Posts Tagged ‘Miracles’


The Science of Miracles and Synchronicity

In my most recent post on correlation, I briefly mentioned how a number of articles from unassociated sources had helped clue me into a topic that I’d been studying recently.  In thus mentioning these sources I referred to them as provided a measure of synchronicity to my life.  Justin, wisely, pointed out an article by John Pratt on the topic of synchronicity and whether it, indeed, is a way our Father in Heaven answers prayers.

In reading that article I was reminded of a number of books I read and videos I watched which also discussed synchronicity and coincidence in relation to quantum physics.  I went through a period of time last year where I read nearly everything I could from a couple of authors which touched on this subject and found great wisdom (mostly forgotten now, but it’s been helpful to revisit it as I looked into John Pratt’s article) as I perused those topics.

I thought this might be a good place to put those sources for others to read, watch and study if they so feel directed.  These videos led me to several other books (James Redfield, Gregg Braden, Masaro Emoto, and many others) and onto a couple of bizarrely interesting topics (the ability to heal water, water crystals, etc) and, strangely, comes back to several of my current interests and studies (predictive linguistics, etc).

So, in an effort to give others the chance to research synchronicity a little further, I thought I’d include some of those original sources I was directed to.

A Trip into My Brief Past

The following is the email I sent out to a couple of friends last year as I began researching these topics:

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For those of you who just watched The Celestine Prophecy, you may find this especially interesting.  For those of you who haven’t yet seen it, this discusses some interesting correlations between miracles and science.  I find the studies he references especially compelling, if true.

The guy in the video largely focuses on a “universe” and “field” instead of on Christ (like many others in these areas), but please don’t let that get in the way of what he’s saying.  Change that “universe” or “field” to what we know and believe and, I think, we may find some substance to what he’s saying.

I think the following revelation best defines what these videos are talking about (D&C 88:4-12):

“This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; which glory is that of the church of the first born, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ, his Son – he that ascendeth up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth, which truth shineth.  This is the light of Christ.

As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.  As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made.  And also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made.  And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.  And the light which now shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; which light proceedeth forth form the presence of God, to fill the immensity of space.

The which is in all things; which giveth life to all things; which is the law by which all things are governed; even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”

This may take some time to go through if you feel propelled further into what these videos are saying, but I thought it was worth sharing anyhow.
Video 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nKSq2tV1kE&feature=player_embedded

  • Introduction
  • Experiment #1…DNA + Photons; DNA has an effect and responds, positively or negatively, based on the world around us.
    • Here’s a link to an extract of that study from Vladimir Poponin, called the DNA Phantom Effect.

Video 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzrWimkIILg

  • Experiment #2:  DNA reactions to donor’s emotions unhindered by time + space – non-local energy field.  See, also, this interesting video (the one towards the bottom of the page) on Epigenetics.
  • Experiment #3:  The electrical field around the heart;  DNA relaxes and gets longer when exposed to feelings of love/joy/gratitude (which enhances our immune responses); whereas DNA tightens (like a knot) and shuts down when exposed to feelings of anger/rage/hate (which compromises our immune responses); the effect of human emotion to change the shape of DNA in our bodies

Video 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDZUE8chFc8&feature=related

  • The effects the Nicea Council + burning of the library of Alexandria had on the knowledge we have today

Video 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7klOSJADDBQ

  • The power of thought to the two primary emotions (love + its opposite (hate/fear/etc)).  Words are not prayers.
  • The web/fabric that links everything together (what Stephen Hawking terms “The Mind of God”)

Video 5:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeG-smqOZVI&feature=related

  • There are 4 modalities of Prayer (in Western Civilization)
  • 5th mode, not utilized in West. Civilization.  Compelling story of a Native American in New Mexico using this 5th mode of prayer.
  • The 1% rule

Video 6:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXvPjU0rV74&feature=related

  • The lost mode of prayer – the healing of a bladder tumor at a medicine-less hospital in China, watched in real-time via ultrasound.

Video 7:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmSzt0SmGM0&feature=related

  • Redefining prayer
  • “Rather than seeing a prayer as something that we do every once in a while when we’d like to change our world, and then we stop that prayer and get up and walk away, perhaps we can redefine prayer as the way that we feel in our lives, and because we’re always feeling every moment in our life, life becomes the prayer.  Life becomes the living prayer.”
    • Perhaps, Alma 34:27 fits here:  “Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your ahearts be bfull, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your cwelfare, and also for the welfare of dthose who are around you.”

See also the following interesting reads…these are fairly short pages.  Some have short (less than 10 minutes) videos in them:

(1)  Consensus Reality – Peter Pan and the Manipulation of the Matrix (**link fixed/updated 06/08/2010**)
(2)  Evidence of a Collective Consciousness (humorous)  (****link fixed/updated 06/08/2010**)
(3a)  Masaro Emoto – New Discoveries about Water (referenced in one of the videos); i.e. water having memory + consciousness; includes a 10:00 recorded conversation (part 1 of 12, which can all be looked up on YouTube if you’re interested in delving further into the topic) which discusses some of the studies and results of Emoto.  The architecture/restructuring of water.  (****link fixed/updated 06/08/2010**)
(3b)  Wiki on Masaro
(4)  More information on a Collective Consciousness  (****link fixed/updated 06/08/2010**)

(5)  Spiritual Science behind the Collective Conscious

This is kind of a hodgepodge of an email, but they all appear interrelated…at least to my skewed paradigm and thinking skills (or lack thereof).  One thing I do know…I don’t know very much.

In response to this email, a good friend (who is much smarter than I), replied with the following (which, given the anonymity of his words here on an anonymous site, should be OK):

Synchronicity Replayed

In another incredible bit of synchronicity (as described above, not a coincidence at all), I have recently read two books by braden, “walking between the worlds” and “the ISaiah effect”.  Perhaps this is why I am suddenly in your group?  I found his concept of Lucifer fascinating and thought provoking.  I learned a lot by diggin into it.  But, that’s beside the point.

Of course, I completely accept the concepts of science described here, though I think Einstein was the first (at least recently) to embark on this level of thought, not Gregg Braden.  Plasma theory too.  Though I’ll be honest, the complete description of DNA and the physical changes described hit me as just interesting, rather than being engrossed in trying to understand the exact scientific process I like to accept it and try to grasp what the idea means to my paradigm.

Both books described about the same exact thing.  Eventually it gets down to the idea that compassion is the source of healing for the world in a very literal sense.  Which is of course true, the beetles were right.  Love IS all we need.  Though we only get there through Christ.

Einstein started this mess with the theory of relativity.  In a nutshell, in describing light and things moving at light speed, he explains that a person or entitiy that travels at the speed of light would not have time.  Time would all be in front of him.  Thus, ‘God’ as a being of light, exists at that speed, and necessarily has all things in front of him, past, present and future.  All things are one eternal now.

