Sustained through Fire
January 1982

“Sustained through Fire,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 34–35

Sustained through Fire

During the months following my baptism I came to depend on the Spirit for guidance, recalling frequently Moroni’s words, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. … Deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men.” (Moro. 10:5, 7.) It wasn’t long before I discovered how truly helpless we are without that help.

One January day in 1978 I was diligently working at my job in the factory, when my supervisor came and asked me to work in the baler room with two other men. There, cardboard is crushed and made into bales, and damaged or outdated products are destroyed. One man helped me bale, while another began crushing aerosol cans—2,500 of them. The fumes were heavy. At 8:20 A.M. a forklift came to take away some of the bales.

I was standing about two feet from the forklift when the operator pushed the forks forward. Suddenly it seemed as though someone had ignited a flame-thrower. The first flames shot at me from under the forklift, and instantly the entire room was on fire. I was blown into a pit about two and a half feet wide, eight feet long, and ten feet deep. My clothes were burning, and the pit was on fire. Then there was a terrific explosion as 2,500 aerosol cans exploded.

I quickly came to terms with the fact that I was dying. Then, suddenly, I began to feel an inner strength. Holding on to the baling machine, I started climbing out of the blazing pit. The machine was red hot, and every effort at climbing burned my hands painfully. But with that inner strength given me, I continued to climb. My clothes were virtually burned off my body.

The room was a shambles, and I couldn’t see any other workers. I kept repeating Moroni 10:5–7 [Moro. 10:5–7], the passage I had learned to rely on so heavily. Finally, I found a hole in the wall that had been created by the explosion and pushed through it. Later someone told me that as I was coming through that hole, the entire wall was collapsing, yet none of the cinder blocks touched me. One of the men on the docks opened a door so I could get into the main part of the plant. I didn’t see the other three men, but I found out later that they escaped through the back and went outside. One of the plant workers, an ex-navy corpsman, stayed with me.

When the ambulance arrived, I was immediately transported to a burn center, where several attendants cut off the rest of my clothes and then applied wet bandages. The doctor said I had suffered second- and third-degree burns over 43 percent of my body.

When the initial examination was over, I said, “I am a Mormon. I would like to receive a blessing.” That afternoon two missionaries came and administered to me; in the evening my bishop, my home teacher, and a good friend gave me another blessing in which I was promised that I would live, have full use of my hands, and would heal exceptionally fast. The inner strength that I experienced while I was on fire in the pit came back and remained with me.

Twice I nearly died, but I always felt at peace with myself. I believe this was the result of my blessing. After the first two weeks I began to improve, and the healing was truly miraculous. Two days before skin grafting was to begin on my right hand and wrist, the therapist removed the bandages and said my hand had nearly healed; skin had grown where they thought it impossible to grow. “Let me see the miracle hand,” the doctor said, and expressed amazement that healing could take place so rapidly. I was out of the hospital in five weeks—about half the estimated time.

I know the inner strength I received was the power of the Holy Ghost, and through this power I was healed. Without that power, I would surely have perished in the flames.

  • Stephen Cherry, a dock loader, works with the Young Men in the Elkton Branch, Maryland.