26 May 2024

Miraculous Missionary Work

The only way missionary work works is because of miracles!

I read a statement the other day that made me chuckle. Though it was most likely written for comedic effect, I've been thinking about it off and on ever since. I'd love to be able to hear what each of you think of this:

Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear. Some people say that a sunrise is a miracle, because it is somewhat mysterious and often very beautiful, but other people say it is simply a fact of life, because it happens every day and far too early in the morning. Some people say that a telephone is a miracle, because it sometimes seems wondrous that you can talk with somebody who is thousands of miles away, and other people say it is merely a manufactured device fashioned out of metal parts, electronic circuitry, and wires... So you might think that there are so many miracles in the world that you can scarcely count them, or that there are so few that they are scarcely worth mentioning... --"The Carnivorous Carnival", Lemony Snicket

So, what do you think? Are miracles all around us, or nowhere to be found? If you and I were to sit down for a discussion, might our common faith help us to arrive at some sort of consensus on the points raised by the author of that statement? As fun and interesting as that would be, I'll just share some of my thoughts now and encourage you to continue the conversation in other settings as you see fit.

"...what they are made of..."

So, what exactly are miracles made of?

Miracles on our behalf are always an expression of our Heavenly Father's love for us. They are also often the result of love expressed by others for us. The angel that came to Alma the younger made it very clear that the prayers of his father (and I think we can assume his mother's prayers) were instrumental in that appearance. Love is the foundational ingredient of miracles.

Mormon, in abridging The Book of Mormon points out that Nephi, the son of Nephi, who had been keeping the records when the Savior visited the Nephites in the book of 3rd Nephi, "was a just man...for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not anyone who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save they were cleansed every whit from iniquity..." (3 Nephi 8:1). Notice that Mormon does NOT say that Nephi was perfect. He says he had been 'cleansed'--which to me refers to repentance and being forgiven and sanctified through the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Nephi, Mormon, President Nelson, even prophets make mistakes, and commit sins, but anyone who hones the spiritual skill of repentance can be 'cleansed every whit'! Repentance is an essential ingredient for the working of miracles.

"...where they come from..."

What is the source of miracles? Where do they come from?

Elder Shayne M. Bowen, in the most recent general conference:

President Russell M. Nelson has taught us to seek and expect miracles. I testify that because the priesthood has been restored, the power and authority of God are upon the earth. Through callings and councils, men and women, young and old, can participate in priesthood work. It is a work of miracles, attended by angels. It is the work of heaven, and it blesses all God's children.

Quite simply, the priesthood of God is the power source for miracles great and small.

"...how often they should appear..."

How often should we expect to witness or be part of miracles? I think this is the easiest point to agree upon. Oftimes we hear the statement "less is more", but in this case, regarding miracles, "more is definitely more!" Who wouldn't like to have more miracles in their life?

Ammon, who was with Alma the younger when the angel appeared later shared what he came to know about how certain miracles are wrought:

Alma 26:22

22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing--unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

So, a few more ingredients to add to the list we started:

  1. Repentance
  2. Faith
  3. Good works
  4. Prayer

What does all of that eventually get us?

  1. Mysteries of god being unfolded
  2. Reveal things never before revealed
  3. Bring thousands of souls to repentance

If that all seems farfetched, remember that we human beings tend to greatly overestimate what we can do in the short term, and we greatly underestimate what we can do in the long term, and our Father in heaven is really good at the long term. This life isn't even a drop in the proverbial bucket of the eternities ahead of us.

Now what?

So, what about those members of your family and the neighbors we all know and love, but who either haven't yet found the truth, or have stepped away from it? At this moment, I'll be honest: I really don't know what to do for those closest to me and my family. I'm probably getting in my own way to some extent, feeling stuck when I don't need to. In any case, figuring out what I can do to help them come toward the light of restored gospel of Jesus Christ might well be considered one of those "mysteries of God", even "things which never have been revealed".

Have you ever considered that becoming converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ is, in itself, a miracle? The work that our full-time missionaries do is, of necessity, a work of miracles. The Holy Ghost has to touch each individual's heart, and that process is facilitated by loving family, and friends, and missionaries. For the work to work, we need to do our part.

So, let's pray more earnestly for miracles in our ward. Let's sit down with a pencil and paper and brainstorm what to do to help those we love feel more of the Savior's love. Don't try to decide whether an idea is good or bad, just write it down. Set a timer for a few minutes and see how many things you can write down before the timer goes off. Putting pen to paper in this way is an act of faith. This is something we could do during a home evening, or during a class or quorum meeting, or during your own personal gospel study. Ideas will come and then we'll need to go out and do stuff. We all know people right here who could be more bountifully blessed by a covenant relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ, don't we? We don't want to be pushy. We don't want to burn bridges. We want to respect moral agency and respect a person's choices. So, let's approach them with love. Let's approach God to repent. Let's approach each day with faith.

The good news is that it's not at all sensational to say that we absolutely need miracles to occur in the lives of people we know and love. There's simply no other way around it.

A missionary miracle from my life

On my full-time mission I became frustrated after talking with several members who didn't seem to know anyone that we could teach. In that area there were very few members of the church. So, after another frustrating and unfruitful visit my companion and I counted over 200+ houses on the street where those members lived. What were the odds that just one person in one of those 200 houses was ready to receive the gospel? My feeling was that the odds were very high, we just needed guidance to find them. So we prayed more earnestly and kept working nearby. A bit later that week, while meeting people on the street, I felt a strong prompting (which I almost didn't follow!) to talk with someone who ended up sharing their address with us. We scheduled a time to visit.

Upon our return to the area, we couldn't find the address. We showed the address to a random man we encountered who quickly verified that it didn't exist. In that moment I was confused, (Why had I felt prompted to speak with someone that gave us a fake address?) but, not wanting to miss any opportunity, we introduced ourselves to this new friend (his name was Raul) and we offered to share our message. He agreed! In process of teaching and later baptizing and confirming this man and his family, we learned that he was the brother-in-law of the ward member we had visited and asked for referrals a few days previous. Those members couldn't have imagined Raul embracing the gospel. He had made lots of bad choices in the past. (Who hasn't?) Unbeknownst to his extended family, he had progressed to a point that he was "only kept from the truth because [he knew] not where to find it." (Doctrine and Covenants 123:12) So, while Raul didn't live on that street with 200+ houses, the Holy Ghost had guided us to someone much 'closer to home' in a familial sense.

Joshua 3:5

5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.