Today gave whole new meaning to the phrase “The spirit of God like a fire is burning.”
After working out Monday and Wednesday mornings, I go over to the Institute building to give my spirit a little work-out. I have two institute classes on the Book of Mormon, one is the first half, and the other is the second half. The Second one is taught by Bro. Charrington, who does an excellent job at inviting the spirit as he teaches. As he got up to give the announcements, I noticed that the collar on his suit coat was flipped up. It was distractingly mesmerizing to see this collar deformity. As my awkward staring (which was probably interpreted as rapt attention) continued, I slowly became aware of a new anomaly in the environ. The faint waft of campfire tickled my nose, and I began looking around for the source.
Nobody was smoking… check… nobody had randomly brought out a birthday cake… nobody was trying to roast marshmallows with a blow torch… check… this smell has to be coming from somewhere though! My next thought was that there was a possibility that something in my backpack might be burning. Most normal people would not have this fear, but there are definitely some things in the backpack of a Fred that could light on fire accidently, so I picked up my backpack and sniffed it. As I did so, the attractive girl next to me gave me an odd look (Note to self: next time backpack is suspected to be on fire, sniff with more subterfuge so as not to scare women). Nope, the smell was not coming from my backpack, but it was definitely increasing in its potency as we sung the opening song. Just as I was about to go stand up and investigate, the fire alarm went off, and a pre-recorded announcement began warning us that “an emergency situation exists in the building” and we were to “cease all operations and evacuate the building immediately.” There was the typical pause where the situation sinks in before anyone moves, then everyone began to excitedly stand up and shuffle towards the door. Bro. Charrington directed everyone to head towards the exit, while he poked his head around the corner to see the source of the smoke. My curiosity caught me, and I followed. Smoke could be seen coming from the door to the large serving kitchen. Cautiously, Bro. Charrington opened the kitchen door, and the whole kitchen was filled with thick smoke, that had a bright orange glow to it. I quickly turned away, and headed for a fire extinguisher. As the last of my classmates filed out, I turned to Bro. Charrington, pointed at the case, and said “Should we use this?” He said yes, and I handed it to him. The thought then occurred to me that this might be the only time I could ever legitimately use an extinguisher for myself, so I went to the back stairway to the kitchen in search of one.
As I passed the other door to the kitchen, I decided to peek in to see what I was up against. I stood back, and tested the doorknob. Finding it was cool, I opened the door. Through the smoke, I could see a mini recreation of the pillar of fire that protected the Israelites rising up from the stove. On the floor, patches of burning plastic from the light fixtures shimmered in pools of orange fury. I quickly closed the door, and ran down the stairs to the extinguisher alcove at the bottom. To my everlasting disappointment, I didn’t get to break the glass! Instead I just turned the knob, pulled out the extinguisher, and hurried back up the stairs. As I approached the door again, I could hear Bro. Charrington’s discharge on the opposite side of the room. I opened the door and a wall of smoke hit me, much stronger than before. I crouched down to get under it, and aimed toward the orange glow. I squeezed the trigger until the glow was gone, and the smoke was billowing thickly. The works of Joseph Smith came to my mind, oddly enough, as “a thick darkness gathered around me, and seemed to hold me.” I closed the door, and began feeling my way through the “mists of darkness” and went to the sound of Bro. Charrington’s voice, which was now coming from the end of the hall. We scurried out of the building, and set our extinguishers down on the pavement, and joined the throng of onlookers that had gathered.
As I recounted the story throughout the day, the frequent response was something to the effect of “It doesn’t count if you start the fire in the first place, Fred!” Why is that people’s first thought when they hear Fire and Fred in the same sentence? As it turned out, the fire had been started when someone bumped a dial on the stove, turning on a burner, which then ignited a box of apples that someone had set there.
That was the most fun I have had in a long time! It was also the most intense object lesson ever, with the pillar of fire, thick gathering blackness, and wandering through the mists of darkness… What more could you ask for from an Institute class.