Moral sensibility and Providence

I took my oldest camping last night for her daddy-daughter activity. We ended up in a canyon we didn’t know long after dark, trying to find a place to camp. We finally found an official campground (packing had consisted of throwing random warm clothing and sleeping bags into an old duffle; I remembered a stove but forgot to bring any food), but couldn’t find a tent spot amidst the endless rows of RVs. We ultimately found the camp host, who revealed to us that there was one tent spot that had just become available, and my daughter glowed with satisfaction at a prayer answered, as she revealed to me that she had prayed when we turned off the main road into the campground that we would find a spot. Her satisfaction turned to bemusement when we discovered that the only reason the spot became available was that the prior occupant had broken her wrist.

She puzzled over this circumstance much of the night and told me this morning–“I think that was just good luck for us. I don’t think God answered that prayer. He would never break a woman’s wrist just so that we could have a place to camp.” Still interested to explore the connection between her prayer and our wonderful night of camping, she announced a few moments later, “Actually, I think he was sad that she broke her wrist, and then after she broke her wrist, then he was ready to answer my prayer so that we could pitch our tent last night. I hope the woman will be okay.”

I think she’s ready to be baptized.


  1. On our way to Yellowstone my daughter prays “Please Lord guide thy brown bear to the campsite we hope to occupy, that he may be sated by the delicious hippies presently encamped thereon. Amen.”

  2. What a touching story. Thanks for sharing. What a great insight by your daughter.

  3. A very mature and heartwarming response. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Sam, what do you say to your daughter when she makes these statements? Do you guide the conversation down theologically correct pathways, as you understand them, or do you remain non-committal and neutral, to see where she goes?

  5. Sam,
    That is a great story (especially the part about forgetting to bring food). I’m also curious as to your response to Aaron B’s questions.

  6. I let her exercise her imagination mostly–if I think she’s wandering off into some intellectual/spiritual nonsense, I ask a couple of “socratic method” questions. She’s smarter/better than I am, so this comes up rarely. And I put myself in her shoes–if people tell me how to think I get mad, but if they let me imagine to myself that I have decided how to think, I’m fairly content. I assume she will be somewhat similar, though confess that I’m more clueless than most parents.

    gst, your daughter has a future in comedy, methinks. awesome image.

  7. gst, I’m most impressed by the fact that your daughter uses “sated” correctly in a sentence.

  8. hippies =/= delicious

    gst, why does your daughter pray for bad things to befall the grizzlies? Does she hate animals? Imagine a poor grizzly on an acid trip . . .

  9. Love this.

  10. Sam, you’re the best.

  11. Oh, that I could be so thoughtful.

  12. i miss that girl, and the opportunity to see her grow up … looks like you guys done good.

  13. Ha-ha-ha-ha! A kid praying in light hearted jest for gruesome death — oh-ho-ho-ho! — of people her parent doesn’t like. Praying ‘please God kill those in our way so we can have fun’. Ha-ha-ha! Ho-ho-ho! Moral sen — ho-ho-ho! — moral sensi — ha-ha-ha! — moral sensibil — he-he-he! — moral sensibility!

  14. James, meet gst.

    Thanks for this post, Sam. It is full of wisdom and thoughtfulness. My understanding of many things has evolved over time – but generally not this quickly. Your daughter sounds like an amazing girl.

  15. Latter-day Guy says:

    James, I sense some insincerity on your part when it comes to all the laughter.

    King Arthur: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t have bothered to carve ‘Aaaauuuggghhhh’. He’d just say it.
    Sir Galahad: Maybe he was dictating it.

  16. Corey, it’s residual effects from your influence rather than anything her incompetent parents have done. She’s a wonderful kid. And gets at the central tension of petitionary prayer in a way that is quite lucid.

  17. What great insight your daughter has, Sam. Wonderful story. Although, the Lord knows I would gladly offer up my wrist bones so that others could have a good camping experience, and would thereby have permission to snap them like dry twigs.

  18. This lovely story brings up a serious question for me:
    Is occasional or even monthly camping more important to the moral development of our youth at that age than the three hour block?

    Let me guess, Sam is probably like me. For whatever reason he lives in a place that is several hours drive from good camping. Like the LDS scouts in our ward , we leave the city on Friday night and drive or sit in traffic for 3-5 hours. Most of us are too busy with work and church callings to spend more than a hour to prepare. The boys are asleep in the car by the time they arrive at the camp site and set up the tents in a stuporous hurry. It always rains and they get wet then cold and want to go home the next morning. Sam mentions no food. I thought the point of car camping is eating. Like, my son is the only person I know strong enough to carry a Dutch oven and charcol on a ten mile hike.

