Expect, Recognize, Appreciate Miracles – ERA
Susan W. Tanner
Thank you for that beautiful music and for the beautiful testimony, it’s been a rich meeting already. ALOHA brothers and sisters! We are so happy to be here with you today, we’re proud of you for the good things you are doing with your life and we hope to give messages that may help you continue for those good things you’re doing.
You know, children often can quote their parents’ oft-repeated sayings like “remember who you are: or ‘return with honor.” Well, my children will remember me saying often “Has the day of miracles ceased?” And then I would quote to them the rest of that wonderful scripture that I love so much from Moroni:
“. . .has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? . . . Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men . . .” (Moroni 7:35-37).
I wanted my children to believe in miracles, and to know that they are ever prevalent in our era too. They should expect them, exert their faith and pray for them, recognize them, and then be appreciative at the marvels and miracles that happen in their lives. An acronym can remind us that this is an “ERA” or day of miracles. E—expect them; exert your faith and prayers for needed miracles. R—recognize them; and notice the many blessings that come into your life. A—appreciate and show gratitude to a loving Father who knows and grants what is best for us. I wanted to pass on to my children, that this was their “era” for miracles and now pass this on to you too. I learned this teachings about miracles from my mother.
My mother was a woman of great faith. She lived for and was alert to everyday miracles. From my very earliest years, I remember Mom teaching me to look for and recognize the “little miracles” in my everyday life. By this she meant wonders and blessings and tender mercies from Heaven, large or small. She prayed for them, expected them, looked for them, and gratefully acknowledge them.
Of course, just because one prays for miracles and exerts faith and expects them does not mean one can force the Lord’s hand, or that the miracles will come in exactly the way one expects. Miracles or blessings, may be packaged differently than we expect, but they will be what the Lord knows is best for us.
These are the very lessons about faith, miracles, and the Lord’s love taught to the persecuted saints in Missouri as they were striving to establish the Church, this is one of my favorite scriptures:
“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks; Waiting patiently on the Lord, this is at the time when it was hard for them to maybe be grateful for everything for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord . . ., and are recorded with this seal and testament–the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted. Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord” (D&C 98:1-3; italics added).
As I liken the scriptures to myself, I am assured that my prayers have “entered into the ears of the Lord” with the immutable promise from the Lord that all things will work together for my good.
Expecting and realizing miracles requires great faith. Elder Bednar described such faith. He said,
“Faith [is] the assurance of things hoped for which are true . . . the evidence of things not seen, and . . . the principle of action in all intelligent beings. . .
Now, my mom’s teachings about having faith in little miracles followed this very pattern. She acted on her righteous desires, exerting her faith, and praying with all her might. She was quick to recognize little miracles as evidences of the Lord’s unseen hand. As she did so, she became more assured that she could continue to expect little miracles because of the evidence of past blessings. A line of one of my favorite hymn says: “Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he has the past” (“Be Still, My Soul,” Hymns, no. 124). When we recognize those blessings of the past, we know and we can be assured that He will guide us in the future and bless us in the future.
Other mothers and fathers have exerted faith and prayers for their children, expecting miracles. There is the familiar and wonderful example of the Ammonite mothers who taught their sons that “if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” (Alma 56:47). And their sons were miraculously delivered during a terrible battle.
“There was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not receive many wounds. . .
And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe” (Alma 57:25-26).
In another great example, Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, expected miracles for her sons. When Joseph and Hyrum were on Zions Camp one of the great obstacles they faced was a terrible cholera outbreak. They prayed many times for healing. Finally Joseph said to the men that they must stay on their knees until someone among them had an assurance that they would be healed. Finally Hyrum had this vision:
“Joseph . . . I have seen an open vision in which I saw Mother on her knees praying for us, and she is even now asking God, in tears, to spare our lives . . . . The Spirit testifies to me that her prayers and ours shall be heard – and from that moment we were healed and went on our way rejoicing” (Lucy Mack Smith, “The History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet,” 1844–45 manuscript, book 4, p. 1, Church Archives).
