenth “lost tribe” in order to rejoin them for survival and regeneration of the human race. The LDS concept of the “Ten Lost Tribes” and the identification of Mormons with the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh is reflected here, with the adoption of these two sons of Joseph by Jacob bringing the number of tribes to thirteen instead of the original twelve (Gen. 48:5, 22). There is also a resemblance to the Book of Mormon story of an Israelite colony descended from Joseph which fled from Jerusalem to the American continent about 600 BC, to escape the Babylonian invasion.
The exodus of the human survivors from their original twelve colonies is led by Adama, commander of the Battlestar Galactica and one of the Twelve (he becomes, in effect, president of the quorum when the others are slain by the Cylons and new members must be called to replace them). In this, he is akin not only to Noah (who saved the earth’s survivors in his ark), but to three other men revered in LDS belief as prophets—Moses (who led Israel from Egypt to the land of Canaan), Brigham Young (who led the Mormons from the mob violence of Illinois to Utah), and Lehi (who, in the Book of Mormon story, led family and friends out of Jerusalem prior to its destruction ca. 600 BC). And, like Moses and Lehi, Adama has problems with murmuring among the people. At times, even the Twelve oppose him, just as the Israelite elders rebelled against Moses.
The power struggle between Adama and the Quorum of the Twelve is reminiscent of the Book of Mormon story of the faithful prophet-general, Moroni. Rallying warriors to help defend his country against the invading Lamanites, Moroni finds that the leadership in the capital city has stopped sending supplies to the army. Receiving no reply to his first plea, he writes a strong letter of protest, threatening to remove corrupt leaders from the government if they do not back his efforts (Alma 59–62). As in the Galactica story, the conflict ends in reconciliation between the political and military leaders.
One of Moroni’s subordinates was a prophet-general named Helaman, whose 2,000 stripling warriors remind us of Adama’s Colonial Warriors (Alma 56–58). Against overwhelming odds, they manage to win every battle and, though wounded, are never slain.
Even some of Commander Adama’s tactics are taken from the Book of Mormon. In one episode, one of his confederates, Commander Cain of the Battlestar Pegasus, leads off a Cylon force, enabling the Galactica to attack and destroy the Cylons left behind on a planet they had taken over. This tactic is twice used in the Book of Mormon (Alma 52:20–36; 56:30–54) and twice in the Bible (Josh. 8:1–22; Judg. 20:29–43), in the conquest of walled cities.
Adama is also similar to another prophet-general, Mormon, who wrote the book called after his name. Mormon was a great admirer of Moroni, his predecessor of centuries before, and named his own son from his mentor. It was Mormon who gathered the remnants of his people and fled to the land of Cumorah to make a final stand against the Lamanite enemies, in much the same manner that Adama planned to make a stand at the planet Earth.
Mormon’s record-keeping activities are paralleled by the detailed computer log kept by Adama and, more particularly, by the book recounting the flight of the people from the Cylons, also prepared by Adams and later found floating in space by an Earth astronaut. In a similar manner, Mormon’s book was hidden up by his son Moroni and discovered and translated centuries later by Joseph Smith.
Adama’s dependence on ancient records and legends to find the course taken by the thirteenth tribe is derived from the LDS reliance on various ancient records (notably the Bible and the Book of Mormon). The fact that he keeps a daily log also stresses the fact that Mormons are encouraged by their leaders to keep personal journals and to engage in genealogical and historical research.
The ancient records consulted by Commander Adama tell of how the thirteenth tribe was guided through a dark void in space by a brilliant star. The parallel with the star of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to Jesus, is unmistakable (Matt. 2:2, 9–10). The dark void appears in the Book of Mormon story of the prophet Lehi. His most famous vision involved people traveling through mists of darkness, where the “fiery darts of the adversary” blinded some to the true path to the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:23–24; 15:24). The “fiery darts” (also mentioned in D&C 3:8; 27:17) are undoubtedly the Cylon mines which the viper pilots of Blue Squadron had to destroy in order that the Galactica and its fleet might safely continue on their journey.
Adama is guided not only by ancient records, but also by relics left by his ancestors. These are crystalline stones, similar to the Urim and Thummim so frequently mentioned in Mormon lore. The Urim and Thummim appear in the Bible, where they are used by the priest to inquire of the Lord. In the Book of Mormon, they are used to miraculously translate ancient documents—the same use Joseph Smith put them to in the nineteenth century. The Book of Mormon also mentions clear stones which provided light inside the closed Jaredite ships for a voyage across the ocean (Ether 3:1–6; the idea is also found in Jewish legends about the ark of Noah).
Adama carries one of the clear stones as a pendant about his neck, it being an emblem of his rank. Another, called the Star of Kobol, was a key which he employed in a pyramid on the planet which provided the bright light while traveling through the dark void in space. Kobol is evidently the same as Kolob, named in Mormon scripture as a great star near the throne of God (Abr. 3:1–9, 13, 16; Fac. 2, Figs. 1, 2, 50. Adama’s Kobol, like the LDS Kolob, is the home world of all humans throughout the universe and the place where the “Lords of Kobol” dwelt.
Here Mormon and Galactican theology agree on what is perhaps the most essential point of all, the origin of mankind; i.e., all humans throughout the universe spring from the same stock. Civilization on Earth came from another planet. Significantly, most of the planets visited by the crew of the Galactica have human life.
The origin of the Cylons also agrees with the LDS view of the devil. The Cylons (deriving from the Greek Cyclops, a race of one-eyed giants) are disembodied spirits who now inhabit robot bodies. They were built by a serpent-race whom they destroyed in a war. The tie with the serpent of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1–15) is clear. One of the higher-class Cylons is named Lucifer—a name often given to the devil in Christian thought.
The LDS belief is that, in the preexistent world, where we all lived in the presence of God as spirits, there was a rebellion led by one Lucifer, who carried away one-third of the host of heaven. These were not allowed to be incarnated, while the rest of us have come to the earth in order to obtain a body and to become more like our Father in heaven. The devil and his followers, though only spirits, remain on the earth to tempt us and to lead us astray.
The spirit nature of the Cylons and the fact that they waged a war with both their creators and with humankind is a reflection of this doctrine. Indeed, the Cylon leader’s voice is that of actor Patrick MacNee (who also narrates). In one episode, when the devil appears, beguiling the people of the fleet with his prophetic and other powers, we note that he is played by MacNee and that his chief disciple, Baltar, recognizes his voice as that of the Cylon “Imperious Leader.” So great are his persuasive powers that he deceives (in the words of Jesus, Matt. 24:24) “even the elect,” for the Twelve advocate turning command of the fleet over to him.
The rebellion of the people of the fleet against Adama and his warriors and their attempts to install another as leader reflect, once again, the Book of Mormon story of the king-men (Alma 51:1–21). These were rebels who, in the days of general Moroni, wished to abolish democratic rule and place one of their own on the throne. Moroni, like Adama, quelled the revolt.
Baltar (deriving, apparently, from the Babylonian name Belteshazzar, found, e.g., in Daniel 1:7, etc.) is a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve. Deceived by the Cylon leader, he convinced the humans to seek peace and thus was responsible for the destruction of the twelve colonies. In this, he is obviously comparable to Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ fallen apostle. Judas is termed a “son of Perdition” in the New Testament (John 17:12)—a term used in LDS theology to denote the followers of Satan. While Perdition (meaning “loss”) is a title of Satan (D&C 76:26), in one LDS scripture (Moses 5:24), it is applied to Cain, because he was the first earthling to give himself over to Lucifer. Interestingly, the same passage (vs. 23) hints that, because he has a body, Cain would rule over Lucifer. Indeed, in the Galactica story, Baltar is given command of the Cylon battlestar with the Cylon named Lucifer serving as his right-hand man.
In both the LDS view and the Galactica story, the devil is a fallen angel. He fears the white lights (termed “angels”) which have been guiding and protecting the humans during their exodus from the twelve colonies and which are comparable to the fiery pillar which guided the Israelites in the time of Moses (Exodus 13:21–22).
The angels, in both cases, are humanoid in shape and, indeed, indicate that they are humans who have evolved to a more advanced form. The LDS view is that, as children of God, we are destined to become like him if we obey his commandments. In order to stand in his presence, a man must be “transfigured” or temporarily changed by the Holy Ghost, lest he be destroyed in the presence of one so ful of glory and perfection (Moses 1:9–11). Hence it is that Moses, when he came down from the mountain, shone from the light of God which had fallen upon him (Exod. 34:29–35). In two Galactica episodes, the clothing of Colonial Warriors who have been in the presence of the angels (who travel in an exceedingly brilliant and fast spaceship) has turned white. One of the chief angels, named John, tells Lieutenant Starbuck that this is because, in order to survive in their presence, he had to be “changed.”
In Mormonism, angels and God are always depicted in exceedingly white clothing (e.g., JS—H 1:17, 30–32). A number of such divine messengers came to the prophet Joseph Smith during the early part of the nineteenth century. Two of them (John the Revelator and John the Baptist) bore the name John (see esp. D&C 77:9, 14), which is the name of the angels’ spokesman in the Galactica stories.
There are other Mormon/Christian elements in the Galactica epic as well. For example, in the second series, we have the episode concerning the apparent virgin birth of “Dr. Z,” the savior and boy genius, whose wisdom and knowledge remind us of the biblical account of twelve-year- old Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem (Luke 2:46–47).
Mormons believe that marriage and family life can be for eternity. Marriages performed by proper authority in LDS temples are called “sealings,” which is the same term used for marriage by the people of the Galactica fleet. There is perhaps also a reflection of the temple in the “celestial chamber,” a bubble observatory on the Galactica itself, located just above the main thrusters. The most important part of any Mormon temple is the “celestial room,” with its annexes in which sealings are performed.
Another Mormon belief is reflected in the story of how the Galactica interfered in the conflict on the planet Terra (which is the Latin term for “earth”). Terra is divided into two caps, one a democratic republic and the other a tyrannical nation called the “Eastern Alliance.” Each is armed to the teeth with long-range missiles which have the capability of destroying the entire planet. The comparison with the United States and the Soviet Bloc is readily seen. Though they wish to see no harm come to people on either side, the angels guiding the Galactica support the cause of the western nation and bring peace to the planet—perhaps a reflection of the biblical millennial era.
The basic principle of LDS theology is that of free agency. It is believed that God gave man his agency and that any form of government which restricts the use of this gift is evil. Therefore authoritarian regimes such as those found in the Communist world are considered to be part of Satan’s plan to enslave men’s minds. On the other hand, Mormons believe that the United States, represented by the western power in the Galactica story, was founded by men inspired of God to become a bastion of liberty and an example to the entire world.
There are definite biblical overtones to some of the names in Battlestar Galactica. In addition to Baltar and Lucifer, which have been noted above, we have Adama, which evidently derives from Adam, while Lieutenant Sheba’s name is well known from the story of the queen who visited Solomon. The biblical term Paradise is apparently the origin of the name of the planet Paradine (though the pleasures of this sphere are more earthly than celestial), while the biblical “cubit” (a unit of measure) is used to denote a rectangular gold coin. Other names and terms, however (Caprica, Equelus, Pegasus, Apollo, Athena, Cassiopaeia, Orion, lupus, centon, centari, ambrosa, metron, micron, centurion) derive from Greek and Latin (as does Cylon), while still others are variants on English words (e.g., daget for dog, yarn for year and furlong for furlough), and some are invented exclamations, almost “swear words” (frack, felderkarb).
To be sure, no everything in Battlestar Galactica derives from Mormon theology and history (e.g., one story has Starbuck playing Robinson Crusoe on an uninhabited planet, with a Cylon centurion as his “man Friday”—or “Cy,” as he calls him). Nevertheless, it is fascinating to note how elements have been taken from Mormon culture—which is a stranger to 90% of the TV viewing public—and transferred to outer space. The foreign nature of the Galactican culture—though earthly in its ultimate origin—was and is one of the most appealing features of the series.
Star Wars; from the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. George Lucas. New York: Ballantine Books, 1976. 220 pp., $1.95
Star Wars. Starring Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Sir Alec Guinness. Written and Directed by George Lucas. A Lucasfilm Ltd. Production. Released by 20th-Century Fox.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, that ancient warrior, knight of the Jedi, resembles in many ways Don Juan, the hunter and warrior (and sorcerer) of Carlos Castaneda’s books. Even their names are similar, and both live in the desert. Obi-Wan’s trick of perfectly imitating the call of a Krayt dragon sounds very much like something Don Juan would do. Both instruct their young apprentices not to trust their deceitful senses, to “let go” of themselves and discover new ways of relating to the universe. The influences on George Lucas from J. R. R. Tolkien have been discussed (see TIME, January 2, 1978). Sir Alec Guinness, who portrayed the knight of the Jedi, was well aware of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s similarity to Gandalf, and played the part accordingly. As for his nemesis, Darth Vader, he bears exactly the same title, “Dark Lord,” as the unseen villain of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien’s friend and colleague, C. S. Lewis, probably deserves some credit also. Lewis, after all, was the first to successfully combine theology and science fiction. Chewbacca the Wookie, who appears to be a cross between Bigfoot and the Wolfman, and yet comes across as a lovable creature, resembles some of Lewis’s Martians in Out of the Silent Planet.
Some of the features of the plot of Star Wars are reminiscent of The Stars like Dust and the Foundation Series, both by Dr. Isaac Asimov: Despotic Galactic Empire searching for planet, somewhere in the galaxy, that serves as base for small (but brave, intelligent, and dedicated) group of rebels against tyranny, who want to reestablish things as they were before. However, Asimov would never have used as much action nor as much metaphysics as George Lucas puts into Star Wars.
Han Solo and Chewbacca are heirs to Ishmael and Queequeeg, Huck and Jim. The tried and true formula works all the better from Chewie being not merely noncaucasian, but nonhuman, and from the currents of space replacing those of river and ocean.
Going even further back, C-3PO and R2D2 seem to be a reincarnation of two characters, by now mythological, created by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra—although, an amusing reversal, Artoo Deetoo, who resembles Sancho Panza physically, is far more Quixotic than is interpreter, and more willing to reach the unreachable star.
The strongest similarities, however, in basic themes, ideology, and philosophy, can be found in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Lucas has read these books, we are seeing their influence clearly at work. Otherwise, we mush chalk it up to the workings of the Force.
At any rate, in both Star Wars and the Book of Mormon there is at the core of the story a long and painful struggle between monarchists (the Imperials; the king-men and Lamanite kings) and republicans (the Alliance; the Judges), the latter bing fewer in number and resources, but sustained by their faith (in the Force; in God) and by the fact that they are struggling to preserve their homes, their liberty, and their beliefs against a cruel and ruthless enemy. The worst of the enemy are apostate traitors (Darth Vader; Amalickiah).
The force, “an energy field generated by all living beings (or which generates them) and which fills the entire universe,” is described in another LDS scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants, 88:11–13: “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”
Described but not explained; for the force that can be explained is not the true force as Lao-tsu would say. Indeed, there is some similarity to Tao and Zen teachings in the Force. However, the closest parallels are those from the Mormon scripture. Consider Obi-Wan Kenobi’s confident words: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Consider also his smile and the serene way he puts up his sword, and dies, but indeed only to become more powerful than ever. The moment of his death is the moment of his greatest triumph. The same is true of Christ and of every Christian: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Consider, in the Book of Mormon: Abinadi, the Ammonites, the Prophet Mormon. For all of them, the moment of death was the moment of victory.
Yet both the Book of Mormon and Star Wars teach that this is not the only option available, that the supreme sacrifice is not require of everyone. For some (Luke Skywalker, General Moroni, the two thousand), it is right and proper to take up arms in a defensive war, to defend their home, liberty, and faith.
The concept of the Force seems to have evolved in the process of artistic creation. In a scene in the film, though not in the book, Kenobi feels a disturbance in the Force that informs him that a world has been destroyed. Sir Alec Guinness avers he is not satisfied with the way he played this scene (TIME, Ibid.). But then, he is a perfectionist.
Similarly, Luke Skywalker comes out much gentler and sweeter in the movie, and Princess-Senator Leia Organa as more intelligent and sympathetic. In the book, one must confess, some of the dialogue lacks polish, and most of the descriptions lack vividness. These flaws have been eliminated in the film. On the other hand, a scientific error has been introduced: the space battles are too noisy. In reality, they would be quite silent, since there is no air in outer space to transmit sound waves; however, a quiet battle would not be fun to watch. A more serious error is the biological design of the Banthas, the animals ridden by the Sand People: a beast so huge must require a great amount of foliage to stay alive; in a desert environment it would starve to death. [originally appeared in Dialogue]
Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Directed by Irvin Kershner. Story by George Lucas. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels. A Lucasfilm Ltd. Production. Released by 20th-Century Fox.
“I’ll try,” said Luke Skywalker.
“No,” replied Yoda. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
But Luke tries anyway, and fails to raise his sunken X-wing fighter out of the swamp. When he has given up, his Hobbit-sized Jedi master, in touch with the Force, levitates his apprentice’s spaceship out of the mire and brings it up to solid ground. It’s a beautiful moving scene. But Commander Skywalker is dumfounded. “I don’t believe it!”
“That,” sighs Yoda, “is why you fail.”
The conversation just partly quoted above is reminiscent of one between Jesus and his disciples. “Why couldn’t we cast him out?” they asked, meaning a demon.
“Because of your unbelief,” the Master told them. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, remove . . . and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).
The Lord also said, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). And he told us how one’s soul may be lost: “Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment . . . and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (3 Nephi 12:22). He gave us the antidote for this danger: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Ibid. verse 44). Similar warnings are given by Yoda: “Anger, fear, aggression, hatred, are the Dark Side of the Force.” and by Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Don’t give in to hate or anger. They lead the way to the Dark Side.”
These teachings are powerfully reinforced in a chilling scene wherein Luke, the inchoate Jedi, faces his Shadow (a Jungian archetype), in the guise of Lord Vader (more explicitly here than ever). The lesson is very clear: as the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, so also the kingdom of Darkness is within you. Strike at it with its weapons, you shall only give it more power.
In an even more nightmarish encounter in another world, Vader, still the Jungian Shadow but even more a frighteningly Freudian Father Kronos (Darth Vader=Dark Father) tempts his young opponent: “Unleash your anger. Only your hatred can defeat me.” But Luke has not forgotten the teachings of his wise mentors. This saves him—at least this time.
It comforts and gladdens me that millions of children throughout the world (except in Denmark) have seen, are seeing, and will see this beautiful film that teaches them (and all of us), in such a powerful manner, one of the most important lessons of Jesus Christ. It pains me somewhat that there are those who refuse to see the religious, psychological, and moral depths of Empire and Star Wars, and proclaim they are no more than entertaining adventure. Well, that is their privilege. But what no one can deny is that these films are very entertaining adventures. The most exhilarating scene I have ever seen in my life is Luke’s racing over the surface of the Death Star to his rendezvous with destiny.
Of course, nothing like the great victory of that occasion is accomplished in the aptly named Empire Strikes Back. However, Princess Leia Organa and Commander Skywalker lead a Galactic Dunkirk, an orderly, minimal-loss retreat from the ice world of Hoth, wherein our Hero distinguishes himself both by cool leadership and daring derring-do, such as single-handedly destroying a behemothian Imperial All-Terrain Assault Transport. The action is fast-moving and most satisfying. The special effects are—here as in the entire movie—wonderfully “thrown away” (understated, sacrificed for the sake of the story, never exhibited for their own sake), as the director, Mr. Kershner, puts it. The result is that here we have the best special effects ever achieved, and the movie has the look, the texture, of live footage shot on location. Ars est celare artem—Art is to conceal the art.
Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. 1983, PG. Lucasfilm, 20th-Century Fox. Story by executive producer George Lucas. Script by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan. Directed by Richard Marquand. Basically the same cast as in previous episodes, plus Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor.
Star Wars/Return of the Jedi. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. PolyGram Records, New York. Composed, directed, and produced by John Williams. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Ewokese Lyrics by Ben Burtt and Joseph Williams. Huttese Lyrics by Anne Arbogast; performed by Michelle Gruska.
This film is the most Tolkienesque of the trilogy that has appeared so far. This is most obvious in the case of the Ewoks, which, though very different from Hobbits in many ways, are still “small people with surprising reserves of strength to confound the plans of the great” (Mythlore XXXV, p. 41). Very much as Sauron was brought down because he overlooked and underestimated the Hobbits, the best plans of the Emperor are wrecked because said plans did not include the Ewoks. They are, however, more like Ursula LeGuin’s little green furry men in The Word of the World is Forest than like Tolkien’s Halflings, and much fiercer than either.
A closer and more important parallel is found in an element of plot structure. In both stories, the righteous forces gather together for a massive assault on the enemy—but the vast assembly and the subsequent battle, impressive as they look, are in reality but a mere sideshow. The main battle is a private conflict involving only a few individuals, right in the very heart of the darkness.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness . . . against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). This is the struggle fought by Luke, the son of Anakin Skywalker, as he contends with the emperor for his own immortal soul, and his father’s, and for the freedom of many worlds.
His love proves wiser than the bright wisdom of Yoda and Obi-Wan, greater than the dark wisdom of the emperor and Lord Vader. Because of the filial love and unyielding courage of this brave and loving young man, freedom is won for many, and a man who had lost his soul and his face regains both.
As Lao-dzu said: “He that dies but does not perish, the same has everlasting life.” So I feel sorry for the evil old emperor, who died and perished, and very glad for Anakin Skywalker, who died but does not perish, as we clearly see at the film’s closing scene. This scene has caused the displeasure of the movie critics (the lords of the Philistines), but for real people like you and me, it is an occasion for “tears and cheers and feeling proud.” Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. (The heart has its reasons that reason is not acquainted with.)
Another great joy of this movie is the soundtrack, which besides much excellent Tchiakovskyesque and Stravinskyesque material, also contains something that Tolkien would have approved of and delighted in: a song in Huttese (“Lapti Nek”) and one in Ewokese. These two songs would be a good enough reason to buy the soundtrack. Like everything else therein, their music is written by John Williams, the best movie music man there is. “Lapti Nek” is also listed as “Arranged by John and Joseph Williams and Ernie Fosellius,” and it is the only piece not performed by the London Symphony, but rather by “Jabba’s Place Band.” The other people involved in creating these songs are listed at the heading of this review. Enough said; go forth and enjoy.
“Hey, Elder,” complained junior companion Prentiss, struggling with what seemed to him a random wad of unfamiliar clothing. “What’s the fun of being sent on an Inter-Temporal Mission if you never go anyplace people have heard of?”
“Well, Elder Prentiss, there are several official answers to that,” explained Elder Drinkwater, pulling the Suevian cloak deftly out of the locker and swinging it over his shoulders with deceptive ease. (Unlike Prentiss, he had sneaked a look at the labels; this one read 5th CENTURY/SUEVI/®) 2027 BEEHIVE CLOTHING MILLS, SLC). “Those leggings tie together the left side, by the way. It is a good question, and about the first one every new missionary asks. Well, first, most of the genealogy has already been done for people in the famous chunks of history. But mostly it’s just too risky. That’s one reason, incidentally the ZL is back there in Prime Time watching us on the vidiscreen, with a terminal hooked up to the history banks right next to her desk. If we do anything we’re not supposed to do, the computer throws out an alarm and zap! we’re back.”
“Wow,” remarked Elder Prentiss, lifting his head a moment to sniff the crisp fifth-century air (15 May 440, precisely, if he had cared to look at the timepiece cleverly strapped to his thigh, out of the sight of curious natives). I’ll watch myself then. Hey, where do I fasten this, uh, this—” His mind could form the concept “safety pin,” but his voice couldn’t make the words.
