John Was Taken

I was looking at this page on the LDS Church website. I’m just curious where the teaching comes from that says John was taken away? Is this is one of the Mormon scriptures.

If you click on the picture you can see the specific text.

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144 thoughts on “John Was Taken

  1. I think David has got the most clear verse about John being taken

    “Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth. ”

    Thanks.

    CB your verse might tell us that John wasn’t going to die, but the following verses seem to indicate that John didn’t think this would happen.

  2. CB,

    Those verses in John are probably the source/motivation for D&C 7.

    It seems that in the Johannine community there was a rumor/teaching that a certain Christian had been promised by Jesus that he was going to live until Jesus came again. The problem that community was most likely facing was that that particular Christian had kicked the bucket, causing many to doubt the faith. Hence the need for this verse, it reconciled his death with a belief in the return of Jesus.

    Most early Christians probably though Jesus’ return would happen quite soon. By the time John gets written they are starting to figure out that an imminent return was not going to happen. Hence, this chapter gets added into John as a way to reconcile old beliefs with new reality.

  3. Even in D&C 7 it does not say that John was taken, however. This only establishes that he was to live until Christ returned. As such, without further knowledge, it would be logical to conclude that he remained on the Earth throughout the apostacy. This would then refute the idea that the Priesthood was taken from the Earth, and that there was none to continue the leadership of the church.

    As such, I would recommand Mormon 1: 13. In 3 Nephi 28 we read of the three Nephite Disciples who also tarried, as John had. However, in Mormon 1: 13 we read that because of the gross wickedness of the people these three were taken out of this world.
    Because they were given the same gift as John, and they were taken because of the greatness of apostacy, we can then conclude that John was also taken for the same reason.

  4. Not really. We know they were taken, but they may have returned since the restoration.

    Most stories of the Three Nephites I do not accept all that readily, and if they are true they probably should not be talked about very much anyway. They would be much like John, returning as angels for specific purposes.

  5. Most stories of the Three Nephites I do not accept all that readily,

    Why not?

    and if they are true they probably should not be talked about very much anyway.

    Why not?

  6. For the reasons given above I do not accept them very readily. The three Nephites were taken from this Earth. They would only be on this Earth again for specific missions, like John restoring the Priesthood. As such they will not simply be appearing to people at random to do some odd thing and then disappear. Their visit would be similar to the three Angels who visited Abraham and then Lot.
    I have heard lots of stories that just don’t seem to fit with this idea of angelic ministry. One such was told of a man driving down the road. He slammed on his break when he saw three men standing in the road. He got out of his car and they were gone, but he saw a large tree had fallen blocking the road, which was unseen in the winter fog.
    Stories like this are common, but do not seem to have the mark of Angelic ministry on them.

    Now, if they are true, the reason they should not be frequently discussed is basically the same. They would be angelic ministrations, which are sacred, and not to be shared lightly. They are to be told only to those who can appreciate their significance and understand their purpose, unless specifically commanded to do otherwise. The common telling of such an event by the one who participated shows a lack of respect for God, and that individual would quickly loose all rights to further experience and knowledge.

  7. They would only be on this Earth again for specific missions, like John restoring the Priesthood.

    What counts s a “specific mission?” Where do you get that John is only present for “specific missions?”

    As such they will not simply be appearing to people at random to do some odd thing and then disappear. Their visit would be similar to the three Angels who visited Abraham and then Lot.

    What’s the threshold of significance? How important is important enough to warrant a visit by the 3Ns? How do you know that “some odd thing” is not absolutely critical to God’s plan for someone? Like the butterfly effect or something.

    I have heard lots of stories that just don’t seem to fit with this idea of angelic ministry. One such was told of a man driving down the road. He slammed on his break when he saw three men standing in the road. He got out of his car and they were gone, but he saw a large tree had fallen blocking the road, which was unseen in the winter fog.
    Stories like this are common, but do not seem to have the mark of Angelic ministry on them

    Why not? Where are you getting this apparent minimal threshold of significance for “angelic ministry?” Are you basing this on guidelines or a rubric you got somewhere? Because it sounds to me like you are second-guessing God, and attempting to tell him his business. In other words, if the encounter does not seem sufficiently significant to shematwater, then it is not significant enough to warrant the three nephites.

