(December 16, 2015)
It has always been striking to me how many otherwise orthodox Mormons have such a problem with miracles. They use any and all means to explain away the absence of miracles. There seems to be a pendulum that swings back and forth – from recognition of small miracles (a good thing) taken too far to the point where larger miracles are denied (as if God only works through small miracles) to a denial of the small miracles (as coincidence or circumstance or personal effort) which also leads to a point where larger miracles are denied.
As I have said before, I want my tombstone to read “A Man with Experience is Never at the Mercy of a Man with an Argument.” And, in this case, that phrase is no less applicable. However miracles can be argued or explained away, there are a couple of truths that are found both in the scriptures and in my life. And my life has likewise shown some corollaries that I have learned to be true.
The first truth is, as my life shows and
clearly states, the day of miracles is not passed. The great judgment day is not upon us, and
therefore miracles continue in this world.
I have seen both small and large miracles, so even if Moroni hadn’t written it I could have
testified to it. If we deny miracles, we
and we deny Christ.
Second, small miracles happen on a daily basis. There are five prayers that, in my experience, are always answered (and answered quickly). A prayer for the tender mercies of the Lord to communicate His love for us. A prayer for humility (answered, in my experience, with some catastrophe [incidentally, this makes for a good prayer experience for someone doubting the existence of God – encourage them to pray for God and then watch as their lives fall apart, which then becomes evidence of God hearing and answering their prayers]). A prayer for an increase in gratitude, which is answered with opening my eyes to blessings that I have missed. A prayer for charity for someone in particular, which tends to be answered by that person doing something painful (intentional or otherwise) to me, giving me an opportunity to practice that virtue. And finally, a prayer for an opportunity to serve, which is answered not by callings or responsibilities but rather by the Lord opening my eyes to the needs that I can meet of those around me.
These are just some of the small miracles that we can see in our lives if we just open our eyes. There is nothing wrong with looking for and finding these small miracles – indeed, we should be grateful for them. The problem comes when our focus on these small miracles deceives us into believing that these are the only way the Lord works.
The Lord works through large miracles as well. Certainly not as often as the small miracles, but if we deny them we won’t be able to experience the larger miracles. Large miracles, at least in my life, do not come around every day. But they didn’t come around that often in the lives of the prophets, either. For example, Nephi was a prophet that we think of as having a number of miracles in his life. But what do we legitimately have from the record in front of us?
Off the top of my head, we have (1) the vision to trust his father, (2) the angel protecting him when his brothers were beating him, (3) the miracle of protection when securing the Brass Plates, (4) being freed from his brothers tying him up in the wilderness, (5) the receipt of the Liahona, (6) the vision of the Tree of Life, (7) directions on how to build a ship, (8) shocking his brothers, (9) the storm on the sea, and (10) instructions to flee before his brothers killed him.
Of those ten miracles (and forgive me if I have missed any compiling this list on the fly), four were inspiration or revelation (1, 6, 7, and 10), three were things that could easily have had naturalistic explanations (3, 4, and 9), and three defied naturalistic explanations (2, 5, and 8). This in a lifetimes of experiences, and for which we have records of over a decade.
Along with denying the larger miracles, I think we might sometimes have unrealistic expectations of how often those larger miracles should occur (and I think the latter may feed into the former). Nephi was on an errand for the Lord – quite possibly the most important thing happening in the world at that point and time. And, yet, he was having on average one miracle that denied natural explanations every few years, one miracle with a naturalistic explanation ever few years, and a revelation or inspiration just slightly more often.
As I think back on my life, that is pretty consistent with what I have experienced (taking out, of course, the times when I was not living my life in a manner worthy to experience any miracles at all). I certainly was not as central to the Lord’s Plan as Nephi was, but He blessed me with miracles as well – a few that defied naturalistic explanation, a few that could be explained away (but which were clearly miracles), with the occasional profound inspiration or revelation. These larger miracles exist, and support the smaller miracles that we can receive on a daily basis. We don’t need to expect frequently, but we must also realize that the Lord can and will bless our lives with them from time to time.