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My lips were sore and my mouth was bone dry as I rapidly rode my mountain bike down Mueller Park Canyon. My Boy Scout troop and I were all exhausted from an overnight camping trip to Rudy’s Flat, a campsite nestled high above the canyon. I paused for a moment to drink the last remaining drops of water from my canteen. Just finishing our two-day trip, we’d reached the end of the trail. Open road was all that separated us from our homes a mile away.
“Go ahead, guys,” I told the other Scouts. “I’ll catch up in a minute.”
Catching up had been heavily on my mind the past few months and was something I had desperately desired to do since moving from Littleton, Colorado, to Bountiful, Utah, with my family.
In Colorado I had it good. The year was 1993, and I had just won the school talent show—assisted in great part by my MC Hammer pants. I did my best “running man” while the bouncing of my oversized gold chain hypnotized the audience.
As “U Can’t Touch This” came to its glorious end, the chanting of the prepubescent girls only proved to me, my brother, and our two friends what we already knew: we had won by a landslide. If that weren’t enough, I had just heard that Nikki, the cutest girl at school, liked me, confirmed by a note one of her friends had shown my friends. I was living the good life for a sixth grader in the Mile High City.
Living in Colorado taught me some valuable lessons, like not letting cultural or religious differences serve as justification to forgo lasting friendships. Some of my best friends had different religious beliefs and upbringings from me. One was Jewish, another was Buddhist, and I was Christian, and we all got along beautifully.
My friends knew that I didn’t swear, and they respected me for it. I would often marvel at how quickly the environment would change when we were all together. Instead of cuss words, there were a lot of goshes and darns. Every once in a while, a swear word would slip in, but immediately my friends would apologize.
Though none of them were actively religious, they were great kids. To them, going to a Denver Broncos football game each Sunday was the same as going to church was to me. It was a weekly occurrence that none of us missed.
With those memories fresh in my mind, my thoughts turned to my first few weeks of school in Utah and the vast difference between the two states. As a twelve-year-old, I felt like I had fallen from the top of the food chain in popularity and stature in Colorado to the bottom in Utah. With living in a new house, attending a new school, and trying to find new friends, I was struggling immensely to fit in, a problem that was completely foreign to me.
It seemed that whatever efforts I made to develop friend- ships were not reciprocated that first year. I couldn’t understand why. Here I was living in a place where roughly 90 percent of the kids were culturally and religiously just like me, yet I was struggling. I reasoned that because I grew up out of state, I didn’t fit the mold or the cliques that had already been established. To me, these kids knew nothing of change, nor did they know how to accept it. Eventually, I understood that wasn’t the case. Being born and raised inside the same homes in the same neighborhoods, many of them just hadn’t had the opportunity to understand what it felt like to be the new kid. They weren’t necessarily trying to exclude me; they just weren’t trying to include me. Consequently, people didn’t really know who I was.
One day at school, after walking to the bathroom, I noticed a list somebody had taped on the bathroom mirror. It read, “The Hottest Boys in the 6th Grade.” The list, written by a few of the sixth-grade girls, was numbered one through fifteen. My eyes perked up with excitement as I began scanning the list in hopes that my name was on it. As my finger slid down the list, my confidence and self-esteem sunk along with it. My name was not on the sheet. I yearned for verification that I not only existed at this school but also was liked. I looked at myself in the mirror and then back at the list, and my head fell low. Reluctantly I walked back to my new classroom, wishing I were back in Colorado.
Thinking about those experiences as I rested on my mountain bike brought back feelings of being less than who I really was and wanted to be. This was the first time in my young life that I’d been subjected to the feelings of being socially isolated. I hated the way it felt, and I vowed to never exclude others.
Placing my feet back on the pedals of my mountain bike, I determined to catch up to the Boy Scouts ahead—not just on this trail but also socially. As I took off down the mountain once again, I planned to develop new and lasting friendships during my summer break.
Mueller Park Canyon in the early summer morning is a sight to behold. The fresh mountain air combined with the scents of the pine, aspen, and maple trees could be the best natural potpourri there is. Highlighted by a babbling brook that snaked along the bike trail, the mountains were alive with a chorus of songbirds welcoming the new day.
