A long time ago I promised my son Luke that when he turned 12 I would take him to Salt Lake City to attend General Conference in person. Not exactly the bar mitzvah he was maybe hoping for, but to my delight, he called my bluff. So a few weeks back he and I piled into the ol’ Camry and headed north.
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but there was something liberating about heading off, just the two of us, knowing we didn’t really have to answer to anyone for about 72 hours. If we wanted to drive too fast or make a pit stop or skip lunch so that we could gorge ourselves on a big steak dinner (and let’s be clear: we wanted to) we could do it (and did). As we drove, it was just me and my son—the two dudes—telling stories, playing games, or just sitting in silence. We weren’t exactly Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, but it was fun.
It took us 10 hours to reach our destination—11 if you count the grubfest at Outback. The next morning we took our seats in the nosebleed section of the new Conference Center just off of Temple Square. It was a magnificent facility and we were delighted to be a part of the scene. But the excitement of that morning didn’t prepare us for the thrill of that evening, when we found ourselves—I’m not making this up—on the fourth row of that 20,000+ seat auditorium, directly in front of the prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley.
It was very cool. Directly before us sat the President of the Church, his two Counselors, and several of the Twelve Apostles. People speak of “sitting at the feet of the Prophet,” and there we were, living the metaphor. Unforgettable.
The real test came the next day, however, when we piled back into the Camry for the return trip. Maybe we talked less—I’m not sure—but certainly we felt a bit less giddy. Still I felt an easiness as we traveled together that I often don’t feel when we’re living together. As a dad, it felt good and right. Nonetheless, as we headed down Cajon Pass, back into the L.A. Basin, chasing the weekend warriors and desert rats toward home, I nervously asked the Big Question: “Well Luke, was it worth it? Now that you know what’s involved, would you do it over again if you had the choice?” He didn’t even hesitate. “Absolutely. Let’s do it again next year.”
That ain’t gonna happen, unfortunately, but it was a good reminder—I hope to both of us—that it never hurts to step out of the usual routine and spend some time together—just because. Would that I could find a way to pull that off without having to drive 1400 miles in the process.
I’m reminded of a children’s book in our study called The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz. It tells the story of a poor man named Isaac who has a recurring dream in which a voice tells him to go to the capital city and look for treasure under the bridge by the Royal Palace. Finally, he takes the long, arduous journey through forests and over mountains, walking most of the way until he arrives in the capital city. To his disappointment, he finds that the bridge is guarded day and night. When at last he tells the captain of the guard of his dream, the captain laughs at him. “If I believed a dream I once had,” the soldier tells him, “I would travel to your town and look for a treasure under the stove in the house of a man named Isaac.” Bowing respectfully, Isaac embarks immediately on the long walk back, journeying over mountains and through forests until he comes to his humble home—wherein he finds the treasure he sought. The moral: Sometimes we must travel far to discover what is near.
I hope that this hits “close to home” for you as it did for me.