From that we can see the importance of the D&C discourses on light.  How they describe the need for atonement and the purpose of it in our lives and selfishly (not negative) in Christ’s own life.  How important it is to recieve light through the HG, become sanctified, and grow in that light ’till we eventually attain to the resurrection of life, as a being of light. Karma and Christs perfect life, free of past entanglements, come into play here, but that’s another story.

getting back to Braden, you know this is Paganism your dealing with here?  🙂

I have recently been fascinated in paganism because of how closely most of the thoughts and beliefs systems they practice were described perfectly by Joseph, in relating to us his vision of how things are.  When we understand truth for what it is, it can be remarkable how prevalent truth is in earth centered religions, including the Eastern ones and those of our own natives.  Though, of course not perfect without Christ.  Thus the need for Joseph, the son of a diviner who had received vision and dreams himself (joe Sr) in a household that practiced the ‘mystic’ form of Christianity prevalent to that area in 1805ish.  At a time when visions and dreams were not that rare, when people sought for that kind of thing.  Men used stones and rods to receive revelation and still called themselves christian.

But, I am getting off track.  I suppose that gets into my reason for writing a response.

I am not aware where those on this board stand, or believe considering the Godhead and realize that I am treading on loose ground here.  So, if need be, let me know.   I know brett believes at least kind of the same as I do here, per his book.

I believe that what Gregg Braden describes, the unity and collectiveness of the universe which he calls the spirit of God-to be literally the Mind of God.  That when the sec 88 says that the Light of Christ is in and through all things, I take it literally. That we are all within His mind, part of his mind, given a small portion of him with agency, in the name of exalting that portion.  Our Bodies are than actually IN our spirits, rather than the other way around.  That he is literally in and through all things.  The Gift of the Holy Ghost than, through sanctification performed by Christ washing with the Holy Ghost, is our connection to the mind of God.  Allowing our hearts and minds to be one with His.  The Christ within us is awoken by thus becoming begotten sons and daughters of the only begotten.

So I believe we actually have in our doctrine the description of two Godheads.  Something to this effect was described a bit by Bro Custer.

My two bits in short fashion, this is all described in many places, but for one in section 88:

The first one:  So, the Father is all around us and in us.  This is Elohim, the council of Gods.  Literally in and through all things.  Our galaxy, or perhaps more, would constitute His reach.   IT is the portion that all the light, or intelligence, the light of Christ originates from in the Chain of light described in the facsimile 2.  In perfection the sun is a medium of Him to us.  This is the Male portion of our God.

vs 41-“He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.”

Within this God we have a system of kingdoms.  The Female portion is the Kingdoms which provide life to the intelligences of God.  “mother earth” as the Book of Mormon calls her.  Through the Sun, she has life germinated and created, procreation (not creation), male and female thus create life.

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

Together this system is a God, whole complete and one flesh-encompassing the whole of known creation.

Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.

49 The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.

50 Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.

Pretty simple, wanna see God, look at your feet.  look at you.

Section 88 then goes into detail a good deal more in parable describing the kingdoms above, the God of creation (sun moon stars working together) as a MAN.

51 Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.

The parable then decides several servants, sent out to do the work in a field.  Jehovah, a Male planet of Judgment than goes around and performs the cleansing work in each kingdom with the servant sent, earth in our instance.  When they come together, it rips the earth from a lower to higher state or vice versa, depending on the work being performed.  One is described as the second coming (raising to a higher) the other is a fall (falling to a lower).  Only those of us intelligent-souls who have sanctified and enlightened our portion of spirit to survive this second coming will be exalted to that new Garden and terrestrial experience when the Lord Jehovah described above returns.  Trying to stay succinct here.

This Godhead has a mind, the Holy Ghost, which the Elohim and Jehovah above share.  Joseph described this in detail.  This is the same mind we have, and when the veil is lifted our portion is literally made at one with eternity, existing as a being of light seeing the vision of “all things” though quickening.  WE can become one with the father than, as Christ was.  the word begotten is a huge key

The second Godhead is the one we discuss so much.  The keys of this kingdom were given to them prior to this mortality in order to do the work which needed to be performed here.  They are Man-deities that Joseph wanted us to get to know.

“God the first-the creator, God the second-the redeemer and God the third-the witness or testator (Joseph)”

They do the work here, with their wives, that we might exalt portions of the Higher God and be one with Him like they are.  All sharing the same mind, the Holy Ghost.

These Mighty and Strong ones are the most perfect examples of God we have, those who have become one with Him and are working to make us the same by choosing death (in entering mortality), that we might live.

Section 76 in explaining the existence of exalted beings in the celestial realm,

Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Thus, choosing to lay down their lives in various fashions by entering mortality for our sake, they choose death.  By so doing, they are exalted above all creation through the sealing power (think a balloon inside of a balloon).

All this might be something you’ve all already covered togeher.  If so, oh well it did me good to try to write it.  Its one thing to “see” in your minds eye and another to put it on paper in such an emote medium.

If not, I’d love to discuss it in more depth.

Getting back to Braden, one could see easily how Continual Prayer really does change the world, one person at a time.


Here’s the last part of the Small Miracles series.  The first entry focused on the Liahona and how Alma spoke of the slothfulness Lehi and his family showed towards the Liahona.  Part II was an excellent article by Hugh Nibley which speaks about the Liahona and a potential predecessor, arrow divination.  We live in a world where the “casting of lots” and “arrow divinations” are very much frowned upon as either being superstitious or being too “new age-y.”  Whatever the reasons, we should get back to the gospel and do away with the shackles that bind us down, shackles which increase our reliance on the “Arm of Flesh.”

Though I frequently quote from only a few authors, this should only be seen as one thing:  it’s what I’m currently reading.  And, perhaps a second: they are some of the few who speak and write on topics that interest me and inspire me to turn to Christ.  This brief preface paves the way for the following essay, taken from Nephi’s Isaiah.  From it, I will copy and paste a portion of Chapter 18 on Finding Truths.  This book was written by Denver Snuffer and all credit should be given to him.  As he may likely say in return, if you find any truth in it, all credit should be given to Christ.

Here are his words:

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Finding Truths – Chapter 18, Nephi’s Isaiah, Denver Snuffer

As we saw earlier in this book, Nephi took the four final chapters at the end of his record to address a final summary warning to us.  In it he told us all that was weighing on his mind about our day.  These warnings are the product of the visions in which he saw our day and beyond.  We have already looked at these summaries in the opening chapters of this book.  In this chapter, we are going to look at how you, too, can gather truth through the same revelatory process as Nephi.

Though Nephi was not permitted to share the visions in his own words, he was able to describe them using Isaiah’s words.  As we have seen in our interpretation of the Isaiah text, Nephi’s use of Isaiah tells the story of Christ’s mission, our day, the Second Coming, and the Millennium.

