Today I met a new brother, recently moved into our congregation. [Actually, I met several new brothers (and sisters), recently moved into our congregation.] As we often have since January, we used the hour after the end of formal meetings to chat with one another.
This brother, who suffered near-fatal injuries in Afghanistan, spoke of the miracles that had occurred in his life. He shared of a day after his injury when he was broken, in pain, angry at everyone and everything. In his pain and anger, he had quarreled with a fellow patient, a quarrel that led to murderous blows. He had wholly given up on himself and anything he had learned since his baptism as a child convert about religion and forbearance and forgiveness. The rest of that day was expected to go on without love or concern, just pain and anguish.
As visiting hours began, this brother headed to the back of the facility. As he passed through a doorway, the fellow he’d quarreled with was coming the other way.
“Where’re you going?!” he demanded.
“Some Elders from my Church are here. My Bishop gave them permission so I can have the sacrament.”
All hostility faded away.
“Um… Could I join you?”
I’m sure words conveyed something about the brother’s baptism many years earlier, and his willingness to renew that covenant. So in less than eight hours he’d gone from actively trying to murder a fellow patient to humbly partaking of the sacrament side by side with that same patient.
My new friend shared that one of his favorite talks is Matthew Cowley’s 1953 talk on miracles, which this brother listens to regularly. I recommend the talk to you. As Elder Crowley relates, he was advised early in his ministry that he was always to speak as inspired by God.
As I listened, I was reminded of the times I got to hear LeGrand Richards speak. In those days, the folks in charge of things would help cue the speaker that their time was over by bringing up the house lights. LeGrand Richards, however, would continue speaking. The lights would lower for a while longer, then come up again. One memorable time the lights had come up three times before Elder Richards so much as signaled he had noticed. His signal was along the lines of, “You can go ahead and turn the lights down. I’m not done yet!”
I was also aware that Matthew Cowles was the son of Matthias Cowley, a great friend to my own forebear, John W. Taylor. And so as I listened to Matthew Cowley, it seemed to me I could glimpse a hint of how my own ancestor had ministered. It is said that in the days before Primary was formed (or perhaps the early days after the formation of Primary), John W. Taylor could teach a Sunday School class composed of roughly one hundred children, keeping them spellbound.
When I was a child, my father would save money by buying used cars, which he then ran into the ground. My mother and her numerous children were therefore often stranded in the heat or the cold with a car that wouldn’t start. More times than I can count, my mother would ask us to bow our heads and fold our arms as she prayed to God to allow that car to start. I can’t remember a time when her prayer wasn’t answered.
Having seen this, I tried this a time or two on my mission. I would alert those with me, “Hey, I’m going to say a prayer so this car will start.”
I can’t remember a time when that worked.
I finally figured out that it wasn’t that I didn’t have faith or that God has ceased being a God of [car] miracles. It was that I was announcing to a group that didn’t have faith what I intended to do. And they, believers in God though they were, went from passive lack of faith in [car] miracles to active skepticism.
Once I was in a Sunday School lesson taught by Ed Snow, then a lawyer practicing in the Baltimore area. This was in the early 1990s, when I would occasionally go to Church with Bryan Stout up north of Baltimore.
A few years earlier, I had contradicted the Sunday School teacher in my own congregation. He had asserted that certain folks were descended from Mulek and had the priesthood, and I pointed out the scripture that identified these priesthood-wielding folks as descended from Lehi. From that point for the rest of several years that teacher spent as Sunday School teacher, he never called on me. And it wasn’t because my hand wasn’t in the air [usually several times per lesson].
Ed enjoyed being urbane and slightly skeptical. But he would call on me! I will forever adore Ed for that.
At any rate, this one lesson, Ed Snow was talking about miracles, and effectively stating that miracles aren’t really a thing that happens anymore. I raised my hand, and commented that it must be more difficult to pour out blessings when we are so certain miracles can’t exist that we won’t even ask for anything that isn’t “possible.” I suggested it might have been easier for God in a more primitive age.
Perhaps some have lived in a world so rational that they have never experienced a miracle. [Like the way people from the western US often have never experienced a firefly.] I would urge such folks to let go and let God, to write down the times they were prompted and a blessing resulted from their willingness to do as they felt they should. If you act to nurture your ability for God to bless you outside the bounds of the rational and forecastable, I project you will be able to discern God’s love for you, and God will guide you to bless those around you. For some this is an everyday occurrence. But whether it is a typical experience or a hoped-for grace never before experienced, it will be: