Sacrifice by Fire

“Sacrifice by Fire,” New Era, Mar. 1978, 8

Sacrifice by Fire

Anyone passing the cottage of Emrys Davis on that autumn evening would have stopped to smell the aroma that was coming from the chimney. It was different from the usual smell of coal smoke. If they could have looked inside they would have seen an incident almost beyond belief.

But first, let us get acquainted with Mr. Emrys Davis. He was born and still lived in a little Welsh village that has a name that only Welshmen can pronounce. His life was quite simple. He worked as a clerk at a nearby colliery (coal mine), and several evenings a week he would visit the local pub and indulge in a pint of beer and watch his fellow villagers play billiards or throw darts.

There were other evenings when he stayed home and read his Bible, for deep inside Emrys Davis was a religious man. He had been approached on one occasion by the minister of a local church and invited to become a member. He had refused and had embarrassed the minister by saying that his sermons were pure “posh” and did not agree with the scriptures. That was several years ago and there had been no further invitations.

A tragedy had come into his life when his beloved wife of just two years had died at childbirth. Somehow, he could not bring himself to believe that he and Gwyneth whom he loved so well were separated forever.

Then one evening, as he was sitting by his fireside reading his Bible, a knock came at his door. Upon answering he faced two young men. Before he could even ask what they wanted, one of them said, “We are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We would like to tell you of our church and doctrines.”

Emrys Davis was about to close the door in their faces, thinking to himself that their teachings would probably be more “posh,” when he took a second look at these young men. There was something different about them that he could not quite understand. He saw in their faces truthfulness, sincerity and courage.

Going against his stubborn Welsh background, he heard himself say, “Come on in.” As the flames from the fire reflected on their faces, these two young men unfolded for him a story that made his Bible come to life. What he thought would be just more “posh” was something that touched the chords of his whole being. At midnight the young men left with a sincere invitation from Emrys to return.

A few evenings later they returned and continued the gospel discussions. Then came that magical evening when the prayer of his heart was answered. The missionaries explained to him the law of eternal marriage, that he and his departed wife could be reunited through accepting and following the teachings of the gospel and by being sealed in the temple of the Lord.

His very soul seemed to come alive, and he knew he had found the truth. However, there was one encumbrance before he could be baptized: he loved his tobacco. The beer at the pub would be no problem, but through the years he had collected a variety of pipes for smoking. There were briars, meerschaums, and pipes from many different lands. They were part of his life.

He had requested baptism, but now he wondered if he had the courage to overcome this part of his life. Over his mantle were those pipes in a glass case. They looked down on him like an idol seeking worship.

That night he kneeled by his bedside and prayed for an answer. When the morning light broke over the Welsh hills, his answer came. The Lord had said through his prophet that tobacco was not good for man and that the Spirit of God would not dwell in an unclean tabernacle.

The next Sunday after sacrament meeting, Emrys Davis invited the members of his branch to his cottage. He had made Welsh cakes and lemonade, and after the refreshments were served, he asked for the attention of his guests.

“For some time,” he said, “I have faced a difficult problem, but tonight as we sang the closing hymn, the solution came to me. We sang, ‘Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.’” He then explained the problem of the pipes.

When he was through, he reached above the mantle and took down the case of pipes. One by one he dropped them into the fire and watched them being devoured by the flames.

On each side of him stood the missionaries and in back were the branch members. Outside the air was scented with briar and meerschaum, but inside was the Spirit of God.

Illustrated by Jon Burton