As Nephi summarized his final warnings, he was troubled about our struggles in latter-day Zion.  Although the ultimate outcome of this season will vindicate those who follow the Lord, there are going to be challenges in our day which vex and perplex the Saints.  In particular, he cites our tendency to rely upon the “arm of flesh” instead of the “Spirit.”  Unfortunately, there are Latter-day Saint authors advocating the Spirit is an unreliable guide to truth.  Grant Palmer writes in An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins (Signature Books, 2002), on page 130-131; 133:  “When faced with this evidence, our first impulse is often to resort to personal inspiration as our defense of the Book of Mormon.  This is a higher means of substantiating the book’s antiquity, we assume. … Most of us have felt this spiritual feeling when reading the Book of Mormon or hearing about Joseph Smith’s epiphanies.  What we interpret this to mean is that we have therefore encountered the truth, and we then base subsequent religious commitments on these feelings.  The question I will pose is whether this is an unfailing guide to truth?  … The evangelical position of identifying and verifying truth by emotional feelings, which the Book of Mormon advocates, is therefore not always dependable … abundant evidence also demonstrates that is an unreliable means of proving truth.  Those who advocate the witness of the Holy Spirit as the foundation for determining the truthfulness of a given religious text need to honestly deal with these epistemological contradictions. … When a person experiences the Spirit at a Protestant revival meeting or when reading the Book of Mormon, it is not my belief that this feeling proves the truthfulness of the doctrines taught, or read.”  (Emphasis added.)  In this criticism, Palmer presumes “emotional feelings” are the same thing as being enlightened by the Spirit.  Of course, they are not.  However, it is understandable how he makes this error, for many people do associate emotional feelings as the sine qua non[1] of the Holy Ghost and fail to realize what is before us in scripture.

The scriptures do not either advocate reliance on emotions or give us examples of any prophetic figures doing so.  They tell a much different story.  They tell us of people who have faith sufficient to receive “the word of the Lord” and then seek for and obtain some confirmation of the veracity of that word.  They seek for a witness, not through emotions, but from objectively observable, demonstrable signs confirming the truth of the words they have been given.  Faith is required to receive the word in the first instance.  And faith is required to obtain objective confirmation.  They do this repeatedly in scripture, in a pattern which is commended to us to follow.

For those who have been raised as Latter-day Saints, the process of becoming acquainted with the Sprit can be a difficult one.[2] Palmer’s struggle and failure here is not atypical of some lifelong members’ frustrations in this area.  We are now going to consider the process described in scriptures for receiving an answer from the Holy Ghost and confirming it through faith.  Though it would require an entire book in its own right,[3] this subject will be addressed briefly here, because this book would be incomplete without it.

Not everyone has the same spiritual “gifts” given them.  However, spiritual gifts can be increased, and can be sought after.[4] Each person has some gift which comes naturally as a part of their makeup.  God has gone to great lengths to make everything in His creation unique.  Every person who has ever lived is one-of-a-kind.  Even identical twins are dissimilar.  No tree is alike, no flower is alike, no snowflake is alike; all to help remind us that we are unique.[5] In all time and eternity, there has never been another you.  Nor will there ever be a duplicate of you, science and cloning notwithstanding.  You can “hear” God’s voice, but how it comes to you may be different from how it comes to anyone else.  Frequently the description we get in scripture is merely “the word of the Lord came” to the prophets.[6] It comes to the mind, or it is “heard” in the mind, or it is sensed in the impressions, or it is dreamt; or it is a conviction which comes with palpable certitude.  However it comes, and in any individual case it may do so in an altogether unique way, it comes from a source outside of you.  Often it is surprising, not at all what was expected.  It can be inconvenient, requiring from you what you would not voluntarily seek.  These are not just “emotions” or “feelings” as Palmer would put it.  Rather there is an intelligence to it, which originates from outside of you, and which delivers a message to you; not feelings, but a message.

After receiving the “word,” confirmation follows.  The confirmation allows a person of faith to see evidence or support for their belief and trust in God.[7] Again, when it comes to the confirming sign which follows faith,[8] the variety of forms is unique to the person.  In a moment, we will look at a few examples to show the pattern.

First, however, remember you are unique, and will have unique experiences in relating to God.  Given the care with which you have been organized as an individual creation, how can you expect communication with the Lord to be standardized?  Why would the way in which He speaks with you be identical to the way in which He speaks to all others?  Why wouldn’t He carry on a conversation with each of His children in ways adapted to the individual child?  Do not expect your experience to be like that of another.  You are not, and never will be, a duplication of any other person.

We turn then to scriptural examples illustrating confirming proofs God has given to His people:  His confirming appearance in the “burning bush” to Moses was singular.[9] In all of history, no one else recounts such an appearance.  So, ask yourself why God employed such a matchless form of introduction to the person many believe to be history’s greatest single Prophet.  Was it driven by something unique in Moses?  Was this how God could reach into Moses’ perceptions, and therefore was the method chosen?  Here, a physical object, commonly seen, has an unusual aspect which appeals directly to Moses.  It is not “emotional” or a “feeling” but is a visible, physical event, observed by Moses and from which he encounters God.  Moses sees this thing, but then must “hear” the Lord’s voice in the same way in which all others “hear” Him.  It is recorded:  “And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moses, Moses.’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’ “ (Exo. 3:4.)

This encounter was not so unequivocal that Moses did not require faith.  This “voice” which he encountered from the “burning bush” was not audible.[10] Moses sensed it, and had to develop the faith then to “hear” it.  His faith was assisted somewhat by the sign he was witnessing.  But there was nothing automatic here.  There was nothing without effort.  It comes to every man, woman and child the same way, and requires effort and faith to understand.  Throughout Moses’ struggles to liberate a captive people, the words often came easy into his mind because of his faith.  That was a result of a growing capacity.  But even then, the signs which followed required great faith on his part as well.  He had to reach out in faith, in the court of Pharaoh, to speak the words given to him, and then trust he heard the Lord and was speaking on His behalf.  This was a difficult, trying ordeal for him.  Over time it resulted in him, Pharaoh, Israel and Egypt all knowing Moses had spoken with and was speaking to mankind for the only living and true God.  But as it was happening with him, Moses exerted effort and faith.

Gideon was another prophet with a unique method for receiving confirmation he could hear the voice of God.  In an unremarkable encounter, Gideon is met by a man whom he does not immediately recognize for his true identity.  The account states:

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord[11], if the Lord[12] be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his amiracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy amight, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:12-14).  A perfectly ordinary event, non-miraculous in any way, begins the process for Gideon.  He views this conversation in hindsight as something more than what it was at the first.  He finally sees this as an encounter with the Lord.  It is the beginning of the prophet’s call.  This man who spoke to him may have been a friend, neighbor or even Levite whom Gideon respected.  He was referred to by a term of respect, so Gideon must have respected the man.  It is only through hindsight however, the Divine nature of the communication is recognized by Gideon.[13]

You, too, may be able to see in hindsight how advice from someone else was really the “voice” of God to you.  God speaks to individuals sometimes through the voices in General Conference.  His voice is heard in the words of your Patriarchal Blessing.  Sometimes His words come from an inspirational song, or poem, or from literature.  But as you see His “voice” through the eyes of faith, you begin to realize it comes from Him.  The ordinary contains the extraordinary.  You must see the extraordinary in the ordinary before the truly extraordinary opens up to you.[14] You must have faith before you are shown signs.  “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow them that believe.” (D&C 63:9; emphasis added.)

Gideon through faith has “heard” the voice of God in this ordinary conversation.  As he realizes it is from God, he asks for a sign:  “And he said unto him, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.” (Judges 6:17.)  A sign is given which confirms momentarily, Gideon’s faith that this is a message from God to him.  However, he is being asked to organize an army, and then lead them into battle.  As his faith in this divine commission is budding, Gideon receives another message from God in a dream, that same night.[15]

For this kind of an undertaking, Gideon would like greater certitude from God to give him the confidence to lead an army into battle against a superior host.  He would like to see confirming evidence from the Lord sufficient to make certain this is no mere flight of imagination, and he as the faith to believe God will provide that to him.  In this respect, he has faith like Joseph Smith, as he awaited Moroni’s visit to answer his inquiry about his standing before God.[16] Gideon was certain in his faith the Lord would provide him a confirming sign.  The sign was not to produce faith, but was to confirm already existing faith.

He used the morning dew, and a sheepskin to confirm God’s will for him.  “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine aanger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me bprove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.” (Judges 6:36-40.)  Perfectly ordinary objects (sheepskin, ground, morning dew), get arranged in a way which allows Gideon to confirm the accuracy of his understanding God’s communication with him.  This is not “emotion” or a “feeling.”  It is drawing God’s communication into the physical world and seeing Him speaking there.

To Elijah, as he watched the unfolding physical signs of wind, earthquake and fire, these signs were not where he found God’s will.[17] These were physical events, observable by anyone who would have been present.  They were not “emotional” or “feeling,” but were outward events.  They were used to confirm the truthfulness of the inner “voice” which spoke to him.  That inner voice, speaking intelligence to the mind, was the voice of God; to him and to you as well.

Nebuchadnezzar[18] heard God speak to Him through a dream.  Likewise, Joseph of Egypt[19] heard God speak many times in dreams containing symbols from which God’s “voice” was “heard.”  Joseph, Christ’s earthly foster-father, was also warned repeatedly through dreams.[20] It is more likely the lack of faith than the absence of communication which accounts for the apparent “silence” of God in most lives.  We just do not believe or trust in Him enough to experience what is available to us all.  The great difference between prophets and others is not in God’s willingness to speak, but in the refusal to listen.  Some listen; and they are prophets.  Others do not; and struggle to believe the prophets.  God, however, has and does speak to us all.

In choosing a replacement Apostle for the deceased and apostate Judas, the method employed by the surviving Apostles was to “cast lots.”  It is written:  “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all mean, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:24-26.)  The same method is used here by Apostles as had been used by the Lord’s crucifiers to divide up His clothing, as He was ganging on the cross in the last throes of dying.[21] When we think of the Roman guards using it to divide Christ’s clothing, it becomes less inspired-looking and more homely.  It looks more like expediency than revelation as a tool for choosing an Apostle.  Yet, at the same time, this same process is built into the scriptures for the Church today, and is used in every disciplinary council to assign roles to the High Council.[22] Without regard to feeling, emotion or desire, the lots are drawn and the assignments are made.  These physical objects contain within them the Lord’s mind for organizing a council before whom the hearing takes place.

From Nephi’s casting lots to decide who would go to address Laban,[23] to choosing a scapegoat,[24] to choosing an Apostle, to choosing roles in a disciplinary court, casting of lots has been the way people of faith have determined God’s will for millennia.  Through it God “speaks.”  But it requires faith to see it in that light.  For these are ordinary, even commonplace ways of making a decision.  Only through faith does it acquire the “voice of God” in it.

We are unique, and God’s ways of speaking to each of us is as unique as each of us.  We do ourselves a great disservice when we attempt to fit ourselves into a singular, stereotypical persona seeking only a singular way for God to talk with and to us.  We make ourselves into something we aren’t, in the search to find what cannot be found that way.  If we demand only the extraordinary before we will recognize His voice, we run the risk of looking in the wrong way for Him.  His voice is there.  He speaks to all of us.  But we can miss it if we are not attuned to listen.

You may never be able to hear God speak to you in the way in which others hear Him.  If you determine He must speak to you in a specific way, you can go a lifetime without ever having a conversation with Him.  He longs to speak with each of us.  Within each of us there is something uniquely attuned to Him.  How He reaches out to you may be as singular and unique as you are and you can be assured He is reaching out.  In fact, God is rather noisy, if you will allow Him to be.  We were never intended to live without a direct connection to Him.  Instead, we should hear His voice, and in time discover He is our “friend.”[25]

Christ’s use of the example of a living “vine”[26] or “branch”[27] or description of His Father as a “husbandman”[28] suggests you should have a living connection to God.  A living connection implies you are in contact with Him.  You hear from and listen to Him.  He is a part of you and an active part of your life and growth.  His Holy Spirit should nourish you.

Don’t try to mimic what you think others are.  Don’t make yourself a caricature instead of the unique Child of God, which you truly are.  The viciousness with which we seek to be the same stereotypic “Mormon” is no less offensive nor slavish than the way in which modern fashion-seekers make themselves silly replicas of rock-stars, movie stars, and ‘gangsta’s.”  Wearing gang colors to show you “belong” is very akin to our own efforts to dress alike, talk alike, sound alike, and think alike.  One has to wonder how either can contain any virtue as an end.  We should all feel comfortable being ourselves.  As Brigham Young once remarked:  “There is too much of a sameness among our people.  … I do not like stereotyped Mormons – away with stereotyped Mormons!” (JD 8:185; quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone in The Incomparable Christ:  Our Master and Model, page 119.)

How each of us receives contact with God, how we hear His voice, and what gifts we possess are unique.  There is no single universal way for one to “hear [His] voice and know that [He] is.” (D&C 50:45.)  And so it is a mistake to ignore your own unique talent of “hearing” your Father in Heaven.  He did not send you here powerless to hear Him.  But it will require you to develop the capacity.  Relying merely upon your “feeling” or “emotions” alone is insufficient; you must learn to hear His voice.  All of the prophets referred to above, from Moses, to Gideon, to Elijah, received contact form God.  They were certain Who it was that spoke to them.  They obtained intelligence, heard His voice, and learned from Him.  None of them relied upon mere “feeling,” but instead “heard” words from Him.  He spoke with them just as He did with Nephi.[29]

There is no permanency to men’s lives, nor to the work of men’s hands.  There are only two things which will endure here with any permanency:  posterity and our words.  Buildings do not endure, as history has proven.  Today there is only one building from the Roman Empire still in use.  The rest are gone, except a few remaining relics which are in ruins.  But the words of Cato, Cicero, Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny, Livy, Sallust, Virgil, Caesar, Terrance, Polybius, Suetonius, and Seneca, to name only a few, endure.  Even more importantly, the words of Paul, Origen, Tertullian, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and the other ante-Nicean fathers are timely even today.  These writers’ words dealt with the struggle to maintain the truth delivered to the Saints through Christ and His Apostles.  So important do these words remain even now that the recent work of Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, (Ben Lomond:  Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research; 1999), continues the repeated study of their works.  Words endure; buildings, even temples, do not.  The closer the words are to the will of God, the more likely they are to endure.  Revelations are the most enduring of all.  But all expressions of faith and hope endure long beyond words of opposition, faithlessness and anger.  For the most part, the great critics of Christianity have been preserved only through the words of the apologists who oppose them.  History settles into patterns which repeat themselves, and so we should expect the critics of the Lord’s great latter-day work will also fade into neglect, as the works of faith and hope endure.

Get yourself in harmony with God, call upon Him and record His voice to you and you will leave something eternal behind for your posterity.  The record of your own testimony, and your posterity, will alone endure.  It is one of the reasons for the inspired instruction to us through the Latter-day Prophets to ‘keep a journal’ of our lives.  After all, “angels may quote from” your journal.[30]

We need to forget conforming to an imaginary pattern, and allow the unique gifts each of us have been given to mature.  Becoming “one” does not require us to become the “same.”  There is a great difference between the “oneness” God asks us to acquire, on the one hand, and uniformity on the other.

