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state: first draft
last update: 1999 June 14

The Confused American

Chapter 4 - The Mormon Of The Mountain

By Kevin Kelleher

As far as Soviet Ambassador Byronovich was concerned with bringing Sarkhan into the sphere of Soviet control, he had few obstacles in view. The American Ambassador, Bouganvillea, was a positive help. The American OSS men, with their absurd make-up and lack of sensitivity were a positive help. There was really only one mote to trouble his mind's eye: Brigham Marriner.

Marriner was a Mormon missionary, an American, but his ways were disturbingly similar to those of the Russian infiltrators: he lived with the natives, he ate their food and spoke their language. Of course, he wore western clothes, but for the Sarkhans it was not an important point.

Marriner was a big, blond man, over six feet, with wide shoulders, long arms and legs, and big, strong hands. He had the look of an ex-football player who'd lost none of his hardness.

Like Byronovich, Marriner had scored a coup during the rice famine. He'd been in the mountains a year, suffering as the natives suffered, but gathering at the same time a small but devoted body of converts. The Russian and American governments sent their rice to the region at the same time, but the American trucks got caught in a long strip of mirey road and could not move. Marriner and a troop of his carriers bore the rice away and distributed it. That was not all, but that much impressed Byronovich. It meant that Marriner had some source of intelligence, probably through the locals: he'd known, for instance, not only that the rice was coming, but what route it would take, and where it would stall. And he was personally impressive enough to relieve the convoy of its rice.

The US lost nothing by giving Marriner the rice. Marriner made no claims; he simply distributed the rice. The bags were marked "Gift of the US Government," so the press got all the photos they wanted of a people relieved of starvation by the US government.

However, Marriner looked ahead, and stockpiled an incredible percentage of the rice in a cave somewhere, and continued to distribute rice after both governments had forgotten. Every mountain peasant who came to Marriner received rice - rice without a sermon - just rice. They all knew why he was there; he didn't need to say. Marriner's stature grew in an indelible and irresistible way.

Byronovich knew that if he were to succeed, Marriner would have to go. But the Mormon of the Mountains, as he was called, always saw the Russian infiltrators coming from afar. It seemed impossible to surprise him. The Russians sought in vain for some way to discredit him. The press was useless in this way; most of the mountain people couldn't read.

Byronovich sent for whatever information could be gleaned from Russian intelligence in the US. It was unremarkable and useless information.

Marriner's family lived in Oregon. His father was a very wealthy businessman. Marriner's academic career was not unusual: his grades were fair to good; he played football and swam competitively.

Byronovich was disappointed: no shadows, no secrets, no weaknesses? The man's psychology seemed impossible to penetrate. Byronovich wished he could meet the man, but that, too, was unlikely.

Byronovich searched in vain for an explanation of Marriner's zeal, for the secret source of his dedication was not recorded anywhere, and Marriner was the only witness left alive.

As a teenager, he'd been sent as a missionary to Europe. Not because he was pious, but for quite the opposite reason. The Mormon church's strategy was to throw their youth into situations in which their religion would be challenged, and so be turned in the struggle from religion into faith. In Marriner the process was not very successful, until one night in Germany when he ran into a gang of street kids. The gang was preparing for a fight with a rival gang, and they roughed Marriner up a bit, but only a little. He spoke to them about God. Oen of the gang members pushed his way up to the young Mormon and said, in a voice of venom, "Man, there is no God! No heaven, no hell! What you see is all: there is money, there is poverty; oppression and resistence. One day we will overthrow it all, and make a new order. This what Marx and Lenin have taught us: that we must be free from the chains of this illusion - this religion, which is a poison, and the opiate of the people."

Marriner had never heard that phrase before, but it haunted his thoughts. He'd never encountered a thorough-going militant atheist before and it shocked him.

For a year he studied the works of the Communists and Socialists. He read Marx, Engles, Lenin and Stalin. He studied Hegel and history. And he thought deeply over all he read. He took long walks and nearly wept at the poverty and disease that every city is filled with; he grew disgusted at the corruption and disappation of the wealthier classes. And at long last, he emerged on the other side of his reading, study and experience with the feeling that he'd passed through a vast and hopeless desert. Communism was not the answer; there was no good in cutting man off from any hope a world after death; there was no point in DENYING God, though we may not know him.

The decisive factor in Brigham Marriner's psychological struggle was his home life. His father had money, more money than Brigham had realized. However, he was not dissolute; he was frugal, yet generous. He gave to the poor, and promoted the public good. He supported a large number of needy relatives and friends. And he did all this gladly.

Although Brigham grew up thinking, as most boys do, that his father was a great fool, he now began to see him in a different light. His father was a strong and compassionate man, and did what little good he could for a sorry, pain-filled world.

Marriner could see that there was another way, and many subsequent negative experiences with Communists convinced him that here was an evil to be resisted. He also had arrived at Faith.

By and through a long series of circumstances and coincidences, Marriner devoted the rest of his life to missionary work, and landed at length in the mountains of Sarkhan, and squared off against a sorry, pain-filled world.

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