    Why is saving a dude from a high-speed crash with a fallen log in a fog not important enough to warrant angelic intervention? Is angelic intervention substantively different from any other category of miracle? I mean, could a situation like the log in the fog be important enough to warrant a whispering of the spirit but not the three nephites? You;re suggesting there is some kind of line, but given the infinity of possible miracles that an effectively all-powerful God, limited only by his unwillingness or inability to completely override human free will, and ranging from the imperceptibly subtle to parting-the-red-sea magnificent, how do you evaulate what kind of danger or need is significant enough to warrant what kind of miracle?

    Given your limited ability to perceive and understand time, space, and causality, how do you evaluate a given miracle and how it should fit into the scheme of reality?

    They would be angelic ministrations, which are sacred, and not to be shared lightly. They are to be told only to those who can appreciate their significance and understand their purpose, unless specifically commanded to do otherwise. The common telling of such an event by the one who participated shows a lack of respect for God, and that individual would quickly loose all rights to further experience and knowledge.

    That’s nonsense. The most sacred miracles in the history of the earth–Jesus’s birth and atonement–are told to as many people possible precisely because those who participated show a respect for God and other people. Even without the great commission, a true believer would be obligated to tell as many people as possible about the atonement–the most sacred , holy, and significant of all miracles.

  8. Is there any record anywhere of any of John’s activities over the past 2000 years?
    D&C 7:3 says that Jesus said to John that he “shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.” Sounds like a public ministry.

  9. He prophesied before entire nations, but they all were converted unto righteousness, and so they kept his visit sacred not secret.

  10. OK, Brother Kullervo.

    I have taken note of the significance of you saying it was “sacred not secret.” You are probably eluding to the common Evangelical habit of claiming Mormons are secretive, which can be slanderous, really, because of its negative implications. (I can be hard on evangelicals because I am one.)

    Have a good day.

  11. Very cute . . . THAT’S IT! That’s the word I was looking for. I started to look in dictionary . . . but how do you look if you don’t know which letter to start with?

    We’re getting off the subject, but the way I look at it, any kind of conversation between Mormons and Evangelicals is good as long as it’s friendly. John, wherever he is, would understand that—he was neither evangelical or Mormon. Where is he when we need him?

  12. KULLERVO

    Is there any real point in the senseless attacks on other persons opinions?

    I said what I did not to put my opinion as higher than God, but because this is what God has said. Angelic ministrations are sacred, and one does not treat them lightly. The truly faithful will be blessed with such, but only as long as they remained faithful.

    This is the truth of God that he has revealed, and it leads me to believe as I have stated. I have never said that these stories are not true, only that I am not willing to except them at the drop of hat simply because someone is telling them.
    All these stories may be true, but what good are they even if they are. It does nothing to increase faith, and can actually lead to divisions, which is why such visitations are to be kept sacred. A person so blessed can grow prideful in telling such stories, and can cause envy in those who hear them. This would not be the purpose of such an experience, and so they are to be shared only with those who understand them, and thus will not tend to these feelings.

    Your last statement seems to indicate that you did very little to even attempt to understand my words. I was not talking about historical events or long prophecied times. These things are of a different type. I am speaking to personal experience and Angelic ministry. The Birth and Atonement of Christ are not personal events, but world events, meant for the world.

  13. Is there any real point in the senseless attacks on other persons opinions?

    I don’t think it’s senseless at all. Nonsense never stands up to scrutiny.

    I said what I did not to put my opinion as higher than God, but because this is what God has said.

    When? Where?

    Angelic ministrations are sacred, and one does not treat them lightly. The truly faithful will be blessed with such, but only as long as they remained faithful.
    This is the truth of God that he has revealed, and it leads me to believe as I have stated.