“Fibula. Goes on your left shoulder, holds the cloak. You’re aurovocal implant bugging you, Elder? Wait till you try to tell a joke from back home and find it isn’t funny anymore. But don’t worry, you can still read in, well, whatever it was we used to speak there.” The word steadfastly refused to come to ind. “And you can read numbers, so your timepiece will make sense to you. Otherwise, you’ll be speaking whatever languages they speak here. Suevian, I guess, and whatever else. Help me get this locker shut, okay, Junior? And then this moss stuff hangs over the front of it, to keep the natives from poking around. Don’t forget your pack, by the way—it’s got your local survival and camping gear, and I think this compartment has—right, your discussions and books are in there. Looks like we get a map too. Nearest settlement is due north of here. Up there, then.” He pointed through the trees. “Tally-ho, Prentiss.”
Elder Prentiss’s heart leapt in him as he trudged up the hill at his comp’s side, fragrant needles crunching under his leather-shod feet. “Wow,” he repeated.
14 January 2029.
“Elder Drinkwater’s laying it on a bit thick,” remarked Sister Richards to the ZL who occupied the terminal next to hers. (The pair of elders he had been monitoring, in ninth-century Australia, had just gone to bed; his vidiscreen was temporarily dark.) “Drinkwater’s never been there before. We have had him working with the seventh-century Franks—sort of the same kind of stuff—and he did awfully well there, two or three baptisms a month. But he’s never been where we’ve got him now. He’s really just showing off. He doesn’t even know where we’ve sent him this time.” She grinned.
Elder Hodge was staring at the local-temporal setting at the bottom margin of the vidiscreen. “Richards,” he said slowly, light dawning. “Richards, what kind of a joke is this?”
“No joke, really. The Inter-Temporal Mission President has been taking some close risks lately, but it won’t change history if those guys out there join. I just suggested putting Drinkwater on this one, you know, since he’s so gung ho. And yes, maybe it would be a laugh if he did it.”
“Ha. I’m laughing.” He turned away slowly and went to adjust his vidiscreen to monitor the pair of Sisters from his zone who would be having breakfast about now in eleventh-century Madagascar.
“Don’t look now, Junior,” said Elder Drinkwater, who was more nervous than he was letting himself sound, “but here come some of the locals. I’ll take this one, okay?” Elder Prentiss was only too glad of the offer. The horseman crashing into the glade at that moment made Prentiss’s callow heart skip a couple of beats.
“Ha! Goths!” that horseman cried out, turning his dark face around, oily braids swinging, to address a man behind him. “The Little Father will be glad of such as these, eh, brother?”
“Nay, not Goths.” The second man shifted in his saddle and fingered the handle of the numerous knives clustered about his person. “No beards. Suevi, I would say. Harmless fellows. The Suevians are all simple in the head, or so ’tis said,” he remarked, rooting thoughtfully in his sparse beard with his left hand. There was an awkward silence.
“We are Holy Men,” spoke up Elder Drinkwater boldly, his voice breaking only a little on the first word. “May we travel to your settlement to give you a message we have?”
Prentiss stood stock still, an idiot grin beginning to take shape on his face; he thought he might faint at any moment.
“Ha, Holy Men! Better yet! What think you the Little Father will make of this? said the second horseman, reining in so that the horse pranced and the trappings jingled. “Do you mount behind me, tall one,” he ordered Drinkwater,” and the little pale one can go with my comrade here.”
Elder Prentiss had a hard time getting on the horse—no stirrups, not even for the front rider—but he managed it. “Hold your breath,” he told himself. “Maybe it will all disappear.”
“Ha, away. To the Little Father’s camp!” said Prentiss’s horseman and dug in his heels.
Elder Drinkwater, sitting his mount confidently as they picked up speed, winked at Prentiss and began to whistle. It took the younger missionary a second to catch on to the tune, but soon he was humming along, with only a hint of a quaver. He once had known the words and expected to know them again someday, when they got back home.
Sister Richards, monitoring from far away, recognized the song immediately. “From Greenland’s icy mountains, to India’s coral strand,” she sang, and a little chill ran up her spine. Had they even remotely guessed, in those early days, how wide the boundaries of the vineyard would grow to be?
It took the elders a minute or two to get used to the dimness of the light inside the smoke- filled, leather tent, but eventually vision became possible. Drinkwater nudged Prentiss, and they strode with some grace and swagger, considering the situation, down a cleared aisle to where the clan chief sat behind a long, low table. He was short by the elders’ standards, Prentiss noticed immediately; broad of face and high of cheekbone, with a hawklike glitter in his dark, wide-set eyes.
Drinkwater gave a little cough and knelt. He tried to recall what he had heard from the horsemen on the way.
“We have traveled far, great lord,” he began, “with a message, a holy message, which we have been entrusted to deliver first to your ears, O chieftain out of the East, whose people call him Little Father.” Att-ila. Had he spoken those syllables before, in another time, when his voice had known another tongue?
The dark man smiled.
23 September 2029.
“They did it, Hodge.” Sister Richards was laughing, the kind of laughter that makes no noise. “They baptized Attila the Hun and over half of his troops.”
“The President has got some nerve,” said Hodge heatedly. “These assignments close to known history are dangerous, and she knows it. Where are Drinkwater and Prentiss going next?”
“Fifteenth-century England. They were transferred together.”
“Fifteenth? That’s cutting it awfully close too. Don’t you think? I thought that sector was covered by vicarious work.”
“Not this part, I guess. It’s an isolated area in southern Dorsetshire. I’m sure the President knows what she’s doing.”
7 June 1447.
Elder Prentiss was depressed.
“Scrud,” he said (or the 1447 equivalent). “Scrud, Elder, these folks are tough nuts to crack, and suspicious too.” He nodded obliquely towards a fat gentleman standing in a doorway, making the sign against the evil eye as they picked their way down the unevenly cobbled street. “And these clothes. Elder, I can’t even find my hands half the time, what with all this material in the sleeves and all these little dangly bits. And I trip on the hem of my gown all the time.” He tried, unsuccessfully, to kick a rock; the pointed toe of his long, soft shoe made the effort futile.
“It’s an adventure, Junior,” said Elder Drinkwater. “I love the garb. Too bad we couldn’t have brought—whatever we call those picture-making devices. My old mom would faint to see a picture of me in this outfit.” He strutted and swished for a few paces. “And we do have a few good contacts here. Yon ancient gaffer Hugh and his young wife down by the river are coming along really well. We’re scheduled for another discussion with them this afternoon, and we’ll probably have them in another month. Or less, even.”
“I sure hope so, Elder.”
1 November 2029. 2:45 p.m.
Sister Richards yawned. “I need a bite to eat, Elder Hodge. Can you keep an eye on my screen for a second?”
“Sure, go ahead. Nothing much going on in my zone lately . . . It’ll be a pleasure, Sister.” Cecily wiped her hands on her apron and looked out the window, no seeing the view it afforded of the river bridge and some lean cows grazing in the fields on the opposite bank. She and Hugh had had much to think about lately. The message the two men brought had power in it, a strange power, a feeling that nothing would be the same again.
“Think of it, husband,” she had said. “That we could talk to God and He to us, with no priest to stand in between. And that there will be prophets again, though we shall not see that time in this life.” How her eyes had shone then.
Cecily turned back to the table, where she had set a bowl of apples and a loaf of fresh bread. The elders were due any minute.
There was a knock at the door.
Elder Hodge scratched his head and stared at the vidiscreen. He had never encountered any of the special codes before, but he knew that this must be one of them. The man Hugh and his wife showed up differently on the screen; there was a faint purple nimbus around the projected figures. He watched with curiosity as the couple walked to the river bridge accompanied by Elders Prentiss and Drinkwater.
He turned to the terminal, typed in “CODE PURPLE,” punched “QUERY” and waited for the answer, which came with amazing speed.
“Richards?” Hodge yelled down the hall. “Come back this minute!”
“That’s right, sir,” Elder Prentiss explained as they walked leisurely over the bridge. “Scriptures that everyone ca read and understand.” Provided, of course, he added to himself, that they could read in the first place; but it didn’t seem quite polite to bring that up.
Hugh Macke leaned back against the railing and narrowed his eyes. “How much I would desire to live to see that.”
“You will. We can have them transferred in for you,” assured Elder Drinkwater. “I think.”
The four of them walked on. Elder Drinkwater gave a little skip; these gowns were so much fun to walk in.
Hodge wiped his forehead. The comp screen read:
ALARM REPEAT ALARM
TRANSFER STAFF OUT ASAP
JS ANCESTOR INVOLVED
“So what happens if we do run into an ancestor of the Prophet Joseph Smith?” Hodge asked breathlessly. “What’s the danger, Richards?”
“No real danger unless they die, which is, admittedly, a pretty remote chance. You can imagine what that would do to the course of events.”
“I guess that would mean that Joseph Smith had never been born. And what else?”
“Hopefully we’ll never know. Let’s get those guys out of there, huh?” Her finger hovered over the button.
7 June 1447
The boards of the old river bridge creaked under the unaccustomed crowd presently streaming over it with impassioned intent, including a certain fat gentleman striding prominently near the front. The sound, however, went unnoticed by the four persons resting their elbows on the bridge railing, talking of noncorporeal things.
“Ware!” said Hugh Macke suddenly, and “OH!” said Elder Drinkwater, all at once aware of hot breath on his neck and a hostile chin in the vicinity of his shoulder. He whirled to meet the intruder, awkwardly flailing his long ragged sleeves. His arm swung around and struck a surprised Cecily in the small of the back. The crowd pressed forward.
And so it was that Elder Rufus Drinkwater, age twenty-one, and Cecily Macke, age fourteen, fell quite by accident and without a sound into the River Piddle, and drowned on the instant.
“I’ll be damned!” said Elder Hodge, eyes glued to the vidiscreen.
“Exactly, Brother,” whispered Sister Richards. “What will happen now?”
Ishmael Prentiss shook his head as if to clear it. His eyes darted from one unfamiliar face to another.
“How did I get here?” he cried.
1 November 2029, 5:15 p.m.
Sue Richards and Fred Hodge came out of the main door together, after a long day monitoring terminals at the world headquarters of the New Age Astrological Society.
Sue looked up, admiring, as she had many times before the clean contemporary lines of the building.
“Say, Fred, how about coffee together after work? It’s been a hard week.”
“Sounds great, Sue.”
6 April 1820, late afternoon. Upstate New York.
Joseph J. Brown, Jr. staggered in from the fields and leaned up to the fireplace.
“What is it, Joseph?” asked his mother. “You look a bit sun-struck.”
“I’m all right.” He took a deep breath and brushed the blond forelock off his forehead. How was he going to tell other people about it? If it hadn’t happened to him, he wouldn’t have believed it either.
“Mother. I’ve learned for myself today that your church is not true.”
The reason Elder Drinkwater cannot remember the name of his native language is that English did not even exist in the fifth century. This language began to form in 1066 as a halfway- language for Normans and Saxons.
Attila is indeed a nickname of Gothic origin, meaning “Little Father” or “Daddy.” What his real name was, nobody knows. Of modern languages, the one closest to ancient Gothic is Yiddish, in which “Daddy” is Tattele. This, and Attila, are both pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable. Dialectic variants of Attilla include Atle and Attele. The suffix -ila or -ele denotes diminution or affection
William James, in Varieties of Religious Experience (as quoted in a letter signed by “Rustin Kaufman” in the Spring 1983 Dialogue), tells us that in 1820 a young man named Stephen H. Bradley “saw the Saviour, by Faith, in human shape”; and another young man, David Brainerd, had a spiritual experience with the Trinity “in a thick grove.” Apparently the Lord was testing several young American men for the job of restoring the church.
It happened on the fourth of July—the one day in the year when bright flashes in the sky cause no alarm.
First spotted in California, it came from the west—a blazing corona of light in the night sky. Families in their back yards, seeing it, probably thought it was just another skyrocket.
