Fire on the Mountain


(Based on an experience that happened to the author when he was a boy)
He will teach you what to do; God is watching over you (Children’s Songbook, page 229).

Hiking into the foothills and onto the mountain east of Manti, Utah, was a favorite activity for me when I was growing up. One crisp fall day when I was about ten years old, my friend and I decided to go for a hike.

My mother carefully wrapped two peanut butter and jam sandwiches and pieces of raisin pie in waxed paper and put them and an apple apiece in brown paper bags for us to take for our lunches.

I enjoyed the cool, fresh air and the smell of the fields and orchards as we made our way past the outskirts of town, past one neighbor’s farm and through another’s apple orchard. The trees were loaded with delicious red apples.

We were each carrying a large burlap sack, as we hoped to find pine nuts. As we took the narrow trail through the sagebrush and into the junipers, we found a piñon pine tree here and there, and a few pinecones.

We put the cones, sticky with fresh pine gum, into our burlap sacks, with the knowledge that each hard, green cone contained a number of pine nuts locked tightly inside it. I loved pine nuts then; I still do. The Indians liked them, too, but they gathered them for survival. They made a pine-nut bread that was half pine nuts and half grasshoppers. I preferred my pine nuts straight.

My friend and I climbed higher until we came to a maze of flat, white rocks laid out so that they formed a huge letter “M” visible throughout the valley below. At the top right side of this letter, we found a large, flat rock and sat down to rest. Taking our shoes off to cool our feet on this smooth rock, we enjoyed looking down on Manti, out across the fields and valleys, and beyond. The air was clean and clear, and we could smell the mixture of sage, juniper, and pine. It was good to be alive!

So that we could roast some of our pine nuts, we gathered dry brush and limbs and started a fire. It was soon blazing quite high—too high!

The flames caught onto a nearby clump of sagebrush, then another and another. It looked as though it would soon spread to the whole mountainside and be a forest fire. We had learned to put a fire out by pouring water on it, but we had no water, so we tried to beat it out with our burlap sacks, but every time we beat at the fire, it seemed to fan out and spread more. In desperation my friend said, “I’ll go for help.” He pulled his shoes on and took off running down the mountain.

I was alone! I went to my knees in prayer. “Father in Heaven, help me put this fire out.” This is all I remember saying. I don’t know what I expected. There was not a cloud in the sky, and it didn’t suddenly start to rain. I didn’t hear a voice telling me what to do, but He answered my prayer.

Before I’d even gotten off my knees, I was impressed to start throwing dirt on the nearest burning bush, and then on the next one. I threw dirt on another, and another until I had encircled the entire fire and had it under control and only smoke was left blowing up on the mountain where the fire had been.

I had not heard a voice saying, “Throw dirt on the fire,” but I had felt strongly impressed to do it. In some way Heavenly Father had conveyed that intelligence to my mind. If I forgot to thank Him then, I have thanked Him many times since then!

I am grateful, too, for the way He answered my prayer. He didn’t put the fire out. He could have, but I’m glad that He didn’t. I would have been embarrassed. Instead, He allowed me the dignity of putting the fire out, which boosted my self-confidence and helped me realize that I could solve difficult problems with His help.

I learned many lifelong lessons from this experience, the first being to not start a fire next to brush with a breeze blowing. More important, I learned that the prayer of a small boy on a mountain would be heard and answered. I also learned that Heavenly Father will generally not do for us what we can do for ourselves but will prompt us to use our own intelligence, our own strength, and the materials at hand, such as the dirt under our feet.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann