“I dreamed that I gave CPR to a whale.” That’s what a friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning. That’s pretty funny. It reminded me of what I recently found in an email I sent in 2011 to a guy I wanted to work for:

“Last night I dreamed that I’d been hired by the Apple corporation and I made an enormous difference in morale on my very first day, simply by caring enough about my secretary to discover that she loved horses, and that one of our clients loved horses, and so I got them together and they turned out to both have favorite horses named Phoebe.’ The executives were so impressed by my people skills that they made me sort of the home teacher to the whole corporation. (Also there was buried treasure that I led everybody to on an island that was part of the corporate complex, but I think that was just dream stuff.)”

You have funny dreams, too.

Often, as is known by all of you who count Lehi among your friends, dreams can also be religious in nature. My great-great-grandfather John Brown was religious in nature, and when called upon to abandon his rich farm in Lehi (the town, not your friend) and move to Pleasant Grove to serve as bishop there for twenty-six years, he had this dream:

“I dreamed that I was in company with several brethren and all at once I was naked, except my shoes and stockings and a vest. I was not ashamed, as I did not feel that I was to blame. While contemplating my condition, my stockings commenced growing and running up my legs and covering them and continued until my whole body was enveloped. I asked one of the brethren to help me off with my vest so that it would be out of the way, and we hardly had time to remove it, so rapid was the growth of my stockings. When I awoke in the morning, it was vivid on my mind that moving to Pleasant Grove would strip me pretty bare, but eventually I should prosper and do well.”

This stockings dream turned out to be kind of real. He prospered and did well. I think my sweetest dream is my realest dream-Zion. Zion, like many dreams, shows up in unexpected places. (I’m repeating a story here that I told you a couple of years ago, but nobody wrote and said “Boy, don’t ever tell that one again!” so here it is, because it fits pretty good. Doctrinally.)

I and my thin black hollow-body cutaway Gibson (wish I still had that one) were down in St. George, playing a set in the Opera House during their merry all-night New Year’s Eve celebration. I didn’t really have a plan, was just winging it, and my mind turned to a song I’d never performed but that I’d played around with because the chord progression is just really fun to play. The song is “Abilene,” written a long time ago by a whole committee of legendary country writers. I only knew the words to one verse and the chorus (maybe in the song there’s only one verse and a chorus-maybe that’s why, I don’t know), and I suddenly felt in those words a reflection of my Zion dream, viz., people don’t treat you mean, everything’s free, and the singer really wants to be there instead of here. So I knocked out a couple more verses and sang the song (with public apologies to the committee):

              Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.

              People there don’t treat you mean in Abilene.

              (The lyric is “women,” but women are, of course, a prominent subset of  “people.”)


            Crowded city, ain’t nothin’ free-

            nothin’ in this town for me.

            Wish to the Lord that I could be in Abilene, my Abilene. (Here endeth the part I knew.)


            All the little children, like you and like me,

            lookin’ for Heaven in the top of the tree.

            I’m gonna climb til I can see Abilene, my Abilene.


            Gates of pearl, streets of gold.

            There’s a light in the night, so I’ve been told.

            So hold on tight, I’m gonna hit the road for Abilene, my Abilene.


                        Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.

                        People there don’t treat you mean in Abilene, my Abilene.


            Been gone so long I’m losin’ track of the facts.

            Is it a city on the plain, or is it Zion by the tracks?

            If it ain’t, I might have to settle for a reasonable facsimile, and that’s Abilene.


                        Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.

                        People there don’t treat you mean in Abilene, my Abilene.

I spent a week this summer at Wood Badge, which is an intensive training for front-line, in-the-trenches, hand-to-hand combat, dig-your-own-latrine Boy Scout leaders. I’m the Young Men’s secretary in my ward, so of course the bishop sent me. No, I was grateful-really. He was bringing me down slowly from the effects of the two-weeks-previous Boy Scout trek into the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, where we hiked about 25 miles and camped above 10,000 feet. We camped at about 7,000 feet and hiked only a mile or two every day at Wood Badge. (The preceding two sentences are presented in the form of a chiasmus, so that you may know that they’re true.)