That having been said, there is nothing wrong with the development of a separate style, as the Saints have done.  This style is intended to distinguish us form the world.  It serves that purpose, and it reminds us we ought to behave differently than the world.  However, accepting such style is not the end in itself.  It does not confer any superiority upon us.  Its only function is to remind us we are different form the world.  But to receive revelation and “hear” God’s voice is a different challenge.  That challenge is not met through slavish conformity to what you think someone else thinks you should be.  Find out what God wants you to be.  Be that.  It is “one of a kind.”  It will make you free.[31]


[1] This Latin phrase is common among lawyers.  It means the “single best proof” of something.

[2] If converts have any advantage, it is here.  The process of converting requires some contact with the Spirit, and after baptism the conferral of the Holy Ghost is a distinct experience, usually gained in adulthood.  The contrast this brings allows any convert to know, with clarity, they have encountered the Spirit.  It is therefore easier to use this to build upon.

[3] See, e.g., Matthew B. Brown, Receiving the Gifts of the Spirit, (Covenant Communications, Inc., American Fork; 2005); as just one recent example.

[4] D&C 46:8: “Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given.”

[5] Moses 6:63: “all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, … all things bear record of me.”  The unique identity of everything in nature testifies to our own unique lives.

[6] See, e.g., Jacob 2:11; Alma 43:24; Ether 13:20; Gen. 15:4; 1 Sam. 15:10; 2 Sam. 24:11; and Jer. 1:11, among many others.

[7] “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon.” (TPJS, p. 151).

[8] D&C 63:9: “But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.” (Emphasis added.)

[9] Exodus 3:1-5:  “Now Moses kept the flock of aJethro his father in law, the bpriest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the cmountain of God, even to dHoreb.   And the aangel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of bfire out of the midst of a cbush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.  And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God acalled unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy ashoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is bholy ground.”

[10] “Hearing” God’s voice is not just automatic or easy.  Even when He is speaking directly to an audience, they must first attune their ears, through faith, before they know it is He and what He is speaking.  We see this in 3 Ne. 11:3-5: “And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a avoice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a bsmall voice it did cpierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they aunderstood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did aopen their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.”

[11] The word here denotes a respectful address for a man, not God.

[12] The word here denotes God.

[13] Margaret Barker’s work The Great High Priest (T&T Clark; London, New York; 2003) gives a scholar’s view of how mere humans became “angels” as they communicated God’s words to men.  One passage is quoted here:  “The belief that human beings, as a result of their mystical vision, were transformed into angels, was neither new nor the teaching of an unrepresented minority.  … The Gnostic believer changes from unbelief to faith, then from faith to knowledge and love, and then ‘such an one has already attained the condition of being equal to the angels.” (Id., p. 6.)  The theme of ancient Israel accepting men as angels appears throughout her book.

[14] This was the subject of my earlier work, The Second Comforter.

[15] Judges 6:25:  “And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him …”

[16] JS-H 1:29: “In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to aprayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full bconfidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.”

[17] 1 Kings 19:11-14:  “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a astill small bvoice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very ajealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am bleft; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

[18] See Daniel, Chapter 2.

[19] See Genesis, Chapter 41.

[20] See Matthew, Chapter 2.

[21] Matt. 27:33-36:  “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of aa skull, They gave him avinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they acrucified him, and bparted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my cgarments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;

[22] See D&C 102:12-17:  “Whenever a high council of the church of Christ is regularly organized, according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one and so in succession to number twelve. Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written. But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak. The accused, in all cases, has a right to one-half of the council, to prevent insult or ainjustice.  And the councilors appointed to speak before the council are to present the case, after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the council; and every man is to speak according to equity and ajustice. Those councilors who adraw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and binjustice.”

[23] 1 Nephi 3:11.

[24] Leviticus 16:8: “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”

[25] See, e.g., D&C 84:77:  “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends,” among other places.

[26] John 15:4-5:  “aAbide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the avine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without bme ye can do nothing.”

[27] Id., see also John 15:6: “If a man aabide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

[28] John 15:1: “I am the true avine, and my Father is the husbandman.”

[29] Three chapters were devoted to discussing Nephi’s progression in communicating with God in my earlier work, The Second Comforter.  Here we only make reference to it.

[30] Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p. 351:  “Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.  Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events.”

[31] John 8:36:  “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”


In researching this topic, I felt that the best way to continue the discussion on “small miracles” was to share a lengthy essay/article Hugh Nibley wrote some years ago, which can be found in Since Cumorah.  That being said, it is a very interesting topic and one which very much relates to this topic of small miracles.  Regardless of your thoughts, it opens the world to our view and peels back our eyelids a little to ponder just exactly how God works.

Without further ado, here it is:

===========================

The Liahona. 51

We have in the Book of Mormon a most interesting apparatus called the Liahona. Now the chances of finding a genuine Liahona are, to say the least, remote; but what if something just like it showed up in the hands of Lehi’s relatives? That should certainly come as a surprise, and even provoke some thought. The Liahona has given rise to endless merriment and mockery among critics of the Book of Mormon only the shining stones of the Jaredites can equal it as a laugh-getter. Even the present writer, for all his curiosity about Book of Mormon oddities, has always passed it by in an abashed silence—it was like nothing he ever heard or read of—until the year 1959. For it was in that year that an Arabic scholar by the name of T. Fahd published the hitherto scattered, scanty, and inaccessible evidence that makes it possible for the first time to say something significant about the Liahona. But before we consider his report, let us see what the Book of Mormon has to say on the subject. This is what the first edition tells about the Liahona:

251“And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment, he beheld upon the ground a round ball, of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (p. 39, 1 Nephi 16:10).

252“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith, and diligence, and heed, which we did give unto them. And there was also written upon them, a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it: And thus we see, that by small means, the Lord can bring about great things.

252 “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball. And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch, that I did obtain food for our families” (pp. 40-41, 1 Nephi 16:28-31).

252“And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning . . . the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord, that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him. Therefore, as they were unfaithful, they did not prosper nor progress in their journey” (p. 155, Mosiah 1:16-17).

252“And now my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director; or our fathers called it liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it. And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to shew unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness; and it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day; nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means, nevertheless it did shew unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence, and then those marvellous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.

253 “And now my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass, (now these things were temporal,) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual. For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, Is there not a type in this thing? . . .

253 “O my son, do not let us be slothful, because of the easiness of the way; for so it was with our fathers; for so it was prepared for them, that if they would look, they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look, we may live forever” (pp. 329-30, Alma 37:38-46).

253“And it came to pass that after they had bound me, insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work; wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship. . . . And it came to pass that after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it” (pp. 48-49, 1 Nephi 18:12-13, 21).

253 Listing the salient features of the report we get the following:

253 1. The Liahona was a gift of God, the manner of its delivery causing great astonishment.

253 2. It was neither mechanical nor self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God.

254 3. It functioned only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it.