Many of you are blessed to have parents who are praying with this kind of faith for you in your experiences here. What a great gift this is. Many times when I was a university student, as I heard the carillon bells ring at 7:00 a.m., I knew that at that very hour my family was praying for me. And this reminded me to also pray, and to watch for, and expect, and recognize the blessings that would be given to me that day. Now it is up to each of you to also exert your faith and prayers, and have eyes to see, and then appreciate how the Lord is blessing you. Remember: expect, recognize, and appreciate each miracle and blessing.
I love to hear the miraculous stories of how our students at BYU Hawaii came to be part of our university. And I wish I had time to hear your stories. What are your they? And what are your miracles? I hope you recognize the Lord’s hand in directing the affairs so you could be here at this time.
Some students have receive inspired help from priesthood leaders, or funds that had come just at the needed time, or the gift to learn English—through prayer and hard work. And there are other blessings that “work together for your good” so that you can be here in this era. Appreciating these mercies in your life will help you to later give back, and to be the builders and leaders “leavening” your communities, and families, and the Church throughout the world.
When anticipating speaking with you today, I thought of many miracles I have experienced in my life – travel miracles, weather miracles, children miracles, crisis miracles, and even small, almost-could-be-missed miracles. Sometimes trying to explain a miracle to someone is inadequate to the feelings that one feels during the experience. Sometimes our miracles are to personal or sacred to share, nevertheless I wanted to share just a couple with you.
When we were about to return from summer travels to our campus just a few months ago, we experienced miracles. It was August 21st. We learned that Hurricane Lane was looming over the seas just south of the Hawaiian Islands. And its trajectory was directly towards Hawaii. John was here for Board of Education meetings, but he knew he needed to be there to help prepare the campus community for this potential natural disaster.
I started praying immediately, praying for travel miracles, for weather miracles, for safety miracles, for knowledge of how to best prepare and help provide little miracles for others. And time and again we felt the Lord’s hand directing us.
First in our travels. “Miraculously” we were able to change our tickets at the last minute to arrive before Hurricane Lane was scheduled to hit Oahu. But then there was a delay and we nearly missed the connection. Somehow “miraculously” we made it with no minutes to spare. And somehow even our luggage made it. Ironically we made it back in time for the hurricane.
Then the weather miracles. Hurricane Lane was slow moving, allowing us ample time to work together as a community, sharing knowledge and talents, emergency goods and supplies, helping one another in love and unity. We learned so much as we went through all the processes – sandbagging, and radio communicating, and setting up shelters, etc. The slow speed of the hurricane seemed to allow for these miracles. And then the hurricane started dispersing, dividing, and changing direction and velocity. “Miraculously” It passed us by! We felt the Lord’s hand in all of it.
However our neighbors on the Big Island did not have the same miracles. They got hit hard. An so we were praying for them in their difficult and destructive weather and hoping that they too could have miracles in their circumstances to make it through their trials.
And this is how it is with miracles. They are packaged as the Lord sees fit for us. His hand is in our lives, but not always as we expect. However, for those of us who exert our faith, we recognize that all things will work together for our good. And we learn the lessons that we need.
Now about a family miracle. Our family has received a special miracle and different type of blessing. Recently our little grandson Jack was diagnosed with a rare chromosomal deletion which affects his development and our care for him. On the surface level this may not seem like a miracle, a miracle that we have hoped and prayed for. But we do feel that Heavenly Father is blessing us with so many little miracles to help us.
There have been clinical mercies like finding just the right home therapist and a loving pre-school teacher, and a neurologist who studies nothing but this rare Phelan McDermid syndrome. Aside from such blessings, we have felt Jack’s sweet personality touching the heart of each member of our family. Teenage grandchildren who struggle to get outside of their own feelings of inadequacy, depression, or anxiety, forget themselves as they serve Jack and fast for him, and are in return blessed by him. I am sure he has special purposes for being sent to our family, in teaching us about faith, endurance, and God’s perfect love.
