I Miss the City

He just wanted to get out of the city and go fishing with Sam. Would he really miss that much if he skipped church this once?

I Miss the City

If I go over what happened a hundred times, I still can’t make any sense out of it.

Look, it was this normal weekend night in the city, and Mother was planning my Sabbath. (We are all supposed to call it the “Sabbath,” or “Church Day.”) The Sabbath, she reminded me, was the next day.

“Now tomorrow afternoon after church,” she was saying, “Brother Matthew wants you to be available for home teaching. Fortunately for you, all your home teaching families are within walking distance from our house. Your father has no end of trouble getting across the city to see his families all in one afternoon.”

I would not have to ask whether our families would let us in the door. Years ago, some of the families would have slammed their door in our faces, and left me with the afternoon free. But since the city church leaders’ activation efforts, everyone is super nice now. They are all more than happy to see me and talk the day away!

But I had no intention of going home teaching the next day. Or even going to church, for that matter.

“Oh, Mother, …” I began, knowing full well how this conversation would end. Pleading to get one Sabbath free never seemed to work with my parents. “Oh, Mother, …” I began again, “you know I have 100 percent attendance at all my meetings, but just this once, just this one Church Day, I want to do something on my own, in place of church …”

“In place of church?” Her eyes widened. I knew that I was pushing a lost cause, but I kept right on babbling. I have a bad habit of that.

“Yes, in place of church! You know how you are always telling us to get out and enjoy God’s world, so I want to go out with my friend Sam on the lake tomorrow. He just built a new boat, and the lake is just a little way from the city …”

I was going to end my request with something about “communing with God’s world right out in nature,” but one look at my mother told me that, even with the theological ending, my argument was not going to get a fair hearing.

“Going boating! On the Sabbath day! Now, what was it we were just discussing in our last family home evening?”

I groaned. The last family home evening had been on keeping the Sabbath day holy. They had asked me to prepare the lesson, and evidently I had been especially convincing.

I tried a different tack. “Now, Mother, you don’t believe Heavenly Father is going to send me straight to hell just because I miss one church meeting, do you?”

Her face softened just a bit. But only just a bit. “I believe Heavenly Father wants to give you as many blessings as he possible can. But if you don’t keep the commandments, you may miss some important blessings that he wants you to have.”

Like being bored, I thought. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I knew through painful experience that outright defiance would get me nowhere. The last time I tried that I wound up with my mother crying all night while I had to listen to my father give me a lecture on a son’s responsibility to listen to his parents. No, this controversy had to be handled with stealth and guile.

The next morning I got up bright and early and dressed in my best. Both Mother and Father were pleased; they usually had to drag me out of bed. I put on my most innocent expression and told them that I was going to attend church on the other side of the city, so I might be back a little late. They gave me a big smile and kissed me good-bye. I almost felt guilty.

The rest, of course, was pretty simple. As soon as I got clear of the city and down by the lake, I stashed my good clothes in the bushes, having worn my fishing cutoffs underneath. I had a great day with Sam on the lake, communing with nature.

At sundown I started back to the city. I didn’t think I would have any trouble convincing my parents I had been engaged in healthy church activities the entire day. They were so full of goodness that they seldom even suspected anything less in others.

But when I got to the main highway that’s supposed to lead right into the city I didn’t see any city lights. That’s odd, I said to myself. But I just kept running down the road. The road came to an end, and still, no city.

I mean, there was just an empty field. Now, how could the whole city of Enoch just disappear?

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer