Salt Lake City
The father, mother, and five children stood on the hillcrest and marveled at the Great Salt Lake Valley below, their 1300 mile trek from Illinois completed. This was now home.
Louie studied the painting. Such brave men and women. Seeking religious freedom, fighting off Spotted Fever, accepting their destiny. If only I could be so brave. He pulled his smartphone. Finding Candy Crush Saga, he resumed his personal quest. Hard candies filled the screen as music chimed in arcade rhythm. He hummed and swiped with a purpose, removing obstacles, and hoping to dispose of the cherries blocking his path to level 636.
“Elder Kimball, I ask you to please maintain the sanctity of the Church Office Building. Guests pass through, and we want to project a focused respect for our mission,” said Miriam, the office administrator. He closed the game, decided not to check Instagram, and slid the Droid into his Dockers.
He walked to a table lined with bottled water, juices, and periodicals. Filling a glass with Orangina, he picked up the latest issue of the Latter-Day Saints journal Meridian and returned to the overstuffed sofa. Setting the drink on a coaster (Miriam was watching), he looked over the room: high ceiling, oak molding, brass fixtures, a chandelier spreading light to every corner.
He found the index: Church, Society, Family, plenty of missionary stories, and the occasional cartoon. In the Sports section, he searched for news on BYU. Not much here. Crap. They have a decent football team. How come no game action? At least a cheerleader or two would be nice to see.
Bishop Warren emerged from his office, followed by men laughing at some remark uttered by the tall, thin, well-dressed man. Warren shook their hands and motioned to the door where a young man in a blue blazer stood. “Gentlemen, thanks for coming. Enjoy your time in Temple Square. David will show you around.”
Warren winked at Louie. “Elder Kimball, please join me.” He turned to Miriam. “Make sure we’re not disturbed for the next 30 minutes.”
The corner office was painted in a muted blue. Artwork depicting the 1847 trek to Utah hung on the wall. The floor-to-ceiling windows behind Warren’s desk provided a panorama of the plaza: tourists, and men and women in white hurrying to their next destination. The bishop pointed to a leather-padded chair framed in oak.
Louie sat. On contact, the seat emitted a muffled sound that resembled a gastric condition. Warren laughed loud enough to make Miriam crane her neck. “I love that chair. Really loosens up a room.” Warren swiveled. “Now, Kimball. We’ve had our eyes on you. You’re young, barely out of seminary, but know your trade, seem to have a nose for business, and, I hope, can keep a confidence. We need someone like you to head up construction for our southern Nevada real estate venture.”
He picked up a remote, pointed to the far wall, and clicked. A screen descended, and a presentation opened, showing a vast stretch of barren desert. “This is the future site of Testimony Acres, a gated community of high-end homes, fifty miles north of Vegas.” Next click. Women in the pool, their bathing suits providing minimal covering from the Nevada sun. “This will be a discrete vacation destination, Kimball. People need to relax and enjoy both privacy and the rugged surroundings.”
Warren opened a drawer and took out a pamphlet, sliding it across the desk. “The men just in here are outside investors. Not Latter-day Saints, but distant cousins, if you will, The Community of Christ. They have deep pockets, and money to spend with little fanfare.”
Next click. The Las Vegas skyline. “Reachable by a two-lane highway that the fine state of Nevada will soon upgrade to four. We’re meeting with state officials now to help push this through their legislature. Fortunately, we have brothers and sisters in positions of influence. They’ll convince doubters that the improvement will pay for itself over time.”
Next click. “PRAISE BE TO GOD.” Violet lettering on a background of the Mojave Desert. “There you have it. And you’re in on the ground floor. You’ll make sure the job is done, the money wisely spent, both on construction and human capital, and that the input from the non-LDS brethren is discrete.”
He pulled a card from his pocket and placed it in front of Louie. “This is Leader Bradshaw. He’ll be overseeing the project. He’s in 316 upstairs and is awaiting your visit so we can kick this off.”
He stood. “Good luck, Kimball. This will be quite lucrative for the LDS and participants such as yourself. God wants us to thrive and be wealthy. Let’s not disappoint The Almighty.”
“I won’t let you down, Bishop Warren,” he said taking the card. “Thanks for this opportunity.”
Warren walked Louie to the door, slapped him on the shoulder, and sent him on his way. Louie started for the elevator in the cavernous, echoing hallway. He beamed as Bishop Warren said to Miriam, “Nice young man, that Kimball.”
“I guess so, Bishop Warren,” she replied. “I wish he didn’t look so much like a ferret.”
Louie flinched at this, but walked on.