Faint White Line

By Ian Mackay

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A true storyWhosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered (Joel 2:32).

We were already late, so when Dad called for a prayer in the car before starting our trip, I grumbled silently. We were on our way to an Aaronic Priesthood snow outing—a rarity in southern California, and not to be delayed. Dad offered the prayer himself and prayed earnestly for our safety. Before the day was over, I would be grateful for that prayer.

It was after six o’clock and dark when we finally started, but the weather was fine. It remained clear until we got to Running Springs, where clouds settled over the mountains, engulfing us in fog. The road had been cleared of snow, but the light-gray asphalt was covered with frost, making it almost impossible to distinguish the narrow highway from the snow-blanketed shoulders.

For a few miles, Dad was able to see the white center line, and we felt safe. But as we drove along in the cold air, the car’s heater and our breath began to cloud up the windows. We kept wiping the windshield to clear it, but it just wasn’t enough. Dad had to roll down his window, stick his head out, and try to see the white line.

The fog grew thicker as we climbed the mountain, and the air got even colder. There was a limit to how long Dad could keep his head out the window without freezing. We couldn’t pull off the road for fear of running off the edge of the cliff. We couldn’t stop. We couldn’t turn around. There was no choice but to go forward.

“OK, boys,” Dad said. “You’re going to have to take turns being my eyes. I’ll keep trying to see the road through the windshield, but that’s almost impossible. One of you in the back roll down the window behind me and keep me on that white line!”

By now we were grateful for Dad’s prayer. In fact, we were all praying silently ourselves. We were petrified. One of us stuck his head out the window and began calling out directions. He kept at it until his eyes felt as though they would freeze. Then we traded off.

For ten miles, we watched that white line and gave directions: “Turn a little to the right,” “Stay straight,” “A little to the left.” The line was faint and really hard to see, but we managed to keep it in sight. Of course, Dad drove very slowly, and those ten miles seemed like an eternity. As we neared Big Bear, the road improved, and Dad was able to follow it without our help. We arrived at the cabin, tired, safe, and very grateful.

The next morning we had a great time in the snow—sledding, having snowball fights, and generally getting wet and very cold. None of us was dressed for snow. We were in jeans, shoes, and thin jackets—people living in the warm flatlands of southern California aren’t prepared for snow. After lunch, we were ready to start home.

The sun had come out, and the roads were clear. As we left the Big Bear area, we all began talking about the faint white line we had followed those ten endless miles the night before. We wondered why the line hadn’t been painted much more heavily. As we came to the scary section of road, we discovered to our utter astonishment that for long stretches there was no white line at all! At first we thought that this was not the right place—that it must be farther down the mountain. As we drove on, however, we began to realize that it was the right place.

The night before, every one of us, my father included, had seen a white line. We knew we had. It was what had kept us on the road. It took a while for us to understand what had happened. Then we were overwhelmed. The Lord had provided the white line that had guided us up the mountain.

I don’t think I ever again murmured about a prayer being said before we left on an outing—even if we were late.


President James E. Faust

“As we pray, we should think of our Heavenly Father as being close by; full of knowledge, understanding, love, and compassion; the essence of power.”
President James E. Faust
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
(Ensign, January 1999, page 2.)

Illustrated by Mark Robison