254 4. And yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was the “small means” through which God worked; it was not a mysterious or untouchable object but strictly a “temporal thing.” It was so ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi’s people was to take it for granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it: hence, according to Alma their needless, years-long wanderings in the desert.

254 5. The working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers.

254 6. On these a special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the message of the pointers.

254 7. The specific purpose of the traversing indicators was “to point the way they should go.”

254 8. The two pointers were mounted in a brass or bronze sphere whose marvelous workmanship excited great wonder and admiration. Special instructions sometimes appeared on this ball.

254 9. The device was referred to descriptively as a ball, functionally as a director, and in both senses as a “compass,” or Liahona.

254 10. On occasion, it saved Lehi’s people from perishing by land and sea—”if they would look they might live” (Alma 37:46).

254 11. It was preserved “for a wise purpose” (Alma 37:2, 14, 18) long after it had ceased to function, having been prepared specifically to guide Lehi’s party to the promised land. It was a “type and shadow” of man’s relationship to God during his earthly journey.

254 We should not pass by Alma’s description without noting a most remarkable peculiarity of verses 40 and 41 (chap. 37). Let us read these verses without punctuation, as the ancients did; and as the Book of Mormon manuscript is written:

255 “Therefore they had this miracle and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God day by day nevertheless because those miracles were worked by small means nevertheless it did shew unto them marvellous works they were slothful and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvellous works ceased.”

255 The meaning is perfectly clear: though Lehi’s people enjoyed daily demonstrations of God’s power, the device by which that power operated seemed so ordinary (Alma included it among “small and simple things . . . very small means” Alma 37:6-7) that in spite of the “marvellous works” it showed them they tended to neglect it. We could punctuate the passage accordingly:

255 “Therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles, wrought by the power of God day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means (albeit it did show unto them marvellous works), they were slothful and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence.”

255 A comparison of various editions of the Book of Mormon will show that others have tried their hand at punctuating these phrases. 52

255 But it is time to turn to Mr. Fahd’s study of belomancy in the ancient Near East. Belomancy is the practice of divination by shooting, tossing, shaking, or otherwise manipulating rods, darts, pointers, or other sticks, all originally derived from arrows. Over ten years ago the present writer made a fairly exhaustive study of ancient arrow-divination, and some years later presented in the pages of the Era a long discourse on the ritual use of sticks and rods, especially in ancient Israel. 53 Yet it was not until he saw Fahd’s study, the first full-length treatment of old Semitic arrow-divination, that it dawned upon him that these old practices might have some connection with the Liahona. For the most common use of divination arrows, and probably their original purpose, was, according to the forgotten evidence unearthed by the diligent Fahd, the direction of travelers in the desert.

256Fahd begins by pointing out that the “arrows” used in divination, called qidh or zalam, were devoid of heads and feathers, being mere shafts or pointers. 54 Since Lane has given a fuller description of these objects from the sources, we can do no better than quote his quotations:

256“Zalam, plural azlam [divining—] arrows by means of which the Arabs in the Time of Ignorance [i.e, before Islam] sought to know what was allotted to them: they were arrows upon which the Arabs in the Time of Ignorance wrote ‘Command’ and ‘Prohibition’; or upon some of which was written ‘My Lord hath commanded me’; and upon some, ‘My Lord hath forbidden me’; or they were three arrows; upon one of which was written ‘My Lord hath commanded me’; [etc.] . . . and the third was blank; and they put them in a receptacle, and took forth an arrow; and if the arrow upon which was ‘Command’ came forth, he went to accomplish the purpose; but if that upon which was ‘Prohibition’ came forth, he refrained; and if the blank came forth, they shuffled them a second time. . . . The azlam [were arrows that] belonged to Kureysh, in the Time of Ignorance, upon which were written ‘He hath commanded,’ and ‘He hath forbidden,’ and ‘Do thou’ and ‘Do thou not’; they had been well shaped and made even, and placed in the Kaabeh [the holy shrine of Meccah] . . . and when a man desired to go on a journey, or to marry, he came to the minister, and said, ‘Take thou forth for me a zalam‘; and thereupon he would take it forth and look at it. . . . There were seven of the arrows thus called with the minister of the Kaabeh, having marks upon them, and used for this purpose: and sometimes there were with the man two such arrows, which he put into his sword-case; and when he desired to seek the knowledge of what was allotted to him, he took forth one of them.” 55

257But why arrows? Because, as we have shown elsewhere, the shooting of arrows is a universal form of divination, “as is evident in the prayers that the legendary heroes of the steppe—Finnish, Norse, Russian, Kazakh, Turkish, and Yakut—address to their three enchanted arrows before releasing them, and for instance, in the arrow-prayers of the Indian and Beduin, all eloquently expressing the humility of men about to entrust their lives and their fate to a power beyond their control.” 56 The consultation of the arrows by one about to marry was, according to Gaster, also an old Jewish custom; the parties concerned would throw rods into the air, “reading their message by the manner of their fall; this, Gaster observes, is ‘tantamount’ to the shooting of arrows.” 57 Other substitutes for shooting were shaking or drawing from a bag or quiver, “balancing on the finger, or spinning on a pivot.” 58

257 In the New World “the antetype . . . possibly of all the Indian dice games” is one in which the “arrows or darts are tossed . . . or shot . . . at an arrow tossed or shot to the ground so that they fall one across the other.” More often than not, the arrows in question were mere sticks or pointers. 59 In Arabic, sahamahu means both to shoot arrows with another and to draw lots or practice sortilege with one. There was no more popular form of divination among the magic-minded Babylonians than arrow-lottery, and Meissner suggest that “casting lots” in Babylonian (salú sha puni) refers to an original shaking or shooting of arrows. 60

257 All this shaking, tossing, and shooting emphasizes the divinatory office of arrows as pointers, 61 but along with that they also conveyed their message, as the passages from Lane demonstrate, by the writing that was upon them. Fahd notes that “on the arrows words were inscribed determining the object of the cleromantic consultation.” 62 Whenever divination arrows are described, they are invariably found to have writing on them, like the Zuni “word-painted arrows of destiny.” 63 The Arabic proverb for “Know thyself!” is absir wasma qidhika, literally, “Examine the mark on thy divination-arrow!” 64 It has even been maintained that writing originated with the marking of arrows, 65 but whether this be so or not, it is certain that men from the earliest times have sought guidance by consulting the pointings and the inscriptions of headless and tailless arrows.

258 The word for “divination-arrow” in the above proverb was qidh, defined in Lane as one of the “two arrows used in sortilege.” The original and natural number of arrows used in divination seems to have been two. Even when the “magic three” were used, the third was a dud, the manih, which is a blank “to which no lot is assigned.”

