It was Vernon Hamblin found it. He saw it scampering along the side of the highway out on the stretch of the Arizona Strip just north of Molly’s Nipple. Vernon said his first thought was to offer it food. Luckily, he had half a stale Big Hunk bar in his denim jacket. The creature gulped it down and gave him a nod. Vernon nodded at the truck. It climbed right in and sat down.
You might be wondering why I’m telling this story at this difficult, strange time in our nation’s history, but please bear with me for just a moment, brothers and sisters.
Everybody has a different opinion on what it looked like. But as I recollect, it had a squashed, fuzzy face with big doe eyes and small round ears. Pudgy hands and feet. A lot of light brown fur or hair. It was a short thing, but plump. Like a very large toddler crossed with a koala bear. Or a pug crossed with a chimpanzee. Vernon thought it a pre-adolescent Sasquatch. I don’t know about that. Not even with those internet videos floating around. We called it a lot of different things, but the one that stuck was Shirleen’s. She called it the fuzzy cherub. I’m not saying that’s what they are. The scriptures aren’t exactly clear on what cherubim look like. But that’s what we called it.
Well, Vernon lived in a sheep trailer out on the Strip so he figured he better drive the fuzzy cherub into Kanab and have his sister Shirleen look after it. You might think he’d’ve gone straight to the authorities. But if there’s one thing you should know about Vernon, it’s that he wasn’t much for the government. Can’t say I blame him considering all that’s happened in the decades since.
Now, it just so happened that I was ward teaching Shirleen and her family when he arrived. First thing Shirleen said when she saw the fuzzy cherub was: “Aw, fer cute.” Second thing was: “Chauncey, dear, run off to the kitchen and grab that tin of leftover divinity.”
I suppose now that I think about it, it seems obvious. But at the time we thought it an inspired choice.
Anyway, after the fuzzy cherub gobbled the divinity down, we all tried talking to it. Trotted out all the languages we knew from missions and Hollywood pictures and such. But although it always looked like it was listening carefully, it never said anything back. Not a word. Not a sound.
I soon had to get going to another appointment. They swore me to secrecy, and I offered some words of blessing for them, their home and the fuzzy cherub.
As Chauncey told me later, when Sunday rolled around, Vernon came back in from the Strip to check up on the fuzzy cherub. Shirleen decided that it shouldn’t be left by itself and insisted that it go to church with the family and that Vernon go too. Now, Vernon didn’t go to his meetings often, and he pointed out that it’d make more sense for him to stay home with it, but once Shirleen makes up her mind about something it’s not likely to be changed, especially not when it comes to living the gospel. One of the twins pointed out that it probably shouldn’t be going to church naked. It took some experimenting with sizing and what the cherub would tolerate, but in the end it was willing to wear one of the girl’s old denim skirts and a maroon knit tie.
I was near the back of the overflow in the cultural hall and even I didn’t see them sneak onto the stage. I don’t think anybody else noticed either, although there’s some who’ll claim they did. But right before the closing hymn, I could feel something looking at me. I turned around, and there was the fuzzy cherub standing on the edge of the stage peering keenly out across the congregation. Vernon tried to shoo it back behind the curtain, but it easily eluded him and began dancing back and forth just out of reach.
About halfway through the first verse of “Come, Come Ye Saints” the cherub started singing along. Wasn’t the right words. But the syllables fit, and the melody was spot on. During the second verse, it added an alto harmony. Mind you it was still singing the melody too. Somehow it was singing both parts at the same time. On the third verse, it sang all four parts, and by the time we hit the fourth verse most of the congregation had stopped singing and turned around in their seats to listen to the fuzzy cherub who now was singing tones and chords that sounded more like it had a full orchestra in its throat. There was not a dry eye in the room when it reached the phrase “But if our lives are spared again” even though it sounded more like “Duthb ev row frize ull strod akim.”
And then the rolling crescendos it hit during the last rendition of the chorus… Well, only the Adamic language could accurately describe what that was like.
In the sacred, stunned silence that followed, the fuzzy cherub somehow escaped or disappeared. A search was organized, but the cherub wasn’t found anywhere. Eventually, the authorities were brought in. They quickly labeled it a mass hysteria and moved on. Maybe it was for some. But I know what I saw. And what I heard.
To this day, there are some who say it was all some kind of hoax cooked up by Vernon Hamblin. Some of the oldtimers don’t even correctly remember what happened. You’ll hear them talking about that time some young Hamblin cousins came down from Parowan and sang so beautifully in church. But I always believed differently. I always believed that it was preparing those who had open hearts and open minds for something yet to come. Something like what happened last Tuesday.