Do you believe in miracles…

In Mormon circles, people typically express the views that faith precedes miracles and that the truly righteous do not need miracles to develop their faith.  I want to argue  that this view overlooks the importance that miracles do and should play in our decisions to follow Christ.  

Faithful people often do receive miracles.  But unfaithful people do, too.  A miracle can create faith in God when it provides the spark we need to seek him out.  Two examples come readily to mind: the apostle Paul and Alma the Younger.

Closer to home, if it wasn’t for miracles, broadly defined, I doubt many people would remain faithful members of the church.  What we believe is crazy. Where is the evidence for angels or raising the dead? But despite this absence of evidence, concrete moments where we feel God performing miracles in our lives give many of us the faith we need to keep grappling with the gospel.  I cannot separate my faith from these miracles, nor do I believe that I should.

To argue that God requires our faith to do miracles unacceptably limits God’s power. To argue that we must have faith before we receive miracles leads to the equally unacceptable conclusion that we should exercise belief on the basis of nothing. So perhaps we should recognize the role that miracles play in developing faith rather than insist that truly faithful people don’t need miracles.

Comments

  1. I think though, that you have to believe what is happening, or happened is a miracle for it to have any effect on faith. If I don’t believe in miracles, then I will think there is an entirely logical explanation as to why Josephe Smith saw angels (either he was lying, he was taking mind altering drugs, or he was mentally unstable).
    Most often miracles can be ascribed to natural phenomenon, but we choose to call it a miracle, or God’s hand. Faith really does precede the miracle. If someone has cancer and is cured, we might call it a miracle, even though there is a medical explanation. Miracles only exist for people who want them to exist. We choose what we label miracles to reinforce our own faith.

  2. Yes, but I want more and in a more timely fashion.

  3. I’ve always found it a little silly to say that people aren’t converted by signs and miracles. I mean, isn’t a witness of the holy ghost a sign from God?

    Not every sign or miracle results in a conversion, but I don’t think there’s a conversion out there which didn’t involve a sign or miracle in one way or another.

  4. “To argue that God requires our faith to do miracles unacceptably limits God’s power.”

    Why unacceptably? Mormons don’t really believe in an omnipotent God.

  5. I am no longer sure if I believe in miracles, though I do believe in good works.

  6. What we believe is crazy.

    It wasn’t until I gave my 5 year old a FHE lesson on Moroni and the golden plates that this really hit home. She looked up at me with doubt and skepticism in her big blue eyes and said “And you believe that?” Suddenly I felt horribly like I was lying to my child. The guilt! We stuck to FHE lessons on right and wrong and making good choices after that.

  7. i believe in miracles. Us leaving Romania is proof.

  8. I believe in miracles. My family leaving Romania is proof.

  9. Miracles can happen to people based on other people’s faith, too, though. Alma the Younger had a father praying for him.

  10. No.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Timely discussion, as miracles is the overarching theme of next Sunday’s GD lesson.

  12. It might be relevant to clarify what a miracle is . . .

    Is it when someone asks God for something positive and it occurs?

    Or, is it when something happens that is not normally possible?

  13. Yes.

  14. Absolutely, through first-hand experience that simply can’t be explained in any other way – and I’m aware of just about every way miracles can be discounted.

    However, I don’t believe faith has to precede a miracle. I believe God can cause miracles in the absence of faith. It might take faith to believe a miracle has occurred, but the two can be independent, imo.

  15. Natalie B. says:

    #1: I am defining miracles broadly for the sake of this post to encompass the kinds of experiences people do have. I agree that often people might only label something a miracle if they are already inclined to believe in God, but I think it is still possible that there could be divine intervention even if they don’t recognize it as such. I also think that people can have the experience and then later turn to God to try to figure it out, hence developing faith.

    #4: If we believe in an omnipotent God, then I think we have to assume he can accomplish things without our faith. Of course, it could easily be the case that he is not omnipotent.

  16. Natalie B. says:

    #12: I think of miracles along the line of Ray–experiences that I can’t explain in any other way, sometimes accompanied by a very strong spiritual witness.

  17. I think the miracle is the increased faith that results from a situation or happening. If Alma the younger had not been changed by his experience would it have been a miracle, or just an experience? Laman and Lemuel saw an angel and, essentially, no good came of it. We don’t speak of it as a miracle. Had a change of heart resulted from that experience might we call it a miracle?

    I think miracles have less to do with what event occurs than what occurs in the hearts of men because of those events.

  18. Steve Evans says:

    What Kristine said.

  19. Miracles are very important, in my opinion, and especially concerning the keeping and maintaining of faith (for some people, of course). I’ve had a faith crisis where my belief in every single thing has come into question except that there is some greater power that cares about people. I can’t give up on that basic belief because of a very strong miracle with a very spiritual witness that happened in my life. If I hadn’t had that experience I probably wouldn’t believe in anything religious anymore, but that one instance makes it possible for me to think that maybe all of this is true and keeps me wavering on the edge of a testimony.

    And I absolutely don’t think you have to have faith first. I personally think it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to believe things are true before getting any kind of witness.

