The headlines read, “Half a Million Evacuated”, and “Firestorm!” I jumped every time the phone rang, hoping to hear from friends and relatives whose homes stood in the path of those raging wildfires. By 10:00pm, we still hadn’t heard from our foster daughter and her family. Mentally, I knew they were safe but I needed to hear it from them. I wanted to hear Yun’s voice and know they were okay. About 10:30pm, I jumped when the phone rang its distinctive double, long distance ring. Yun was safe. Her family was safe. Even their dog was safe. My entire body shook with relief as I placed the phone back in its cradle and sent a prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father.
Of course, the fire continues to weigh heavily on my mind. As I write this, it’s still raging and thousands of people are facing the possibility of losing their homes and businesses. But I have suddenly became aware of something that has changed my perspective. Yes, the fire is dangerous. Sometimes it is so powerful, there is nothing we can humanly do except get out of the way and watch it burn. It is a visible threat to our worldly goods and even our mortal bodies. However, when all is said and done, and the fires are extinguished, homes will be relocated or rebuilt, businesses and schools will reopen and life will go on. Of course, that’s the simple version. We are forever changed through the experience, but life will go on. Even those who lost their mortal lives will go on in Spirit. They’re just in a different place.
There are greater dangers to our well-being than physical firestorms. They are the spiritual firestorms that threaten the eternal salvation of our souls. What makes these firestorms so dangerous is that if we are not armed with the power and tools of the Spirit, we can’t see them coming. While physical wildfires send up red and orange flames and thick, acrid smoke, spiritual wildfires are more like carbon monoxide, invisible and odorless, and we don’t realize we’re in danger until it’s almost too late.
Fortunately, our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered in Gethsemane and sacrificed his own life in order to make that power available to us. Faith, repentance, baptism, obedience, and service are the tools we use to call upon that power to fight these spiritual wildfires. The Holy Spirit strengthens us and teaches us how to use these tools. Messages from the scriptures and latter-day prophets give us guidance and direction.
When an angel appeared to Amulek and called him to feed and shelter the prophet Alma, the angel promised Amulek he would be blessed of the Lord. Amulek bore testimony of those blessings:
“And again, I know that the things whereof he hath testified are true; for behold I say unto you, that as the Lord liveth, even so has he sent his angel to make these things manifest unto me; and this he has done while this Alma hath dwelt at my house. For behold, he hath blessed mine house, he hath blessed me, and my women, and my children, and my father, and my kinsfolk; yea, even all my kindred hath he blessed, and the blessing of the Lord hath rested upon us according to the words which he spake.” (Alma 10:11)
Another example of the far reaching effects we can have as we use the tools of righteousness was given by Pres. Dallin H. Oaks. While speaking to a group of Church leaders outside the United States, he admonished them to teach the members to pay a full tithe and by so doing, bless their entire nations. “When the people of God withheld their tithes and offerings, Malachi condemned “this whole nation” (Mal. 3:9). Similarly, I believe that when many citizens of a nation are faithful in the payment of tithes, they summon the blessings of heaven upon their entire nation. The Bible teaches that “righteousness exalteth a nation” (Prov. 14:34) and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9; see Matt. 13:33).” (“Tithing”, Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, May 1994, 33-35.)
Spencer W. Kimball taught, “To be a righteous woman is a glorious thing at any age. To be a righteous woman during the winding up scene on this earth, before the second coming of our Savoir, is an especially noble calling.” (“Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 103.) As women of the Church, we have been given tremendous responsibilities. We have the power available to us to fulfill these responsibilities—to extinguish the flames of those spiritual firestorms. If we are as diligent about fighting our spiritual firestorms as we are about fighting the physical ones, we will bring great blessings to our families, the Church, and to the world.