258 66 It is the other two that do the work. On the same day on which the king of Persia shook out the divining-sticks (the baresma), the Jews would draw three boxwood lots to choose the scapegoat; but the Talmud says there were only two lots and they were of boxwood or gold. 67

258 The reason for the two basic staves is apparent from their normal designation as “Command” and “Prohibition.” To this the priests at some shrines added a third arrow called the “Expectative”—”Wait and see!” 68 But the original arrangement was that two arrows designated the advisability or inadvisability of a journey; they were designated as “the safr [Go ahead!] and the khadr [Stay where you are!]” 69 From passages in Lane it is clear that the regular consultants of the arrows were those faced with travel-problems—all others are secondary. The patron of the caravans of the Hejaz from time immemorial was the archer-god Abgal, “the lord of omens,” in his capacity of the master of the arrows of divination. 70 The inscriptions on the arrows themselves give top priority to travel: typical examples from the various systems, which employ from two all the way to ten arrows, are “Go slow!” (bata’), “Speed Up!” (sari;kc), “Water!” “Stay where you are!” “Get moving!” “You are in the clear,” etc. 71

259 It would be an obtuse reader indeed who needed one to spell out for him the resemblance between ancient arrow-divination and the Liahona: two “spindles or pointers” bearing written instructions provide superhuman guidance for travelers in the desert. What more could you want? But what is the relationship between them? On this the Book of Mormon is remarkably specific. Both Nephi and Alma go out of their way to insist that the Liahona did not work itself, i.e., was not a magic thing, but worked only by the power of God and only for appointed persons who had faith in that power.

259 Moreover, while both men marvel at the wonderful workmanship of the brass ball in which the pointers were mounted, they refer to the operation of those pointers as “a very small thing,” so familiar to Lehi’s people that they hardly gave it a second glance. So contemptuous were they of the “small means” by which “those miracles were worked” for their guidance and preservation that they constantly “forgot to exercise their faith,” so that the compass would work. This suggests that aside from the workmanship of the mounting, there was nothing particularly strange or mystifying about the apparatus, which Alma specifies as a “temporal” thing.

259 Here we have an instructive parallel in the ship and the bow that Nephi made. Without divine intervention those indispensable aids to survival would never have come to the rescue of Lehi’s company—their possession was a miracle. Yet what were they after all? An ordinary ship and an ordinary bow. Just so, the Liahona was “a very small thing” for all its marvelous provenience, having much the same relationship to other directing arrows that the ship and the bow did to other ships and bows. We must not forget that the ancients looked upon even ordinary azlam as a means of communication with the divine: “In view of the importance of religious sentiment in every aspect of the activity of the ancient Arab and of the Semite in general,” writes Fahd, “I do not believe that one can separate these practices [i.e., of arrow-divination] from their character as a consultation of divinity. . . . They always believed, however vaguely, in a direct and constant intervention in human affairs.” 72

260 Like the wonderful staff of Moses in Jewish history, these things suggest remote times and occasions when, according to popular belief, God communicates more directly with men than he does now. Tha’labi knows of a Hebrew tradition that Moses led the children of Israel through the wilderness with the aid of a double arrow mounted on the end of his staff. 73 Such a device seems to be represented as a very ancient cult object in Egypt, going back to the earliest migrations. 74 This is certainly implied in the status of the ritual arrows or marked sticks among the American Indians, regarding which Culin writes: “Behind both ceremonies and games there existed some widespread myth from which both derived their impulse,” though what this mysterious tradition is he does not know. 75 Consistent with their holiness, “the consulting of the mantic arrows,” according to one Ibn Ishaq, “seems to have been reserved to questions of general public concern and to solemn occasions of life” and death. 76 Which again reminds us of the Liahona, “that if they would look, they might live” (Alma 37:46).

260 Was the Liahona, then, just old magic? No, it is precisely here that Nephi and Alma are most emphatic—unlike magic things, these pointers worked solely by the power of God, and then, too, for only those designated to use them. Anybody about to make a journey could consult the mantic arrows at the shrines, and to this day throughout the world mantic arrows are still being consulted. But it is clear from Alma’s words that in his day the Liahona had been out of operation for centuries, having functioned only for a true man of God and only for one special journey.

261 Another man of God, Lehi’s great contemporary, Ezekiel showed a remarkable interest in divinatory sticks and rods, as we have pointed out elsewhere, and he describes how the fate of certain wicked cities is sealed as God “shakes out the arrows,” each one being marked with the name of a condemned city. 77

261 Where, then, does one draw the line between the sacred and the profane? Religion becomes magic when the power by which things operate is transferred from God to the things themselves. As Fahd notes, the Arabs were extremely vague about the powers with which they dealt, as “primitive” people are everywhere. When men lack revelation they commonly come to think of power as residing in things. Did the staff of Moses make water come from the rock or cause the Red Sea to part? Of course not; yet in time the miraculous powers which were displayed through its agency came to be attributed by men to the staff itself. It became a magic thing, like Solomon’s seal, which possessed in itself the wonder-working powers which gave Solomon his ascendancy over men and beasts.

261 In time the Bible became a magic book in men’s eyes, conveying all knowledge by its own power, without the aid of revelation. So also after a fierce controversy on the matter, priesthood itself acquired the status of a thing that automatically bestows power and grace, regardless of the spiritual or moral qualifications of its possessor—it became a magic thing. Strangest of all, science has consistently supplanted religion by magic when dealing with final causes. When Sir Charles Sherrington, for example, after describing the incredibly complex and perfect workings of the body, insists that it is the cells themselves that agree to cooperate in following an indescribably complex plan of development, he is simply appealing to the old doctrine of the magicians, that things in themselves possess wondrous powers of performance: “It is as if an immanent principle inspired each cell with knowledge for the carrying out of a design.” 78

262Hunters and medicine men throughout the world who use arrows to bring them luck pray to their arrows, blow on them, and talk to them, as gamblers do to dice and cards—for at an early date “the use of the divination arrows drifted down into the vulgarisation of gaming cards,” i.e., the practice quickly degenerated to magic. 79 That is why it is so important to understand, and why the Book of Mormon is at such pains to make perfectly clear, that the Liahona was not magic. It did not work itself, like other divination arrows, in any sense or to any degree.

262 And yet it seems to have been an ordinary and familiar object, a “temporal thing,” which could also serve as “a type and a shadow,” teaching us how God uses “small things” to bring about great purposes. Here we have an implement which, far from being the invention of a brainsick imagination, was not without its ancient counterparts.

262 If we were to stop here, this would probably be the only article ever written about the Liahona that did not attempt to explain the meaning of the name. Fortunately the Book of Mormon has already given us the answer: “Our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass” (Alma 37:38). Liahona is here clearly designated as an Old World word from the forgotten language of the fathers, which must be interpreted to present readers. But what is a compass? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the derivation of the word remains a mystery; it has two basic meanings, but which has priority nobody knows: the one is “to pass or step together,” referring always to a pair of things in motion; the other refers to the nature of that motion in a circle, “to pass or step completely,” to complete a “circumference, circle, round,” to embrace or enclose completely. Thus whether it refers to the ball or the arrows, “compass” is the best possible word to describe the device, though generations of Book of Mormon critics have laughed their heads off at the occurrence of the modern word in what purports to be an ancient book.


Small Miracles + Promised Lands – Part I

In tackling this topic, I am admittedly venturing into an area with which I do not have much familiarity, knowledge or expertise.  So, as you read, peruse and ponder this topic in your own life, take what I say with a huge grain of pink Himalayan salt.  In fact, come to think of it, everything I write should be taken with an abnormally large grain of salt.

