Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Twenty Six)

Over the next few weeks, several of the apostles stopped in to my apartment for visits, but not long ones. Soon enough Thanksgiving came, compete with a lovely dinner at Vannevar and Phoebe’s house.

While I lived in the temple, I was free to come and go as I pleased, although I kept Mary informed as a courtesy to her. I had avoided newspapers most of this time, and even radio news. And I greatly enjoyed my walks around the city. It was nice blending into the crowd, and as I noted earlier, there’s real comfort in living with sincere, spiritual people.

Just after Thanksgiving there was a concert in the Mormon Tabernacle, which I attended. At intermission, a couple of the apostles spotted me and insisted that I join them, which I did. As we filed back out I mentioned the fact that the choir would be performing Handel’s Messiah soon… that I had once been part of an excellent choir that performed it, and that I missed that kind of singing. Before we were out the door I was invited to join in the performance.

I loved singing in that massive, wonderful choir. And it was good for me internally. Getting out every day and working with other people was something I needed. By the time we were finished with Messiah, I was ready to get out and do something, even if it was working as a factory electrician.

Between Christmas and New Years, I had lunch with Vannevar, where I found out he was feeling the same way. And, like me, he had been avoiding any sort of news. So, we made a pact: We’d completely avoid any news until we had extracted ourselves from Salt Lake City. Then we’d go back into the world and see if we could improve anything.

* * * * *

Between Christmas and New Years, a new technological breakthrough was announced, the transfer resister, which we now call the transistor. Bush and I kept to our pact to avoid the news, but everyone was talking about it, and we couldn’t help but overhear it.

Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain (the discoverers we know) were given some credit, but not much, since the transistors pulled out of the spacecraft were the model they were ordered to work from. The truth was that they were very close to the discovery on their own, and both Bush and I later sent them personal notes of condolence for having their hard work overlooked.

The announcement put Stalin into top gear. The US was pulling away from the USSR, and he felt he would soon be an also-ran, which wasn’t something a psychopath like him could handle.

The truth, I think, is that Stalin was becoming interested in nuking the US. Now, that was a very tall order, being that the USSR didn’t yet have the bomb. Still, his people were closing in on it (using information stolen from the US program), and he put every asset he had into the program; of that much I am certain.

Then, of course, in a sort of cascading reaction, half of the US government, learning that Stalin was working overtime to get the bomb, went nuts right along with him.

* * * * *

Phoebe Bush, to my surprise, told her husband to, “Go get in trouble with your friend.” You don’t expect such words from a well-mannered woman born in the 1890s, or at least I didn’t, but the truth is that people don’t change that much over a century: Their clothing and a few other outward characteristics change, but what they are stays remarkably consistent.

Phoebe Bush loved her husband, but he had been away so often that she had learned how to bear separations. Phoebe was also well into her 50s and had developed her own social circle in Salt Lake City. More than that, she knew her husband… she knew that so long as he was feeling well, he needed to do the hard things, and even the dangerous things. He was an explorer and a savior by nature, and that’s why she fell in love with him in the first place. It was a good time for him to go and use his talents.

She did, however, charge me to bring him back safe.

* * * * *

The apostles were not as understanding as Mrs. Bush. That’s not to say that they were oppositional, only that they didn’t want to lose me. After a bit of back and forth, we agreed that I would have another formal meeting with them, that notes would be taken, and that I would approve the notes. At first they wanted a transcription of our conversations, but that smelled too much like a new holy book to me, and so we settled on notes, so long as I signed to approve them.

Once that was done, the apostles would set us up with driver’s licenses, passports, a good car and some travel money. Plus, the Bushes would keep their house and a comfortable stipend for life.

My actual meeting with the Quorum of The Apostles took place on January 8, 1948. It took one day, per our agreement, but it was a long day.

First, we went over, very precisely, what I had told them previously: Support for their “friendly universe” idea; that my friends, while physical like us, did not age and die as our people do; and that we are all one large family. That formed what they would call Statement, The First, and they sent the transcript out to be typed immediately.

Statement The Second involved all the things I couldn’t really confirm for them. That is, my friends said nothing of a pre-mortal existence of souls, of us becoming gods (though I did confirm that we were becoming massively better), that God was once a man, that Adam and Michael the Archangel were the same being, and that there was a Heavenly Mother. We went through each item slowly. “I know nothing about that, pro or con,” was my repeated response.

Their last major question was whether or not I heard that our God did not create ex nihilo; that is, that he did not create something from nothing. From there we went into a long discussion of the gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, and whether the creator of the universe was the same being they call God. I repeated that I had heard nothing from my friends, but spending time on this was less wearing on me than making sure I said nothing self-contradictory on the other subjects.

But regardless of the day’s difficulties, we finished the interview and I signed off on the notes a few days later. Finally, Bush and I were cleared to leave. And true to their word, the apostles came through with their end of the bargain. It took an additional week or so to get everything done, but they gave us what they had promised. They also gave us something else of great value: If we found ourselves in trouble, we could go to any Latter Day Saints church, or to any Mormon missionary, and would be provided with assistance.

Vannavar and I were ready to go by January 21st, but the roads weren’t as open as we would have liked, and so we waited a few more days. On the 25th, the roads seemed like they’d be okay, and so we headed out of town on US Route 6 (the Lincoln Highway), eastward, toward Chicago. This was the same road I had taken six months earlier, which made it a more comfortable drive.

Our car was another Buick, this one a brand new Roadmaster. It was a fine vehicle.

An hour out of Salt Lake, with me at the wheel and Vannevar holding a clipboard and a pen (we had all sorts of supplies with us, including a short wave radio and a couple of slide rules), we turned on the radio and started putting together the various pieces of news we stumbled upon.

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Paul Rosenberg