Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Reality of Miracles in the Church

Many people wish we would tone our religion down and quit talking about miracles like the First Vision, the golden plates and their translation, the ministering of angels, and divinely called prophets. Can't we just accept that the Church is just a human organization with nice social programs and relatively uplifting fiction in the form of the Book of Mormon? Forget it. We believe in the reality of God, in a loving and living Messiah who still speaks, and in real angels that don't just appear in someone's mind but have actually been seen and even felt. The presence of the miraculous in the Church cannot be forgotten - and numerous members of the Church have their own personal and often very sacred experiences confirming the reality of miracles in these days. I also affirm this on the basis of my personal experiences in the Church. Argue all you want about whether Joseph Smith did something you don't like or whether you think you can explain some passage in the Book of Mormon by an appeal to mystery texts from Solomon Spaulding or Walt Whitman or whatever, but we are left with strong and convincing evidence of divine power in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, often at a personal level, and surely at the level of Joseph Smith and the founding of the Church. The irrefutable testimony of the many witnesses to the Book of Mormon stand as a sure and powerful witness. And there are many other interesting miraculous events worthy of our consideration. Two new resources on these topics at FAIRLDS.org are "Miraculous Events in Early Church History" by David Ferguson, which includes a discussion of fulfilled prophecies of Joseph Smith, and "Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses" by Richard Lloyd Anderson. I would encourage you to read those articles and ponder.

While the many miracles I have experienced in my life have not been so public and dramatic as an angel letting me see and feel sacred gold plates, they have been more than enough to greatly confirm the reality of God, the power of prayer, the power of the restored Priesthood of Jesus Christ, the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and the importance of service in the Kingdom of God. I bear witness of the truthfulness of these things, in spite of my ignorance of many things and my inability to answer every objection of our critics. God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored with power and authority from God in our day.

16 comments:

Brian Duffin said...

Amen!

Thank you for sharing your testimony on the reality of miracles in the Church. I, too, have experienced many special and sacred experiences in my life, confirming my belief that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian and Jeff,

I am glad that you keep your many personal and sacred miracles to yourself. I hate sharing of miracles in sacrament meeting. Last spring a number of Saints who were part of the stake musical shared in F&T meeting how they were worried that the lead actor may not get through the snowstorm to the final performance of the musical. They prayed for him and he got there on time. The show was saved.

That same evening three local teens were killed in an auto accident caused by the snow. This accident happened not far from the Stake Center. I was there to see their broken bodies. I am glad none of their families were there to hear of the musical being saved, but their loved one was not as important as the musical.

I can't beleive that He was with the show and not the teens.

That is why it is best to keep sacred experiences adn miracles to yourself and appropriate places.

Bookslinger said...

The only rule I know about when to testify of a miracle is to only talk about it when prompted by the Spirit.

Books written about, and journals handed down, from the early church members do document miracles. But I don't know how much they were shared or published in the times that they actually happened.

Part of me does want to testify of miracles, because I want others to have the faith and hope in divine intervention. Our Lord is not a hands-off God, though it often seems like that.

In his book, Faith Preceeds the Miracle, Spencer Kimball wrote that 3 things are usually necessary before God pours out miracles:
1) Faith.
2) Humility.
3) Devotion to righteousness.

We have to believe the things that God promises to do for us, and believe in the scriptures that testify of Him doing those things for others. And we have to convert that belief to faith by acting on it.

We have to be humble and acknowledge that it's God's power, and will, and condescension that's in control, and not our will or efforts.

And third, we have to be as pure possible, be as obedient as possible, and actively strive for righteousness as much as possible to unlock the windows of Heaven. And even after we do all we are supposed to, and can do, it's still up to His will and His power that effectuates the miracle.

I've written about many "divine coincidences" in my journal about giving out copies of the Book of Mormon. Most miracles are of that kind, things that could be explained away as coincidence, or something that "would have happened anyway" and only the people involved know what spiritual communication accompanied the event.

The "rise up and walk" or "walking on water" miracles do seem few and far between, and as the title says, those only come _after_ we have proved our faith.

But as for the "coincidence" type of miracles, if you pay attention, then after a while it just stops being coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Books of Mormon in Indy,

You talked about being touched by the spirit. And I agree with you. I do know a lady (with low self esteem) who cringes every time someone gets up at Fast and Testimony meeting and says:

I did not plan on coming up here, but the spirit touched or talked to my heart and said I need to come up here. the lady says to herself-----how come others are touched by the spirit and I am not?

Is a person who always says they are told to do something bragging that they have better communication with the spirit?

Anonymous said...

Re: sharing miracles.

When I was working at the Chicago Temple we were at the early prayer meeting. The Brother assigned to give the spiritual thought read a story he had received on the internet from a Patriarch and a special blessing he had given.

A few weeks later the story was found to be a hoax. Imagine- a false story in the Temple. Thats a problem with repeating miracles. Stick to the scripture.

Bookslinger said...

There are plenty of possible answers to the "why am I not touched by the Spirit" question. But basically, the scriptures tell us what we need to do, and our conscience tells us what to do.

So if we aren't reading and trying to live the scriptures, we probably won't hear the Spirit. And if we aren't listening and obeying our conscience, we probably won't hear the Spirit.

I would venture that people _are_ often prompted or motivated by the Spirit, but they either aren't listening or they do hear it but just don't recognize it. I have often disregarded the Spirit thinking it was my imagination, or came from some other source.

