"He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants..." - - Testimony of Joseph Smith - -
"Have miracles ceased upon the land?"
This is the question posed in the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ. This book tells the story of a people in America, a family and the trials and triumphs of their posterity. In this great book of scripture the gospel of Jesus Christ is clarified, even by Christ Himself when He visits the people in America after His crucifixion. This book is filled with testimonies of prophets and other followers of Jesus Christ, though many had not seen Him personally. This book is written for the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile, to show the covenants we can make with our God, and to communicate the reality of a Savior, even Jesus Christ.
As I read the title page of the Book of Mormon, I was struck by the phrase: "...to come forth in due time..." Jacob teaches us that the words will be preserved until the Lord sees fit to reveal them to the children of men (2 Ne. 27:22). Mormon also tells us that the words of the prophets "shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away... (Mormon 8:26)." Yet, we know that God is a God of miracles, "And I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today and forever...(2 Ne. 27:23)." And the Book of Mormon coming forth, especially the way it came through a young 14 year old boy, is miraculous indeed! Because of this great work of scripture, the doctrines taught in the Old and New Testaments are clarified and verified for, "in the mouth of two or three witnesses the word shall be established (2 Cor. 13:1)." Another great blessing and miracle to behold!
In the testimonies of the three witnesses, they claim: "That we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates...and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man....and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true (italics added)." To me these men are testifying of the miracle of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. For it is by faith that miracles are brought to pass.
Continuing with verse 23 in 2 Nephi 27, Jacob declares, "...and I work not unto the children of men save it be according to their faith." I can't imagine any greater faith than that exhibited by Joseph Smith when, as a young boy, he knelt in prayer to ask the God he knew which church he was to join. This faith, spurred on by a reading of the scriptures and seeking with an earnest heart, led to the miraculous vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This vision then led to more miracles - the keystone being the translation of the Book of Mormon.
There are many who will say miracles have ceased, that Christ performed His only miracles before and while living upon the earth. The beloved prophet whose name graces this book of scripture proclaimed:
And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourself a god who can do no 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.
Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?
Who shall say that it is not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
And who shall say that Jesus did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
And there were miracles 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 changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
But I guess it's hard to believe in miracles in real time. Even Gideon had a hard time believing the angel who told him the Lord would help him fight a battle because he asked, "Oh, my Lord, if the Lord be with us, whey then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us from Egypt?' (Judges 6:13)." Maybe it's easier to believe things in hindsight. How, then, can we acknowledge and bring forth miracles into our own lives today?
Maybe we first need to ask, "What is a miracle?" In Webster's 1828 Dictionary we learn that miracles are literally "a wonder or wonderful thing!" Theologically, of course, there is more involved with intervention from Diety to make something happen that normally would not happen. And the LDS definition states that a miracle is "an extraordinary event caused by God." When I started to list some miracles I've witnessed - - the birth of seven children, keeping faith amidst trials, a breathtaking sunset, a dear loved one returning to the gospel, and others - - I asked myself, "What is the difference between a miracle and a tender mercy or a simple blessing from the Lord?"
In reading Elder David A. Bednar's talk on tender mercies, I interpreted them to be gentle gifts from God, testifying to us of his reality in a very individual and personal way. Elder Bednar states, "I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ." Tender mercies are simple nudges and quiet affirmations that God is aware of us. Miracles, however, are described more as events. And though "faithfulness, obedience and humility invite tender mercies into our lives," it is by faith that miracles are wrought in our lives.
And yet, even as I type that I wonder if there is much of a difference. Maybe for us to start seeing and believing miracles exist, we need to start acknowledging them when they happen in our lives. Maybe acting on faith to bring about great miracles in our lives begins with expressing gratitude for the small examples we witness daily, while working for and hoping for bigger miracles to happen in the future. For His course is "one eternal round" (see Alma 7:20; Alma 37:12; 1 Nephi 10:19; and Doctrine & Covenants 35:1)." We could all do well to testify as David, "Thou art the God that doest wonders (Ps. 77:14)."
This year we can start by reading the Book of Mormon and asking "Is this true?" What a great miracle it is to gain a testimony of the Living Christ and to believe in the words of those who testify of Him. And let us remember that the acknowledging the small, daily miracles in our lives will only increase our understanding, awe and belief in the greatest miracle given to us all: The Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
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"When we are personal witnesses to these wonders which God performs, it should increase our respect and love for him; it should improve the way we behave. We will live better and love more if we will remember that. We are miracles in our own right, every one of us, and the resurrected Son of God is the greatest miracle of all. He is, indeed, the miracle of miracles, and every day of his life he gave evidence of it. We should try to follow after him in that example."
- President Howard W. Hunter, CR April 1989 -
See Also: The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life be like Without It? - Russell M. Nelson