Even though we know of God’s love and blessings, meeting Jack’s needs on a daily basis is a struggle. On one especially hard day I was praying that my daughter would feel angels attending her. Later in the week I talked to her and asked her how that particularly hard day had gone. She said that nothing miraculous had happened, except that she had felt almost an uncanny strength to get through it. I stopped her and said, “That was the miracle—not necessarily what you had expected, but just what you needed—an uncanny ability to just make it through.”
You have probably had such blessings—angels attending you, tender mercies bestowed upon you, giving you the ability to just make it through a trial. Did you notice these blessings? Did you thank Heavenly Father for them?
The words of my husband’s hymn express this:
As witnesses, we gather here
To thank, and to attest
Of mercies and of miracles—
Oh, still our lives so bless!
(“Bless Our Fast, We Pray,” Hymns, no. 138)
I do witness of mercies and miracles in our lives. I want to teach you, as my mother taught me. I know Heavenly Father knows us. I know He loves us. He is on our right and our left; and His spirit is in our hearts, and His angels are round about us bearing us up. The day of miracles has not ceased in these latter days. This is the ERA of miracles, expect them, recognize them and appreciate them, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
President John Tanner
OF QUESTIONS AND QUESTIONING
It’s always such a pleasure to be in the program with Susan, I fall in love with her all over again when I hear her speak. Brothers and Sisters, ALOHA! It is a pleasure and wonderful to be with you today. I’ve entitle my brief remarks this morning: “Three Questions.” And I will talk about three questions that the Lord asks Adam and Cain after they sin and then apply these questions to us. I pray that the Spirit will be with us to carry the words that I have to say into your hearts that will help us on our journey home.
First, let me say something about questions and questioning.
There is this idea that it’s very old and it comes especially from Greek philosophy that “the mark of man is a question” (see Dennis Rasmussen, The Lord’s Question, p. 3)—meaning that humans are distinguished by their unique capacity to ask questions. We are the only species capable of formulating abstract questions. Questioning sets us apart. It makes our lives distinctly human. Through asking questions we understand our world. Through answering them, we master it. Questions enable human progress, and they can be important ways that we can measure our ability to ask new and better questions, that’s one way we progress and we answer those questions whether they are timely or timeless questions, so questioning is important.
I hope, and trust, that your university education has helped you learn to ask questions and answer questions, important questions. This is actually one of the most important things you can learn in college or in life. To learn how to ask clear, coherent, significant questions puts you in the company of wise men and women of all ages who, like Socrates, devoted their lives to asking questions. Such questions enable discovery and an intellectually well-examined life. Such questions open the door to one of humanity’s most exciting and enduring quests, the quest to understand. So I’m a big fan of learning to ask questions.
There is another, perhaps even older, idea about questions that we don’t often think about. This one comes down to us not so much from Athens but from Jerusalem; not so much from philosophers but from prophets. And it is that humans are distinguished by their ability not just to question but to be questioned. From this point of view, human life gains its true dignity and meaning as we respond to questions that ask us not just what we know but who we are. God and his prophets call upon to answer some questions not with words but with our lives. Such questions deepen and dignify human life. They enable us to live a spiritually well-examined life; a “life of response” (Rasmussen, subtitle).
The scriptures are replete with such probing, personal, spiritual questions. Let me just give a few examples of the questions I have in mind: From Joshua: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” From God to Job: “Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be righteous?” From Jesus to his disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” or “Will ye also go away?” From Alma: “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” and if so, “Can ye feel so now?” Can you feel the weight of those questions?
Potentially, such questions like these are profoundly transformative. These are the kind of questions that can keep you up all night. They are the kind that seem aimed not merely at our minds, like quiz questions that you might be answering in the next hour or so, they are aimed at our very souls. Such questions come from the very depths of conscience, they come from God and speak to our hearts in quiet, and penetrating ways through the voice of the Spirit.