As it moved east it lost altitude. Its surface glowed red as it descended into the atmosphere.
Its trajectory brought it to Nevada, and it landed on a Safeway parking lot in Winnemucca. Being a holiday, the parking lot was deserted.
The next day people passing on their way to work glanced at it, smiled, and wondered what new promotion the store manager was up to now. Last month it was Bingo.
It wasn’t until eight-thirty that two nine-year-old boys stopped to examine the oval- shaped metal craft. Before long they had climbed on top and were banging on it with a large rock.
Suddenly an unseen force lifted them thirty feet off the ground and slowly moved them to the edge of the parking lot before gently setting them back on the ground again. Their bikes followed shortly thereafter.
The sheriff would have probably only smiled at the imagination of the children if it had not been for a motorist who had verified the boys’ story.
By nightfall the area was cordoned off, and troops and tanks were stationed around the ship.
That was the day that Colonel Lewis Porter, stationed at the Pentagon, received a new assignment. “Because of your expertise in languages, we’re sending you to communicate with an alien spaceship.”
A day later, Lewis passed by the barbed wire fence surrounding the parking lot in Winnemucca and rolled a shopping cart filled with electronics toward the ship.
He thought back to his wife Ellen and their two boys and wondered if he’d ever see them again.
He was about to represent the earth’s inhabitants in a dialogue with an alien civilization, and yet he looked like someone who’d just gone on a guying spree at Radio Shack. His shopping cart contained a 12" color TV, a video-cassette recorder, a computer and disk drive. On the bottom of the shopping cart there were two power packs to drive the electronics.
One wheel of the shopping cart refused to rotate, so the cart kept veering to the left. He stopped halfway to the spacecraft to see if he could fix it. There was some string wound around one of the axles next to the wheel. He reached down and worked to pull it out.
“Porter, why are you stopping?” the voice of General Boom Boom Jackson came over his walkie-talkie. Boom Boom was the name given to him secretly in reference to the manner in which he had once rescued embassy personnel in Guatemala who’d been taken hostage by a group of militants.
“Sir, one of the shopping cart’s wheels kept getting hung up. I’ve just about got it fixed.”
He stood up, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the grease fro his hands and started in again.
“Somebody tell me why the Pentagon sent him,” General Jackson snapped, unaware that Lewis could hear. “I’ve got the President on the phone waiting to know what’s happening, and that idiot’s out there fixing shopping carts.”
Lewis smiled. Sometimes he thought his role in life was to underwhelm people. Even so, he was qualified. He spoke eight languages, but his greatest contribution had been to unify all languages into one overriding theory. By entering certain parameters into a four by four matrix, he could, with the use of a computer, communicate in any language.
He stopped ten feet from the ship and started the first video-cassette he’d chosen to begin the dialogue with the inhabitants of the spaceship. The screen first showed the position of the solar system within the Milky Way Galaxy, then moving progressively closer, showed the entire solar system, and the earth’s position in the solar system. Computer simulation showed what must have been the alien ship’s view of the earth as it approached. Next the monitor showed the position of Winnemucca within the continental United State.
A small port suddenly appeared in the skin of the saucer. He’d caught someone’s attention.
Since a civilization which can traverse the emptiness of space must understand mathematics and physics, the video-cassette next began with a covariant formulation of Maxwell’s Equations of Electrodynamics.
“When’s Daddy coming home?” Mark, the eleven-year-old, asked that night.
“I don’t know, dear,” Lewis’s wife Ellen answered.
“Where is he?”
“He didn’t say where he was going. The Army didn’t want anyone to know. Why do you want to know? Are you worried?”
“No, it’s just that he forgot to give me my allowance last week.”
“And he promised me he’d help me with my Pinewood Derby car,” Alan, his eight-year- old, added.
“I’m sure he’ll be back soon. Right now, though, it’s time for you to practice your coronet.”
For two hours the TV had reviewed mathematics, from arithmetic to a tensor formulation of General Relativity. There was a small light coming from the port in the spacecraft, but Lewis could detect no movement inside.
Who were in there, and what did they think about what he was doing? Were they amused at the clumsiness of it all? Where they making any sense from the images on the screen?
The next morning Lewis rolled the cart out to the saucer again. He had worked all night with a physicist, trying to review the laws of thermodynamics, of hydrodynamics, and of plasma physics. It was the mathematical version of saying, “Have you heard the one about . . .”
When he reached where he’d been the day before, he noticed an additional port in the skin of the saucer. Hanging down a few inches from it was a yellow tentacle.
Lewis spent all day and most of the night conferring with Army personnel, trying to determine the meaning of the yellow tentacle.
Major Minchey of Army Intelligence gave his report. “Diameter: 1.3 centimeter. Color: Yellow. Length: 27 centimeters. End: rounded. Characteristics: Flexible.”
General Jackson, a crusty veteran of Korea and Vietnam, was commanding officer. “Major, don’t ever talk metric to me again! Is that clear?”
“What we want to know, Major, is not its diameter in centimeters. We want to know if it’s a weapon or not.”
“We don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” Jackson roared. “What have you fellas been doing? I want some answers around here.”
Lewis raised his hand. “Sir?”
“What is it, Porter?”
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Well, that’s better than what we’ve had so far. Speak up.”
“Sir, if I were an alien, and if a creature came up to me and went through the number system, and mathematics and physics, and if I understood at least partially what was being presented, I think I’d welcome a chance to communicate back to them. If I had a computer on board my ship, and I realized they had computers too, then what I’d try to do is to figure out some way to connect my computer with theirs. The way we do that on earth is with a cable. Sir, maybe that yellow tentacle is their version of a grounded computer cable.”
There was a prolonged silence.
“Minchey, what do you think about that?”
“We’d have to think about it for a while.”
“We don’t have time to think!” Jackson shouted. He turned to Lewis. “You go out there and make the connection and see what happens.”
“But, sir,” Minchey asked, “what if it is a weapon?”
“Well then we’ll know, won’t we?”
Ellen heard the alarm and sleepily decided to let Lewis get it, and then realized he was still gone.
She turned off the alarms so it wouldn’t wake Ben, their five-year-old in the next room, then lay down again to gather strength before she began the daily morning ritual of breakfast, prayers, and errands.
She had to go shopping and get a new pair of shoes for Alan. She didn’t know what he did with his shoes. It seemed like he needed a new pair every two months.
She had to get her visiting teaching done today.
Where was Lewis? Why hadn’t he called? What was he doing?
She missed him and would love to hear his voice again, just to know that he was all right. But she was an army wife, and she’d disciplined herself to continue on when her man was gone.
As she put on her robe, she decided to try Kinney’s this time and see if their shoes would last any longer.
Lewis walked slowly out to the alien ship again. The closer he got the more ridiculous the idea seemed.
It’s difficult enough to cross connect an Apple computer with an IBM PC, so what hope could there be to make this connection? None.
And yet there he was, under personal orders from General Jackson, rolling his cart back out, holding a cable with a ten-pin connector on one end.
Impedances won’t match, he thought. Voltages will be different. And even if the connection is patched through, why should we believe another civilization would be using hexadecimal or binary?
What was he going to do when he got there anyway? Try to splice the yellow tentacle with his ten-pin adapter? But what if it is a weapon after all?
If it is, I’ a dead man. What will Ellen do? What will she be told about my death? The area had been closed down, so no news had leaked out of the tiny town. All phone lines had been cut, all short wave radios and C.B.’s confiscated.
He approached the craft. The tentacle was now thirty feet long and was neatly coiled on the ground.
He edged closer to the craft until he stood just over the yellow tentacle.
He paused to put on his gloves to avoid carrying back with him any alien viruses.
He reached down and picked up the end of the tentacle and waited to see if he’d be killed.
It looked like plastic, but it was not as hard. Where his fingers held it, it had flattened out. And it seemed to be pulsating with a high frequency signal, like the hum from a florescent light fixture, except much higher.
He turned around and walked backwards, pulling the yellow tentacle to his computer.
He knew General Jackson was watching him through powerful bifocals inside the Safeway store.
He felt foolish. What did he do now?
He picked up the cable connector from his computer and brought it closer to the end of the yellow tentacle, which was a rounded blob—a ten-pin adapter in one hand and a sticky, rounded end of the yellow tentacle in the other.
When the two were within a couple of inches, the tentacle seemed to come alive, and jump forward, and, like a snake swallowing a mouse alive, engulf the ten-pin adapter. There was a flash of light of the same intensity as in welding, and a small explosion, and he was thrown to the ground unconscious.
Ellen hung up the phone. She could get no information from the base about the whereabouts of her husband. Every question she asked was answered with, “I’m sorry. I cannot give out that information.”
Where was Lewis?
He’d always phoned before.
She was worried.
Lewis groaned and opened his eyes. His head ached. His eyelashes were singed, and his eyes hurt from the flash.
He stood up and walked painfully to the computer. There on the ground the yellow tentacle lay. It had eaten his ten-pin connector.
He walked to his computer monitor.
The alien ship was feeding back the information he’d given it before, except with some slight modifications, and much faster. The images came too fast for him to digest.
And then a few minutes later, there appeared a map of the galaxy, pinpointing the position of the solar system, and then a long shot showing the entire Milky Way, and then pinpointing another star system, closer to the galaxy’s center.
And then a simple statement in English.
More Data Please.
“Don’t five the space monster anything that’s going to give it an advantage,” General Jackson had demanded.
So they fed it hours of TV shows.
And still the sign read, “More Data Please.”
It was on a Monday. Lewis walked out to the alien ship again, walking along the path of the large cables connecting the mainframe computer.
When he reached his computer, he suddenly stopped.
A new message was on the monitor. It read, “Major Porter, come in and sit a spell.”
Two hours later Lewis returned in a NASA space suit. A ramp appeared, leading up into the ship.
Lewis carefully rolled his shopping cart up the ramp.
After a few minutes he reached the top of the ramp. He took a last look back, in case it was his last view.
And then he turned to continue inside. The ramp closed in on itself and shut tight.
Inside there was only one circular room. There were no controls to be seen anywhere, and no furniture. The entire room appeared to be stainless steel.
A large sphere five or six feet in diameter suddenly floated up from a compartment in the bottom of the spacecraft. It hovered into the middle of the room, and then a meshwork of yellow tentacles appeared from the top of the room and crossed and recrossed themselves, forming a hammock-like structure. The sphere settled down, and the tentacles became taut.
The sphere had two large eyes about the size of dinner plates and, below that, a large hole that might serve as a mouth.
The sphere seemed to be dripping some kind of sticky brown liquid That reminded him of varnish.
“Do you have weapons?” Lewis typed.
The screen of his TV showed a hill near the edge of town. Suddenly it exploded. When the dust settled, the hill was gone.
“Yes, we have weapons. Do not try to attack the ship.”
“Why are you hiding in that sphere?” he typed on the computer console.
There was a long pause, and then on the screen he read, “What you see is the way I am.”
“No you aren’t. You look like me.”
Several minutes passed.
“How do you know that?” his monitor read.
“I just do,” he typed out.
“What else do you know about me?”
“You are not supposed to be here. Are you?”
A long pause.
“Something went wrong then.”
“With the guidance system or with the engine?”
“The guidance system.”
“Can you fix it?”
“What will you do here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is the atmosphere here good for you?”
“It is satisfactory.”
“The gravitation force on you—is it more or less here?”
“Slightly less, but within ten percent.”
“Will you show me how you look?”
A long pause.
“Not at this time.”
“It is unnecessary.”
“May I go back to my people and report?”
A long pause. “Tell them I come in peace. Tell them where I come from, and describe to them the shape you see before you.”
“I will tell them what you suggest.”
“You may go.”
General Jackson led the debriefing.
“Porter, did you see any weapons?”
“No, but it leveled a hill outside of town to show me it had them.”
“How many of them were there?”
“We got to get in there and destroy it before it wipes us out.”
“It says it comes in peace.”
