Book of Mormon Central Archive
|Publication Type||Encyclopedia Entry|
|Year of Publication||1992|
|Authors||Hedengren, Paul C.|
|Secondary Authors||Ludlow, Daniel H.|
|Secondary Title||Encyclopedia of Mormonism|
|Place Published||New York|
Author: Hedengren, Paul C.
A miracle is a beneficial event brought about through divine power that mortals do not understand and of themselves cannot duplicate. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the reality of miracles as a consequence of their belief in the existence of God and of his power and goodness.
Just as a shepherd tends his flocks, watches over them, and uses his power to help them, so Jesus Christ used his power and knowledge to help others when he was on earth. For instance, when the supply of wine was exhausted at the marriage feast at Cana, at his mother's request, Jesus miraculously provided wine (John 2:1-10). This act was consistent with his love and compassion, but the means by which he changed the water into wine is not understood, and of themselves people cannot duplicate it. Thus, it is called a miracle. Numerous other examples of the beneficial results of miracles performed by Jesus include the raising from the dead of the widow's son at Naim (Luke 7:11-16), the cleansing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:12-19), and the restoration of the sight of the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26).
Latter-day Saints value miracles because of their beneficial character. As stated in the Book of Mormon, "God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings" (Mosiah 8:18). Although God brings about marvelous events to bless humankind, it is known that not every spiritual manifestation necessarily comes from God (TPJS, pp. 202-214; Rev. 13:13-14; see also Sign Seeking).
Faith is considered necessary to bring divine intervention in behalf of those in need. For example, as the Book of Mormon prophet Alma 2 noted, Lehi and his group of emigrants were given the liahona, a compasslike device to direct their travels toward a new and Promised Land. "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 [of the compass] 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" (Alma 37:40).
God desires to bless his children, and sometimes does so in ways that require the manifestation of extraordinary power. He is restrained only by their lack of faith. Thus, the absence of miracles is evidence of the lack of faith among his children, "for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain" (Moro. 7:37). "For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them" (Ether 12:12).
When the faithful receive a blessing from God, especially one that requires a manifestation of his extraordinary power, the proper response is gratitude to God for the blessing (D&C 46:32). Manifestations of God's extraordinary power usually come only after faith and do not necessarily create faith (cf. Ether 12:7); it is appropriate, therefore, not to make a public show of such sacred experiences as a demonstration of religious belief. Seeking manifestations of the extraordinary power of the divine for the purpose of coming to believe is rejected as improper sign seeking.
Of the miraculous gifts of the spirit that come to the righteous, the Lord says, "For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts…. And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God" (D&C 46:9, 26).
A miraculous gift especially valued is the healing of the sick. However, not every faithful soul who ails will be raised, for the Lord has said, "And whosever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished and with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food…. And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me" (D&C 42:43-44). Thus though the sick may be healed (D&C 46:19), if that does not occur, the sick are nourished by all prudent means, including those available in modern medical science. The elders of the Church perform this ordinance of administering to the sick, as the scriptures prescribe (cf. James 5:14-15; D&C 46:20), and the healing or other blessings are then in accordance with the will of God.
Personal experience with miracles might confirm the faith of the recipients. Further, personal experiences with miracles may give others increased confidence in scriptural accounts of miracles.
Of all the miraculous gifts of God given to his children, the one of greatest benefit is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. By powers and means not understood by mere mortals, Jesus was able to take upon himself the sins of the world and make it possible for anyone by repentance, to escape the otherwise inescapable suffering of sin and the doom of death, and thereby return to the presence of God. "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent…which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (D&C 19:16, 18). The miracle of forgiveness and the marvel of resurrection are supreme indeed.
Hadfield M. Gary. "Neuropathology and the Scriptures." BYU Studies 33:2 (1993):312-328.
Kimball, Spencer W. Faith Precedes the Miracle, chap. 1. Salt Lake City, 1972.
Welch, John W. "Evidence for a New Testament Miracle." BYU Studies 37:4 (1997-98):173-175.