    I also belong to a non-LDS trrop. We left early on Saturday morning the 11th on a camping trip and the drive was only 1 1/2 hours. I took the older boys (ages 14-16) on a 12 mile hike with loaded backpacks. The “dead weight dads” took the younger boys on a 3 mile hike. We met up and camped together at a perfect campsite by the Chattooga river where the movie Deliverance (1972) was filmed.

    Dinner was salomi and canned chicken with minute rice and minestrome soup mix. Others made chilli or jambalaya. I traded with a hungry ramen and pop tart scout a half pound of M&Ms for a brand new gas camping stove, then gave the stove back on condition that he shared the candy.

    Rain fell on and off alll day and heavily most of the night. We sat up late telling bear stories until a downpour doused the fire. Sunday dawned with a blue sky. Our nice little church service by the scouts in a grove of enormous white pines was about average. But on other trips the very best church meetings I have ever been to were done under these circumstances. The boys really listen to each other and I would suggest that this alone has a more powerful influence on them than a dozen three hour blocks.

    We hiked to one of our vehicles to be shuttled back where we originally parked 15 miles the other direction. The driver lost his keys. This set up the spontaneous 15 mile trail “fun run” for another leader and I and handful of the more athletic scouts. I might be twisted but I was secretly glad that he lost those keys allowing us another run through one of God’s cathedrals. We got home about 3 hours later than planned.

    When you realize how boys that age think and how they learn, and what gets through to them; I am really hard pressed to come up with anything they might do at church that would be better than at a camping trip. I am not advocating no church. Rather a return to a pattern common in the remote past, when LDS scouts camped on Sunday once a month.

    As you might imagine the members of my ward strongly disagree with me, with two results. First, my son has exceptional scouting skills and a reservoir of wonderful memories of over a hundred trips and has incorporated the ideals of scouting into personal integrity of steel. His LDS friends harbor resentment towards him and hate scouting and everything associated with it and have the usual problems with flakiness.

    As for the girls, don’t even get me started. Our ward doesn’t do hardly a d****d thing in comparison……

  19. Mike, I don’t object to camping Sundays (I have many times). I first began to imagine the otherworld as a glorious place as a result of camping. My concern with troop absences is that this might put more work on already beleaguered women, who would have to tend the small children at church.

  20. Why not bring some of these beleaguered women along ?Let the men who don’t like to camp run the primary and SS once in awhile. (It might kindle some interest in camping.)

    Which brings up the next issue, women serving in Mormon boy scout troops. Strictly verboten in our ward. Boys need adult male role models but the women in the non-LDS troop do more than half of the administrative work and their contribution is critical.

    Women at camping trips, for one example, tend to demand a higher level of courtesy and cleanliness. Most are not up for the 15 mile fun run or even 10 miles with a 50 lb pack. But they add to the trip in unique and valuable ways.

    The inconsistency of our ward scouting practice is revealed at summer camp. We attend a large top-notch non-LDS camp serving each week over a thousand scouts and hundreds of adult leaders including about 25% women. Almost every merit badge is offered there and a well supervised scout can earn 4-5 in a week every summer. But ward level camping trips do not allow any LDS women. So it is ok for the Mormon boys to camp with non-LDS women for a week to get that Eagle but not LDS women in the ward for one night???

  21. Not all camping and character leads to the good. Take the Civil War. Millions of boys of good character out camping, and killing each other by the hundred of thousands.

  22. living in zion says:

    #21- Bob,
    You are not someone I would invite to a dinner party.

  23. #22 — yes, but maybe to a Civil War re-enactment?

  24. I would invite living in zion to a monster truck race.

  25. Hell I invite all of you to a monster truck race. Bigfoot vs. Truckzilla.

  26. #22: That’s OK__I’m busy that night.
    #23: Read “Confederate In My Attic” to learn how one must conduct himself at a Civil War re-enactment.

  27. #26 – Is composure and demeanor at a Civil War re-enactment anything like ComiCon or a Star Wars re-enactment (Return of the Jedi in particular)?

  28. #22: No-no-no! The guys who want to play Rebels have to dress in dirty rags, eat spoiled food, die a lot, and sleep in the cold. The Yankees, (that would be me), are those who want to have cool uniforms (dried cleaned), women cooking great food, and “put on airs”.

  29. Rebels sleeping in the cold?!? That’s not Return of the Jedi…it’s Empire Strikes Back.

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