And when my mind and heart aren't pure, and I need to repent of something, that sin is like static interference that prevents me from hearing the Spirit. He's talking, but I've let sin block the channel.

Another rule of thumb is that the Spirit won't give us additional revelation if we aren't striving to live up to what God has already told us in the scriptures and through the prophets.

What we testify of should be determined by what the Spirit tells us to testify of, not by what certain audience members expect. So if the Spirit told that sister to say _why_ she got up, then she was merely obeying God by saying so. And if the Spirit didn't tell her to say that part, then yes, it may have been inappropriate.

When God tells you to do something, and you know it's of God, everyone else's opinion doesn't matter a hill of beans. People following God's will ALWAYS have at least some oppostion from unbelievers and sometimes even among luke-warm believers. The Apostle Paul and Joseph Smith promised believers that they would always have opposition.

Nephi murdered Laban in cold blood for the sole reason that "God told him to." And that's the reason he gave too, "I was constrained of the Spirit". Plus, we can assume he was also prompted to write it down on his Small Plates. Was Nephi bragging, or testifying of what he was commanded to testify of?

Alma Chapter 26 is the chapter where Ammon is "boasting in the Lord". Mormon gave Aaron just ONE verse out of the whole chapter, in which Aaron accused Ammon of boasting. But Mormon gave the rest of the chapter to Ammon.

So if you're "boasting in the Lord" giving Him or the Spirit credit, then there is scriptural evidence to back up such testimony. So maybe the sister who testified was giving God credit by saying she was motivated to get up and wouldn't have done it on her own.

If someone doesn't feel the Spirit, I think they should be looking inward to see what they need to do, and not begrudge others, who might be testifying under the direction of the Spirit.

Sacred things should only be spoken of by direction of the Spirit, but that doesn't mean they will _never_ be spoken of.

The Lord said we should let our light (testimony) shine, and not hide it under a bushel. If someone is jealous that someone else has a brighter light, they should not begrudge them that light, but rather be inspired to seek more light for themselves.

Sometimes the presence of a brighter light makes us feel inadequate. But what's the solution? To dim the brighter light, or to brighten the dimmer?

Bookslinger said...

re: repeating 3rd party miracles.

The problem was that he got it from a third party, and wasn't testifying in the first person. Most things passed along the internet are not verified and no sources are given to verify them.

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

Looking at your picture, I think it's a miracle that you don't have gray hair, especially after serving as bishop.

Anonymous said...

"Grecian Formula" or "Just for Men" or an old picture?

Mormanity said...

In real life, I look like I'm 93, but thanks to Serif's PhotoPlus 10 - a low-cost image editor similar to Photoshop - I've been able to improve my hair color and remove lots of wrinkles. Now I'm learning how to use the "buff upper body" filter for even better results, but so far it's just made me look more like Pee Wee Herman. Might need to reinstall.

Mormanity said...

Oh, and don't get me wrong. I don't object to sharing personal miracles - I've done so several times on this blog, but I admit it is a delicate matter. I usually don't, and hope that when some of us do that people won't make the mistake of looking for the negative or thinking that we're boasting or implying that those who didn't get help in a related matter somehow are less worthy.

Floyd the Wonderdog said...

You just can’t please some people. There are those who are uncomfortable when people talk about miracles in their lives and others who are concerned that we don’t appear to have the same frequency of miraculous occurrences as in the formative years of this dispensation.

I have recorded my special spiritual experiences in what I consider to be family scripture. The dealings of the Lord with the Wonderdog family.

kairos said...

The issue of miracles particularly regarding healings reminds me of the true story of apostle B.R. McConkie who blinded his brother in a pitchfork accident when the brothers were 10 or 11. Despite blessings for full and complete restoration by members of the first presidency and the twelve, and Albert McConkie's(the blinded brother) full faith(according to his brother's diary entry) on having his eyesight restored,it was to apostle McConkie's dismay, consternation, and puzzlement, Albert died later in life w/o regaining his sight. What happened?
The faith, the promises by the prophet and his apostles and their prayers were not answered the way the brethern requested.
I believe God heals who He wants healed, when He wants and how He wants w/o regard to the "religion" of the one to be healed or for that matter those who pray/ lay on hands/bless etc.
God heals in His time ,in His way.
Should we pray for healing? absolutely.
Kairos

Anonymous said...

I used to believe, but everyone I've talked to has been unable to answer three questions... 1) Why is there evidence of death that is older than 4,000 BC if the Church teaches that there wasn't? 2) Why is there no evidence of instantaneous and complete healing of (for instance) a withered hand after a priesthood blessing if miracles of that sort are described in the scriptures? 3) Why is there no evidence of anybody using the Urim and Thummim after Joseph Smith, and we sustain the prophet and apostles as seers, and seers are defined basically as those who have access to and use the oracles of God (the seer stones and Urim and Thummim)?
Instead of listening to attacks on the church and trying to prove the Church wrong, I approached the question by trying to prove the Church's claims right. I have been unable to do that. Miracles nowadays seem to be in the eyes and minds of the beholders, but nowhere else. Faith proceeds the miracle because it takes a believing mind to accept circumstantial evidence as proof. Looking back, I see that now.

Mormanity said...

The Church does not officially teach that there was no death before 4,000 B.C. There is plenty of room for faithful LDS people to accept that the old is old and life and death existed here for many thousands or millions of years.

There have been many miraculous healings. They aren't designed for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, but they do occur.

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