I recently took a weekend and headed over to California to attend a small conference on brick ovens. While there in California I took some time to explore the Big Sur Coastway and State Route 1 that runs north and south along the Pacific Ocean. While there, I snapped this photo of a bee exploring a flower outside of the Hearst Castle.
The reason for posting this specific picture is because I followed a link at the WfZ blog. That link takes you to a small powerpoint presentation which talks about the importance of individuality, uniqueness and personalities with respect to our children. Within that powerpoint is a discussion on bees and the living miracle they are. Bees, it seems, are unique in that their wing structure, to us humans, is odd, seemingly too small and, at least to earlier views on the laws of aviation, too small to support the body of the bee in the air. The bee, nevertheless, defied our human understanding for many years, carrying on in it’s ability to fly and pollinate the world. Only recently, it seems, humans have caught up and begun to understand that the bee is able to create a vortex with it’s small wings which allows it to fly. Nevertheless, for decades (centuries?) humans have seen the bee as an anomaly. A living, flying miracle which defied our finite understanding.
The application of this idea should not be lost on you, the reader, or me. How often do we decry something as impossible if we haven’t seen it happen in person? Worse, how often do we decry something as impossible, even though it happens in front of our eyes? In discussing these impossibilities, it is important to note that there are many miracles that happen in front of our eyes every day. From the unseen – photosynthesis – to the seen – a child learning to walk. While it is important to note these everyday miracles, the miracles of which I speak are of a different variety. The creation of the earth, the creation of man, the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, etc. These are the miracles of which I speak in this article.
The book of Fourth Nephi, chapter 1 verse 5, describes these miracles as follows:
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did aheal the sick, and braise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of cmiracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
Moroni, among others, also spoke powerfully about miracles in the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon. What he wrote, though, was not written from an historical viewpoint. It was not written about a people which had already lived when he wrote it. It was written, as most of his stuff was written, about a people who would live in the distant future. A people who would live to see the “great and marvelous work” come to pass. A people who would be led to err by power hungry churches and leaders. In fine, he was speaking directly to us in our day and, more specifically, us of the LDS faith who have been given the record on which his words are written.
Specifically, Mormon chapter 9 contains the following lecture about miracles:
10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.
11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of amiracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same bGod who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.
• • •
15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do ano miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
• • •
17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his aword the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was bcreated of the cdust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
19 And if there were amiracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he bchangeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
The Book of Ether (12:12) contains a similar cry:
Later, again, Moroni adds some more information on miracles in Moroni, chapter 7:
27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have amiracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to bclaim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?
• • •
29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have aangels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
• • •
35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with apower and great glory at the last bday, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?
• • •
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that amiracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of bunbelief, and all is vain.
What do these verses have to do with us? I’d argue that they have everything to do with us. I have frequently heard some (myself included) lament about the lack of spiritual gifts in today’s world, generally, and the LDS church, specifically. We rarely, if ever, see people being raised from the dead, the blind having their sight restored to them, the deaf being able to hear, angelic visitations, and on and on. In its place, members of all shapes and sizes simply reply that the lack of these gifts is merely the result of God’s will. Since it doesn’t happen, it must be God’s will that it doesn’t happen.
In the place of faith based priesthood blessings, we give blessings with convenient “outs.” We tell the recipient of the blessing that it’s contingent on their faith and the will of God. We do this for many reasons, but mostly because (a) we’re scared that we don’t truly hold the Priesthood, (b) we’re scared that we’re not speaking inspired words, (c) we’re scared that we don’t have adequate faith and (c) we’re scared of miracles. It may actually be a combination of all of the above, or something entirely different, but the following story may help relate it somewhat.
A year or so ago I had the privilege of listening to Parley P. Pratt’s autobiography for the first time as I commuted to and from work. One particular passage from his authobiography still sticks with me, in my feeble memory. It has to do with this very idea and I feel it will teach the principle better than I ever could:
When we first arrived we lived in the open air, with out any other shelter whatever. Here I met brother Joseph Smith, from whom I had been separated since the close of the mock trial in Richmond the year previous. Neither of us could refrain from tears as we embraced each other once more as free men. We felt like shouting hosannah in the highest, and giving glory to that God who had delivered us in fulfillment of His word to
His servant Joseph the previous autumn, when we were being carried into captivity in Jackson County, Missouri. He blessed me with a warmth of sympathy and brotherly kindness which I shall never forget. Here also I met with Hyrum Smith and many others of my fellow prisoners with a glow of mutual joy and satisfaction which language will never reveal. Father and Mother Smith, the parents of our Prophet and President, were also overwhelmed with tears of joy and congratulation; they wept like children as they took me by the hand; but, O, how different from the tears of bitter sorrow which were pouring down their cheeks as they gave us the parting hand in Far West, and saw us dragged away by fiends in human form.