All of a sudden, I noticed a change. Something was definitely different. To this day, I do not know how to describe what happened to me. It was almost as if my senses became extremely heightened. The beauty, the smells, and the feeling around me instantly became overpowering, so much so that I stopped my bike and offered a prayer of gratitude. I felt a profound sense of peace from my Savior and His creations unlike anything my twelve-year-old self had ever felt before. It was as if I could sense something big was going to happen in my life. Alone and in awe, I hesitantly returned to my bike, not wanting to leave this sacred spot and fearing that when I did, this heavenly feeling would end. But knowing I needed to catch up to the others, I began to bike down the hill toward home.
That’s when everything went black.
“Son, don’t move. We have you in a neck brace and are taking you to the hospital.”
Confused, I opened my eyes. My moment of spiritual bliss had quickly evaporated into an overwhelming sense of physical pain ripping through my head. I could feel that my shirt was soaking wet. From the aching in my head, I knew it was blood.
“What happened?” I asked, feeling panic begin to rush through me as I saw a paramedic kneeling above me.
“You’ve had a really bad bicycle accident,” the man responded. “Are you in any pain or discomfort?”
“I just have a really bad headache,” I told him. “I’m seeing double, and I feel like I’m going to throw up.”
Another paramedic spoke up. “You’ve been unconscious for ten minutes,” he said. “You’re likely having symptoms of a severe concussion. The blood is coming from a pretty bad hematoma. We are going to need to take you to the hospital.”
I knew I was hurt badly, but it was odd—the only thing I wanted to do was tell them about the amazing spiritual experience I had just had. As the paramedics put me on the gurney, I noticed for the first time that I was surrounded by my Boy Scout troop and leaders, all anxiously wondering what had happened. There was a lady there too. She was explaining that she was the one who’d found me. I heard her say that she had been showering in her home when she heard the crash. Looking out her bathroom window, she saw me lying limp on the sidewalk.
Apparently I had blacked out somehow while riding my bike. Thrown over my handlebars, I hit the corner of the concrete curb surrounding the sidewalk headfirst.
Despite all I was feeling, I kept trying to tell anyone that would listen about my spiritual experience, but they were too caught up in attending to me. Finally, before the paramedics were going to load me into the ambulance, I said, “Wait! I have to tell you something before I go.”
However, both the paramedics and my Boy Scout leader told me that I’d have plenty of time to talk once they got me to the hospital. Frustrated but in too much pain to argue, I stopped trying.
“I’ll call your parents and let them know what’s happened,” my leader assured me. “They’ll meet you there.”
I gave a half-hearted wave goodbye as the ambulance doors shut. Not five minutes later, I arrived at the hospital.
The concern on my parents’ faces was evident as they rushed up to grab my hand after I was unloaded from the ambulance. “Mom, I need to tell you something that I saw!” I said excitedly. Much to my frustration, however, I was whisked away
before I could tell her. Several hours went by of medical test- ing and X-rays before I saw my parents again. After they had been assured that I was okay, my mom asked me what it was that I had wanted to tell her. Thinking for a moment, I could only recall the feelings of heightened spiritual senses leading up to some incredible heavenly experience that I could no longer remember. Instantly I started to tear up. “I forgot, Mom!” I said, desperately wanting to recall the images of something I could still feel radiating inside of me. “Oh no! I forgot!”
Urgently, I riffled through my memory for any clues to awaken the experience. Like trying to pry open a heavy door with no handle, my mind would not release what it held there. I often look back and wonder if this was, in fact, reality in the physical sense or if something else happened to me, like a vision, or even if I was taken somewhere. Years later and now knowing what my life would become, I can’t help but wonder if whatever happened to me wasn’t meant to be remembered but the sacred feelings surrounding it were. Perhaps my spirit needed to be reminded that God loved me and that my life had meaning long before I would question all of it. Maybe the beginning of our heartache is also the beginning of His.
Since then, I’ve been up that canyon multiple times. To this day, I still can’t find the spot where I felt that peace and serenity. However, what happened later that night would change my