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It is interesting to look at the history of religious miracles. If you look at the magnitude or improbability, it seems to be proportional to how long ago it happened. The bigger the miracle, the longer ago it happened. But that passage of time also corresponds to technology, the more we have, the lesser the miraculous nature of the miracle.

Lets look at some examples. In the Old Testament, we have parting the Red Sea. A miracle in anybody’s book. But it happened over 3500 years ago. Nobody is alive that can remember it. There were no cameras. Nobody had a cell phone. Nobody had a journal that they could write it down in. Other miracles of this magnitude that fit this time period include the sun and the moon standing still (Joshua 10:12-14) Jonah and the whale (Jonah 2:1-10), and many others. The same holds true for the New Testament and the miracles performed by Jesus.

Lets now go to miracles of the restoration. The First Vision can’t be proved one way or another because JS was alone. The Kirtland Temple dedication was seen by a large group of people. But this is where modern inventions gets in the way. Writing with paper and pen was common, so these people could go home and write down what they saw. With these writings, we see several people that affirmed the faithful narrative, and many that say nothing happened. From Joseph Smith:

“Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place.”

 Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951, 2:428.

In the negative, there is David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses;

“The great heavenly ‘visitation,’ which was alleged to have taken place in the temple at Kirtland, was a grand fizzle. The elders were assembled on the appointed day, which was promised would be a veritable day of Pentecost, but there was no visitation. No Peter, James and John; no Moses and Elias, put in an appearance. ‘I was in my seat on that occasion,’ says Mr. Whitmer, ‘and I know that the story sensationally circulated, and which is now on the records of the Utah Mormons as an actual happening, was nothing but a trumped up yarn…”

The Des Moines Daily News, Oct. 16, 1886

With the transfiguration of Brigham Young, there was zero contemporary journal entries that document BY turning into Joseph Smith. In fact with the BY transfiguration, some of the people that claim they saw it were later discovered to not even be in town when it happened. The best study on this can be found here.

Now that approximately 2/3 of the world has a smart phone with a camera, the number of miraculous miracles had dropped to zero. The sun hasn’t stopped lately, there have been no staffs turning to snakes, and no seagulls coming to the rescue of poor farmers.

Even minor miracles, like a boy getting his mission call to the exact area his long lost brother was living in and saving him can get fact checked into oblivion, and then retracted. Elder Paul Dunn would not have lasted one speech today.

So what passes for miracles today, in the 21st century? Does a temple that stays open for three days non-stop constitute a miracle? Elder Bednar thinks it does. When the temple workers called “Almost everyone answered their phone. To me, [this was] a miracle”. While I don’t discount that that very well could have been a miracle, it backs my theses that the more contemporary the miracle, the less miraculous it will be.

So will we every see the sun stop, a sea divided, donkeys talking, or she bears eating 42 children for making fun of a bald prophet? [1]. Or has the time passed for these great miracles, and we’ll have to be satisfied with people answering phones, finding lost keys, and Prophets clearing their calendar months before the COVID lockdown occurred?

[1] Bishop Bill is follicly challenged, so this miracle it near and dear to my heart!

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay