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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Has The Day Of Miracles Ceased? » Has The Day Of Miracles Ceased?

Has The Day Of Miracles Ceased?

Guest - July 24, 2005

Submitted by Bret

Geoff J over at Cool New Thang recently posted on the subject of unwritten prophetic revelation. In it he points out that their could be lots of this type of thing (and other such spiritual experiences) could be happening a lot even now but rarely hear about it and, if not, why isn’t there as much as there used to be in the early days of the church?

This is the question I propose here but at a different angle. As many of you may know, I recently graduated with a History Education degree from BYU-I and have done a bit of work in the realm of Mormon folklore, as I find the subject terribly fascinating. In some of my research I did a number of interviews with other college students to gather some folklore of today. I came to a few conclusions that I hope to continue researching to eventually verify or alter and/or throw out.

1) Heavenly manifestations are not as common (or are not talked about as much) as in the early days of the church, including Three Nephites or John the Beloved. 2) Most stories now are of Priesthood power and miraculous healing, especially those where someone is healed after a blessing and doctors are baffled. 3) Demonic possessions are out but people still often get their comeuppance through some supernatural happening.

I’m still coming up with other conclusions as well but if anyone is interested, I can email them an essay I wrote concerning these ideas and others. There is also a great post here concerning some great questions and thoughts on the same subject, including a link to an interview with Mormon folklorist Bert Wilson. (By the way, if anyone as any contacts and/or contact information for Mr. Wilson, Jan Harold Brunvand, or others in this area, please let me know:)

Anyway, to me this raises some interesting questions. First of all, why the change is stories? Is it because we live in a more skeptical age that we tend to shy away from stories of heavenly messengers and demonic possession? Do we not have enough faith, because of that skepticism, to have such experiences? Or do they occur but people do not share them and/or change the story to make it more believable? Plus, WHY are we so skeptical over such things nowadays and why were our ancestors not the same?

11 Comments »

  1. This is a great question. I wonder how much of this has been a deliberate, top-down reshaping of the popular Mormon culture for missionary and PR purposes. We have heard a fair amount of discussion from leadership in recent decades about keeping visitations and similar spiritual experiences private–which might partially account for the kinds of changes in narratives you discuss. And it seems reasonable that one motive for the leadership teachings in this regard could be to make our church more presentable.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 24, 2005 @ 9:36 am

  2. I’d be interested to know what our sources are for the visitations of heavenly messengers, etc. Are these journal accounts? Speeches? Letters? If they are generally private sources, then it would be hard to compare those to stories being told right now. We have no idea how widely circulated stories from former times were unless sources give some hint as to this.

    Comment by Steve H — July 24, 2005 @ 4:55 pm

  3. I’d second the point of Steve H. I’ve heard some pretty incredible stories (not all of which I believe). But I’m not sure the people involved would ever tell them to a folklorist.

    I wonder if what is measured is the increasing sense in the church that one ought be careful sharing such experiences?

    Comment by Clark — July 24, 2005 @ 9:17 pm

  4. Interesting post. In the recent past I’ve thought about the casting out of demons written about in the New Testament. A lot of those descriptions sound similar to illnesses (especially mental illnesses)of today and I have wondered what that means for us today.

    Comment by kristen j — July 25, 2005 @ 12:14 am

  5. Bret,
    Go check out this link. Read the comments as well. It’s very interesting.

    Comment by Rusty Clifton — July 25, 2005 @ 12:57 am

  6. Steve,
    You make a good point that I kind of struggled with when I made a few of these interviews. Some of them thought I was looking to collect spiritual experiences and were very open with things (a lot of which I left out of my essay because they seemed to personal and sacred for a college history class) while others knew I was looking for “folklore” so they gave me a bunch of stories they’d heard but mostly didn’t believe. So yeah, you never know what people are willing to disclose, or often what to take as folklore.
    The old stuff I took from journal entries and from interviews written down by a collector of the time. The newer was all my personal interviews that I recorded.

    Comment by Bret — July 25, 2005 @ 2:19 am

  7. Rusty,
    Interesting indeed. One point I would make if that thread wasn’t so old is concerning the whole “americanization” of Utah and how Mormons are trying to fit in and not have “weird” experiences. I agree with that but we must also remember that the western peoples at that time (U.S., Canada and Europeans) were really the same way they were and were looking for the same things. They didn’t have a problem with speaking in tongues and such any more then the early saints did. Whereas, people in general nowadays find that a bit strange.

    Comment by Bret — July 25, 2005 @ 2:32 am

  8. Perhaps experiences like these are so sacred that people don’t vocalize or discuss them, because we live in a day of cynicism.

    The latter day pioneers were a large group of people, bonded together with a common cause, living amongst each other in some of the most dire circumstances. The experiences both the most inimately spiritual as well as the daily hardships couldn’t have been less than common knowledge, in many instances.

    I would imagine same goes for the journaling. They recorded their experiences, testified of the truths they knew. The pioneers ENTIRE existance centered Heavenly Father, and their church. Their jobs, lifestyle, where they lived..ect. Everything.

    How many of us can honestly, honestly say that?

    Keeping these sacred experiences private might be a way of “cherishing” them. To not expose them to the world that would cast doubt, possibly mock, or where you would have to defend them.

    Comment by Lisa M — July 25, 2005 @ 10:20 am

  9. Re contacts in this area, have you contacted Kristi Bell (kristi_bell at byu dot edu) of BYU’s William A. Wilson Folklore Archives? I’ve contacted her a few times regarding some items of Mormon folklore and found her to be helpful.

    Comment by Justin — July 25, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  10. This is a great post. I think one of the big disparities is in the tangible adversary. Joseph often talked about the adversary’s tangible reality and gave allot advice on the subject. I’ve read numerous 19th century accounts of people meeting together only to have the adversary come to the door or have an individual wrestle with a dark spirit.

    You really don’t hear about that now days – either the experiences or the council.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 25, 2005 @ 12:45 pm

  11. Lisa,
    You make a good point. Since we now live so much in the world and are not closed off from the wiles and cynical eyes of society, we may have less experiences such as these and/or not be willing to share them so openly. Maybe more from our time will come to light in the future if people are willing to write them down for posterity’s sake and/or for a time of less cynicism.
    Justin,
    I’ve read some of W. Wilson’s work but have not looked into their archives. Thank you for the contact!
    J.
    Ah! Another thing I have not thought of. With the lack of opposition (in some ways more then others) there may be less of a need for such experiences and/or help from heaven.

    All very interesting interesting stuff…

    Comment by Bret — July 25, 2005 @ 5:14 pm

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