Another faith-promoting encounter with law enforcement

Another faith-promoting encounter with law enforcement April 23, 2023


Hopi Point view of Arizona's Grand Canyon
A view over the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point  (Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)


I’m still somewhat in the autobiographical vein, and I’ve elected to continue what I began yesterday with yet another story — one that I, anyhow, find amusing — of how my affiliation with the Church (or more specifically, in this case, with its flagship university) helped me in dealing with traffic tickets given by law enforcement.  I’m pretty confident that I’ve told this story here before, but a hasty search of my blog failed to find mention of it, so I’ll tell it again.  I’m of a sufficiently advanced age that writing my personal history is probably a fairly prudent use of my time on Sundays.

Back in 1985, not long after I joined the faculty at Brigham Young University, I found occasion to drive down for a long weekend with my wife and children to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I had only been there once before, when I was still quite young, and I wanted to see it again and for my family to see it.  (I’m embarrassed to say that, even now, I’ve spent relatively little time looking at the wonders in my own backyard:  I’ve been to Israel and Egypt and the Berner Oberland far more often than I’ve been to Moab or Yellowstone or Bryce Canyon, and, although I’ve flown over it several times, I’ve actually visited the Grand Canyon on maybe only four occasions over the course of my entire life.  Something that badly needs to be rectified.

My parents came over from southern California for the occasion, and my wife’s parents came down from Denver, so it was a great family occasion as they were able to spend time with their grandkids in a genuinely spectacular landscape.


The main drag of Kanab
In downtown Kanab, Utah — roughly comparable to Manhattan’s Broadway or Fifth Avenue (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Anyway, after the visit to the North Rim, we all went our separate ways home.  As my wife and kids and I approached the outskirts of the town of Kanab, Utah, a police car going the other way flashed its lights at me and the officer inside motioned for me to pull over to the side of the road.  Surprised, I reasoned that he must have noticed something mechanical that needed attention.

When he had turned around, he exited his car and came up to my window.  “Do you realize how fast you were going?” he asked me.  I said that, yes, I did.  The speed limit on that road was fifty-five miles an hour, but I was probably going very nearly sixty.  I had been watch the road rather than the speedometer, but I was probably going a little under sixty or maybe just a little over that.  The same speed as everybody else on the road.  “No,” he said, “you were going eighty-five miles per hour.”  I said that it was flatly impossible that I had been going so fast.  I surely would have been aware of that.  Anyhow, our piece-of-junk station wagon probably couldn’t go eighty-five miles per hour, and I was confident that, even if it could, the thing would almost certainly have shaken apart had I attempted such a velocity.

Unfazed and unmoved, he wrote me out a ticket and drove away.  However, the ticket indicated that, if I wanted to challenge my traffic citation or talk to authorities, I could go to the Highway Patrol office, which was located just through town on the opposite side.  And I did want to challenge it.  So did my wife.  We really felt that this was an injustice.  Usually when I’ve been given a traffic ticket, I have been sailing along too fast or have done something wrong.  (I don’t deny the justice of the two traffic stops that I mentioned in yesterday’s post, for example.)  Not this time, though.  And, rather uniquely, this time my wife was on my side.

So we drove through town and pulled into the Highway Patrol office.  Unfortunately, the receptionist/secretary told us, the judge (or whatever his job title was) was out of the office for the next couple of hours.  He was also a serving Latter-day Saint bishop, it turned out, and he was conducting a funeral.  Did we want to wait until he returned?  Not particularly, we said.  We had little kids with us and still quite some distance to drive.  But we really did want to challenge the traffic citation.

So she asked us to show her the ticket and to give her our side of the story.  She listened, looked at the citation, and commented “Oh.  This is from Bob [I don’t actually remember what his name was -dcp].  He never has learned to use his radar.”

She asked to see my driver’s license.  I handed it to her, explaining that I hadn’t yet received my Utah driver’s license, so the car’s registration and license plates and my license were still California-issue.  We had only recently moved to the state.  (The weather was still warm, so this may have been around August, or so, before the beginning of Fall term.  We may have been escaping the crowds that attend BYU Education Week.)

“What made you move from California to Utah?” she asked.  I explained that I had just joined the faculty at Brigham Young University.  “Oh,” she said, visibly warming up to us.  “My daughter is a student at BYU.”

She thought for a few seconds and then said, “Look.  I don’t have a Utah address for you.  All I have — it’s on your driver’s license — is a California address.  Don’t pay the fine now.  I’ll send reminders of the fine to that California address.  I’ll do that three or four times, and then, when you haven’t responded, I’ll just write it off and trash the citation.  Not worth the effort to collect it.”

So that’s exactly what we did.

I offer this story to you as yet another inspiring example of the temporal benefits that clean living and righteousness can bring to the faithful.



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