“Well sure, that’s what I’d say too, if I was coming to enslave the world.”
“I don’t think it has that in mind.”
“But you don’t know for sure, do you?”
“No sir. But neither do you know that it hasn’t come in peace.”
“Son, if you got the firepower like that creature does, you’ll just naturally take advantage of it sooner or later. Shoot, it’s just human nature.”
The next morning on his way out to the spaceship General Jackson said, “Good luck, Colonel. Oh, be sure and take the new power pack on board with you, so in case one goes bad you’ll have a spare. It won’t do for you to be unable to communicate with it because of a bad power supply.”
He carried the new power pack on board with him.
“You came back,” the monitor read.
“What did your leaders say?”
“They wonder if you will someday decide to take over our world and control it.”
“I said I come in peace. Why do they think I’d use force to control them?”
“Because it’s what they’d do if they were you.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Will you show me your form?”
“It is not permitted. It would change the . . . entropy of your world.”
He was puzzled. “I don’t understand the word.”
“It would cause changes . . . in your philosophy and religion, and science also.”
Of course, he thought. It was easier for mankind to think of an extraterrestrial’s being completely different than us. The theory of evolution would be hard-pressed to explain two identical life forms, on opposite sides of the galaxy, developing from random selection.
“But I know already, you look like me.”
“How do you know?”
“I brought a book. It is from my religion. May I read part of it?”
Lewis opened to the part he’d underlined. “‘And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof . . . . And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things . . . . And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many . . . . For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.” He turned to another page and continued reading, “‘And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations.’” He stopped reading and waited.
Five minutes passed. The computer screen blinked rapidly as thought patterns from the alien flickered through it.
“We are brothers then?” it asked.
“Yes, both children of the same God.”
“Then I will show you my form if you will show me yours.”
“The air here—is it the same as outside?” he asked.
“Yes, the same. It will be fine for you.”
Lewis depressurized the NASA space suit and then took off the helmet.
The sphere suddenly collapsed, was lowered to the ground, and a man stepped out. He was pale in complexion, had no eyebrows or hair.
But the most bizarre thing about him was that he was dressed like TV’s Mr. Rogers.
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .,” the alien sang, matching the gestures and singing voice from the TV show.
“What is your name?” he asked the alien.
“Names—everybody has a name. Don’t they? Sometimes people don’t like their names . . . Do you like your name?”
It was incredible. The alien was a master of mimicking and sounded exactly like Mr. Rogers.
“Please tell me about yourself,” the alien said.
Lewis talked for two hours. When he finished, and the alien started talking again, it was with Lewis’s mannerisms and vocabulary.
“What shall I call you?” Lewis asked.
“Call me Michael. It is a name in our place too.”
“Yes, I will be Michael Then.”
“You miss Ellen?” Michael asked.
“We can visit her.”
Suddenly they were standing in the kitchen of Lewis’s house in Maryland.
“Will they see us?”
“Not if we don’t want them to.”
“Are we really here?”
“Yes we are.”
They walked through the house. Lewis’s children seemed fine; his wife was busy preparing supper.
A few minutes later they returned to the ship.
“A good feeling in your house,” Michael said.
“Yes, we try to be good.”
“Are all people here as good?”
“No, not all, Michael.”
Half an hour later there was a large explosion in the ship.
“Did it work? Did it work?” General Jackson shouted eagerly.
“I see smoke, sir.”
A second explosion rocked the ship.
“Minchey, we did it! Whose idea was it to put explosives in the battery pack?”
“It was yours, sir.”
“That’s right!” Jackson laughed. “It was mine, and it worked, and don’t you ever forget it! I’m calling the President and telling him I just downed me my first enemy space monster!”
“It’s too bad about Porter, isn’t it, sir?” Minchey said after being told the spacecraft was incinerated and there was no sign of either the space monster or Lewis.
“What?” Jackson said. “Oh sure, it is. Look, send his wife a personal letter from me, you know, that he was on a top secret mission, and performed admirably and all that other stuff we put in letters like that.”
The funeral was over. Ellen had decided to move back to Utah so her parents could help with raising the boys.
The first night they’d gotten as far as Columbus, Ohio, before she pulled into a Holiday Inn for the night.
She ate a light supper and then went to her room.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Lewis. Let me in.”
“We can’t let them know I’m still alive,” he said as they drove through the night. “We’ll have to move someplace where nobody knows us. We’ll change our last name. They must never know.”
“And what about him?”
“He’ll stay with us.”
“For how long?”
“But why? Who is he?”
“Ellen, he’s my brother.”
Lewis looked in the rearview mirror to where Michael sat. The boys were snuggled against him, asleep. They liked Michael. Earlier in the night he had shown the boys a trick. He kept a ball floating in the car for five minutes. He asked the boys not to tell their mother about the trick.
When the first light of dawn came, and Alan, the eight-year-old, woke up, Michael greeted him warmly and sang happily, “‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.’”
An Air Force general who shared General Jackson’s antipathy towards the metric system was displeased when a subordinate gave him the speed of an airplane in meters per second, and ordered that all measurements be given to him “in good old American terms”—so the next time the subordinate gave him the speed in “furlongs per fortnight.” Serves him right.
The metric system, besides having great elegance and simplicity, would be very useful in collecting funds for the Primary Children’s Medical Center. If they ask me for “pennies by the inch” they are only asking for sixty-nine cents, but if they ask for “pennies by the centimeter” that is $1.75 already.
At least our money is metric: 100 cents to the dollar. This is a great improvement over four farthings to the penny, twelve pence to the shilling, twenty shillings to the pound, etc.
Lieutenant Bruce Adler wiped the sleep out of his eyes as he entered the cockpit of the shuttle. “Her I am, Brent,” he announced. “You can go on to bed now.”
“Thanks,” acknowledged Brent Reilly, Adler’s equal in rank. Stretching luxuriously, he floated up and out of the copilot’s chair and tossed his relief a playful salute before sailing off to the crew’s quarters.
“Good morning, Bruce,” greeted Howard Reynolds as Adler slid into the just-vacated seat. “How are you doing?”
“Just fine, Colonel.”
Adler wiped his palms on the armrests. That morning, he was scheduled to launch into orbit the communications satellite which would pave the way for a global LDS television network. Reynolds was giving Adler, as the only Mormon onboard Discovery, the opportunity to personally oversee the entire launch. “More than just a little, sir. And nervous too, to tell the truth.”
Reynolds gave his subordinate a friendly pat on the arm. “Don’t be. It’ll go off without a hitch.”
Adler smiled and started a check of the instruments. The colonel’s reassurance did a lot to put him at ease. He felt a special sort of bond with the older man, ever since the controversy surrounding the launch of the space shuttle had swelled. The inclusion in the payload of the “Gospelsat,” as it was called by its detractors had been well publicized, as had what had been intended by NASA to be a behind-the scenes shuffle of the personnel roster. A veteran astronaut had been replaced by the rookie Adler in a move that some charged came about as a result of a huge bribe on the part of the Church. NSA administrators argued that the switch was something that occurred regularly and that it was always a good idea for a novice to be involved in a mission with which he was personally concerned, good for his morale and virtual insurance That he would perform to the best of his ability. But still the critics railed—and chief among them was on of Adler’s own crewmates, Major George Marcuson.
Marcuson was a former Protestant minister, an aeronautical engineer, a veteran of several shuttle missions, and violently outspoken in his anti-Mormon sentiments. He even went so far on this issue as to attack his own superiors, but NASA would not back down. They would have cut him from the roster if they could have, but his experience, expertise, and troubleshooting abilities were vital to the mission.
Colonel Reynolds, mission commander and a devout Catholic, was one of the few who came to Adler’s defense. The three other crew members were not unsympathetic but remained cautiously neutral. Reynolds staunchly supported NASA’s position and vehemently denounced Adler’s detractors. He argued that the controversy was groundless, that the Administration’s actions had been the same when an African astronaut and a satellite commissioned for the benefit of his people hd been involved. It was a matter of giving the rookies something to be really proud of, he said.
All this raised public interest in the shuttle flight to its highest level since the first experimental launches. One irreverent columnist, seizing upon the astronauts’ conflicting religious affiliations, dubbed the crew “The Holy Squad,” and the name stuck. All this publicity did nothing for Adler, who, embarrassed at being at the center of so much controversy, did his best to stay away from any reporters, sympathetic and unsympathetic alike.
Now that the shuttle was aloft, however, and nothing particularly interesting was happening onboard, no violent outbreaks and no high-tension drama, the hubbub was dying, and NASA was breathing a sigh of relief. The crew, in fact, seemed to be functioning quite well together, and Marcuson had even been treating Adler and Reynolds with a certain degree of civility. All in all, Reynolds was quite pleased with the way the mission was shaping up, and he told Adler so.
“Yes, things do seem to be going well,” the lieutenant agreed slowly. “But . . .”
Adler stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “I’ve just got a—a bad feeling about this launch.”
“Nerves, Bruce, nerves. That’s all. Relax. It’ll go off like a dream.” Reynolds turned back to the controls. “Why don’t you go on and finish up the preliminary checks. We can go ahead as soon as you’re ready.”
Adler nodded once. “Yes, sir.” He drifted up and out of the copilot’s chair and headed for the hatch. “And thank you, sir.”
The earth hung above the open doors of the shuttle cargo bay like a huge turquoise pendant on the bosom of the universe. As Discovery orbited bell-up, Terra shed her reflected light onto the small pressurized dome where Adler was just finishing up the launch preliminaries. From the dome’s vantage point at the upper end of the cargo bay, he could keep watch on all the satellite’s functions, both visually and via the electronic readouts flickering before him.
Gospelsat was positioned roughly halfway down the cargo bay, uncrated and almost ready to go. Its receiving and transmitting capabilities had checked out perfectly, as had the directional antennae and the solar panels. All That was left to do was for Adler to test-fire the booster rocket.
Just then, the hatch opened, and George Marcuson crawled through the umbilical. “Good morning, Lieutenant,” he said cheerily. “How are the prelims going?”
“Fine, fine,” Adler murmured distractedly, trying to appear intent upon the readouts. Marcuson’s deceptive equanimity made him nervous, and he wished the major would just go away.
Marcuson took a seat and peered out through the viewport. “Looks like she’s all ready to go. What’s left to do?”
“Just to test-fire the booster, then off comes the restraining harness, and we can launch her.”
“Then what are we waiting for, boy? Let’s get on with it!”
Marcuson’s enthusiasm may have been feigned, but some still managed to rub off on Adler. He did not, however, miss the gleam of anticipation in the eyes of his superior. “All right. Here goes.”
He called up the test-fire procedure from the computer banks and ran it. Several indicator lights began blinking, seemingly at random. “Test-fire commencing,” announced a synthesized voice.
Adler moved to the viewport with Marcuson to watch the test. They waited. Nothing happened.
A sequence of tones sounded, then the computer droned, “Unit unresponsive. Diagnosis—possible fuel supply blockage. Test-fire aborting.”
“Son of a gun,” muttered Marcuson. “It didn’t work.”
Adler said nothing. He was stunned.
Marcuson clapped a sympathetic hand on the lieutenant’s shoulder. “Crying shame,” he said, then turned back toward the hatch. “God’s will, you know—but it’s still a crying shame.”
Adler watched him leave in silence.
Colonel Reynolds leaned forward in his flight chair and thumbed the intercom switch. “Are you there Bruce?”
“Yes Colonel,” Adler sent from the dome.
“Good news, after a fashion. NASA says there’s no way we can abort the launch. They can’t risk any ore bad publicity, what with public opinion and congressional funding running as low as they are. Now then, their engineers have looked at the blueprints of the booster rocket, and they say there’s a small design flaw which could very definitely be the cause of the fuel supply blockage our computers diagnosed.”
“By any chance was, uh, Major Marcuson on the design team?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“I see,” said Adler pensively. Reynolds could guess what was running through his mind. Still, it was best not to air such matters openly. “So where do we go from here?”
