Fire on the Mountain

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“Fire on the Mountain,” Liahona, Sept. 1996, 3

Fire on the Mountain

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 10 years old, my friend and I decided to go for a hike.

My mother carefully wrapped two peanut butter and jam sandwiches and two 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 piñion pine tree here and there and a few pinecones.

We put the cones, sticky with fresh pine gum, into our burlap sacks, knowing that each hard, green cone held 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 without grasshoppers.

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 (for “Manti,” the name of our town). This huge letter could be seen from the valley below. We picked out one of the large, flat rocks and sat down on it to rest. Taking our shoes off to cool our feet on the smooth rock, we enjoyed looking down on Manti, out across the fields and valleys, and beyond. There was a soft breeze in the clean, clear air, and we could smell the mixture of sage, juniper, and pine. It felt so good to be alive!

We gathered dry brush and limbs so that we could make a fire to roast some of our pine nuts. We lit the brush, and soon it was blazing quite high—too high!

The flames caught onto one nearby clump of sagebrush, then another and another. It looked as if our little fire would soon spread to the whole mountainside and become a forest fire. We had no water to put out the fire with, 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 Heavenly Father did answer 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. Soon 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 idea to my mind.

I am grateful for the way Heavenly Father answered my prayer. He did not put the fire out. 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 important lessons from this experience. The first lesson I learned was 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.

Illustrated by Paul Mann