    Where and when did God reveal that?

    All these stories may be true, but what good are they even if they are. It does nothing to increase faith, and can actually lead to divisions, which is why such visitations are to be kept sacred.

    Bullshit. Saying the same thing over and over again does not make it true. Stories of miracles are faith-promoting; otherwise the scriptures would not be full of them.

    Ask Tim whether stories of miracles have increased his faith.

    A person so blessed can grow prideful in telling such stories, and can cause envy in those who hear them. This would not be the purpose of such an experience, and so they are to be shared only with those who understand them, and thus will not tend to these feelings.

    Bullshit. Hinting at powerful spiritual experiences without being willing to go into detail lends you an air of spirituality and mystique when the underlying miracle might not be miraculous at all. I think actually that telling people about your spiritual experiences will have a much more humbling effect on you in the long run than smugly keeping them to yourself.

    Your last statement seems to indicate that you did very little to even attempt to understand my words. I was not talking about historical events or long prophecied times. These things are of a different type. I am speaking to personal experience and Angelic ministry. The Birth and Atonement of Christ are not personal events, but world events, meant for the world.

    I understand your words just fine, and they add up to nonsense. The divding line between “personal events you should not talk about” and so-called “world events” that you should talk about is nonexistent.

  14. I have to agree with Kullervo, I don’t see anywhere in scripture where it says to keep miracles and angelic experiences to ones self. Perhaps it’s in a Mormon scripture I’m not aware of. But it doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. I’d say the Bible expresses the exact opposite of that idea.

  15. Kullervo said, “I am also neither evangelical nor Mormon.”

    Please explain, elaborate. What are you?

  16. Matthew 8: 3-4 (see also Luke 5: 14)
    “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was acleansed.
    And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man…”

    Matthew 17: 9 (See also Mark 9: 9)
    “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”

    Mark 7: 36
    “And he charged them that they should tell no man…”

    Luke 8: 56
    “And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.”

    Here are examples of miraculous events that people were commanded not to speak about. All these were done in private, and the witnesses were commanded not to spread news of the events.

    As to being faith promoting, I tend to disagree. They are only faith promoting for those who already have sefficient faith, but not for those lacking. Why else would all these people be commanded not to speak about such events. Remember, it is a wicked and perverse generation that seeks a sign.
    I will tell you this: It is not the Miracles told in the Bible that promote faith in me, or in anyone I know. It is the nature of God. It is how he acts. Was it the fact that he miraculously created bread to feed 5000 that promotes faith in him, or was it his compassion on the crowd that had come to hear his words. He would later criticize these people as they came back only to be fed again. The miracle had done nothing to promote their faith.
    I repeat, miracles are not, in themselves, faith promoting. It is in the reason for or meaning of the miracle that faith is promoted. For those who do not understand either there will be no benefit and possibley harm.

  17. Eusebius quotes Polycrates saying that John “sleeps at Ephesus”. He also tells a recounts a story of Polycarp’s adoption by John in Ephesus. Great read.

  18. “Remember, it is a wicked and perverse generation that seeks a sign.”

    Hmmm… As I was neither wicked nor perverse when I did, can I also add ignorant/naive? Or, you know, genuinely wanting a sign?

    Also, about the miracles being faith-promoting–of course they are, because they give you one more block on which to stack your faith. One more brick in the wall, you might say.

    “I have never said that these stories are not true, only that I am not willing to except them at the drop of hat simply because someone is telling them.”

    Hee hee hee.

    Cal, I’ve been wondering what the heck Kullervo is too. Perhaps a hairy man named Fred? Ooh, ooh, or a talking whale!!

  19. We won’t stop till we find out, katyjane! Maybe he’s Tim’s other personality.

    I agree with Tim, Kullervo, and katyjane that hearing about miracles builds faith. Before I became a Christian I saw people at a revival-style meeting getting knocked off their feet by the power of God. It helped convince me that God was real.
    I appreciate shematwater, though, using Scripture to show that there are times when discretion is wise in pronouncing the truth. Although Jesus’ situation was unique, it does shows that we need to be led the Spirit to know when to share what.

