As our recent Sunday School class talked about the revelations that Moroni son of Mormon added to the Book of Mormon record, it seemed to me that this prophet is as powerful as any other in proclaiming the reality of God’s miracles. In our day, when so many say that miracles are done away and have various scientific explanations that mostly ascribe many scriptural accounts of miracles to be figurative,[i] we should pay particular attention to Moroni’s inspired words.
“But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. … and now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles. … Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought? 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. 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.” (Mormon 9:11, 15, 17-19)[ii]
Moroni’s abridgment of the writings of the prophet Ether support the reality of big miracles. The submarine-like, air-tight barges built under Mahonri Moriancumr’s divinely inspired direction to be driven before the wind and ocean currents to the promised land are described as being “like unto the ark of Noah.” (Ether 6:7). Ether also testified that “after the waters [of the great flood] had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands” (Ether 13:2).
There are many people, even many latter-day saints, who cannot bring themselves to believe in the Great Flood as a literal worldwide event.[v] Where did the waters come from? Where did they go? How did God put “all” of the variety of animals that were needed into the ark? How did the slow moving tortoises get to the ark or get back out to outlying areas of the globe? These kinds of questions have led to the loss or decrease of faith for many people including Albert Einstein.[vi]
But if we believe through the power of the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith is a true prophet and the Book of Mormon is the “most correct book on earth,” how can we not believe in Moroni’s inspired abridgment of Ether’s words that supports a world-wide flood. A local flood, no matter how big, just doesn’t make sense if we believe the scriptures. And with Joseph Smith and living prophets as guides as to when a scripture is figurative or literal, we can avoid the mistake of declaring a true miracle as only figurative.
Even something as big as the glacial lake Missoula ice-age flood through the Scablands of eastern Washington state does not fit the description of the Great Flood. The periodic break in the ice-dam resulted in a flow estimated as an amazing “386 million cubic feet per second.”[vii]
Another problem is where do you draw the line of when you will disbelieve or believe in miracles? If you do not believe in the Great Flood, what about the Tower of Babel? What about the dividing of the Red Sea? What about the “literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes”? What about the survival of millions of the children of Israel in the desolate desert of Sinai? What about the manna? What about the three hours of destruction at the crucifixion of Christ? What about the miracle of the translation of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith, accomplished ten times faster than a modern highly educated translator could do? And on and on the questions go.
As latter-day saints, we believe in a God of miracles, including really big miracles. It might be a great time to reread and ponder Donald Parry’s excellent article in the 1998 Ensign on the flood and the tower of Babel.
“There is [another] group of people-those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world’s arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets.”[x]
How thankful we should be for Moroni’s powerful section of the Book of Mormon proclaiming “a God of miracles.”
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.v.vi.x.html”>St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrine,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005, Chapter 10.
“Chapter 10.-How We are to Discern Whether a Phrase is Figurative
“14. But in addition to the foregoing rule, which guards us against taking a metaphorical form of speech as if it were literal, we must also pay heed to that which tells us not to take a literal form of speech as if it were figurative. In the first place, then, we must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative. And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative. Purity of life has reference to the love of God and one’s neighbor; soundness of doctrine to the knowledge of God and one’s neighbor. Every man, moreover, has hope in his own conscience, so far as he perceives that he has attained to the love and knowledge of God and his neighbor. Now all these matters have been spoken of in the first book.” [emphasis added]
RPM note: With the apostles gone and apostasy rampant, the key element, revelation from God to prophets, needed to correctly discern literal vs. figurative interpretations would also be missing, thus making Augustine’s or other Church fathers’ task even more difficult to make that correct discernment. Also the process described by Nephi affecting the Bible with “plain and precious parts” (1 Nephi 13:29) taken away was in progress as the Church fathers struggled to maintain what they had received from the apostles.
[ii] Elder James E. Talmage’s writings on miracles are an excellent supplement to the scriptures.
James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Deseret Book Company, 1915.
“The act of transmutation whereby water became wine was plainly a miracle, a phenomenon not susceptible of explanation, far less of demonstration, by what we consider the ordinary operation of natural law. This was the beginning of His miracles, or as expressed in the revised version of the New Testament, “his signs.” In many scriptures miracles are called signs, as also wonders, powers, works, wonderful works, mighty works, etc. The spiritual effect of miracles would be unattained were the witnesses not caused to inwardly wonder, marvel, ponder and inquire; mere surprize or amazement may be produced by deception and artful trickery. Any miraculous manifestation of divine power would be futile as a means of spiritual effect were it unimpressive. Moreover, every miracle is a sign of God’s power; and signs in this sense have been demanded of prophets who professed to speak by divine authority, though such signs have not been given in all cases. The Baptist was credited with no miracle, though he was pronounced by the Christ as more than a prophet;and the chronicles of some earlier prophets are devoid of all mention of miracles. On the other hand, Moses, when commissioned to deliver Israel from Egypt, was made to understand that the Egyptians would look for the testimony of miracles, and he was abundantly empowered therefore.
“Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized. Gravitation is everywhere operative, but the local and special application of other agencies may appear to nullify it–as by muscular effort or mechanical impulse a stone is lifted from the ground, poised aloft, or sent hurtling through space. At every stage of the process, however, gravity is in full play, though its effect is modified by that of other and locally superior energy. The human sense of the miraculous wanes as comprehension of the operative process increases. Achievements made possible by modern invention of telegraph and telephone with or without wires, the transmutation of mechanical power into electricity with its manifold present applications and yet future possibilities, the development of the gasoline motor, the present accomplishments in aerial navigation–these are no longer miracles in man’s estimation, because they are all in some degree understood, are controlled by human agency, and, moreover, are continuous in their operation and not phenomenal. We arbitrarily classify as miracles only such phenomena as are unusual, special, transitory, and wrought by an agency beyond the power of man’s control.
“In a broader sense, all nature is miracle. Man has learned that by planting the seed of the grape in suitable soil, and by due cultivation, he may conduce to the growth of what shall be a mature and fruitful vine; but is there no miracle, even in the sense of inscrutable processes, in that development? Is there less of real miracle in the so-called natural course of plant development–the growth of root, stem, leaves, and fruit, with the final elaboration of the rich nectar of the vine–than there was in what appears supernatural in the transmutation of water into wine at Cana?”
RPM note: As we see the miracle of the DNA code, revealed in our day, and the amazing tools that are able to look into billionth of a meter sized spaces and understand what is happening at a digital programming level in the cells, Elder Talmage’s statement that “all nature is miracle” is even more relevant today.
[iii] “Noah’s Ark vs. Jaredite Barges,” A Pondering Place, Blog, November 2012
[iv] “The Jaredite Barges – Book of Mormon – Mormon dialogue and Discussion Board – Page 7,” User “NoFear” post of 15 November 2010, referencing blueprint of Captain Richard Rothery, retired navy officer.
[v] “The Search for Noah’s Flood,” National Geographic Society Documentary, 1999.
“The Theory: Columbia University geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman wondered what could explain the preponderance of flood legends. Their theory: As the Ice Age ended and glaciers melted, a wall of seawater surged from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea.”
Further Explanation: “During the Ice Age, Ryan and Pitman argue, the Black Sea was an isolated freshwater lake surrounded by farmland. About 12,000 years ago, toward the end of the Ice Age, Earth began growing warmer. Vast sheets of ice that sprawled over the Northern Hemisphere began to melt. Oceans and seas grew deeper as a result. About 7,000 years ago the Mediterranean Sea swelled. Seawater pushed northward, slicing through what is now Turkey. Funneled through the narrow Bosporus, the water hit the Black Sea with 200 times the force of Niagara Falls. Each day the Black Sea rose about six inches (15 centimeters), and coastal farms were flooded. Seared into the memories of terrified survivors, the tale of the flood was passed down through the generations and eventually became the Noah story.” [emphasis in original]
RPM note: “six inches” flood rising every 24 hour day? Sounds like nothing that needs an ark to be built!
quoted in wikipedia: “Religious Views of Albert Einstein,”
“I came-though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents-to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true.
The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience …”
“The Channeled Scablands are a unique geologic erosion feature in the U.S. State of Washington. They were created by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Colombia River Plateau during the Pleistocene epoch.”
RPM note: This ice-age flood in America seems to be one order of magnitude above the Black Sea flood flow descriptions. Niagra Falls average flows including the power plant is 212,000 cubic feet per second. 200 times that would be 42,400,000 cubic feet per second. Compared with the 386,000,000 estimated cubic feet per second for Lake Missoula floods, 200 times Niagra is still low. Missoula was quite a flood! (“Niagra Falls: FAQ,” Niagra Falls – Thunder Alley ).
[viii] Stev H. Ominski, “Age’s End,” Limited Edition Print, now available for purchase, 2007.
“Age’s End is an interpretive composition depicting one of many Ice Age floods, which occurred 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The viewer’s vantage point is from the present day site of Crown Point, looking east, as flood waters arrive into the lower Columbia River Gorge.”
See also: “Ice Age Art,”.
“”Art about the Missoula Ice Age Floods’ is a suite of paintings and drawings depicting the events at the end of the last ice age when Glacial Lake Missoula broke past its ice dam and raced west to the Pacific Ocean. Evidence in the wake of these Ice Age Floods are Washington’s scoured channeled scablands, rich soil deposits in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and countless erratic rocks, which were rafted on icebergs, throughout the region. These works, utilizing the research and opinion from the geologic community, are the result of the illustrator’s efforts to take the viewer back in time to the Missoula Ice Age Floods; a story that is still unfolding. As new scientific evidence is uncovered the overall “picture” of the floods changes. This new evidence is then taken into consideration by the illustrator when creating further additions to this collection.”
[ix] “Noah and the Ark with Animals,” Gospel Art Picture Kit, artist: Clark Kelley Price, 2002.
“Because of the righteousness of Noah and his family, the Lord told Noah to build an ark so that his family would be safe during the flooding of the earth. The Lord also commanded Noah to gather each type of animal, male and female, so that they would not be destroyed. All kinds of animals, birds, and creeping things went into the ark. The rains and floods lasted many days. When the water had gone down and the land was dry again, Noah brought the animals out of the ark to multiply upon the earth.”
280 animal interpretation from a flood skeptic: Robert M. Best, Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth, 1999. [www.noahs-ark-flood.com/flyer.htm] for book and [www.noahs-ark-flood.com/animals.htm] for animal number discussion.
“The popular myth of an ark containing tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of species is not supported by Genesis 7:2-3 which describes the herd as seven pairs (fourteen) of each clean animal (i.e. animals used for temple offerings and food), one pair of each unclean animal and bird and seven pairs of clean birds. How many kinds of clean animals were there? We don’t have to guess. Deuteronomy 14:4-5 lists 10 species of clean animals, which implies 140 clean animals in Noah’s barge. Assuming a minimum average of 12 square feet per animal (cramped but adequate), 1680 square feet of deck area would be needed. If Noah’s workers loaded only the animals that happened to be in Noah’s stockyard when the river started rising, the barge may have contained only a few dozen clean animals.
16,000 animal interpretation from a pro Great Flood site: Jonathan D. Sarfati, “How did all of the Animals fit on Noah’s Ark,”
“Many skeptics assert that the Bible must be wrong, because they claim that the Ark could not possibly have carried all the different types of animals. This has persuaded some Christians to deny the Genesis Flood, or believe that it was only a local flood involving comparatively few local animals. But they usually have not actually performed the calculations. On the other hand, the classic creationist book The Genesis Flood contained a detailed analysis as far back as 1961. A more detailed and updated technical study of this and many other questions is John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study, This article is based on material in these books plus some independent calculations.”
RPM note: If we really believe in miracles in the Great Flood event, and many are needed, we can only imagine what other miracles He might have performed in preserving the needed group of animals for the post flood earth.
[x] Donald W. Parry, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel,” Ensign, January 1998.
“Not everyone throughout the modern world, however, accepts the story of Noah and the Flood. Many totally disbelieve the story, seeing it as a simple myth or fiction. Typical of some modern scholars, one author recently discounted the events of the Flood by using such terms as “implausible,” “unacceptable,” and “impossible”; he stated that believers who would hope to provide geologic or other evidence regarding the historicity of the Flood “can be given no assurance that their effort, however sustained, will be successful.” 1 Another author titled his book The Noah’s Ark Nonsense, 2 revealing his disbelief that the Flood actually took place.
“Still other people accept parts of the Flood story, acknowledging that there may have been a local, charismatic preacher, such as Noah, and a localized flood that covered only a specific area of the world, such as the region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers or perhaps even the whole of Mesopotamia. Yet these people do not believe in a worldwide or global flood.
“There is a third group of people-those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world’s arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets.”
“Thus, although there are many in our day who consider the accounts of the Flood and tower of Babel to be fiction, Latter-day Saints affirm their reality. We rejoice in the many truths and lessons to be learned from these two accounts, as well as from all the stories of the Old Testament.
RPM note: There are in the Church good members including LDS scientists who strongly opposed Brother Parry’s article and sincerely believe that this literal an interpretation will result in the Church rejecting proven scientific evidence. They fear that we could lose credibility and become like the Catholic Church when it opposed Galileo’s support of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory after the development of Galileo’s telescope.
Our key foundation must be belief that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration and that we have modern prophets today. In that context, it would seem to me that we should keep in mind the extensive review process that the Ensign articles go through for approval under the direction of the General Authorities. I know that John Pratt went through a three year review process with multiple versions of his articles that were finally published in the summer of 1985 on the chronology of Christ’s life and its relationship to key dates in the restoration of the Gospel. The extensive involvement of the General Authorities and even the Prophet in the review process of publications has been documented in the example of Elder James E. Talmage’s book Jesus the Christ. It seems to me that because of the insights of the prophets and apostles during the past century that we have not fallen into science and religion conflict traps that have befallen other Christian churches. Note the B. H. Roberts/James E. Talmage/Joseph Fielding Smith evolution discussions, talks and publications, especially in 1930-31.
See Ronald P. Millett, “Why So Bold a Declaration?” Meridian Magazine, November 12, 2012, “First Presidency Endorsement” heading.
“During eighteen separate sessions over a two-month period, Elder Talmage read the chapters to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for their input and approval.” Quoting Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, “Chapter 36: The Church in the Early Twentieth Century,” CES Religion 341-343, 1989.
See Ronald P. Millett, “Pope Declares Calendar Error on Date of Christ’s Birth,” Meridian Magazine, November 27, 2012, footnote 6.