Two scriptures I read this week cased some personal reflection.
To begin with, the first two weeks of school are behind us and we have had many opportunities to teach and attend Institute of Religion classes. The classes were well attended and the students were involved in the discussions. These are institute classes held on the grounds (not campus) of the University of Virginia and the campus (not grounds) of James Madison University.
In seminaries the course of study this year is the Book of Mormon. Similarly, both UVA and JMU have one Book of Mormon class in their curriculum. Each Thursday night we are the assigned teachers at the JMU Book of Mormon class. There are about a dozen bright and engaging students in the class.
At the end of class this week we discussed 1 Nephi 1:20, “ . . . but behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
The term “tender mercies” seems to be a popular phrase in today’s Mormon culture. We seldom sit through a Sunday School class without hearing it. It is a way of saying the Lord blesses me, he does it in small ways, he does it often, and he does it quietly.
It occurs to me that recognition of a tender mercy is one way we acknowledge the Lord’s personal knowledge of us as individuals. He knows our name. He wants to help in small but meaningful ways. Because we are busy with our mortality we often miss what he is doing in our lives. But, like parents helping children caught up in themselves, he helps us regardless. When I take time to look back on my life it is full of tender mercies that I did not recognize at the time they were given. Even when I seriously contemplate and reflect I feel I am missing most of what they Lord has done for me.
I like the concept of guardian angels who are assigned to deliver tender mercies. I am convinced ancestors function as guardian angels. I feel my father, grandparents and others want to help me as the Savior directs them. Some day I would like nothing better that to be a guardian angel to my children and grandchildren.
The second scripture was Mormon 9:19. Moroni is speaking to the people of the last days – to us. He said, “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”
God is a God of miracles. In our day it is the same as it has been in the past. It is easy to point out miraculous scriptural stories. When we tell people of the restoration we emphasize the first vision and the translation of the Book of Mormon. These and other events in early church history are so miraculous they are dismissed by most as outrageous fiction. As members we generally repeat these stories without emotion. Rather, we should react with amazement as we think of the miracle – the exciting, exhilarating miracle – of the restoration.
Miracles happen in our dispensation, not just in past dispensations. Miracles happen today, not just in early church history. A logical next phrase could be, miracles happen in our own lives, not just in the lives of others before us.
Tender mercies are all around us. If we reflect, only for a moment, we can see them. Miracles are evidence of divine intervention in our lives as well, but more dramatic. Tender mercies can be seen daily. Miracles in our lives are more infrequent.
This week I thought about some of the miracles in my life. Some miracles are private personal experiences. Some are readily shared. Here are some I would like to share.
The first time I went through the temple was Oct 1969, just before departing for my mission. I received my endowment in the Salt Lake Temple. I was not the only one attending for the first time on the session. Those of us who were new were taken to a small room and given instruction before the session. While quietly waiting in that temple room I received a witness that the events about to happen were eternally significant. We are taught the strongest witness we can receive, stronger than voices or visions, is the witness of the Holy Ghost. The witness of the Holy Ghost came as an uplifting swelling inside me. It is the strongest spiritual feeling I have felt in my lifetime. It was a miracle to me.
I have seen the miracle of healing take place through priesthood blessings. Specific individuals who come to mind are Justin as a newborn baby, Ryan who dealt with stomach problems as a young man, and Ben and Andrea who faced life threatening digestive problems.
A member of my home Nephi ward called me last year and asked that I give him a priesthood blessing with his son-in-law. He had faced a kidney infection that required hospitalization. He had been released from the hospital, placed on antibiotics and was recovering at home. After a few days his situation took a serious turn for the worse. He had an appointment with his doctor who would be in the office Monday, but this was Sunday morning. He was considering returning to the hospital, but questioned whether the emergency room doctors could help considering he had just been treated and was on antibiotics. His priesthood blessing took place Sunday morning. He soon felt better and decided to wait until the Monday appointment to seek medical help. Monday morning he felt much better but kept his appointment. The doctors performed additional tests, determined that the antibiotics he was taking were ineffective against his particular infection, and changed his medication. He explained to me that he took the new medication knowing he was already healed.
In April 1992, days after his 70th birthday, my father suffered a heart attack. The day of his heart attack he was busy with the simple, but important work of the gospel. He went to the temple and completed a shift as an ordinance worker. He completed some of his home teaching visits. He returned home and was watering some of his new spring flowers. There in his front yard he suffered the heart attack. My mother was not at home. We are unsure how long he laid in the yard before a neighbor discovered him and called an ambulance. He was unconscious in the hospital for two days on life support. The doctors explained that a normal recovery was impossible. The miracle was not to be found in a recovery. It came the evening I was able to give him a priesthood blessing asking that the Lord recognize all the good in his life, bless him with a quiet exit from mortality, and accept him into the spirit world. The life support equipment was removed and he was taken to a standard hospital room. My mother, my sisters, and I spent the night with him. He rested quietly through the night. At 7 a.m. he sat up and opened his eyes. He looked past us, straight ahead beyond the foot of the bed. He lifted both of his arms. He then quietly laid back and passed on. It was a moment when the spirit was overwhelming. It was remarkably peaceful. It was miracle in the life of our family.
A most personal healing, and a blessing to our entire family, took place in the summer of 1998. At the age of 15 Jan contracted rheumatic fever. She recovered but dealt with the lingering problem of arthritis. Throughout our marriage her suffering had been constant and sometimes severe. Some relief came when she was pregnant, but it would return after our babies were born. During the spring and summer of 1998 the arthritis became disabling. She visited doctors who moved to extreme treatments, but there were no positive results. She was at the point where she was unable to walk because of the joint pain. The Lord recognized our petitions with a miracle in her life. Matt was preparing for a mission at the time. He received his call to Lithuania and was ordained an Elder. One of the first ways he used his priesthood was to give his mother a blessing. A few days before Matt left home, he and I laid our hands on his mother’s head and gave her a priesthood blessing. She improved quickly. When Matt entered the Missionary Training Center she was greatly improved. Early in Matt’s mission her arthritis was gone. Since the time of that blessing she has had no noticeable problem with arthritis. It is truly a miracle.
“ . . . he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.” (Mormon 9:19)