Reynolds took a deep breath. “We send someone out to fix the booster. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to place thee satellite into orbit manually.”
“And there’s only one man onboard qualified for that kind of an EVA.” Adler’s tone was resigned.
“I know. I’ll tell George to suit up.
Marcuson gave the thumbs-up sign as he drifted past the viewport toward Gospelsat, jet pack on his back and repair kit at his hip. Adler returned the signal halfheartedly, a thousand unchristian thoughts crowding into his mind. That the major was responsible for the design flaw, he had no doubt. Since that ploy had resulted in nothing but a delay in the launch, Adler was sure that Marcuson would try to put the satellite out of commission by some other means. He would be watching like a hawk.
And praying like crazy.
Marcuson came to a halt before the launch platform and began to lay out his tools. The satellite itself lay strapped atop this, a complex silvery ball two or three feet in diameter. When he had completed his inventory, Marcuson unfastened the restraining harness and rolled the satellite over onto its side, being careful of the delicate antennae, so he could set to work on the booster.
He would first have to unclip the rocket from the satellite before any repairs could be made. If the repairs proved too complex for his limited extravehicular resources, he would have to take the unit to the laboratory where it could be totally disassembled. If the flaw turned out to be irreparable, Marcuson and his jet pack would have to perform double duty as a booster rocket. At least that was the plan.
Adler had every video camera in the cargo bay trained on Marcuson as he tried the first clip. It didn’t budge. It seemed to be jammed. Marcuson tried the others, but with little ore success. Perplexed, he assaulted the clips with a battery of tools, everything from screwdrivers to wire cutters. They had no effect.
Adler could sense the man’s anger and frustration as he reached for one last tool. “No!” he screamed from the oppressive confines of the pressurized dome, but too late. With the weight of all his pent-up rage behind it, Marcuson brought his crowbar crashing down onto the booster, perhaps out of sheer frustration or perhaps with the intent of doing irreparable damage. Whatever the reason, the blow was solid and would have been resounding in a non-vacuum—and it brought the rocket, coughing and sputtering, to life.
Marcuson was stunned. He stared in disbelief as the satellite began to accelerate, jetting away horizontally down the cargo bay. He lost hold of his crowbar, which merely bobbed harmlessly a few feet above the deck.
Adler shook off his own shock and amazement and dived for the remote controls. He brought the satellite under control and steered it out of the cargo bay just as it was about to crash into the far wall. He was grinning with the same pleasure as he had gotten from flying kites as a boy as he watched it sail up, up, and away, toward the earth, to rendezvous with its orbital trajectory.
Within moments, the booster rocket had burned itself out and dropped off. The reverse thrusters kicked in and brought the satellite slowly to a halt. Adler checked its present coordinates against those for its proper trajectory, then double-checked them in alarm. Gospelsat was orbiting at an altitude several miles higher above the earth than it should have been. Adler surmised that the booster’s sputtering ignition had wasted some of its precious fuel, and thus it had not propelled the satellite as far as it should have before burning out.
He was still agonizing over this new difficulty when a flash of white streaking past the viewport caught his eye. Marcuson, crowbar in hand, had ignited his jet pack and was racing toward the satellite at top speed. Adler could but watch in mute despair as the major neared Gospelsat, intent on mayhem, and the plans for LDS-TV toppled slowly into ruin.
Marcuson maneuvered as close to the satellite as he could, matching its orbit as nearly as possible. He brought his crowbar to the ready and put a hand against the silvery spheroid to steady himself for the deliver of the coup de grace, the killing blow.
But the satellite shied away fro his touch, hating a few yards farther on. He chased after it, but again it drifted away from him on contact. Enraged and bemused, Marcuson never stopped to realize that with each successive touch he was driving Gospelsat a bit farther and a bit faster into the earth’s gravitational field. He might have pursued it right to his death were it not for Lieutenant Adler.
“Come on back, Major,” he pleaded through his headset. “If you fly into the gravitational field any farther, you may never make it back.”
Marcuson stopped. Bitterly chagrined, he watched in silence as Gospelsat dwindled to the size of a pinhead. Control of the satellite reverted to the onboard computers, and, using the extendible solar panels as rudders, they steered it into its proper orbit with the utmost precision. Marcuson turned slowly, as if weighed down by defeat, and jetted back toward the cargo bay.
As he touched down, Adler’s receiver crackled to life. “Uh, thanks, Bruce,” the major said tentatively. “Thanks a lot.”
“Sure,” Adler mumbled in reply, just as embarrassed as his superior. “Any time.”
“Listen, Bruce—” Marcuson paused uncertainly, then plunged on. “You’ll keep this whole affair under your hat, won’t you?”
“Of course—o one condition.”
“Anything.” At that moment, Marcuson would gladly have become Adler’s slave for life.
“Well, there are a couple of young men back in Houston who I’m sure are just dying to meet you . . .”
Late in the twentieth century it was announced that sister missionaries would be called on missions at the age of nineteen, same as the elders. This made excellent good sense, since a woman of nineteen is as mature as a man of twenty-one. It also resulted in a great increase in the number, not only of sister missionaries (may had been reluctant to go because of the unjust “old- maid” stigma previously attached to young women who wished to serve the Lord), but also of elders. Most young men had been totally unwilling to go on missions because of the tradition of missionaries losing their girls to RMs and stay-at-homes. Now That their beloved ladies were to go on missions at the same time, this traditional danger completely vanished, leaving these young en with no reason for not going. True, there were a small portion who were unwilling to go anyway, but the good example of their girlfriends put them to shame and encouraged them to also go.
As a result of all this, the number of missionaries more than doubled in a very short period of time. To cope with this sudden influx, the time of their MTC sojourn was at first drastically reduced. This being an unsatisfactory solution, the construction of additional MTCs was ordered. One of these was established in Nauvoo, Illinois.
The presence of several thousand missionaries in Nauvoo meant that the temple also had to be rebuilt, fulfilling a dream of almost a century and a half. The interior of the temple was different from the original one built by Joseph, since films were used instead of live actors for the endowment ceremony. However the exterior, except for having an upright Angel Moroni standing joyfully on its pinnacle, a symbol of restoration and resurrection, was an exact reproduction of the first temple. Even the plaster was prepared with a mixture of broken porcelain, china, and glass donated by the missionaries and local members. This procedure, which had been used in Kirtland and Nauvoo in the 19th century, gave the temple surface a beautiful shine.
During this time period, plural marriage was legalized in the United States by several Supreme Court decisions, and the practice began to become widespread throughout the nation. This of course presented a dilemma for the Church. Finally, the First Presidency announced that members were still forbidden to enter into such relationships, but nonmembers who were already part of a plural-marriage family could be baptized, if otherwise they were ready and worthy, into the Church.
This rule applied not only to the USA, but to the entire world. In Africa, it meant an explosive increase in the number of baptisms. For an exceedingly large number of people, plural marriage had been to that point the only obstacle to their joining the Church.
Subsequently Church membership in Africa grew by leaps and bounds. This great growth, however, emphasized two major problems: 1) The great poverty and primitive living conditions of many of the Saints in this continent; 2) The constant danger of break-off groups and a syncretism with nativistic ideas, other forms of Christianity, and Islam. A solution to both problems consisted of the establishment of hundreds of LDS African Kibbutzim (also called United Order Villages), organized after the Israeli pattern, but with an LDS ideological base. Here the Saints were free from poverty and inequality, and strengthened each other in the faith. The program in fact proved so successful that it was introduced into the United States. American LDS Kibbutzim became the gathering places for tens of thousands of unemployed Latter-day Saints. These villages were built mostly clustered around Kansas City in Kansas and Missouri, elsewhere in the two states, and in the neighboring states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucy—but the greatest concentration was in the three Missouri counties of Jackson Clay, and Caldwell. These made possible at last the construction of the long-awaited temples of Zion, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and Far West.
“The World is our Campus,” the slogan of Brigham Young University, became a reality in the late 20th century. The Church’s satellite communication system, which became operational in 1980, was used a few years later to transform every stake center with a dish antenna into a BYU campus. In Germany, England, Thailand, Nigeria, Ghana, Indian, Japan, Argentina, Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Israel, Spain, Mexico, Tonga, Samoa, and many other countries, eager multitudes of both members and nonmembers flocked by day and by night to Zion’s gathering places to learn a wide variety of subjects. A hundred different languages were taught to future missionaries. Useful arts and crafts as well as poetry and philosophy were taught for small fees to the poor of the earth, and for a higher tuition to those who could afford it. BYU’s student body grew from 25,000 to twenty-five million.
Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel,
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel The lash that falls, and the curb that galls, and the sting of the rowelled steel.
Every man is entitled to his own religious opinions; but no man—least of all a junior—has a right to thrust these down other men’s throats. The Government sends out weird Civilians now and again; but McGoggin was the queerest exported for a long time. He was clever—brilliantly clever—but his cleverness worked the wrong way. Instead of keeping to the study of the vernaculars, he had read some books written by a man called Comte, I think, and a man called Spencer. (You will find these books in the Library.) They deal with people’s insides from the point of view of men who have no stomachs. There was no order against his reading them; but his Mamma should have smacked him. They fermented in his head, and he came out to India with a rarefied religion over and above his work. It was not much of a creed. It only proved that me had no souls, and there was no God and no hereafter, and that you must worry along somehow for the good of Humanity.
One of its minor tenets seemed to be that the one thing more sinful than giving an order was obeying it. At least, that was what McGoggin said; but I suspect he had misread his primers.
I do not say a word against this creed. It was made up in Town where there is nothing but machinery and asphalt and building—all shut in by the fog. Naturally, a man grows to think that there is no one higher than himself, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works made everything. But in India, where you really see humanity—raw, brown, naked humanity—with nothing between it and the blazing sky, and only the used-up, over-handled earth underfoot, the notion somehow dies away, and most folk come back to simpler theories. Life, in India, is not long enough to waste in proving that there is no one in particular at the head of affairs. For this reason. The Deputy is above the Assistant, the Commissioner above the Deputy, the Lieutenant- Governor above the Commissioner, and the Viceroy above all four, under the orders of the Secretary of State, who is responsible to the Empress. If the Empress be not responsible to her Maker—if there is no Maker for her to be responsible to—the entire system of Our administration must be wrong; which is manifestly impossible. At Home men are to be excused. They are stalled up a good deal and get intellectually “beany.” When you take a gross “beany” horse to exercise, he slavers and slobbers over the bit till you can’t see the horns. But the bit is there just the same. Men do not get “beany” in India. The climate and the work are against playing bricks with words.
If McGoggin had kept his creed, with the capital letters and the ending in “ism,” to himself, no one would have cared; but his grandfathers on both sides had been Wesleyan preachers, and the preaching strain came out in his mind. He wanted every one at the Club to see that they had no souls too, and to help him to eliminate his Creator. As a good many men told him, he undoubtedly had no soul, because he was so young, but it did not follow that his seniors were equally undeveloped; and, whether there was another world or not, a man still wanted to read his papers in this. “But that is not the point—that is not the point” Aurelian used to say. Then men threw sofa cushions at him and told him to go to any particular place he might believe in. They christened him the “Blastoderm,”—he said he came from a family of that name somewhere, in the prehistoric ages,—and by insult and laughter strove to choke him dumb, for he was an unmitigated nuisance at the Club, besides being an offence to the older men. His Deputy Commissioner, who was working on the Frontier when Aurelian was rolling on a bed quilt, told him that, for a clever boy, Aurelian was a very big idiot. And, if he had gone on with his work, he would have been caught up to the Secretariat in a few years. He was of the type that goes there—all head, no physique and a hundred theories. Not a soul was interested in McGoggin’s soul. He might have had two, or none, or somebody else’s. His business was to obey orders and keep abreast of his files, instead of devastating the Club with “isms.”
