We Needed More Than Muscle
January 1987

“We Needed More Than Muscle,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 42–43

We Needed More Than Muscle

My career as a police officer frequently places me under a lot of stress. As a result, when my uniform goes on, I change on the inside, mainly because I want to get home safely that night. When I am off duty, I often go to the shooting range or work out with one or two of my karate students in an effort to unwind. I have been a karate instructor for more than ten years.

One activity I enjoy, and that helps me to relax, is exploring ghost towns with my metal detector, looking for artifacts. One day my partner, Greg, and I decided to spend a day exploring Jacob City, a Utah ghost town. After some preliminary exploring in a nearby canyon, which resulted in an ominous-looking cut in one of my truck’s tires, we arrived at Jacob City around noon. We found much to explore among the cabins, mills, mine shafts, and the old redwood hotel that was still standing. After a while, we decided to drive to the other side of the canyon to explore some cabins we could see over there.

We found a road that went around the mountain tops and took us in the direction we wanted to go. As we drove, the road became very narrow, rocky, and steep. One wrong turn and we would plunge straight down for several hundred feet.

We got up and around to the other side of the canyon, then drove down another road. It was not very steep, but suddenly we came to a dead end. We got out and looked around for a while. South of us and down the side of the mountain was the town of Ophir. It was a long way on a foot trail that was much too small for my truck. Our only choice was to turn around and go back.

The U-turn was very tight and I had to use the emergency brake several times so we wouldn’t roll off the mountain. By now I was beginning to feel the strain of hiking and of wrestling with the truck.

We started back up the hill, but within fifty feet of the top, my truck faltered. I backed down and got up a little more speed to make the climb, only to stop in the same place. I backed down again and put on more speed, but it was no use. We tried again and again to get up the hill, making it only a few feet farther when Greg got in the back to add extra weight.

By 4:00 P.M. it looked as if we might have to spend the night. We stopped to rest. At 290 pounds, and with a black belt in karate, I have tended to have somewhat of an ego, and have always worked alone rather than asking anyone for help. But by now I was saying little prayers under my breath.

We tried a few more times, but nothing worked. Greg and I talked about walking out to find help, but I knew it was a long hike down to town and I didn’t know if I could make it.

I knew then that I would have to be honest with myself and put aside my ego. I didn’t know what Greg would think if I decided to say a prayer out loud. All I knew was that the mountain was beating us.

I was hoping that Greg would be the first to mention that we needed to say a prayer. I knew he was not active in the Church, but I also knew he realized the Church was true. All the silent prayers I had been saying had not worked. I remembered what I had learned long ago—that you should do all you can first, then call upon the Lord if you need more help. We had done all we could to get out. The road was not all that steep, and we should have been able to make it up the hill easily. But we were stuck. I wondered if the Lord would answer a prayer from a rough guy like me.

Finally I told Greg we needed some additional help. Greg agreed, and I said, “I think I’ll say a prayer.”

The prayer we said in the back of my truck was not fancy. I was hot, tired, and shaking with emotional and physical strain. I closed my eyes and started the prayer. I didn’t care what my partner was thinking, I just knew we had to get out.

I told the Lord we were in trouble and asked him to help us. After I closed the prayer, Greg climbed onto the back of the truck again. I eased myself into the driver’s seat, closed my eyes for a second, then told Greg to hold on.

I started the truck, floored the gas pedal, and what had been a rocky mountain road suddenly felt like a smooth street. Neither of us could feel the road under us. As I reached the top of the mountain, I could hear Greg laughing aloud, and I remember thinking, “I hope the Lord doesn’t take that the wrong way.”

We headed for home. I dropped Greg off at his house, and then, as I pulled into my driveway, the tire that had been damaged earlier went flat. I was overwhelmed. The Lord had helped us out of a tough spot, and had kept the tire from going flat besides. I soon learned why. When I tried to change it, the padlock that secured the spare tire under the bed of the truck was frozen shut. I had to get a hacksaw from the house to saw it off.

The next day was fast and testimony Sunday, and for the first time in more than five years I stood to tell my story and bear testimony that the Lord does listen to us and answer our prayers.

  • Skip W. Holling, a police officer, is a Sunday School teacher in his West Valley City, Utah, ward.