    I believe Mormons are often too slow to open up and get personal. I wonder if this tradition of keeping things “sacred” started back when Joseph Smith was being heavily persecuted and was pressured into going underground to some extent. I’d like to hear comments on this.

  20. Cal,
    That’s funny. Because Mormons are often accused of relying too much on their emotions, and sharing them too much. Kind of the opposite of “being too slow to open up and get personal.”

    Quite frankly, if you meet pissy people who attack things that are important to you (A la Kullervo – Even though we’re still great friends), you won’t open up to them. Evangelicals as a group have a very bad track record of using sloppy and bad logic to attack Mormons. We remember it and don’t open up to people we don’t trust. That’s not a Mormon trait, that’s a human trait. If you want to be trusted, one must act trustworthy.

    Tim,
    I was very impressed by Shema’s list, as these were examples that popped into my mind immediately after your statement about the Bible commanding the opposite of keeping things secret. It may be uncharitable of me, but it’s very easy to see you as an Evangelical who selectively reads the bible for things they like rather than reading it for its own story. To me, it’s another example of when an Evangelical just doesn’t know his Bible like the Mormons…

  21. Kullervo said, “I am also neither evangelical nor Mormon.”

    Please explain, elaborate. What are you?

    Metal Church.

  22. Shematawater,

    Yes, Jesus had a hidden Messiah phase of his ministry. Later he talks about all the miracles he did which were provided so that people would believe him.

    For instance check out:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+10:24-26&version=NIV

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+10:37-39&version=NIV

    and

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14:10-12&version=NIV

    Then move on to Acts and consider what was a driving force in the church’s growth. Miracles.

  23. My point is that not all things should be voiced abroad.

    I was considering this last night, trying to think of where I learned this doctrine of keeping sacred things from those unable to understand their significance. I found it.

    Matthew 7: 6
    “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

    This is repeated word for word in 3 Nephi 14: 6.

    It is then explained in D&C 41: 6
    “For it is not meet that the things which belong to the children of the kingdom should be given to them that are not worthy, or to dogs, or the pearls to be cast before swine.”

    When the Lord blesses the faithful, whether as a whole (such as the temple) or as individuals (such as angelic ministations) we are to keep it among the faithful. One who does not understand the significance of such things, or who does not believe in the gospel and the laws of God, should not share in such events.

  24. TIM

    In John 10: 24-26 Jesus explains to the Jews that they lack the faith to believe, as evidenced in the fact that the Miracles he did had no effect on them.
    He does tell them to believe on the works, but as a stepping stone. What he is saying is believe that only a person sent from God could do such works.

  25. Psychochemiker said:
    “Quite frankly, if you meet pissy people who attack things that are important to you . . . you won’t open up to them. Evangelicals as a group have a very bad track record of using sloppy and bad logic to attack Mormons. We remember it and don’t open up to people we don’t trust. That’s not a Mormon trait, that’s a human trait.”

    I understand and sympathize with you. And I recognize that evangelicals commonly witness to you guys in a wrong spirit. It seems to me that God has called Tim to try to help remedy this problem. If it helps at all, please accept my apologies on their behalf, as well as an apology for my own behavior, for I have condemned you in the past. . . . But no more. I know now that a Mormon that does what the LDS tells them to do is a true Christian. The LDS says, “Put your faith in Jesus, repent, receive the Holy Spirit to be a constant companion, learn the voice of the Spirit and heed it.” The Bible is plastered with verses that say that if you do those things you will be saved (as evangelicals define “saved”).
    Having entered the kingdom of God through faith, one then begins to learn right from wrong. Some have not developed very far in this journey into all truth. The last 4 verses of Hebrews 5 speak about this. Many are babies . . . BUT babies are children—they are Christians!

