Salvation on Christmas

David's stomach twisted and rumbled ominously, reminding him that it had been twenty-four hours since he had eaten one small slice of a flapjack. The five of them had built a good fire this morning. That was the one bright note about this place: There was certainly no shortage of firewood. Now they sat around it, trying to come to a consensus as to their next course of action.

As they debated what to do on this Christmas morning, there were several contrasting opinions. Striking out blindly seemed hardly a wise move when they were getting weaker by the day and had no idea how much farther they had to go. One thing they all agreed on: They couldn't go back. They were at least eight days from camp, with no food and no hope of finding any on the way back. They could last four days, maybe five, living on water alone. But what if Montezuma Creek was farther than that? There was no margin of error now, and for the moment, they were almost paralyzed by indecision.

This discussion quickly gave way to recriminations and accusations. They shouldn't have taken so much time exploring side canyons. They should have tried harder to find a way to cross Grand Gulch. They should have hobbled the animals two nights ago so they didn't lose half a day trying to find them again. The estimate of eight days to find their destination was woefully inadequate. Whose idea was that?

Suddenly, Hobbs stood up. "This is getting us nowhere," he grumped. "I noticed earlier that the wind is clearing the snow off that ridge about a hundred yards above us. I'm going to climb up there and see if we can get a look above the trees."

Without waiting for an answer, he pulled his coat more tightly around his neck and trudged off. After several moments, David stood as well. "I think I'll go with him."

But he didn't follow George directly. As he had sat there, thinking about their situation, worrying about what the McKennas and his father would do if he never returned, brooding about Molly, he remembered Molly's question to him just before he left. "If you get in trouble, will you ask God for help? Promise?"

That morning six days ago, there on the rim of Grey Mesa, he had dropped to his knees for the first time in over ten years and cried out to God. And the answer had come less than an hour later. He laughed, softly, mocking himself. How was that for a remarkable coincidence?

He wasn't questioning any longer. He veered to the left, leaving Hobbs's tracks and striking off on his own. Twenty feet away was a large juniper tree. Beneath its spreading branches, there was no snow. Careful not to knock the snow off the branches above him, David stooped down and found a dry spot. Then he dropped to his knees. And once again he began to talk to his Heavenly Father.

***

George Hobbs turned around in surprise as he heard the crunch of footsteps in the snow.

"Any luck?" David asked as he came up to join him.

They turned their backs to the wind, which was whipping snow pellets past them, stinging their cheeks. George shook his head in disgust, lifting one arm to point to the east. "It's clear enough, but all you can see if that direction is more trees and more mountain."

David turned. They were high enough now that they could look out across a vast expanse to the south and west. There the green carpet of cedars gradually gave way to the red desert beyond it.

George lifted a hand and pointed. "Look just to the left of Grand Gulch. See that needle-like mountain way the heck out there?"

David was nodding. "That's got to be sixty or seventy miles from here."

"That's my point," George said. "If we can see that far, then we should be able to see the Blue Mountains, if we could just find a place where the view is unobstructed." He was stamping his feet to get them warm. "I know we're close, but we have to know where we are. It's the only chance we have to get out of this alive."

Then he leaned forward. "Look, David. There's a little knoll down there about a half a mile. Do you see it? It looks like a little pyramid sticking up out of the mountain."

"I see it," David cried.

"Go get the others. I'm going down there."

***

By the time David got the other three, and they reached the base of the knoll, George Hobbs was already at the top. It was a near-perfect cone, and quite steep.

"Can you see anything?" Bishop Sevy called, cupping his hands.

"No," came the jubilant reply. "I can see everything! Get up here!"

They followed his trail up, grabbing onto the limbs of trees or bracing themselves against the rocks to keep their footing. They were all three gasping when they finally reached the top. But all was forgotten the moment they straightened and let their eyes turn to where Hobbs was pointing. What they before them was a grand panorama, stretching out for a hundred miles in very direction except to the north, where Elk Ridge blocked their view.

But what Hobbs was pointing at lay to their northeast. "That's the Blue Mountains!" Hobbs cried.

Instantly David knew he was right. He and several other men had ridden to the base of those mountains last summer.

"Are you sure?" Sevy blurted.

"He's sure," David answered. "That's them." He half turned. "And look straight out there about twenty miles. Look just beyond where the cedars end. The sun is still a little behind it, so it's hard to see exactly --"

Redd's cry cut him off. "Is that Comb Ridge?"

"Yes!" That came from Morrell, who had never seen it before. But there was no mistaking it. David and Hobbs had told them about it.

Hobbs was suddenly choked with emotion. "Montezuma Creek is only about twenty miles east of Comb Ridge. Brethren, we've found the way."

Sevy stared out in that direction for a long time before he nodded. "I would suggest that before we descend and return to camp, we kneel and prayer and thank the good Lord for showing us the way. Then we shall get under way as quickly as possible."

"I have one other suggestion," Hobbs said softly. They all turned. "I suggest we call this little mound of dirt and rock 'Salvation Knoll,' for it had certainly proven to be our salvation on this day."

"Amen," Lemuel Redd murmured.

"And a Happy Christmas," David added softly.

--- Adapted from The Undaunted by Gerald N. Lund, Copyright Deseret Book, 2009. Available here.

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