Both experiences were difficult (I’m still limping-I come down stairs walking sideways) but both of them were profoundly rewarding. Because in both camps the values of the gospel, as embodied in the Scout Oath and Law, were lived, taught, and honored. In both camps the work and glory of the leaders was to lift and strengthen the followers and show them how to lead like Jesus led, how to serve like Jesus served.

As a consequence of Wyoming, my Achille’s tendons will never be the same, the bishop got a gash in his leg that threw him into septic shock, several boysfull of blood were consumed by mosquitoes, but it was worth it-together we reached the outskirts of Zion.

  Who would have thought the outskirts of Zion would be around a campfire? At Wood Badge we sustained the kinds of injuries that one might expect to suffer in, say, the temple. But though we didn’t earn it through suffering, there was Zion all around us. I think at Wood Badge we earned it by allowing ourselves to be loved and led. (There may be something in that!)

Hiking along in Wyoming, an actual Boy Scout leader asked me if I would write a song about our trip. I think I finished it this morning (might be hard to scan without hearing a banjo playing, but I have faith in your imagination): 

            Wind River creeks are cold as a polar bear’s

            toes, big rocks bangin’ up my hide.

            Give a little hand-won’t you help me over there?

            Toss my shoes to the other side.


            Wind River lakes are great for jumpin’ in,

            haulin’ out trout as long as your arm.

            Build a big blazin’ flame and dump em in-

            only way they’ll ever get warm.


                        We felt the fire in the mountain,

                        In every stream and stone.

                        In the loneliest of forests

                        We did not feel alone.


                        We heard the wind of the Spirit

                        through pines, just like a prayer.

                        Listen close and you may hear it

                        in the love we learned up there.


            Watchin’ all the big guys helpin’ all the little guys,

            carryin’ packs and carryin’ boys,

            Help me hike up high where the eagle flies.

            You and I were made for all these joys.


            Dryin’ my socks on a stick by the fireside,

            Breathin’ in smoke til my teeth turn brown,

            listenin’ to words of peace in the firelight,

            savorin’ the sound til the coals die down.


                        We felt the fire in the mountain,

                        In every stream and stone.

                        In the loneliest of forests

                        We did not feel alone.


                        We heard the wind of the Spirit

                        in the pines, just like a prayer.

                        Listen close and you may hear it

                        in the love we learned up there.

( 2014 by M. Payne, used by permission, cause hey, it’s me. All rights reserved, except maybe engraving on license plates.)

I’ve been wondering in these days if it’s even imaginable that the same principles that govern spiritual salvation might also govern temporal salvation (an essential element of Zion). In the former, we do all we can to grow goodness and be godly, and then have faith that Christ will fill the immeasurable gap between the best we can do and real success. Can the same be true of the latter? The Wood Badge guys and our Young Men’s leaders weren’t waiting around for someone to declare the official arrival of Zion before daring to live according to its beautiful laws. They just boldly stepped into the dream, dragging “the boys” along with them. That’s cool.

Zion, like Alpine, or Abilene, or Albuquerque, has a Founder. Unlike Alpine, Abilene, or Albuquerque, it also has a King. And its King is a Dreamer. The following lyric is at the end of two of my albums, many concerts, and this column: 

            I am not ashamed of who I am.

            I am a child of God, child of Heav’nly Father’s dream,

            And I belong to Him, and He knows who I am.

            I am not ashamed of how I feel.

            I know that love is real. Love is really all that lives.

            I feel my Savior’s love, and He knows how I feel.


                        I caused the scars He wears forever,

                        Yet He is never ahamed of me.


            I am not ashamed to say His name.

            His name is Jesus Christ, Jesus, light of all my dreams.

            I dream I see His face, and hear Him say my name.

Good dreams, both His and mine. They don’t make me laugh, but always make me smile.