A simple comment over at LDSFreedomForum.com spurred this topic and this article.  In response to a solicitation to add and share thoughts on especially poignant stories from the Book of Mormon, one response simply and matter-of-factly stated:  “There’s also great symbolic significance in Lehi’s journey to a promised land. It signifies the trek each of us must make to acquire our promised lands.”  And, with that in mind, I begin this topic.  I open with a few pertinent questions, such as what is a promised land, how does one qualify for a promised land and why are they important.  Perhaps you already know the answers to these simple questions and, if so, I would hope you would share them.

The terms “promised” and “land” occurs 43 times throughout scripture.  The Bible contains 10 of these references, the Doctrine & Covenants contain 5 of these references and the Book of Mormon contains 27 of these references.  The Book of Mormon, therefore, provides approximately 63% of all the references to a promised land.  One may rightfully ask, therefore, why the focus, relative to the other easily accessible scriptures, on promised lands in the Book of Mormon.  A sampling of the references within the Book of Mormon include a discussion on Moses and the Red Sea[1], the Brother of Jared crossing the ocean[2], and the story of Lehi and his sons leaving Jerusalem[3].  Of these references, if we dissect it even further, there is one reference from Christ while speaking with the Nephites shortly after his resurrection about a future land of promise[4], three references refer to the Brother of Jared[5], two references refer to Moses[6], while the remaining references deal either directly or indirectly with the story of Lehi and his sons, a total of seventeen references.

Hopefully, from that brief and imperfect dissection of these verses we begin to see a pattern on this topic of promised lands.  The story of Lehi and his sons and their journey from Jerusalem to the Americas accounts for almost 40% of the total references to “promised lands” or “lands of promise” in modern day, easily accessible scripture.  I fully acknowledge that there may be other scriptures out there in the world which may discuss this topic in detail, perhaps better than the above references, but this article is focused solely on the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  These are the sources I am referring to when I say “easily accessible.”

Therefore, almost out of necessity, this essay will focus almost entirely on the story of Lehi and his sons.  Acknowledging that the Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by its namesake, Mormon, one should inquire as to why the focus in the first couple of books (1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob) and the underlying theme of promised lands and the voyage necessary to obtain and find them.

Hugh Nibley once stated that the story of the Liahona and Lehi’s journey out of Jerusalem, into the wilderness and on towards the promised land was nothing more than a metaphor for what we should all be pursuing while on this ephemeral earth:

“It was a “type and shadow” of man’s relationship to God during his earthly journey.”[7]

One of the great discussions on this topic within the Book of Mormon is a rather small section within the Book of Alma.  Within this section[8] we read of Alma the Elder instructing his sons, specifically his son Helaman.  Alma explains to Helaman the purposes of the Liahona, the “compass” of such a “curious…workmanship.”[9] The Liahona was specifically designed as a temporal tool, a tangible, physical tool to be used by Lehi’s family in their journey to the promised land.  What it was is precisely what it was not.  The Liahona was not an intangible, untouchable, easily mistaken “voice” or “whispering” they would occasionally hear.  Though it worked in concordance with their faith and how well they followed its directions, it nevertheless was a tangible reminder of who was helping them on their voyage.[10] Hugh Nibley describes the Liahona as being the following:

Listing the salient features of the report we get the following:  The Liahona was a gift of God, the manner of its delivery causing great astonishment.  It was neither mechanical nor self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God.  It functioned only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it.  And yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was the “small means” through which God worked; it was not a mysterious or untouchable object but strictly a “temporal thing.” It was so ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi’s people was to take it for granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it: hence, according to Alma their needless, years-long wanderings in the desert.  The working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers.  On these a special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the message of the pointers.  The specific purpose of the traversing indicators was “to point the way they should go.”[11]

The scriptures note that Lehi’s journey towards their promised land was directed by many, many miracles.  It was truly a divinely inspired trip of immense proportions.  The scriptures describe these miracles, and the response to these miracles, as follows:

…therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…[12]

Though the Liahona was none other than a temporal reminder of spiritual things, those who held the Liahona, saw its workings and were intimately aware of how it worked, nevertheless were “slothful” and “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence.”  As I read this, I am forced to wonder how this could happen.  How could these people so easily forget how the Liahona magically appeared outside of Lehi’s tent?[13] Though verse 10 mentions Lehi’s honest surprise at finding such an instrument in front of his tent, I’m still left to wonder whether these “miracles” began to lose their luster over time.  Lehi had been commanded in a dream the night prior that it was time, once again, to take up their journey the next day.  He presumably woke up from this dream, walked out into the sunlight of the morning and there, for the first time, sees this brass compass.  Had they become so familiar with, and expectant of, miracles that these same miraculous events began to lose their luster?  Clearly, Alma described these “miracles” as “small means” occurring “day by day.”  How can, as the text describes, something be both of “small means” and capable of showing “marvelous works?”

Perhaps, on our expectant voyages to our own promised lands we’re also witnesses to “small [miracles]” which occur “day by day” and we also are slothful in that we don’t notice them, don’t take them for what they’re worth, and fail to exercise our faith and diligence toward God’s ends.

Continuing on with the story as contained in the Book of Alma, Alma describes and relates to the reader exactly what the type and shadow of this Liahona was:

And now I say, is there not a atype in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.  O my son, do not let us be aslothful because of the beasiness of the cway; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would dlook they might elive; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.   And now, my son, see that ye take acare of these sacred things, yea, see that ye blook to God and live.[14]

Taking these verses to heart, a couple of questions immediately arise which necessitate an answer.

Q1:  Who or what is our director?

Q2:  Where is our promised land?

Q3:  Where must we look?

The answers to these questions may be self-evident to you, the reader, but to me they are both complex and loaded.  Alma provides answers to all these questions in a very short section of modern day scriptures, though the answers, in practice, are far from easy to implement.  Or, are they?

A1:  Our director is the words of Christ [personal revelation].

A2:  Our promised land is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” and a “far better land of promise.”[15]

A3:  We must look to God … and live.

In counseling us to “look to God,” Alma is saying something that no other prophet, prophetess, or anyone else in modern day scripture has said.  There is simply no other verse of scripture which contains this same language.  Though it is true that others have said, and will said, something similar to what Alma here stated, the simplicity with which Alma spoke and wrote is worth mentioning.  In order to obtain our land of promise, which land of promise is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” one must come to grips with both what “look[ing] to God” means and how one can “look to God.”

With that in mind, I will end this essay and pick up, in the next one, on the topic of “look[ing] to God.”  These words of Alma and necessarily important, necessarily poignant and, for me at least, not easily understood.  Though Alma describes the practicality of looking to God as easy and the only way to “live” and advance beyond the vale of sorrow into a “far better land,” I nevertheless am stuck on its easiness.

To be continued…


[1] See Alma 36:28.

[2] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[3] See 1 Nephi 5:5, 22; 1 Nephi 7:1, 13; among many others.

[4] See 3 Nephi 20:29.

[5] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[6] See Alma 36:28 and 1 Nephi 17:13-42.

[7] Nibley, Hugh.  The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 17.  Page 254.

[8] See Alma 37:38-46.

[9] See Alma 37:38-39.

[10] See Alma 37:43

[11] Nibley, Hugh.  Page 254.

[12] See Alma 37:40-41.

[13] See 1 Nephi 16:10.

[14] See Alma 37:45-47.

[15] See Alma 37:45.