Some three months after I was baptized a frightening and very real challenge was presented to my fledgling faith and new membership in the Church. I shall never forget it.
We lived on a beautiful farm just outside of Rolla, Missouri at the northern end of the Ozarks and in the midst of a verdant forest. I should more accurately describe our 200 acres as a spread of rolling hills covered with woods and beautiful fields and meadows-but mainly thick deciduous woods.
Our home sat on a lovely hill facing to the south, overlooking a beautiful valley and hills. A lone, small gravel road connected us to the outside world. In the distance, some 6/10 of a mile away, we could see old Route 66 that was soon to become Interstate 44. The service roads had been put in for the Interstate on the north and the south of the new four-lane freeway. On the south side of the far service road was a train track. My brother and I used to listen for the trains that would come and we would then run to our living room window and sit on the couch while we counted the cars being pulled by the large diesel engines. I believe our record was 178 cars.
The spring had brought no rain that year and our land was as dry as it had ever been. The tall grasses had all turned brown. The little intermittent creek in the bottomland was nearly dry, with only a few muddy water holes remaining and those full of tadpoles, minnows, and covered with active water skippers.
It was a Sunday afternoon. In those days we met from 9:00 until 12:00 in the morning and then we came back for sacrament meeting at 6:00 in the evening. Our Bishop, Mervin Petersen, was getting ready to move to Colorado and he and his family were over for dinner. My father was his counselor. My Dad would be called to be Bishop in a couple of weeks.
I remember so vividly walking out on our front porch with my Dad. The wind was especially strong that day, gusting to forty and fifty miles an hour. A gust literally picked me up off the porch and my father grabbed my hand as I was nearly blown away. I felt like a sheet hung on the line to dry, flapping in the wind.
At that moment a train made it’s way from the west to the east with its heavy loads and many-score cars. It was making a lot of noise for some reason—high-pitched squeaking sounds. A number of the wheels of some of the cars were locked in place. With that metal on metal they were throwing sparks out all along the tracks-so much so that we could see the large trails of sparks—like large sparklers—coming from those wheels.
Many dry leaves were swirling in the wind along the base of the tracks and some of them caught fire. In fact there were several little fires along the track in our view. Within moments some of those burning leaves were carried by the wind across the service road, then the four-lane freeway and the other service road and came like fire-arrows down upon our forest on the south.
From that moment it seemed like things happened faster than I could calculate them. Our beautiful, dry forest was now ablaze and because of the high winds was spreading very quickly. Our Bishop’s family left immediately, but not the Bishop. It was soon apparent that the fire was very serious. Sacrament meeting was called off and all the brethren were called upon to help. “There’s a large fire at the Proctor’s place. We need your help,” the Bishop said as he called the brethren.
A small power line ran through these very woods bringing us the electricity we needed, not only for our lights and appliances, but for the pump on our well that gave us water. If the power line was burned we would have no ability to pump water to protect our home. My father gave my 11-year-old brother and me some instructions. “Fill every thing you can see with water. Any container you can find, fill it with water. You must do this quickly. And continue working until I give you further instructions.” Upon this, he and my 15 year-old-brother went off to fight the fire. My oldest brother had left on his mission to Norway just six weeks before.
My brother and I ran around finding everything we could, buckets, cans, jars, an old ice chest, everything. We kept looking out at the forest in flames. The strong winds were coming from the south and the fire was being fanned out of control. It was burning with mighty fury now, consuming everything in its path. The flames had leaped over our little road that led to our home and our escape route by car was now cut off-the wildfire was now exploding all around and the flames shot 50 to 70 feet into the air-consuming every tree, every dry bush, every bit of undergrowth.
Four fire departments were now fighting the fire—forty or fifty acres were engulfed in a sea of flames-all of it heading towards our home very rapidly. There was no natural break for the fire. On the other side of the small creek in the bottomlands was a dry field that led up the hill right to our home. One spark, one tiny flame in this dry mass of weeds and grasses and it would probably be a matter of three to five minutes before the fire would be to our home and consume everything we had.
At this moment my father and older brother came quickly to the house. My Dad’s eyebrows were singed. His face was red from the heat and black with soot. He said to all of us, “Come quickly, we need to gather and have a family prayer.” I shall never forget this moment. We knelt around my parents’ bed. My father smelled like smoke and fire-the smell lingered through the prayer. My father pled with the Lord that our home and belongings and lives would be spared. He prayed with great fervency. He asked that through the priesthood the fire could be stopped. He reminded the Lord that we had always paid our tithing and asked that the Lord would stop the devouring fire. I was only eight. My heart nearly burst within me in a combination of fear and faith.
We got up from the prayer. My mother had gathered a few items—genealogy and pictures, some ward records that we had in a little box and that’s all. My father said, “Now boys, this is very serious. You must watch for my signal. If the fire should continue as it is-you will have to go with Mother and take these few things and you must run with all your might through the back trail out of the woods. You must go quickly. You cannot slow down. You must bring Mother with you-and run until you get to highway V” which was about 2 miles away.
With the lingering feeling of the prayer, and the serious counsel of my father ringing in my ears—he left quickly and thrust himself back into the conflagration.
