My Grandfather, David Hutchison, was born in 1885 to Robert and Martha Hutchison, in the small town of Sublette, Cassia County, Idaho. For reasons that were never very clear to me, Grandpa was never baptized a member of the LDS Church, even though it is and was generally the practice to have children baptized at the age of 8.
David met, courted and eventually married my Grandmother, Charlotte Neddo, in 1914. Their first child, Jean, was born in 1916. A son, Robert, was born in 1918 and my mother, Donna was born in 1922. They went on to have five more children.
Now that I have introduced the cast of characters, it is time for my story. In the back of his mind, Grandpa always seemed to wonder if the LDS Church wasn't true. As a young man, he determined that it was easier not to believe it, but there was always that nagging doubt in his professed atheism.
Grandma was as dogged in her following of the Church and its teachings as Grandpa seemed against it. Nevertheless, Grandpa always made sure his family went to Church. When he heard that they were going to build a new chapel, Grandpa was the first to volunteer the use of his horses and wagon to haul the materials. When a dance was to be held, Grandpa could always be counted on to play his trombone in the band.
There were one or two other atheists in the Raft River Valley in those days. One such was "old man" Hitt. I haven't been able to find Mr. Hitt's name, but I believe it was Jim. Often these men would gather to talk and many times the subject of the Mormon religion would come up. They would all firmly assert that there was no way the Mormon Church could be true, but still….
They lived out their lives in that desolate valley, working from before sun-up till after sundown as all farmers and ranchers still do. There were dangers that they faced every day, from the wildlife that still roam that area of Idaho, their own domesticated animals, the crude tools that they used and, of course, the diseases in that pre-penicillin world when even a scratch could become infected and kill.
One day, David got the word that Jim was dying. Without wasting anytime, Grandpa rode over to the Hitts' farm. It was true that, for whatever reason, Jim was on his deathbed. David tried to comfort the other man by protesting that in a day or so, Jim would be back on his feet and working as hard as ever. Jim, of course, knew better. "No Dave", he finally said, "I'm dying and I know it. The one consolation for me is that I'll soon know if there's anything to this here Mormon religion."
"Now Jim, what kind of talk's that?"
"Well, it's the truth. Kind of sad though. If there's anything to the Church, then I'm in for an eternity of suffering I imagine. It's too late for me, but there's still time for you, Dave."
"What do you mean?", Grandpa asked.
"I'll make you a promise. There's no sense of both of us suffering and fighting against the Church if it's true. If I get to the other side and discover that they're right, I'll come back and let you know."
Not being privy to the rest of the conversation, I'll just tell you that in a short time, Jim died. The memory of that conversation stayed with David for a long time. In his private moments he mulled over those things he and Jim had talked about and whether or not they could be true. Outwardly calm and unworried, nevertheless he was somewhat concerned over that last talk he'd had with his friend.
One moonlit night, several months after Jim's death, Grandpa awoke to see a figure in white walking into their bedroom. Dave slipped down a little lower into the covers, hoping that whatever it was would go away. Silently the figure approached the bed. Dave felt Charlotte begin to shake and he knew that she saw it too. Now was the time for action. In his bravest whisper, Dave asked "Jim, is that you?" But the ghost didn't reply, merely came closer to the bed. Charlotte began to shake even harder as she slid further down into the covers. Dave too shrank back from this "thing" that had invaded their bedroom in the middle of the night. "Jim, Jim is that you? Why won't you answer me?" Dave hoarsely whispered. "Jim, talk to me now!".
He was finally finding his voice, although it was considerably higher than he was used to speaking. The figure was now at the foot of the bed and had started along it towards David.
At last, Charlotte managed to find her voice as well. She gasped out the words, "Dave, don't you recognize your own daughter?"
Jean had come sleep-walking in her white night gown and Dave's imagination had done all the rest. As for Charlotte's shaking, well, when she heard Dave's voice and realized that he thought Jean was old man Hitt, the situation was just too funny not to lose herself in laughter. Nevertheless, she had the presence of mind not to laugh out loud at her husband's predicament, but to attempt to stifle the merriment in the bedclothes.