When I Failed To Lead: “An Unheeded Fire Alarm!”


Many years ago I was sitting on the stand at my home ward when the fire alarm went off in the middle of Sacrament Meeting. As the presiding officer, it was my responsibility to handle the situation. I wasn’t upset, as I had heard the fire alarm go off several times during the course of my membership. It was always a “false” alarm. However, I had never heard it go off during a Sacrament Meeting. I sat calmly on the Stand as the Bishop looked my way. I didn’t flinch or move. One of the counselors in the Bishopric hopped up and raced out one of the side doors. Within a couple of minutes, the alarm ended, the counselor came back in and nodded that it was a “false” alarm.  Apparently, a rambunctious boy had pulled the handle, setting the alarm off.

The interesting aspect of this event was that the membership looked at us on the stand, and when we didn’t panic or react, they didn’t either. No one got up, no one left; no one went anywhere. I learned a couple of things from this event. One, the membership places great trust in their priesthood leaders. This I had learned long before this incident. The members of the church are respectful and honor the priesthood. The second, and probably most important lesson I learned that day was that the members trusted that I knew where I was leading them. Or in this case, that I wasn’t leading them anywhere. I hate to say it, but I made a big mistake that day. I should have got right up and told everyone to begin to evacuate. Never mind that I “thought” it was a false alarm. An alarm is in place for a reason. It is there to warn us! If the leader doesn’t heed the warning, who will? Suppose that there was a “real” fire in the building and by ignoring it I caused physical harm to come to the members.  Can you imagine how someone would have felt if they had lost a loved one due to my negligence?  They might have been saying, “He didn’t get up. He didn’t look upset. He let us get trapped. How inspired could he be?” While no harm was done on this occasion, it left me pondering the great responsibility that comes with leadership.

Paul reminded us in Hebrews to heed warnings when he wrote:

“By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear,  prepared an ark to the saving of his house…” (Chapter 11, verse 7)

If we should find ourselves in the lead when the alarm sounds, we need to be wise enough to heed the warning, as did Noah.  I should have done it that day.  On an individual basis, the Lord often sounds the alarm.  We should be ready to heed it when it is given.

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