  26. Looking at it another way, though, I think it might be possible to think that one shouldn’t overshare miracles NOT because of what other people will think, but because it might hurt your own faith.

    For example, in my experience, I have shared personal revelations that I have gotten with people who have outright denied that they were of God. And while I am secure in my understanding that they were… it does make me step back and question them.

    And let’s say you prayed for a miracle for your child, or a loved one, whose life hung in the balance, and that miracle happened. That’s huge. That’s enormous. That’s so big that it’s hard to even take in (or it would be for me). Sharing that with someone, you might feel forced to qualify it. Or to downplay its significance, or what actually happened.

    And if someone challenged it, you might have to consider that maybe it was just luck, or it wasn’t as bad as you had originally thought.

    So, while sharing with other people can definitely be faith-promoting, sharing with people who aren’t going to accept it can be faith-destroying.

    Also, Kullervo–you’re a metal church? What does that mean?!

  27. Wait, Kullervo–you are a talking, metal church? So, are you a building, or just an ideology?

    And is it amazing to anyone else that we’ve been talking to a church for so long, and we just had no idea?!

  28. And is it amazing to anyone else that we’ve been talking to a church for so long, and we just had no idea?!

    You just never know with the internet.

  29. Non-serious conversations can be fun but . . .

    Whitney, you and your dog are new arrivals. What Christian camp are you from?

  30. Technically my dog and I are has-beens, but I have been in comment retirement since last winter and I only pop up when I can witness to ultimate Truth.

    But since you asked, I am a United Methodist. A fairly liberal one at that.

  31. Non-serious conversations can be fun but . . .

    So you’re saying my religion is not serious? Way to be a pompous ass.

    Whitney, you and your dog are new arrivals. What Christian camp are you from?

    Whitney predates you significantly.

  32. Just thought I would add a few more referrences concerning reserving sacred sacred things for the faithful.

    D&C 3: 12-14 we read that Joseph Smith lost his power to translate because he delivered that which was sacred to a wicked man.
    If Joseph Smith, a prophet of God can loose his gift for such things, should we not be careful in our own actions.

    D&C 6: 10-12 tells us that gifts of the spirit are sacred, given to us so that we can more efectively teach the gospel. But we are not to tell those outside our faith that we have such gifts.
    Notice that is says faith, and not church.

    D&C 63: 64 Sacred things are to spoken with care, by the prompting of the spirit.

    Just a few more passages to show why I said what I said.

  33. Whitney said she’s a fairly liberal United Methodist—that’s interesting. Have you ever visited a charismatic church? What’s your impression of Mormonism?

    katyjane is a breath of fresh air. A wonder what her history is.

    To shematwater: thanks for those verses. I don’t respect the D&C as much as the Book of Mormon, though.

  34. I’ve never been to a charismatic church. I’ve attended a few non-denominational evangelical churches with friends, and while they’re fine for visits, they’re not quite my style. I’m rarely comfortable even putting my hands in the air; a charismatic church would probably be a bit much for me, although I’m always open to checking out new things.

    I have a long and generally warm history with many Mormon friends and even ex-boyfriends (I grew up in Southern Idaho). The odds of me ever converting are very, very low, but I’m always happy to attend Sacrament meetings and Sunday school classes if asked. I do draw the line at attending Institute.

    I am a certified Assassin Wife of Polygamy Jesus.

    I am also 4 days from taking the bar exam, so I’m not very good for conversation right now and will be hiding in my cave until that’s over. Anyone who needs me after that can find me with a bottle of wine in hand somewhere in Boise.

  35. Thanks for adding those references to other Mormon scriptures. They round out your view better than your Biblical ones in my opinion.

    Quick question. Do you consider speaking in tongues a gift of the spirit?

  36. Mormons don’t generally believe that the speaking in tongues as practiced in charismatic churches is a gift of the spirit. They generally deride the practice.

