“I am a God of Miracles”: How Miracles Worked Then and How They Work Today
What a great time of year to study miracles! We’ll discuss angels soon 🙂 I’d also like to add, you’ll find this discussion is mostly about how miracles work, not so much on why they were used. That will be for another time!
It seems like the new tradition when I come home, whether it’s from a mission or college, is to be drafted into teaching a day or two of seminary for my mom’s class. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but wow…I forgot how hard it is to wake up at 5:30 in the morning!
Anyway, not that what I’m going to talk about is entirely new to everyone, but I feel I gained some valuable insight from my preparation to teach Luke chapters 7 and 8. I first wanted to establish how miracles were wrought in the scriptures because that’s often glossed over. In 2 Nephi 27:23, we read:
23 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.
Many of the miracles Christ preformed in the New Testament had to do with healing others. I asked the question: “What is required to be healed of some disease or sickness?” Their answers included:
- God’s will
- Faith from the person providing the prayer or blessing
- Faith from the person receiving the prayer or blessing
- Faith from all those who keep God’s suffering children in their prayers
- The priesthood
Of course, in response to number 5, I asked, “Is the priesthood necessary to heal someone of a certain ailment?” We determined it isn’t exactly the only way, or even the most common way, someone has been or can be healed. Here’s what President Brigham Young said on the matter:
When a person requested a priesthood blessing, Brigham Young would ask, “Have you used any remedies?” To those who said no because “we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed,” President Young replied: “That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.” (1)
That of course brings up the question of those from different faiths who seem to get this impression that only our Church has the capacity to heal. What is it that ultimately heals? The Bible Dictionary states:
Miracles were and are a response to faith, and its best encouragement. They were never wrought without prayer, felt need, and faith.
Of course, I don’t wish to undermine the importance of the priesthood or priesthood blessings. Such things like casting out devils, curing diseases and even raising one from the dead at times required more than the typical prayer and faith formula (see Luke 9:1-2). However, it seems inconsistent to think our Lord walked around healing people or preforming other miracles, great and small, simply because He had all the power and authority man could posses. Did he not expect a greater lesson or application of the miracle to settle into the heart of the healed? The New Testament seems to weigh such miracles a lot heavier on faith than authority.
These healed persons we read about in the scriptures– every one–had faith sufficient to be healed. And frankly, that was all that was required. It should be no surprise that the same simple formula works today, especially for those not of our faith. I think too often we are like the apostles of old in our concern for those of other faiths preforming miracles that we seem to want to reserve for ourselves only (see Luke 9:49+50)
I then asked the class, “Did Jesus have power to heal those who did not have faith?”
The class responded correctly, “Of course!”
I then rephrased the question, “Would Jesus heal someone who did not have a willing desire to exercise faith?”
After a bit of thought, the class once again responded correctly, “No…”
Remember, in 2 Nephi 27 God clearly stated He would not work “among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” Mormon also emphasized this fact in Mormon 9, and seems to be answering a question, perhaps something like, “Why would God not work miracles in someone’s life even if they didn’t have faith?” In verse 20 he responds:
20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust
Miracles are real! They happen today! And although they are sometimes hard to believe, they serve a valuable purpose.
I am still in awe at director Ang Lee’s masterpiece “Life of Pi”, which easily made it to #1 on my favorite movies list, and wouldn’t you know it, in an interview about the strong messages of faith in the movie, he said, “How do we take imaginations and illusions into our heart? It’s not just something you can prove, because if you can prove it, you don’t need to take a leap, and that’s not faith. Imagination is not nothing; it’s the deepest, highest order. That’s how we relate to God.” (2)
None of us would argue that Jesus, throughout His many parables and teachings, required His disciples to not only exercise faith but also to use their imagination. Those who refused to think any deeper than the simplest application never did progress in their path towards true Christianity (see John 6:24-48).
To sum it all up, it is clear miracles are still preformed today because the people of this world still possess prayerful hearts, faith, and imagination. Miracles can cease, however, due to man’s unwillingness to acknowledge their Creator. The priesthood of God is a vital key to preforming His work here on earth, but just as often faith alone has preformed some of the mightiest miracles known to man.
(1) Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 163.
(2) LIFE OF PI Interviews with Suraj Sharma and Ang Lee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY2yv2W4ZLk