By Lynn Arave
It was late summer, some years ago (August 2000) and myself, a son, and several friends were hiking Kings Peak, the tallest point in Utah, at 13,528 feet above sea level, from our campsite in Henry’s Fork.
Utah’s Uinta Mountains are rugged and remote. It was about a 10-mile backpack in to our base camp near Dollar Lake. Then, it was about another nine miles, one-way to Kings Peak, in a hike on the second day.
The weather looked good that morning, but distant clouds were building as we scrambled steeply up to Anderson Pass, part of the roof of Utah.
Kings Peak was reached and three of us decided to take the several mile trek over the neighboring South Kings Peak, the state’s second-highest point at 13,512 feet above sea level.
As I would later readily notice in pictures I took, black, stormy clouds were headed our way, but I remained just focused on reaching the second summit at all costs and I had to be the first one there.
My son called it quits at the dip line, halfway between the two peaks. He said he’d wait for us there.
Running at times in my race to the top, even some sprinkles of rain didn’t faze my plans. (I did arrive there first, but barely.)
After a brief reflection on the glory of reaching Utah’s tallest two peaks in the same day -- and after snapping pictures -- we headed down and the rain gradually became a steady drizzle, as we met up with my son.
Looking for a way out to the east, my son and I pondered a route down to the Painter’s Basin below, in front of a steep rockslide area. I couldn’t see if a rocky chute at the bottom was passable or not, since its middle and bottom not visible.
As I pondered safety for such a retreat, my friend – with his two ski poles – suddenly went for it and raced downward into the chute and was quickly out of sight.
Then, it became a downpour of heavy, cold rain. The rockslide started moving itself, as it became saturated with moisture. It was now no longer safe to walk down that steep slope.
Getting cold, I finally pulled out my raincoat and advised my son to do the same. But despite my instructions that morning to not forget such attire, my son neglected to do just that. He had his music player, but no raincoat.
So, I decided it wasn’t safe to climb back to Kings Peak, the way we had come. We needed to look for another way down to the south, where it was warmer – and we needed to keep moving for warmth – as one of us lacked rain gear.
We began crossing a nearly mile-long field of loose rocks. There was no cover to be found.
Soon, the rain nearly stopped as we were half-way across the seemingly void.
However, then thunder and lightning were moving in quickly behind us. You could smell burnt ozone in the air and our hair was beginning to stand on end. We were in immediate danger from lightning.
We were the tallest things around and prime targets for lightning. Even crouching or lying down, we were still the tallest things around.
I immediately thought of letting my wife down in failing to protect her son, in favor of “bagging two peaks.”
I prayed for help on what to do and in a split second, I had an answer. Three distinct words came into my head from a still small voice, “Use the Priesthood,” it said.
An ongoing conversation with a still, small voice, in my head continued. ”How will I know what to say?,” I asked.
“You’ll know” was the instant reply.
So, quickly telling my son I was going to use the priesthood to save us, I brought my right arm to the square and gave one of those unusual, for the particular circumstances kind of priesthood blessings.
I surprised myself by commanding in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, for the lightning and the storm to move away from us and stated that we would be safe now.
That wording did not come from me. My own response would have been to command the lightning to stop all together.
After that less that 30-second blessing on nature, both my son and I felt serene comfort and safety.
Sure enough, in the next few minutes we noticed that the storm curved sharply to the west, away from us.
My son and I had to hike and scramble an extra six total miles out of our way, but I knew somewhere ahead of us was Trail Rider Pass and an alternate path back to our basecamp. (That’s because some 10 years earlier, a brother and I had been temporarily lost in that area, after we encountered a sign that was turned the wrong direction.)
Several hours after my two friends had arrived at camp, we came in. not the same people we had been before that trek. We recounted our tale and even my professed atheist friend seemed to perk up as I talked.
Now we not only had first-hand experience at the power of nature, but more so about the power of the priesthood.
There’s a reason why the Priesthood Blessing I used isn’t written down. It doesn’t need to be.
Revelation is given, as you need it, for the circumstances. That is, if you are in tune enough to hear that still, small voice of the Holy Ghost.
And, there’s nothing like a disaster to humble you and make you far more sensitive to the Spirit.
(-This experience was partially and briefly recounted in the LDS Church News, Sept. 16, 2000, p. 18.)
-In further retrospect, I feel extra blessed, because I know a young couple who died after lightning struck them on Lone Peak, Salt Lake County, a few years later. They apparently had no warning.
NOTE: The above 3 photos are of myself, on, or just below Kings Peak, on various hiking trips there,