    Although, I was pleasantly surprised once when I baptized a 78 year old woman on my mission and she burst out in tongues while I was confirming her a member of the church.

    It was fun to see the looks on everyones face.

  37. I’m specifically asking about the New Testament practice and perhaps the early Mormon practice.

  38. Well, nothing much is said about the early Mormon practice of glossolalia.

    Mormons general interpret the gift as being the ability to speak a language that you didn’t previously understand in order to communicate the gospel. This is how the new testament practice is interpreted.

    Glossolalia is generally not considered an authentic gift, although early Mormons often did practice it, including Brigham Young.

  39. Are you saying today’s LDS has deviated a little from Article 7 which says “We believe in the gift of tongues. . . .”?

    I have the gift as do millions of other charismatic Christians. It’s definitely real. I usually pray in this language that I don’t know, which the Holy Spirit gave me, for hours while I’m working. I don’t have to use my mind to do it (1 Cor. 14:14-15). The more I do, the more I get filled with the Spirit. My peace and joy increase, my understanding of the Word of God increases, I can hear the voice of God clearer, etc.! Then God’s presence wears off after about 24 hours unless I do it again. It’s fantastic!

    It’s for every Christian. First Corinthians 14:5 (NIV) says, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues,” then it goes on to say that IN THE CHURCH I would rather have you prophecy or interpret what you say so the others will be blessed too.

    When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, that was basically interpretation of tongues, wouldn’t you say?

  40. Are you saying today’s LDS has deviated a little from Article 7 which says “We believe in the gift of tongues. . . .”?

    Mormons still believe in the gift of tongues. They have just changed the definition.

  41. We still believe in the Gift of Tongues, and we have not changed the definition. There are simply three forms that the gift takes.

    Brigham Young did speak in the Adamic Language on more than one occassion, which was a manifistation of this gift. There are others who also manifested this. However, as no one could really understand what they were saying, it is not frequently heard or spoken of.
    There is also the form that we read of on the day of pentecost. Peter spoke, and all heard him in their own language. This is the gift of Tongues, and has been seen in the modern day, though again, it is not frequent.
    The most common form of the gift is that given to missionaries in a foreign speaking land. The speed at which they learn a new language in incredible, and can rightly be called the gift of Tongues. I liked the movie “The Other Side of Heaven” as it showed one young man learning Tongan. He sat for several days doing nothing but reading the scriptures. He would read a line in English, and then that same line in Tongan. After several days his body gave out and he fell asleep. When he awoke he could speak fluent Tongan. The movie is based in fact, and this truly did happen. It is the gift of tongues.

    The first form is seem the least, as it does little to enhance our understanding of the gospel and God.
    The second is generally only seen when there is not time to actually learn a language, such as the story of Pentacost.
    The last is fairly common, but takes a little more time and diligance to be received.

    And Jared it right, we do not generally accept what happens in charismatic churches as an authentic Spiritual Gift. To have this gift one must speak in an actual language, and at least be able to understand themselves. It is prefered that others can too.

  42. So the second form and third forms, are they just for the benefit of those of your faith? Or is that to help unbelievers come to faith?

  43. Kullvero,
    Simply because you didn’t have a spiritual experience with the gift of Tongues doesn’t mean others can’t (or don’t).

    I had an experience which I certainly think qualifies, of type 3. I will certainly respect your right to interpret your experience as “not the gift of tongues” and your right to believe whatever you want about other’s experiences. But you believing things a certain way, doesn’t make them so.

  44. You misunderstand. I am sure plenty of missionaries have miraculous experiences with language fluency and facility on their missions. And maybe miracles of communication and comprehension happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I’m not critiquing or refuting that kind of evidence of the gift of tongues at all.

    I am saying that the success that missionaries have in learning a foreign language in general is often wildly exaggerated. And often, shematwater just did above, that gets trotted out as some sort of a blanket gift of tongues in evidence broadly among foreign-language-speaking missionaries. But I think it’s a good example of self-congratulation and patting one’s own back unearned. The fact that mormons talk a lot about how fluent missionaries all become in their language does not mean it actually happens.

