The Man Upstairs


The jungle heat was stifling. My pack and rifle were almost heavier than I could bear. Being a greenhorn in Vietnam, I appreciated my buddy Moose watching out for me and pointing out booby traps along the trail, but his long strides were hard to keep up with. Finally, Sarge called a halt, and I collapsed in the middle of the trail. As we caught our breath, the men started talking about the showers, clean beds, and real food waiting for us at base camp just a few hours away.

“Four niner, four niner, this is Zulu 23. Come in, four niner,” the radio crackled. We all recognized Zulu 23, the code name of the chopper overhead, which we called “the man upstairs.” The helicopter pilot advised us to get off the trail and head into the swamp, a detour that would take three or four days. Visions of beds and food vanished.

I couldn’t believe it when my buddies grimly pulled their things together, preparing to plunge into the swamp. Angrily I started yelling at them. “Hey, you guys, don’t listen to him. What does he know about the jungle? He never even gets his feet wet. The swamp will eat you alive if the Vietcong soldiers don’t get you first. Let’s stick to the trail.”

Suddenly Moose loomed over me, and I was painfully reminded of why the guys called him Moose. He picked me up by the front of my shirt with one hand. With the first finger of his other hand he punctuated his words against my chest. “Jones, when the man upstairs talks, you listen!” He dropped me roughly, and I followed meekly into the swamp.

Three days later we finally dragged into camp. That’s when we learned that a company of enemy soldiers had set up an ambush on our trail. Because of his vantage point, “the man upstairs” could see what was happening and had saved our lives.

A long time ago, our Heavenly Father sent us to this earthly “jungle.” Aware of the many traps and pitfalls we would encounter, He lovingly gave us guides to point these out. These guides are our parents, teachers, leaders, and a living prophet.

From His vantage point, our Heavenly Father can give life-saving counsel through our guides and through the powerful “two-way radio” of prayer. Prayer is not the same as the field radio I used in Vietnam. You can pray anywhere; its range is unlimited. However, just like the field radio, if we’re not tuned properly, we’ll hear only static and interference. And just as moisture and dirt can damage the radio, sin and rebellion cause serious but not irreparable damage to our “transmitters.” But repentance can clean them. And our “batteries” need constant recharging by obedience and regular attendance at church.

Like “the man upstairs” who guided us in Vietnam, I’m grateful for Heavenly Father’s counsel about the trail ahead. When He talks, we need to listen. I know that if we’ll follow His counsel, He’ll guide us in our journey away from a dangerous enemy and back to His presence.

Extra! Extra!

To learn more about prayer, read these scriptures: 3 Ne. 13:5–8; 3 Ne. 18:18–21; D&C 10:5; D&C 19:38.

In site: Also read the following articles in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org: “The Lifeline of Prayer,” by President James E. Faust (Ensign, May 2002) and “Sweet Power of Prayer,” by Elder Russell M. Nelson (Ensign, May 2003).

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Snow

Mel Jones is a member of the Thatcher First Ward, Thatcher Arizona Stake.