Today I want to talk about three such divine questions that the Lord puts to his errant children in the beginning of the world. By these questions, the Lord calls them, and by extension all of us, into account. He calls them back to Him; He calls them back to ourselves; back to our true home.
WHERE ART THOU?
So, the first question I want to consider today with you is “Adam, where art thou?” The Lord asks this question of his newly fallen Adam, but it applies to all his children who stray. This question echoes from Eden down the ages to each of us today. Now, substitute your own name for Adam’s: John, Susan, Bruce, Alynda, substitute your name: Where art thou? The Lord always wants to know where we are spiritually. And on His map of mortality, our location is always plotted against the true north of Heaven. We are either near or far from the Lord.
Some Biblical commentators have fussed about why God should ask such a question as “Adam, where art thou?” After all, doesn’t He know? Surely an omniscient God knows where Adam is and what Adam has done. Likewise, He knows this about all of us, and indeed at all times. He knows us where we are better than we ourselves know.
And yet still He asks Adam and all of us, “Where art thou?” Why? Because the Lord’s question is not really for the Lord but for us. The question “Where art thou?” enables Adam to give an account for his actions. It calls him out of his hiding place, inviting him back into God’s presence as a responsible moral agent. It does the same for each of us. Such a question calls us out of hiding and invites us into moral accountability before God.
God’s question also re-establishes a broken, personal relationship that has been broken by sin. I like the very human way that the question is re-cast by the poet John Milton in Paradise Lost, which is about the Fall. Milton’s God says to Adam, “Where art thou Adam . . . I miss thee here.” This sounds very much like the question of a loving parent to a child who has strayed—a parent far less concerned with where the child is than why he would suddenly flee, a formerly close and intimate relationship. Milton’s phrasing makes us hear in God’s question the way a Father is reaching out in love to restore a broken relationship.
Adam and Eve think they can hide from God and cover their transgression with some paltry fig leaves. But no forest is so thick, no fig leaves so broad or carefully woven as to hide sinners from God’s all-seeing eye. Likewise, His voice sounds in every ear. And His question echoes in our heart, “Where art thou?” it seeks out Adam and every errant child “where art thou?” The Lord expects us to answer this question not only with our mouths but with our lives by turning and returning to him.
So when you hear the question “Where art thou?”—and if you are like me you will hear it often in your lives, on your homeward journey, especially when you stray from the path—be prepared to respond the way the prophets often respond in the scriptures: “Lord, here am I.” Meaning: I am ready. I am willing. Take my life. Help me fix it. For my life is yours.
WHERE GOEST THOU?
Now, the second question, from the Pearl of Great Price provides another version of the Lord’s question to fallen Adam. In the Pearl of Great Price, it recasts it in a very instructive way. In the Book of Moses we read, “And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?” (Moses 4:15).
Here is a question not just for Adam but for the ages. This inspired formulation gets at an issue of even of greater concern to the Lord than where Adam is or where any of His children are. Our Father in Heaven is surely more interested in where we are going than in where we are. In Heaven’s eyes, brothers and sisters, direction is more important than location.
The sinner who is moving toward God is in fact closer to Heaven than the lapsed saint who is moving away from God. The one is on his way into the Kingdom, and the other is on his way out. There is rejoicing in Heaven over the repentant sinner, no matter how low he has fallen. And there is weeping over the saint who is beginning to backslide, no matter how high he had risen. So a new convert whose heart is burning with desire to keep her covenants may be actually closer to salvation than a High Priest whose testimony is waxing cold.
Or one who is standing still spiritually. In our journey back to Heaven there really is no standing still. For life is in motion; we are all always moving toward Final Judgment. So in this journey, we are either learning or growing and becoming more prepared to meet our Maker, or we are forgetting and losing ground.
Therefore, the Lord asks each of us, Where goest thou? Again, substitute your own name for Adam’s, where goest thou? Once again, we must answer such a question with our lives. As soon as we turn to Him, as soon as we turn to Him we are moving in the right direction. We may be on the same spot on the road, but now, it becomes not a road to Damascus but a road to Jerusalem. It becomes the road to discipleship.
WHERE IS THY BROTHER?
Now the third question, the third question from Genesis that I want to focus on today, which echoes down to us today, was given not to Adam but to Cain: “And the Lord said unto Cain, “Where is thy brother?” (Gen. 4:9).
The Lord puts the same question to all of us. He holds us accountable not simply for our own lives before God, He holds us accountable for how we treat His children, who are in fact our brothers and sisters.
Cain denies his fraternity with Abel, by claiming to have no responsibility for his brother, not even to know where his brother is although he just murdered him. The Lord expects much more of Cain, and much more of each of us. He expects us to know and to love our neighbor, for they are in fact our brothers and sisters, they are in fact our family. So, He calls to each of us: “Where is thy brother?”
This question echoes in my soul, as I hope it does in yours. It calls me to remember those in my care—my family, my colleagues, my students, my neighbors, those to whom I am assigned to minister. I seem to hear the Lord saying often to me: “John, where is your brother?” I cannot shrug off my responsibility to love others, as Cain did, with a cynical dodge: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” For the voice of the Spirit insists “Yes! Yes, you are.” Know you not that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17); and when we minister to the least of our brothers and sisters, we minister unto the Master himself (Matthew 25:40).
So in conclusion brothers and sisters, and especially you students: I encourage you to learn to ask questions. I’m personally a very strong advocate for education that teaches students not just what to know but how to discover knowledge. Learning to ask and answer questions is a high-order intellectual ability that will enable life-long learning and enrich your life in so many ways.
But I am in an even greater advocate for learning how to hear and to hearken to the Lord’s questions. This is a high-order spiritual ability and it’s essential to our eternal life. So, pay attention to the Lord’s questions, whether they come from His own voice or from the voice of His servants (D&C 1:38).
And I especially commend to you the three questions that we’ve discussed today that were given in the very beginning. For they invite us to keep the two Great Commandments and overtime I’m getting more and more persuaded that if I can just make my life answer to these two Commandments I would be doing well. The Lord’s questions “where art thou?” and “where goest thou?” hold us accountable to that First Great Commandment: to love God with our whole heart, mind, might and strength. These questions, posed to Adam, speak to our relationship with God. The question “where is thy brother?” holds us accountable for the Second Great Commandment: it speaks to our relationship with our neighbors. From the very beginning, the Lord has been calling his children to fulfill these two grand imperatives, on which hang all the law and the prophets. Brothers and sisters, my dear brothers and sisters, He calls us still, through such questions as these to love Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. May we respond to these questions, to the Lord’s questions in the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.
President John S. Tanner and Sister Susan W. Tanner, president of BYU-Hawaii and his wife, are our Devotional speakers on November 27th.
November 27, 2018
11:15 a.m. to Noon
Conference Center Theather on Temple Square
John S. Tanner is the 10th president of Brigham Young University–Hawaii. He assumed the presidency in July 2015 after a thirty-year career as a professor and administrator at Brigham Young University in Provo. At BYU, President Tanner served as Academic Vice President, Associate Academic Vice President, English Department Chair, and Professor of English, with an emphasis in English Renaissance and Religious Literature.
Before his appointment as BYU–Hawaii president, President Tanner had been serving in the Sunday School general presidency (2014-2015) and as president of the Brazil São Paulo South Mission (2011-2014) for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Tanner earned his bachelor of arts degree in English from BYU in 1974 and his doctorate in English from University of California, Berkeley, in 1980. He began his teaching career at Florida State University but soon joined the BYU faculty in 1982 as an assistant professor. He also spent time as a Fulbright professor in Brazil.
President Tanner is the author of several books, including an award-winning study of Milton and Kierkegaard, and numerous articles and essays. He has also written a number of hymn texts, including one that appears in the Church’s hymnal.
President Tanner is married to Susan W. Tanner, former Young Women general president of the Church (2002-2008). They have five children and 20 grandchildren.