Three Nephites and a Little Miracle
On my mission we had “Recitations” that we recited at all of our mission meetings. Recitations included Mormon 9:18-21, The Standard of Truth, and Doctrine & Covenants Section 4. These recitations were always done at the beginning of our meetings, directly after the opening hymns and prayer, and after our mission hymn (“Oh Say, What is Truth”). Then an elder or sister assigned with leading each separate recitation would step up to the podium and lead us as we recited sacred words in unison.
I will never forget being with over two hundred other missionaries, all standing as if at attention, and the booming richness that filled the air on those sacred occasions.
Today I am glad that in my small branch part of our priesthood opening exercises include all of the Aaronic Priesthood brethren leading us in reciting D&C 4.
I miss the oft repeated words of Mormon 9 though. Their words hold a deep and eternal truth.
18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
19 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.
20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.
I know by sacred experience that our God is indeed still a God of miracles.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories of a modern-day miracle comes from the days of the dawning of the Restoration though.
In the spring of 1829 the Prophet Joseph Smith was laboring vigorously to translate the record of The Book of Mormon. Joseph and his wife Emma had moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania, a small hamlet in the Susquehanna Valley to escape outside pressures and persecution. There in Harmony Joseph and Emma lived in a small cabin on the corner of Emma’s father’s farm. While Joseph labored during the days to provide for his wife as a farmer, he was also laboring to fulfill the Lord’s command to fulfill a sacred duty. The work, both physically and spiritually, was demanding. Much to Joseph’s relief the Lord sent Oliver Cowdery, a school teacher, in early April of that year to assist the illiterate Joseph in the process of translation.
As the work continued the persecution that Joseph had experienced so greatly in New York began to likewise show up in Pennsylvania. Shortly after beginning to assist Joseph Smith with the work of translation, Oliver wrote to his friend David Whitmer in Fayette Township back in New York State. Oliver enthusiastically testified that Joseph Smith had the ancient records and that the work was divine and true. He soon sent a few lines of the translation and bore witness that he knew the plates contained a record of the people who once inhabited this continent. David Whitmer, then twenty-four years of age, eagerly showed these letters to his parents and brothers and sisters.
As persecution began to intensify in the Harmony area late in in the month of May, Oliver communicated with David about the possibility of Joseph and Oliver going to stay with the Whitmer Family in Fayette. In response Peter Whitmer, Sr., David’s father, invited Joseph to stay at his farm home as long as was needed to finish the work of translation. David’s brother John offered to help as Joseph’s scribe. Many people in the Fayette area were anxious to hear more about the work.
As farmers the Whitmers knew that a late May planting was essential for a successful fall crop and harvest. With such thoughts in mind the senior Whitmer, Peter, advised his son David that he had to plow and prepare the soil before he could take his two-horse wagon to pick up Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery down south in Pennsylvania. Obediently David followed his father’s counsel, although anxious to complete what seemed to be a mundane task. At the end of hist first day of plowing he found he had accomplished in one day what normally would have taken two days to do. He was astonished. David’s father was likewise impressed by this apparent miracle. Peter Whitmer, Sr., said, “There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown.” – Plaster of paris was used to reduce the acidity of the soil. – However, the next morning when David went to to sow the plaster on the fields, to his surprise he found the work had already been done.
His sister, who lived beside the field, said that her children had called her to watch three strangers the day before spread the plaster with remarkable skill and speed. She assumed they were men David had hired to speed up the work.
They were not.
Grateful for this divine intervention, David Whitmer hurried off on the three-day one hundred mile journey to Harmony. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery met him as he approached the town. Although David had not told them exactly when he was coming, Joseph had seen in vision the details of David’s trip to Harmony.
These small miracles witnessed by David and the rest of the Whitmer family testified of the Prophet Joseph’s seership and the Lord’s intervention for the successful translation of The Book of Mormon.
After a short time in Pennsylvania these three men, Joseph, Oliver, and David, left en route back to Fayette, New York. Joseph, before departing, had delivered the plates from which The Book of Mormon was being translated back to the Angel Moroni for safekeeping during their journey. One day as the men were riding along in the wagon another unique experience occurred in relation to the sacred work in which they were engaged. David Whitmer said the following,
“A very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and saluted us with ‘good morning, it is very warm,’ at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and, by a sign from Joseph, I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, ‘No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me. I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked around enquiringly of Joseph, the old man disappeared.”
Joseph then related to his brethren that the man they had just seen was in fact the ancient Prophet Moroni.
In 2012 it is sometimes hard to recognize the miracles large or small in our lives, but they are there. The Lord used ancient prophets and disciples to hasten His work in 1829, and I testify that He does the same today. On this side of the veil and on the next there is a hastening like never before to prepare this world for the reception of our Lord and our Master.
Will God send an angel to help you in a daily chore? Will the Lord send the three Nephites to help you next time you’ve got some yard work to do? – Honestly, probably not. – But as you fill your life with His deeds and His words, you will be entitled and prepared for His assistance and His help.
Our God is a God of many mighty miracles, and you in and of yourself are one of those miracles.
Now, as we were counseled so beautifully and repeatedly in last week’s General Conference, go and be a miracle in someone else’s life.
You’ll be glad you did.
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For greater detail about the stories I shared above about the Whitmer’s farm please see History of the Church 1:83-86 and Cannon and Cook’s Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), pp. 1–3. To read about the men’s encounter with Moroni please see “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star, 9 Dec. 1878, p. 772.