We were prepared to run. Our hearts were pounding. Now the fire engulfed 80 acres of forest. The flames were so high it seemed like no one could stand even getting near them. We continued to watch. The fire was now only a few feet away from the small, nearly-dry creek in the bottomland. One small paper match could have started the field on fire.
On an instant — and it was marked deeply in my heart — as the trees and undergrowth were burning out of control and as the flames came to the dry field, the wind changed directions. I remember not only the feeling but the sound of the wind going the opposite direction-it was a loud blast and a pop and the wind immediately came from the north. As if from the mouth of God Himself, the wind came with great force and power. The wind blew the fire back against itself and within a few hours put itself out. Not one dry thistle of our field was charred. Not one spark landed in the weeds. Not one tree fell from south to north by the creek. The devourer had been rebuked and we were spared.Scriptural Promise
“Will a man rob God?” the Prophet Malachi asked. “Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have be robbed thee?” The Lord gives the answer: “In tithes and offerings.”
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Now listen: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.”
I cannot forget the lesson of my youth-to witness “the rebuke of the devourer” and see the tie to faith, to the priesthood and to the payment of tithing.
Why Do We Pay Tithing?
I think you’ve probably heard hundreds of talks and read numerous articles on tithing in your life. I know you know all the details but I should like to give you, perhaps, a new perspective on why we pay.
The first reference we have to tithing in the scriptures is from our father Abraham who paid tithes of all he had to Melchizedek. Abraham was faithful and true to the Lord in all things—IN ALL THINGS—including the payment of tithing.
Perhaps it was easier to see in olden times why our tithing was so important to the building of the kingdom. The former-day saints would bring in a tithe of their flocks and harvest. The storehouse would be a place to bless the poor by seeing to their needs.
Now, we have a fairly sterile system of the payments of our tithes and offerings. We place a paper check in a paper envelope and search for the bishop or one of his counselors and hand them our tithing which then goes into the clerk’s office and is carefully accounted for and later deposited in the bank.
When I seal the envelope with my check for tithing I think to myself: “I pay this because I am a son of Abraham.” This small act of faith — giving 10 percent of everything that I earn to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — is a way of reminding me of who I am. “I AM A SON OF ABRAHAM AND I KEEP THE COVENANTS OF ISRAEL” I think to myself. I think of it as a tie to the ancients. I think of it as the showing of my faith to the Lord God of Hosts whose promises are sure striving to exercise faith as my father Abraham.One-Tenth is Holy
And lest we cannot see through our modern eyes why tithing is so critical, let me show you this important verse from the book of Leviticus: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.”
Now, what does that mean? Yes, we know that all we receive is from the Lord. Yes, we have learned with Ammon that we are nothing, as to our strength we are weak. Yes, we know with King Benjamin that we are unprofitable servants and are dependent upon God for our very breath. But, what little we produce in this life, what small increase we have, the God of the Universe and the Lord of Hosts, require us to give them ten percent — it’s not just a test of our obedience, it is a demarcation of our being of the ancient covenant of Israel. That one-tenth IS holy unto the Lord. It is holy and it is His, for He has declared it so.
And what did the Lord mean about passing under the rod? Listen to this from Ezekiel: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
To pass under the rod is to be counted as his sheep. As we pay our tithing we pass under the rod and are counted as His sheep—and the promise here is that we shall know that He is the Lord.”A Time of Temple Building
I want you to see one more thing about the payment of our tithing. It is talked about often but I want you to perhaps see it more clearly. Listen to what the Lord says in the 97th section of the Doctrine and Covenants concerning the building of the first temple in this dispensation:
Behold, this is the tithing and the sacrifice which I, the Lord, require at their hands, that there may be a house built unto me for the salvation of Zion-
For a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices;
That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you.
And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;
Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.
Don’t miss the invitation here. We pay our tithing so that the House of the Lord, now, Houses of the Lord, can be built—that we might be
1) Perfected in our ministry
2) Perfected in our theory
3) Perfected in our principle
4) Perfected in our doctrine
5) And perfected in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
And by and by, as we pay our tithing for the building of temples, and become perfected in our ministry, and are pure in heart—the Lord promises that all “the pure in heart that come unto the temple shall see God.”
And all of this connected to the payment of our tithing.
Prove the Lord now herewith. Bring your tithing into the storehouse. Do not pass by the literal blessings that await you, that the windows of heaven shall be opened for you. That same phrase, the ‘windows of heaven’ being opened is used when the rains began to be poured out upon the earth at the flood during Noah’s day. It is a blessing of overwhelming abundance that the Lord promises. How it is manifest varies in every situation, abundance in what the Lord sees fit to bless you with whether in financial, or health, or faithfulness of your children, or knowledge or wisdom, or building strong relationships, or being prepared in times of calamity or disaster, or a richness in your relationship with Him. The Lord’s promises are sure.
 See Malachi 3: 8-11 (emphasis added).
 See Gen. 14: 18-20. See also JST Gen. 14: 36-40.
 See Leviticus 27: 30, 32 (emphasis added).
 Alma 26:12.
 Mosiah 2:21.
 Ezekiel 20: 35-37 (and part of 38).
 D&C 97: 12-16.