  20. We were having lessons in the old testament last year where political leaders came to the prophet to get things done like mountains moved and battles won.

    At the same time there was the shell oil disaster. How would it be if the President asked the Prophet to fix the problem. If the prophet fixed it, how would that affect the church’s standing? Why could they do it then and not now?

    There were even occasions when old testament prophets performed miracles to impress people- I’d like our present prophet to impress us- i’d have more faith in their other pronouncements.

  21. To #6
    Joseph Smith was older than 6 years old when the angel Moroni appeared to him, because he needed to be more mature to receive that message. Adapt the story to what a 6 year old can understand. Then as your child matures, she will understand it. You do not try to teach her multiplication or division until she is more mature. So likewise with spiritual things. Give her what she can understand at her level.

  22. I most definitely believe in miracles. I like what C.S. Lewis pointed out, that the miracles Christ performed during his lifetime all echo the ordinary miracles that happen around us every day. For instance, converting water into wine is a sped-up version of the everyday miracle in which fermentation converts grape juice into wine. Healings of the blind, lame, lepers, etc. are types or symbols of the ordinary miracle of healing by our immune system working with other body systems. The loaves and fishes are types of the miracle of agriculture, of crop growth, which every year feeds all of us. It is by these special miracles that the background miracles of all the gifts we receive through living, the rain and sunshine, the food and raiment, and all the rest of it, everything that is regularly miraculously given to us, with no fanfare, is highlighted. I love that explanation of Christ’s miracles.

    In fact, this whole universe, with its physical laws that lead to life, is a miracle. If you play with cellular automata (also called “the game of life”), you see that most initial conditions, and most sets of rules, lead quickly to sterility, to steady-state behavior which holds no interest. Either simple repeating cycles or else quick die-down into total stasis. String theory posits that there are many, many universes in the multiverse. One imagines that most must be sterile and without interest. The fact that ours has just the qualities needed to foster life, the so-called anthropic principle in physics, is for me the greatest miracle of all. The fact that there are quantum fluctuations in the void, which bubble up to the large scale via the butterfly effect, is another great ongoing miracle. That a point of infinite energy existed in order to spring forth in spacetime at the beginning of everything is yet another. That time exists, that weird undefinable dimension, axis, we all only travel in one direction at one second per second… that is the most puzzling and bizarre miracle of all.

    Against that vast background the miracles I’ve witnessed in my life are tiny things (though huge to me), minute reminders of the vast multifarious miracle of our existence.

  23. I think our faith is a miracle. I definitely believe in miracles though I don’t believe we can control them through our faith, i.e. I strongly believe God is not a vending machine.

    As to the quibble in the original post, I think the Nicodemus story actually has something to say about it, if you consider the end of John 2 to tie into the Nicodemus episode in John 3 (I found Karl D.’s notes on Lesson 5 to be insightful on this point, link here: http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2011/01/24/new-testament-lesson-5-kd-john-3-4/). At least it seems that the story seems to support the idea found elsewhere in scripture and prominently in Mormon scripture that religious belief resulting from witnessing miracles does not run as deep as faith resulting from a change of heart etc. Though I see how tricky it becomes when we acknowledge that the change of heart itself, i.e. faith itself, is a gift from God and therefore a miracle.

  24. I’m sure sam and nephi felt the angels were miracles even when Laman and Lemuel did not.
    My husband and I getting the same answer to prayer independently..and it’s something we wouldn’t think of ourselves..that’s a miracle.
    the birth of babies is always a miracle to me

    blessings in which issues are addressed that the giver of the blessing has no clue about

    I believe in miracles.

    The faith precedes..LIke laman and sam..the difference in the experience was the faith they had.

  25. I wonder if we say things like “the truly faithful don’t *need* miracles” just to make ourselves feel better that we don’t see things that dramatic nowadays. I’ve never seen anyone walk on water, or be raised from the dead. In fact, the one time I expected a miracle – my toddler had been blessed that she would recover from a lifelong illness – it didn’t come.

    So, maybe we say things like that as a hedge for when even the miracles we hear about constantly – like healing the sick – don’t come.

  26. In the words of Bill O’Reilly, “Tide goes in, tide goes out”. Is it that hard to admit when we don’t know why things happen? If we don’t know why something happened, it doesn’t automatically mean a god did it for us. Is it too hard to explore alternative answers for odd events? We dismiss Catholic “miracles” and “faith healers”, yet call people unfaithful when they question our faith in nonsensical things.
    Fewer things seem miraculous when we learn more about the world. This doesn’t need to be a bad thing.

  27. I mean, it could be that God stopped the bullets, or He changed Coke to Pepsi, He found my car keys. You don’t judge it based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an “according to Hoyle” miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.

  28. Who says the truly righteous don’t need miracles to strengthen their faith? I think what people might say is that we ought not to look for signs, as if we won’t believe without signs.

    I, however, do look for miracles in my life — times when God inserts himself.

