Little Boy Lost

“Little Boy Lost,” Ensign, Dec. 2002, 27

Little Boy Lost

Temperatures on the night of 3 January 2000 had hovered near zero, and three-year-old Adam McIntosh was missing.

Carl and Paula McIntosh live with their five children in the serenity of the rural mountain community of Central, Utah, located 25 miles from St. George. Cabins and houses are widely scattered along the unpaved cedar-lined roads nestled in a valley that sits at 5,200 feet surrounded by 9,000-foot mountains.

On the evening of Sunday, 2 January 2000, it seemed idyllic here, as if nothing could go wrong. Brother McIntosh had finished his duties as elders quorum president and Sister McIntosh as Young Women president. Dinner was over, games played, stories read, prayers offered, and hugs and kisses given. Morning would come soon. Brother McIntosh had to get up by 5:00 A.M. The three older children—Benjamin, Peter, and Gabriel—had to get up in time to catch a 7:50 A.M. bus to take them 17 miles to their elementary school. Three-year-old Adam and five-year-old Carl also had to get up early so they could go with their mother when she drove the older boys the half mile to the bus stop.

Nearly four inches of snow had fallen during the day on Sunday, but by night the skies had cleared, bringing frigid temperatures. The fields were covered with icy crystals. Before he went to bed, Brother McIntosh turned up the heat, since this was to be one of the coldest nights of the year, with temperatures hovering near zero.

Adam’s Gone

The next morning, Brother McIntosh’s eyes blinked open before 5:00 A.M. Why? What had awakened him? He felt something was wrong. He got out of bed and went to the family room. It was so cold. Then he heard the furnace going on and off, on and off.

He continued his search through the house and discovered that the front door was open. “It’s that dog,” he muttered to himself. “Somehow he’s pushed the door open.” A blast of cold air hit him as he pulled the door closed. But the dog, Duncan, a 40-pound Australian shepherd and Border collie mix, was not inside the house or on the porch.

Then Brother McIntosh went from bedroom to bedroom, checking his children, finding all but three-year-old Adam. Fear began to rise in his heart. “Adam,” he whispered as he checked the beds again. Finally, he gently shook Paula awake. “Don’t panic, but Adam’s gone. He must be outside.”

Brother and Sister McIntosh pulled on their coats and shoes, grabbed two flashlights, and rushed into the night. They stopped, wondering which way to go. Both knew no one could survive for long outside in that cold and snow in just pajamas and bare feet. Adam could have gone any direction—up the hill toward Cedar Drive, north on Lodge Road, down toward the bus stop, or off on any number of roads that connected fields, woods, and houses.

Then Paula saw footprints of small bare feet in the snow outside the house.

The Disappearing Trail

Paula got in the van and slowly followed Carl as he tracked the footprints 100 feet to Lodge Road. There the footprints disappeared. With prayers in their hearts, both felt inclined to go south on the road toward the old lodge. They did not understand the inspiration in that decision until later.

“The promptings of the Spirit came over and over, and we knew they would lead us to our little boy,” remembers Brother McIntosh. “We knew that Adam’s time was limited.”

Brother McIntosh could hardly walk on the road because it was glassed over with black ice. “How could Adam have walked on this road?” he wondered. “Maybe we are going the wrong direction.” Then something drew him over to the side. There in a small patch of snow were the prints of two small bare feet. Next to them were the paw prints of a dog.

Adam and Duncan had been this way! “Stay with him, Duncan!” Brother McIntosh pleaded out loud. Soon the snow patch disappeared, taking with it the footprints. Then, to their joy, they reappeared in the next patch of snow. Brother McIntosh hurried, figuring that Adam had been outside at least 45 minutes.

Now the McIntoshes were almost a half mile from their house. Suddenly Duncan came trotting out of the darkness toward Carl. Rejoicing, Brother McIntosh said, “Go to Adam, Duncan. Go to Adam.” The dog turned and led Brother McIntosh on toward the lodge. As they approached the old building, Duncan led Carl away from the building on a snow-packed trail used as a shortcut to the bus stop. Sister McIntosh had to leave Carl and Duncan temporarily so she could drive on the road that swept around west of the lodge. There she met up with her husband again.

“Anything?” Now she was in tears.

“Nothing, but we’ll find him.”

Carl slid into the van, and they slowly retraced the route back to the lodge. As they neared the building, Brother McIntosh heard a child’s scream. They stopped. Carl climbed out of the van, calling Adam’s name as he made his way toward the old lodge. There in the beam of his flashlight he saw two old backless, broken chairs pulled together—nothing else. Then he noticed Adam intertwined on the rungs under the seats. He ran through the snow to get him. Cuts and bruises and scrapes covered Adam’s face, hands, and arms. His eyes were wild and glassy and his breathing shallow.

“I thought I was going to have trouble getting Adam untangled from those crosspieces, but he was so stiff and still that I was able to get him out easily,” remembers Brother McIntosh. “I knew hypothermia had set in; I had seen it before. We bundled him in a blanket and got him home as fast as we could.”

Five Hours

Once at home, the McIntoshes noticed a bluish hue around Adam’s mouth and on his fingers and feet. Again and again they prayed for help as they put Adam in a bathtub with lukewarm water. They worked furiously for 45 minutes, but Adam’s response was still not good. He could not speak or see. He did not recognize his parents and made only a few sounds.

At last the McIntoshes felt they could transport Adam to the hospital, and they bundled him up in blankets and rushed down the mountain to St. George. Adam’s fingers and toes were now black. Immediately the medical personnel encased him in inflated heat blankets. His body temperature was an alarming 85 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 98.6. For five hours the doctors, nurses, and technicians worked to save Adam’s life. Slowly, ever so slowly, Adam’s body temperature came back to normal. The doctor said that Adam would have died if he had been outside even 10 minutes longer.

That night, Brother McIntosh held Adam in his arms. The room was bright, warm, and safe. Among the things they talked about was why Adam had screamed out.

“It was good that Duncan went with you,” said Carl.

“Yep, but I got mad at him.”

“Why? You love him.”

“Duncan wouldn’t let me sleep. I was tired and lay down. I closed my eyes, but he kept breathing on me. He bumped me with his nose and licked my face. I yelled at him, but he wouldn’t stop. He kept me awake. I was mad at you too.”


“I heard the car and you calling me. It was keeping me awake, so I yelled at you. That’s when you came to get me.”

Heart Full of Thanks

“Because of this experience,” says Brother McIntosh, “we know that the Lord holds true to His promises when we keep His commandments, pray always, and follow spiritual promptings. He will bless us greatly. Yet we also know that if Adam had died, Heavenly Father would have comforted us and helped us to understand.”

Sister McIntosh agrees, adding, “We know Adam was watched over. We realized now that we were led to him. For the next two weeks, I held him in my arms all night and kept him at my side all day. Never before that awful but blessed day did I realize the importance of following the teaching found in Alma: ‘Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God’” (Alma 37:37).

Prayer: An Open Channel

“One of the requirements made of the Latter-day Saints is that they shall be faithful in attending to their prayers, both their secret and family prayers. The object that our Heavenly Father has in requiring this is that we may be in communication with Him, and that we may have a channel open between us and the heavens whereby we can bring down upon ourselves blessings from above.”
President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945), Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 548.

  • Emmett R. Smith is a member of the Central Ward, St. George Utah West Stake.

Illustrated by Adair Payne