After the gush of feelings consequent on our happy meeting had subsided, I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.
Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK.” It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.
Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.”
What stuck with me is that last paragraph. There were Elders in Montrose who were giving blessings to the sick, in an effort to heal them, “day to day” without the power to heal them. Why were they lacking in the power which Joseph so boldly possessed? What made them different? Were the sick not being healed because it was God’s will that they remain sick and dying, or were the sick not being healed because the Elder’s giving the blessings were lacking in power? I will let the reader decide how they interpret what happened.
I postulate, at the end of the day, that we, as members of the Church, are so afraid of seeing miracles, so afraid of making a mistake, so afraid of being looked at as odd, weird or different, that we all run from the calling Christ has for us.
D&C, Section 121, describes this as follows:
34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.
We are scared, perhaps rightfully so, because (a) our hearts are set on the things of the world and (b) we want men to honor us. The Priesthood, as laid out above, can only be handled “upon principles of righteousness.” When we lack a connection with heaven, when we lack the ability to receive revelation, when we attempt to control, in any way, another we are left to “kick against the pricks.” Why? Because in so doing we’ve become an enemy to God (verse 38). We struggle so much to see and witness these miracles because we’re too busy asserting authority, clamoring for others to believe, listen and follow us. We want so much for the “honors of men.” We want our wives, our friends, our associates and everyone in between to listen and give heed to our words. When they don’t, all too often we start messing around with what’s found in verses 35-39 above and, as a result, we fail to “self select.” We’re not chosen, because we’ve failed to give all the glory to Christ. We’ve failed to realize exactly how reliant we are upon Him, and Him alone.
Others have also recently discussed this topic. On another blog, we read the following opinion on why miracles seem to happen less now than they did in 1835-1840 and other time periods:
I think there is a tendency to avoid discussing any contemporary occurrence of the miraculous in our individuals lives within the Church because of the frequent association of such things with deceivers and the deceived. In contrast to that fear, Moroni affirms that angels appear only to those with “a firm mind.” (Moroni 7: 30.) How odd it is that we have this juxtaposition: On the one hand, in our day it is viewed as being evidence of a weak mind, or dubious character, and on the other Moroni asserts it is evidence of a “firm mind.” One or the other has to be incorrect.
I think such things are experienced less because we talk of them less. As we talk of them less, we increase our doubts about such things. Doubt and faith cannot coincide. So was Christ weak-minded or of “a firm mind?” Was Saul of Tarsus deceived or a deceiver, or instead a godly man who received notice from heaven? What of Joseph, Alma, Moses, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, Agabus, and John?
Today we prefer our miracles at a distance. When we do accept the occasional miracle, we want it to be separated by culture, time and reduced to written accounts from the deceased. We think it’s safer that way. Society trusts that when the miraculous has been reduced to history alone it can then safely be the stuff from which PhD’s and theologians extract the real meanings. After all, our scientific society only trusts education, certification and licensing; not revelation, visitation and ministering of angels. Well, even if that is not as it should be, it is at least as Nephi said it would be: “They deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” (2 Nephi 28: 5-6.)
I think, in my interpretation of this response, is that fear of the miraculous is still prevalent. We “prefer our miracles at a distance” because it is “safer that way.” It’s less troublesome, less intrusive. We’re less likely to be ridiculed by the outside world (both in and outside the church), we’re less likely to be viewed as crazy lunatics. You put the certification of recognized scholars behind it, when they’re able to interpret it through their educated paradigms, and only then will it become comfortable. Only then will we be able to say how great a miracle it was.
At the end of the day, do we view miracles as wings that are way too small for a creature to use? Or, do we view them as enablers? Do we view our ability to witness and see miracles as a likelihood that we aspire to, or as something relegated to other societies, other peoples, other centuries? Do we have the faith necessary, “for it is by faith that miracles are wrought?”
Those are good questions. Questions I admittedly do not have the answer to and questions which are very troubling to me. Nevertheless, I hope to find positive answers for these questions. At the end of the day, the gospel is all about us. Do we, as individuals, view it as much? Do we seek after the gifts we need, or are we content to let others do it for us?
Let us not forget, though, that:
“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” – Eckhart Tolle