    “To argue that God requires our faith to do miracles unacceptably limits God’s power.” Who argues this? It’s true that “faith precedes the miracle”, but is that the only condition under which they occur? The Savior taught the value of faith as it relates to miracles over and over again in his ministry. But I doubt he did so to limit his (or his father’s) power.

  29. In some fashion, the post needs to deal with Ether 12. You can’t take up this subject without addressing Moroni’s pronouncement in verse 6:

    “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”

    I don’t know that the stories of Saul and Alma are exceptions to this. It seems to me that Saul and Alma were both exercising faith, it’s just that their faith was misguided. God intervened because their actions were based on faith in Him that was in error, and needed correction. This is different from someone who is just lazy or wicked. Saul and Alma both believed they were doing the right thing.

    Moroni’s pronoincement does limit thw power of God, I suppose, but we believe the power of God to be limited in all kinds of ways, because we believe that God acts according to certain laws, whether those laws are of his own making or exist outside of Him. I think this is one of those universal laws: you must have some measure of faith prior to receiving a witness, or a miracle if you will, that confirms your faith.

  30. I’m not completely sure if I believe in miracles.

    I did know of a Haitian woman who had a daughter. She taught her daughter an old Haitian song that would cast a spell on people who heard it; and was told to only use it in times of extreme emergency.
    One day the daughter was accosted by some men in a van, and was being taken back to their apartment. The daughter started singing this old voodoo hymn, and straightway the men were brought under her spell, and she was able to escape.

    So I guess the question is: Do you believe in magic, in a young girls heart? How the music can free her, whenever it starts?

    Oh, oh, I kill myself.

  31. My personal interpretation is that we need as alma taught to have faith the size of a mustard seed. Maybe just enough to acknowledge God’s hand in our lives. Many who don’t have that faith will look elsewhere for explainations. Once we have even the tiniest sliver of faith we can then receive the miracle of recieving a witness through the Holy Ghost. From there it is a cycle of increasing faith and increasing miracles. So I do believe in miracle and I do beleive that in most circumstances faith needs to precede the miracle, but I do not believe that God is limited by that.

    In the case of Alma the younger the faith may have been his fathers and not his own that initiated the miracle.

    I also don’t believe that LDS have a corner on the miracle market and that any amount of limited faith in God, Allah, or some higher being can evoke a miracle- maybe even the faith of a young girl taught to believe in voodoo– who knows.

    I believe in miracles. I believe I had one just yesterday in response to my fast. And I am thankful for it.

  32. Natalie B. says:

    For those of you who think that faith must precede a miracle, what do you mean by faith? How much of it? About what? Can faith be wrongly directed and still be sufficient for a miracle, as suggested in comments above?

  33. I think the commenter above who redirected the focus from miracles to signs was on the right track. God is in charge of both miracles and signs, of course, and I believe he makes use of both. Korihor didn’t particularly believe but he was still given a sign — just not the kind of sign he expected.

  34. Thomas Parkin says:

    I agree with the idea that faith is required to see a miracle rather than necessary for it to happen.

    I personally think God – or, His agents, anyway – are intervening in our lives all the time. The thing is, He is doing His work, not our work. We constantly ask Him to intervene in our work … oh, please, oh, please, if that check comes through it would sure be great for me! Dear God, can you cause her to love me, or at least be gentle with me? Our work is largely working out our identities here in the early 21st century. What labels should I wear in order to express myself in this or that context? How to I win in the tension between my identity and one or another reality? What is my career path? Will people see me as competent? Will they see me as good? Beyond that, our work is about easing our way through the world – something that God has no lasting interest in. Our work is sunk deep in vanity – in two definitions of the word.

    But, it seems to me, that God can do His work with us whether or not we are good or bad at answering those kinds of questions. His work with us is largely about getting us to learn and to move beyond fashion and on to eternal stuff. Our resistance is almost absolute. We don’t really want to learn, we want to pad our identities with likely ideas. Until we begin to get past that, I don’t think we see many miracles.

  35. #34 Thomas, you raise a good point. My own experience is that I find God in my life more when I’m trying to align myself with him than when I’m trying to align him with me.

  36. Natalie, I should clarify. Faith precedes something being called a miracle.

  37. I believe in Jimmer.

  38. “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them”

    Ether 12

  39. I guess a lot of us Mormons are crazy then. Considering how much pain and suffering there is in life, we still hold on to our crazy beliefs, despite any respite or “miracle”. The truth is, sometimes good things happen, and sometimes bad things happen. I don’t God is pulling strings. I don’t believe in miracles or tender mercies in the sense that most Mormons do. But I believe God is good and merciful and loving and is aware of us. And I believe having faith is a good thing, even if you’re not using it to “get what you want” from God. I might even say its kind of shallow to base your beliefs on that.

  40. It's Not Me says:

    I absolutely believe in miracles, defined as God intervening in my life. It’s happened too many times to deny, but not enough to compel belief. That sounds weird. I have faith, therefore I connect the dots and believe. Hmmm. Anyway, I’ve had plenty of experiences that I do not deny He intervenes; the memory of those experiences sustains me when things get tough.

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