He worked brilliantly; but he could not accept any order without trying to better it. That was the fault of his creed. It made men too responsible and left too much to their honor. You can sometimes ride an old horse in a halter, but never a colt. McGoggin took more trouble over his cases than any of the men of his year. He may have fancied that thirty-page judgments on fifty- rupee cases—both sides perjured to the gullet—advanced the cause of Humanity. At any rate, he worked too much, and worried and fretted over the rebukes he received, and lectured away on his ridiculous creed out of office, till the Doctor had to warn him that he was overdoing it. No man can toil eighteen annas in the rupee in June without suffering. But McGoggin was still intellectually “beany” and proud of himself and his powers, and he would take no hint. He worked nine hours a day steadily.
“Very well,” said the Doctor, “you’ll break down, because you are over-engined for your beam.” McGoggin was a little man.
One day the collapse came—as dramatically as if it had been meant to embellish a Tract.
It was just before the Rains. We were sitting in the verandah in the dead, hot, close air, gasping and praying that the black-blue clouds would let down and bring the cool. Very, very far away, there was a faint whisper, which was the roar of the Rains breaking over the river. One of the men heard it, got out of his chair, listened and said, naturally enough, “Thank God!”
Then the Blastoderm turned in his place and said, “Why? I assure you it’s only the result of perfectly natural causes—atmospheric phenomena of the simplest kind. Why you should, therefore, return thanks to a Being who never did exist—who is only a figment—”
“Blastoderm,” grunted the man in the next chair, “dry up and throw me over the Pioneer. We know all about your figments.” The Blastoderm reached out to the table, took up one paper, and jumped as if something had stung him. Then he handed the paper.
“As I was saying,” he went on slowly and with an effort—“due to perfectly natural causes—perfectly natural causes. I mean—”
“Hi! Blastoderm, you’ve given me the Calcutta Mercantile Advertiser.”
The dust got up in little whorls, while the treetops rocked and the kites whistled. But no one was looking at the coming of the Rains. We were all staring at the Blastoderm, who had risen from his chair and was fighting with his speech. Then he said, still more slowly---
“Perfectly conceivable—dictionary—red oak—amenable—cause—retaining—shuttle- cock—alone.”
“Blastoderm’s drunk,” said one man. But the Blastoderm was not drunk. He looked at us in a dazed sort of way, and began motioning with his hands in the half light as the clouds closed overhead. Then—what a scream---
“What is it?—Can’t—reverse—attainable—market—obscure—”
But his speech seemed to freeze in him, and—just as the lightning shot two tongues that cut the whole sky into three pieces and the rain fell in quivering sheets—the Blastoderm was struck dumb. He stood pawing and champing like a hard-held horse, and his eyes were full of terror.
The Doctor came over in three minutes, and heard the story. “It’s aphasia,” he said. “Take him to his room. I knew the smash would come.” We carried the Blastoderm across in the pouring rain to his quarters, and the Doctor gave him bromide of potassium to make him sleep.
Then the Doctor came back to us and told us that aphasia was like all the arrears of “Punjab Head” falling in a lump; and that only once before—in the case of a sepoy—had he met with so complete a case. I have seen mild aphasia in an overworked man, but this sudden dumbness was uncanny—though, as the Blastoderm himself might have said, due to “perfectly natural causes.”
“He’ll have to take leave after this,” said the Doctor. “He won’t be fit for work for another three months. No; it isn’t insanity or anything like it. It’s only complete loss of control over the speech and memory. I fancy it will keep the Blastoderm quiet, though.”
Two days later the Blastoderm found his tongue again. The first question he asked was—“What was it?” The Doctor enlightened him. “But I can’t understand it!” said the Blastoderm. “I’m quite sane; but I can’t be sure of my mind, it seems—my own memory—can I?”
“Go up into the Hills for three months, and don’t think about it,” said the Doctor.
“But I can’t understand it,” repeated the Blastoderm. “It was my own mind and memory.”
“I can’t help it,” said the Doctor; “there are a good many things you can’t understand; and, by the time you have put in my length of service, you’ll know exactly how much a man dare call his own in this world.”
The stroke cowed the Blastoderm. He could not understand it. He went into the Hills in fear and trembling, wondering whether he would be permitted to reach the end of any sentence he began.
This gave him a wholesome feeling of mistrust. The legitimate explanation, that he had been overworking himself, failed to satisfy him. Something had wiped his lips of speech, as a mother wipes the milky lips of her child, and he was afraid—horribly afraid.
So the club had rest when he returned; and if ever you come across Aurelian McGoggin laying down the law on things Human—he doesn’t seem to know as much as he used to about things Divine—put your forefinger to your lip for a moment, and see what happens.
Don’t blame me if he throws a glass at your head.
Another version of the preceding story is found in chapter 30 of the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.
Rudyard Kipling and William Golding are the only two writers of science fiction, as far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong), who have won Nobel prizes. Of course, plenty of writers of fantasy—Selma Lagerlof, Isaac B. Singer—have won Nobel prizes in literature.
I’ve not always been an active member as I am now. It took the following incident to show me the error of my ways and put me back on the straight and narrow. It happened on a Sunday morning in July, and rather than being in church where I belonged, I was on a wildlife photography hike with my girl.
“What’s that, Wayne?” asked Cindy as she unlimbered her Minolta.
“Maybe a deer,” I answered hopefully. Rumors of cougars in these hills were in the back of my mid, but I paid little attention to them. Too nice a morning for such unnice thoughts.
The sound grew louder and nearer. Whatever it is, it sure sounds gib, I thought. Cindy dropped to one knee, preparing to shoot. The rustlings in the brush grew louder. In fact, I thought, they are too loud. We should be able to see whatever it is my now.
“Wayne, do you feel something . . . strange?” Cindy asked, lowering her camera.
“Yeah. Listen! Everything is so quiet.”
The forest sounds had suddenly ceased, except for the wind sighing through the treetops. Even the busy insect whines were gone. It was as if Nature were holding her breath: tense, expectant.
Suddenly, shrill twitterings and sharp clicks—sounds I’d never heard before—erupted from the brush. They weren’t localized, as if several somethings were moving through the undergrowth. I hefted my walking stick and edged a wide-eyed Cindy back down the trail.
“What’s happening?” she cried, her voice climbing the octave scale. I kept edging us along the trail, my eyes darting among the weeds. My heart raced, palms sweaty. Cindy screamed.
I whirled to face her assailant, staff at the ready, and received the shock of my life. Standing before me was not a cougar, but a three-and-a-half-foot tall . . . something. It was bipedal, had two arms, a head, and all that, but it definitely was not human. It seemed an apparition straight out of a nightmare.
More of the grayish things came out of the bushes and on to the trail. The first one gestured, and it was then that I noted a spear in its hands. The weapon was no longer than my stick but amounted to a lance for the tiny creature. It was also tipped with vicious barbs.
Cindy and I were quickly surrounded. The creatures were trying to herd us off into the forest, but I held my ground as I judged our chances of escape. About three dozen of those barbed spears convinced me not to try just yet. Cindy sobbed.
The first of the gray things, and the largest, stepped forward and motioned for me to drop my walking stick. I hesitated to give up my only weapon, but again, about three dozen spearheads convinced me otherwise.
Another of the little creatures, which I had by now come to think of as goblins, rushed forward to scoop up the stick. I could see that it was completely hairless from head to foot. It seemed to grin as it stood up, revealing a double row of spikes for teeth. It quickly rejoined its companions, and they formed a circle around us. We then marched into the forest. Cindy nervously clutched her camera bag and my arm, tight.
We came to a clearing. The goblins pushed us forward with the butts of their spears until we stopped short of two thick, black columns. The tall goblin came forward and pointed at the posts. The space between them seemed somewhat fuzzy, as if out of focus. An angry buzz-roar and loud popping issued from them, similar to the sound that high tension wires make. The leader poked me, but I did not budge, for I had visions of being held in the grasp of million volt arms until I was charcoal.
The creature spoke for the first and only time.
The look in Cindy’s eyes made me again consider escaping, but I knew it was no use. I patted her hand and said, “You heard the thing. We won’t be hurt.”
We entered together. A feeling of giddiness and near-nausea gripped me. Everything went out of focus and grayed. Blackness.
If the goblins resembled something from a nightmare, then the next sight I saw convinced me I was living in one. Before us, sitting on a huge, gothic style throne, was evil incarnate. A massive human body with cloven feet, long tail, and the head of a steer surmounted by enormous horns, greeted us.
“Illcome to my domain, mortals,” boomed the creature.
This can’t be real, I thought. Bonfires danced on either side of the throne. Ornate accouterments adorned the grotesque body. Two three-pronged pitchforks, or tridents, flanked the steps leading up to the throne. Cindy buried her face in my shoulder, her lithe body shivering.
“What is all this?” I demanded. A thunderous laugh rolled across the sands. The beast rose, grabbed a trident, and strode down the steps. It stopped before us with one fist arrogantly on its hip.
“You have been honored to be the first captured by my hosts, mortal. My minions cannot be stopped!”
Minions? I thought. Of hell? My mind reeled with the implications, but I refused to accept what I heard or saw. “What do you hope to gain?”
“Dominion, mortal! Dominion over all the earth. Dominion that is rightfully mine. And I shall gain it through the Portal.”
“The columns twain through which thou didst pass. They are the gateway from my world to yours.”
Disbelief became conviction. I’ve since often thanked my Mormon upbringing for the insight that I gained at that moment. “What’s going to happen to us?”
Another hideous laugh beat upon my ears.
“You shall provide us with much sport, especially the tiny one,” he said, indicating Cindy. “Your bodies are mine already; soon, your souls shall also be mine.”
That was all I needed to hear. Spears or no spears, I could not allow anything bad to happen to Cindy. Mustering all my strength, I lunged at the creature’s solar plexus. I hit him squarely with my shoulder.
We both went down, but the beast was stunned. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed the trident. The beast whirled, and I found myself sitting in the sand, dazedly watching the creature retrieve the other trident.
“Die, mortal!” it screamed.
I stood to receive the charge. I deflected the weapon and sidestepped, allowing the beast to rush by. Ah! I thought. It may be bigger and stronger, but I’m quicker. Hope blossomed.
The creature charged again, this time holding the trident high, aiming for my head. I ducked beneath his thrust and slashed. I nicked the beast!
It jumped back in shock and examined the nasty cut across its lower left side. It looked at me and bellowed in rage. I retreated before the charge but tripped over a tree root.
The beast was upon me, trident poised to strike. I rolled left and heard a “thwack” as the triple points sank into the tree. I rose, and the creature frantically tried to free its weapon. I charged. The beast’s trident sprang loose just in time to deflect my thrust. We parted, breathing heavily.
“Immortal, eh?” I sneered. “You bleed as much as any mortal, Beast.”
The creature renewed its attack, the trident flicking rapidly in and out like a snake’s tongue. I could not completely defend against such a method, and soon I was bleeding from several cuts. The beast paused to catch its breath, but I knew I had to end this contest soon or I would be finished.
A bright flash of light came from over my shoulder. The beast flung up its arm in reflex. I lunged. My trident passed through the beast’s throat. It sprawled to the ground, jerked spasmodically, and died.
I found myself on my hands and knees, close to fainting. I hurt terribly, but felt triumphant.
“Wayne! We did it,” cried Cindy as she ran to me in tears.
“Huh?” I muttered.
“I blinded the thing with my flashgun, and you killed it. We won!”
Flashgun? Of course: Cindy had kept her photo equipment and her wits and had helped me at the crucial instant. Elation was fleeting, however; the show wasn’t over yet.
“Where are the little goblins?” I asked.
“Dunno. They ran away after the fight started.”
Slit, eh? I thought. The sight of someone challenging the big goblin must have spooked them. Either that or they have gone for help.
“Come on, Cindy. Let’s get out of here.”
She helped me up, and we hurried along the only path away from the throne, which we hoped would lead to the Portal. It seemed for a time as if we would go the whole distance unopposed. But as we turned the last corner, hope withered. About fifty goblins were just ahead, guarding the Portal.
