Above the Clouds
December 1985

“Above the Clouds,” New Era, Dec. 1985, 21

Above the Clouds

Photographic Essay

When fog drifts in, these young Saints know they’ll see clearly if they’re willing to climb.

It wasn’t any big, formal, youth outing. It hadn’t been months in planning. It didn’t involve a long trip to an exotic location. In fact, it sort of came up on the spur of the moment.

Julie Johnstun, a member of the Centerville Fifth Ward Young Women presidency, has some relatives in Mendon, Utah, David and Bette Kotter, who live near open fields and a big, high hill. The Kotters, members of the Mendon Second Ward, invited the Centerville youth to come snowshoeing, and it didn’t take but a moment for the invitation to be accepted.

What resulted was a winter activity that could have been held by any ward anywhere in the Church, given enough snow. And that’s the point. Because even though it was just something to do on a Saturday afternoon, both the leaders and the youth learned they could have fun close to home, that it’s being together and sharing together that build memories that will last long after winter’s chill is gone.

For a week, moist, heavy air had been blowing north from Mexico and southern California. But the front had stalled when it slammed into the subzero slopes of the Cache Valley mountains. And there it had unloaded. Mendon and the surrounding hills were mounded in white—white deeper and softer than coconut cream pie.

The challenge was to learn how to walk on the cream.

“Don’t worry, the snowshoes will get you through,” said Rodney Brown, 14, ever the optimist.

“Yea,” said Kyle Owen, 14, sitting on a snowbank nearby. “But first you have to figure out how to put them on!”

The rubber strips and rawhide laces were a bit hard to untangle, and sometimes the laces were quite stiff. But that didn’t slow down Jerri Taylor, 16, and Becky Marcantelli, 17. They already had their shoes on and were taking their first wobbly, uncertain steps across the drifts.

“This isn’t so haaaaard … ,” Becky said as she lost her balance and tumbled, pulling Jerri with her into the snow.

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again,” became the motto of the day.

It wasn’t long before all of the young men and women in the ward were stretched out in a long line, waddling up the hill like some pack of abominable snowmen.

“You have to lift your feet just right,” Justin Browning, 14, said. “If you don’t, you’ll catch part of the shoe and fall over. But lifting just right means walking funny.”

“I finally got tired of the snowshoes, so I took them off,” said Laurie Jordan, 14. “The snow was crusty and I walked along okay for a minute. But then I hit the powder, and the next thing I knew, I was in up to my waist.”

While Scoutmaster Norm Beers and one of the deacons, David Kidd, helped dig Laurie out, fog started drifting back into the valley. Soon it was so thick that seeing became difficult. What had been a land of blue sky and white landscapes became a murky world of gray—gray air, gray snow, shadowy figures still hiking up the hill.

“Hey, who turned off the sun?” said Vincent McCorkle, 14.

“Are we gonna wander around in this stuff all day?” said Shane Curtis, 15.

It became apparent that the only way out of the fog was to walk out—or more accurately, to climb out. The faster snowshoers, like 17-year-old Bart Tingey, broke through the clouds and shouted back that it was clear up above.

“Hurry up,” Bart said. “This is neat.”

“Knowing there was something up there worth seeing made me keep climbing,” said Michele Wenzel, 14. “I was tired, but I was curious.”

Michele and her friend Appen Sill, 14, were in the last group to reach the summit. But the view was worth the hike.

All around, fog filled the valleys. But here and there mountain peaks poked through like purple islands in a white sea. And the sky was blue, the kind of crisp, clear blue that only hill climbers get to see.

“It was like that hill was our own little refuge, where we could climb up and see for miles,” said Troy Wenzel, 18. “I don’t know when we’d ever go there and have the exact same conditions to do that again.”

A quorum instructor or a Young Women teacher could have seized on the moment to paint an analogy, a comparison with the youth of the Church who sometimes wander in the fog of the world, but who will come to see the light of day if they’ll listen to the right voice and rise above the clouds.

It could have been said. But at the moment, nobody said a thing. There was total calm. Just for a moment. Then there was tubing, snowball throwing, tobogganing, skiing, and long hikes back to the Kotters’ house for lunch and then to the cars for the trip home.

It wasn’t until months later, when Young Men President Kim Wall was teaching the priests, that the lesson came full circle.

First he read the scripture:

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Then he said, “Remember that afternoon up in Mendon? Think about wandering in the fog. Think about how you felt when somebody called down to you and told you the view was worth the hike.”

“Yea,” said Steve Dalrymple, 16, the newest member of the quorum. “I was there. This scripture is just like that.”

Photos by Richard M. Romney

The first-time snowshoers soon found out that walking on powder is harder than it seems. Even though everyone enjoyed the snow, when the group paused the snowshoes rested, too.

Although hiking through the fog-filled valley was an adventure in itself, and the usual winter activities provided mountains of fun, nothing could compare with the view at the top of the hill.