One of the “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study in the June 7-13, 2021 Come, Follow Me lesson invites us to reflect on insights that we can gain from miracles: “Signs or miracles alone do not produce lasting faith. Early in 1831 Ezra Booth, a Methodist minister in Kirtland, decided to be baptized after he saw Joseph Smith miraculously heal the arm of Booth’s friend Elsa Johnson. And yet, within just a few months, Booth lost his faith and became critical of the Prophet. How could this be, considering the miracle he’d witnessed?”
On August 31, 1831 the Lord answered this question with this counsel: “Faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe. Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 63:9-10). Witnessing or even experiencing a miracle may initiate or strengthen faith, but miracles are not the essential substance motivating faith. To have faith, we need to be earnestly hoping and continually striving for God’s “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven” (3 Nephi 13:10; see Matthew 6:10).
Jesus Christ—The Perfect Example of True Faith
At the age of twelve, Jesus lingered at the temple in Jerusalem where the teachers “were hearing him, and asking him questions” (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 2:46 [in Luke 2:46, footnote c]). When Mary asked why He had stayed in Jerusalem, Jesus replied that the He “must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). Even as a young man, Jesus knew that He needed to follow the will of His Heavenly Father.
Listed below are a few of many examples from the mortal ministry of Jesus that exemplify His obedience to follow the will of the Father:
When John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Him, Jesus answered, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Of Christ’s baptism, Nephi explains, “according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments” (2 Nephi 31:7).
During His ministry, Jesus returned to the temple in Jerusalem and taught the Jews the meaning of divine doctrine: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17).
During His final trip to Jerusalem, a scribe at the temple asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” and Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:28, 30).
The most powerful examples of Christ’s faith occur on the last night and day of His life. In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Then, Jesus drank from the bitter cup of the Atonement, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Alone on the cross at Calvary the agony of Gethsemane recurred, and our Redeemer completed His great atoning sacrifice with these being among His final words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The Savior willingly died to gain victory over death. Through His death, Jesus became “the firstfruits” of the resurrection of the dead: “so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22).
Let God Prevail
Accepting the will of God—regardless of the costs or sufferings—is what Ezra Booth did not understand about true faith. Witnessing a miracle prompted him to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He failed, however, to complete his mission call to Missouri, criticized Church leaders while in Zion, published harsh criticisms of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and finally abandoned his faith in Christianity (see “Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley,” Revelations in Context, 130-136). Ezra Booth wanted to do as he pleased. He was not willing to endure tribulations according to God’s will.
President Russell M. Nelson explained at the October 2020 general conference: “My dear brothers and sisters, it takes both faith and courage to let God prevail. It takes persistent, rigorous work to repent and to put off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It takes consistent, daily effort to develop personal habits to study the gospel, to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to seek and respond to personal revelation. … As you choose to let God prevail in your lives, you will experience for yourselves that our God is ‘a God of miracles’ (Mormon 9:11)” (“Let God Prevail,” Ensign, Nov. 2020, 95).
Accepting God’s Will
When I was four and a half years old (shortly after my father’s death), I became very ill with whooping cough. My mother, who was a recent returning member to the restored Church of Jesus Christ, asked that the elders come to our apartment to give me a blessing. I did not really understand what administering to the sick meant, but I remember feeling blessed, comforted, and I was subsequently healed. Most important, I felt that Heavenly Father loved me.
There are instances, however, where a healing may not be the result of a priesthood blessing. Since I have been ordained an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood and have held Church leadership positions, I have been asked numerous times to administer to the sick. On several occasions, I have promised blessings that have appeared not to have been fulfilled, although I believe that some blessings may be realized on the other side of the veil. For a while, I worried that I may have lacked the guidance of the Spirit when I voiced unfulfilled promises. Then, I remembered that whenever a blessing was given, I have included that the blessings shall be fulfilled according to the recipient’s faith, or the faith of those who have requested the blessing—and “the will of God.”
Concerning blessings for the sick, the Lord has promised, “It shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:48). Even in the Garden of Gethsemane after “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43), Christ was appointed unto death upon the cross. What is most important about miracles is having the patience and diligence to learn and accept what is according to God’s will. As President Nelson counselled, we need “to let God be the most important influence in [our lives]” (“Let God Prevail,” 92).