I pondered furiously. The more I thought about it, the surer I was. There was only one way out. I explained my plan to Cindy, who protested at first, but she finally gave in. She gave me a reassuring squeeze on the arm and vanished behind some rocks. I waited long enough for her to get close, then I took a deep breath and edged into the open.
“Okay, guys, come and get me!”
They came. Battle ensued, but of a curiously limited kind. I had a tall rock at my back, so they couldn’t get behind me, and my trident had longer reach than their spears, so they couldn’t get close. Stand off.
I saw Cindy race for the Portal, running hard and fast. No one stopped her. She passed through and was gone.
“Okay, gang, this is it!”
I waded in, hop deep in the troll-creatures. They seemed lethargic and ineffective, perhaps demoralized and directionless with the loss of their leader. In any case, I used my trident as the pitchfork it resembled and harvested screaming goblins with every stroke. Pain filled my being as my body became a bleeding pin cushion. But I drew closer to the Portal and freedom. Just a bit more.
The world grayed; my pain drowned in numbness. I staggered, and blackness enveloped me.
I woke in a hospital room looking like a mummy. It seemed as if my whole body were one continuous throbbing sensation. Cindy was nearby.
“Wayne! Thank goodness you’re awake. You had us worried.”
“Where?” I managed to force out.
“Where are you? At County General. Your parents have come by a couple of times.”
Mmmff. Wahappunt?” I slurred.
“What happened? Well, a little while after I came through the Portal, you staggered through and fell down. I heard hikers coming through the woods, so I threw that bloody pitchfork of yours back into the Portal to hide it. Lucky I did, because those black poles disappeared after that. Anyway, those hikers finally showed up and helped me get you off the mountain. They thought you were mauled by a cougar.”
Strength returned as Cindy spoke. I must have been coming out of a sedative.
“You know,” she said, “I can’t figure out why the Portal closed. Maybe Hell doesn’t want anything to do with Earth after what we did.”
“That wasn’t hell, Cindy.”
“Sure it was.”
“Then how come I was able to kill Satan?”
That made her pause for a few moments.
“Well, if it wasn’t Satan, it must have been Beelzebub, his chief demon.”
“Lousy demons if they can be killed so easy.”
“Well, what was it then?”
I hesitated. Everything pointed in a direction that she probably couldn’t accept. But I had to try.
“I think it was an enemy practicing psychological scare tactics. You’ll notice that they chose the traditional Christian image of the Devil, not the Muslim, or the Hindu. They were aiming at the average American. They just didn’t reckon with an exception like me.”
“You don’t believe in the Devil?”
“Of course I do. It’s just that we Mormons don’t think he looks like he’s often portrayed. I’m just glad I didn’t fall for the trick, or we might still be back there.”
“Trick, huh? Some sort of projection?”
“Oh no,” I said indicating my wounds. “It was real enough. Genetically engineered, maybe.”
“Who would make something awful like that? The Russians?”
“I don’t know for sure. Maybe,” I answered weakly. I had grown tired, and she wouldn’t have believed my theories anyway. I wasn’t even sure if I did.
She changed the subject when she saw how tired I was. Then she helped me into a wheelchair and rolled me out onto the patio for some fresh air. We watched the sun go down and the sky turn from amber to scarlet to violet to ebony. Many stars dotted the heavens, but one particularly bright one caught our attention. Cindy watched it twinkle and dance. I watched it glare balefully.
Unfortunately, the Portal’s energy field damaged Cindy’s negatives, so we don’t have any pictures of our hike in the mountains. But that’s okay. At least I attend church regularly now. And I pray more too. Especially that visitors from the Lord’s other creations do not return.
In the preceding story we have read about a being of flesh and blood masquerading as a demonic spirit.
By contrast, we have in the first volume of LDSF a demonic spirit masquerading as a resurrected being of flesh and bones. This was of course in the story “Let Him Ask” by Addie LaCoe. The title comes from Doctrine and Covenants 129:8. Surprisingly, many readers missed the point altogether. Therefore we, the Editor, are forced to point it out now.
Sister LaCoe responded, “Satan will tell a thousand truths to make us believe one lie. It’s scary that so many LDS readers succumbed to the ruse.”
LDSF was the first of its kind, an attempt to marry Mormonism and fantasy/science fiction. It still seems strange that the match wasn’t made much earlier, given the rich material for the genre to be found in LDS theology. On the other hand, we soon learned just how much anxiety this blend could create, beginning with the banning of the volume from the shelves of one LDS book chain and the refusal to review it by one paper because of its supposedly controversial nature.
While formal reviews, as of this writing, were nonexistent, we did receive considerable feedback from readers. Overall, the reaction was very enthusiastic—we seemed to have offered water in a desert. What was surprising and amusing was the intense diversity of opinions about the individual stories: frequently someone would tell us a given story was a masterpiece and would condemn another as rubbish . . . and the next person we would hear from would say just the opposite, both convinced they were speaking the absolute and objective truth.
“The Phantom Motor Home,” a story of genealogy and time travel, and “Heritage,” about the near-death flashbacks of an astronaut, received little comment, as a rule. “The Apostate,” on the question of what qualifies for baptism, “The Last Gentile,” concerning the ultimate in unbelievers, and “The Spirit is Willing,” about a testimony meeting visited by spirits, seemed to universally amuse. “Azavel’s Monsters,” a brief but weighty idea about the purpose of dinosaurs, made surprisingly few waves and was generally liked. Another short one, “Let Him Ask,” was considered very clever by those who got the doctrinal point about detecting false spirits at the end—but many missed it.
The two stories which received the most frequent designation of “favorite” were “The Glowing,” which involved someone going back to observe the First Vision, and “Exodus,” about an attempted alien invasion of Earth utilizing the organization of the Church. Both had to undergo a number of rewrites to iron out difficulties, and I wasn’t convinced they would go over well with most readers. However, the informal “editorial board” loved the former, and Vicky, my wife and co-editor, loved the latter, so they were included. Even the non-Mormon typesetters really liked these two, to our surprise. However, like every story in the volume, there were those who did not appreciate them.
“Root and Branch” was another which underwent considerable reworking (originally it was a secular tale), the final sophisticated but depressing view of how genealogy might be used perversely in the future impressing a fair number of readers (it was singled out as the favorite of one BYU science fiction group). It had, however, been included only because I liked it, since other previewers didn’t. “A place in Time” was also redone several times and was included over the objections of others. I thought that it was a clever expansion of the corresponding section of the Book of Mormon about the Gadianton robbers but was frankly surprised at the very positive reaction it received. Another which was generally liked, despite my early worries, was “Sybil,” which turned out to be the choice as best story by the editors of LDSF-2, who felt it brought the millennium alive. However, even this simple tale stirred some doctrinal disagreement, as did almost every story.
The remaining half dozen tales stirred rather intense reactions. “Unspotted from the World,” about boyhood on another planet, was particularly curious. Some declared it not SF at all, others “science fiction of the finest kind.” Pages of interpretation were written which amazed even the author. It nearly didn’t make it in because of a long haggling over the “meaning” (the author insisted there was none) of some doors in the story. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2017 A.D.” was intensely disliked by many, while others found it full of classically funny lines, and one “delighted” reader wanted to hear “another 400 pages” of it. “Entry” attempted to comment on current LDS matters and prospects for the future through what transpires—and is taken almost for granted—in the final week of a Prophet’s life (and one individual pointed out, to the author’s amusement, that the Prophet could have been translated, taken away for apostate leadership, or may have simply disappeared to “lead a life of sin in Bermuda!”). This was typical of many of these stories in two ways: the emphasis on a “plot” of ideas rather than action (which disappointed many) and a need (mentioned in the Introduction to the book) to be reread several times to soak up the significant but subtle details.
Three other “stories of ideas” rounded out the tome. “The First Door” amused RMs with its portrait of future missionary life so familiar. Its predictability, for many, came in for criticism, but cultural training for missionaries wouldn’t eliminate the initial shock upon encountering another being—and a given world might have many varieties, some rarely encountered. In any event, what really stirred controversy was the notion that human beings might not be in an image of God we accept. As we noted in the Introduction, perhaps we need to redefine that image or recognize that even in this world people come in astounding varieties—not to mention true deformities. On the other hand, the story could be taken as a commentary on cultural prejudice. The issue of whether humans can vary from the traditional view of the “image of God” certainly is a central problem for Mormon science fiction writers. Two other important issues would be time travel (I don’t think very many understand the theological problems of going into the future, and some scripture statements contribute to misunderstanding—but as a device to convey message or entertainment it is acceptable) and millennial expectation (conservative members would say the signs indicate a not-distant coming, but even if they are wrong the change in expectation would need to be dealt with in LDS stories).
“The Homecoming” was the last story to slip in before we went to press, and some of the haste shows, but it was generally, to my relief, liked, again, perhaps because of its somewhat amusing picture of future missionary life. However, this was one of our two heaviest philosophical stories. One person compared it to the film My Dinner with Andre and another to the discourse on Christ and the Inquisition in The Brothers Karamzov. The ending sent reverberations back through the story. “An interesting circle story with philosophical and theological meat.” Nevertheless, the long monologues turned some off.
Far and away our most provocative piece was “Journey,” another considerably rewritten story which is actually part of a whole series the author has outlined. The fact that its context was sex guaranteed its controversy, and one reader compared it with Woody Allen’s material, saying it contained “funny questions with unfunny answers.” This was one story we decided needed to be checked with a prominent LDS theologian for plausibility, and after publication Dialogue ran an article on the preexistence which dealt with similar themes. The reactions were generally negative—may simply could not read it—but a number of us feel that its childlike language disguises the most profound ideas in the book and that it is a revolutionary masterpiece.
Clearly, tastes differ, and we always like to hear from readers of both these volumes so we can get an idea of what meets the interests of our audience. There is, in any event, no turning back: LDS science fiction and fantasy are part of our future.
A few copies of the first volume of LDSF are still available for $4.95 postpaid from Scott Smith, 2455 Calle Roble, Thousand Oaks, California 91360
Frederick Albert Israelsen’s last name was misspelled “Israelson.” Though he was planning to study Mixe-Zoquean, that has not happened yet.
The colon in the title of Richard Reeve’s book (which should be Fantasia y Realismo Magico, etc., without a colon) must be an error, unless a worse mistake has been made by somebody.
Benjamin Urrutia is not “an Eduadorian”—the country of Eduador (“Land of the Edua” in Elvish) does not probably exist; and even if it does, Brother Urrutia has never been there. On this planet is a country with a similar name where Benjamin Urrutia has (unfortunately) spent some time, but he is not (fortunately) a citizen thereof, either.
“Cats.” Translation of poem “Les Chats,” by Baudelaire. Wye. 1978 -
“The force that can be explained is not the true force.” Review of Star Wars. Dialogue XI:3 (Autumn), pp. 100–101.
“In the Company of Man” and “The Silmarillion.” Brief reviews, abstracted by Gene Sessions. Dialogue XI:4, pp. 127–8. 1981 - “The Western Plain of the Free State of Dorimare.” Pellennorath No. 3 (15 June), pp. 7–8.
“Archaeologist as Hero.” Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology, 147.
“Archaeological Mythopoeical Adventure.” Mythlore 29 (Autumn). 1982 - “The Last Gentile.” Short story. LDSF, edited by Scott and Vicki Smith. (Under pseudonym Frederick Albert Israelsen).
“Azavel’s Monsters.” Short story. LDSF, edited by Scott and Vicki Smith.
“Some Notes to the Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.” Mythlore 32 (Summer). 1983 - “The Triple Sun.” Review of The Dark Crystal. Mythlore 35 (Spring).
“Les Amours de Morgaine.” Review of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mythlore 36 (Summer).
“The Light of Eden.” NPSEHA, 154. 1984 - “He that dies but does not perish . . .” Review of Return of the Jedi. Mythlore 37 (Winter).
“Refining the Map of the Little Kingdom.” Mythlore 38 (Spring)