Following are excerpts from a letter sent by Chris Rothey to his family in Ogden, Utah a few months after arriving in the Italy Catania Mission. The family sent the letter to the Church News, which published the excerpts in its January 20, 1990 edition.

Palace of Kings

by Elder Chris Rothey


It was Thursday. The sun had long since left the sky as the old diesel car clattered over the bumpy dirt road. The past two days had seen non-stop torrents of rain, creating thousands of tiny lakes filling every pothole.

My mind wandered, thinking how strange it was to be in the country on a dirt road, passing houses that didn't seem to fit into the thousands of years of Sicilian history.

But that thought was quickly chased out of my mind as I suddenly saw, off to the right, a giant three-story house that [looked like it] had been teleported from Beverly Hills to this barren Italian countryside.

Instead of bringing the car to the front of the house, however, the road took us past it, and we stopped in front of a shed about 25 yards behind. Why were we stopping here -- the home of a rich man's lawnmower, rakes, and forgotten furniture?

But my wonder quickly turned to horror. A 30-year-old woman appeared at the window. People . . . humans . . . live in this shack! I was amazed.

But horror soon turned to pity. There existed no threshold: there was no difference between the barren, trampled dirt without and the hardened, swept dirt within. The kitchen table was an old yellow desk, ready to fall. The oven was an old water heater cut in half with places for logs in the bottom.

Clothes were dirty; hands were dirty; the house was dirty -- for it was made of dirt. And in my mind I kept thinking of the word "shed," for this could never be a "house," not to mention a "home."

But then, the pity I felt changed to yet another emotion: compassion and envy.

Here, in a lean-to, was a home, and it was a home more beautiful than any chateau lining any seashore. Tears swelled in my eyes as I saw these people -- this beautiful family -- these children of God -- loving one another as I had rarely seen before.

The two boys were always smiling. I caught their smile as the little 7-year-old pulled on my arm. I leaned down to see what he wanted, and he kissed my cheek.

I felt ashamed standing there in my precious clothes, hiding behind my glasses worth more than their entire kitchen set. I felt poor; they had love and beauty worth more than anything man could possess. Their home was furnished with love, humility, simpleness, and the gospel of our older brother, Jesus Christ.

I learned something that night -- not a lesson that is heard from a teacher and copied from a blackboard into a notebook -- but a lesson that is felt. A lesson that the heart never forgets. I had some values in the wrong places.

And there, somewhere outside of ancient Syracuse, I was blessed enough to visit the palace of kings in the eyes of God. A glimpse through His spectacles has improved my vision permanently.