Sunday, August 30, 2009

Miracles Don't Convert

Have you ever seen a miracle? Would seeing a miracle persuade you to believe in God? I have a friend who does not believe in God, who is sure that if he saw a miracle, he would then believe. I told him I felt that seeing a miracle would not convert him, because he would find a way to explain away what had happened. He said, "No, if a hand snatched me from a burning car, then I would believe that God exists." I replied that I thought he would find a way to explain away the experience. He might say, "I was so delirious with fear that I imagined a hand snatched me out of the car." Or he might come to believe that it was a passerby, but in his frenzied state he imagined it was God. If we look at the children of Israel for an example, we see that indeed, miracles do not have a converting effect. They actually saw the Red Sea parted. They personally walked through on dry ground. They ate manna that was provided by God. But still, they made a golden calf and worshipped it. In modern day scriptures we read,
"7 And he that seeketh signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation.
8 Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe."
(D.& C. 63:7-9)

I have faith in God. That faith has come from years of exerting faith, praying, and having prayers answered. If I saw a miracle today, it would work to strengthen my faith, not create it.

A good example of this principle is the testimony of 3, and the testimony of 8 witnesses concerning the gold plates which Joseph Smith translated. Both of these groups of men were given the privilege of seeing, and touching the gold plates. Both groups wrote up a declaration and signed their names to attest that they had seen and touched them. You can read the testimonies of the 3 by clicking here and the testimonies of the 8 by clicking here.

Would reading those testimonies convert you to the fact that the golden plates existed and were translated by Joseph Smith? I doubt it. People will find a way to explain away those testimonies. Even in the Christian world, there are those who explain away the occurances of the Bible to make their beliefs consistent with science. Even if the miracle occurred to them personally, they would find a way to explain it away as delirium, or confusion, rather than believe, if they did not already have sufficient faith.

The real determinant of conversion is the spirit, and our exercise of faith. Sadly, when it comes to the Book of Mormon, there are many who have already decided that it isn't true, without going through the process of truly studying it and asking God for a witness. It is the process that develops our faith in God. It is the praying, studying, and striving that helps our faith to grow. Faith is like a muscle that only grows as it is used. We don't gain faith by studying about it. And part of faith is believing that God will tell us the right answer, whether that answer is yes, or no. With God as our guide, we need not fear seeking truth.

Do miracles convert? No, but they do strengthen faith. I have already received an answer that the Book of Mormon is a true record, and is scripture. Therefore, when I read the testimonies of the witnesses, my own faith is strengthened, and I feel the spirit confirming to me that their witness is true. I encourage all to strive to communicate with God, and develop the faith necessary to believe.

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