Where There’s Smoke…

For an early Christmas present, I got myself one of those manly pellet smokers. Over the last two months I have used it a lot: Smoked chicken, ribs, etc. It has worked like a charm and been fun.

Since everyone is in town for the holidays, I decided to pull out all the stops and get a big ol’ pork shoulder to smoke for pulled pork sandwiches. My son and I got up early, made the rub, seasoned the meat, and put it on the smoker, set to 225 degrees for 10 hours, then prepared to go back to bed.

I never went back to bed. Instead, I stood and stared at the thermometer on the smoker as it climbed to 72 degrees – and stopped. I achieved room temperature, but no higher. Everyone knows that serving pork at room temperature is not a great idea, so I wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven – sorely disappointed that my great smoked pork was not to be.

As I messed around with it, with the help of YouTube, and learned a few things. First, there is this little contraption in the bottom of the grill called a “Burn pot.” I looks like this:

The job of the burn pot is to burn the pellets. How this works is that there is a tube that connects the burn pot and the hopper where the pellets are stored. Inside the tube is an auger that spins and slowly spits the wood pellets into the burn pot.

Inside the pot there is an ignitor that gets super hot and ignites the wood, creating the smoke and fire.

The last element is the fan. Anyone who has ever built a campfire knows that blowing on the embers can make a fire grow. In this case, the fan blows on the embers ignited in the burn pot and makes them grow.

Basically, there are three elements, fuel, fire and oxygen. All three are necessary for fire. The problem, I discovered three things: 1) The fire pot had to much ash in it from previous use. 2) The fan wasn’t blowing right, and 3) so the auger was dumping too many pellets into the burn pot for the fire to keep up.

The result: Some smoke, but no fire. And Failure.

As I was watching this unfold, it became quite obvious to me how this relates to me, and I’ll try to state it succinctly:

When my life gets too suffocating, the fire of my testimony has trouble rising above a low smolder.

President Monson spoke about the fire of testimony, and how it is a fragile thing:

“Throughout your entire life you will need to nurture it. As with the flame of a brightly burning fire, your testimony—if not continually fed—will fade to glowing embers and then cool completely. You must not let this happen.” (link)

Fuel? I’ve got plenty. Oxygen seems to be more of a problem.

“Once a testimony is in place, just like a fire that needs fuel and oxygen to burn, it needs to be fed and tended or it will burn out and die.” (Elder Charles Didier)

My smoker wasn’t burning hot because of two things: Too much gunk, and not enough oxygen.

Sound familiar?

The holiday season can be so hectic and full of stuff, that I have found it can actually gunk up my life and suck out all the oxygen. Unfortunately, this can happen any time of year. There are times I can feel that the fire of testimony within me is not burning as hot as it should be. This is dangerous territory, because left unattended, it can fade and die.

The solution? More oxygen.

A suggestion from President Dallin Oaks: “We also need quiet time and prayerful pondering as we seek to develop information into knowledge and mature knowledge into wisdom.”(link)

President Nelson offered this: “Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.” (link)

President M. Russell Ballard adds, “Find some quiet time regularly to think deeply about where you are going and what you will need to do to get there. Jesus, our exemplar, often “withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We need to do the same thing occasionally to rejuvenate ourselves spiritually as the Savior did.” (link)

Do you see a common thread? Finding some quiet time to think, pray, seek and plan.

These are things that I inevitably lack when I feel my testimony is not burning as brightly as I need it to burn. When life gets busy and gunky, the need for those quiet moments are more, rather than less, important for spiritual survival.

As we enter a new year, one of the things I hope to focus on is finding more quiet time – time with no tv, no music, no chaos, no screens and no excuses.

Wishing you the best in 2021. May you have lots of oxygen and a burning fire.

About the author


  1. Did you get it working and have the pulled pork of your dreams? It’s amazing when I get my gunk out and have the Spirit-filled life of my dreams. It’s happening more often now than it did when I was younger and more easily distracted by shiny objects 😉

  2. Excellent analogy! So many things have been gunking up my life…think politics, pandemic, loss of the temple (temporarily!!), loss of regular church meetings, The #GiveThanks activity really helped me lift my head, but there is still much work to be done. I really appreciate the links and wise counsel included in your post!

  3. Nice analogy. I like it. A similar one is the story about taking a glowing coal from a fire and placing it on the hearth alone where it loses its fire and dies. Placed back in the fire it glows again. We need fellowship.

  4. Funny you mentioned this today of all days. During Sacrament meeting today I was thinking about changes I wanted to make. I wrote down one thing: “Get your lazy bones out of bed earlier for some quiet time to ponder and pray.”

    I’m thinking the Lord setup your smoker mess to give me a second witness he is serious. Glad it didn’t take burning down your house or something like that. 🤣

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)