    The MTC is a good intensive language school, and missionaries are immersed in the language on their missions fairly well, all things considered. That most of them would acquire a basic ability to communicate is hardly miraculous.

    Beyond that? Most of the missionaries on my mission spoke rudimentary German at best, and I have a hunch that ayone else here who served a foreign mission will echo that sentiment. I know my brother (who served in Kobe, Japan) was pretty much constantly embarrased at how badly his fellow missionaries spoke Japanese.

    Again, this has nothing to do with anyone’s particular individual experience of miraculous communication ability! I have no doubt that individual missionaries have experienced some amazing things. But there’s no miracle-in-general going on.

  45. OK, Kullervo (btw, what’s the etymology behind your handle).

    You’re just saying that the way Shema used it was way too general and broad, as though every missionary who goes foreign experiences miraculous help?

    OK. I agree, if we interpret as having meant that I couldn’t agree with it either. During the Olympics I remember watching a TV interview of an Elder, from Texas serving somewhere in south Germany. Boy was his accent terrible. “Ick bin AmeRRRikaneRRR. Ick ckommuh aus TexAhss.” And don’t get me started on the sisters….

    Certainly not every missionary experiences the gift of tongues in that way, but there are certainly some who do, and it may be, that for each person, the level that they do achieve is somewhat miraculous based on what they could do without it? Something completely un-testable though…

  46. OK, Kullervo (btw, what’s the etymology behind your handle).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kullervo

    You’re just saying that the way Shema used it was way too general and broad, as though every missionary who goes foreign experiences miraculous help?

    Yes, exactly. Whether it’s the gift of tongues being given to every missionary individually or some kind of broad dispensation of tongues given to the whole missionary force at all times, I think it’s a preposterous idea. It might not be demonstrably untrue, but I think you’d have a hard time arguing that the missionary force’s language skills in the aggregate are any better than you would expect given the non-miraculous circumstances.

    OK. I agree, if we interpret as having meant that I couldn’t agree with it either. During the Olympics I remember watching a TV interview of an Elder, from Texas serving somewhere in south Germany. Boy was his accent terrible. “Ick bin AmeRRRikaneRRR. Ick ckommuh aus TexAhss.” And don’t get me started on the sisters….

    Exactly. In my experience, this Elder sounds like he is pretty representative of a good chunk of the missionary force.

    I think most of them can speak well enough to get by, and can speak well enough to present the missionary teaching materials in a way that can be understood and comprehended. But you don’t need a miracle to get that good.

    Certainly not every missionary experiences the gift of tongues in that way, but there are certainly some who do, and it may be, that for each person, the level that they do achieve is somewhat miraculous based on what they could do without it? Something completely un-testable though…

    I would be hesitant to want to call “I struggled with the language and had a hard time but eventualy I had this breakthrough and I slowly but surely started to make progress” a miracle. Maybe there is marginal divine intervention–like you said, it would be untestable, unverifiable, and not even the individual could really know. I don’t disbelieve in miracles, and I have no problem with the idea that miracles happen to Mormons. But I do have the problem when you lower the bar to include things that are plainly non-miraculous and then claim that you’ve got all these miracles going on and convince yourself that it makes your church true. That just the miracle of semantics.

  47. I think there is a minor misunderstanding in what I meant.

    I never intended to include all missionaries, though I do think the miracles happens a lot more often than is being credited here.
    Personally, I think the way some people naturally learn languages is a miracle in and of itself. These people are born with a gift of Tongues. It is not generally spoken of as a Gift of the Spirit, as it is more just a natural talent. But it is still miraculous.

    I think people simply want to reserve the term miracle for far too selective a category of events. To me a miracles is anything that the average person is unable to accomplish on their own. since the average person has difficulty in aquiring even communicative ability in another language so late in life, the fact that they learn it at all is miraculous to me.

    TIM

    The second and third forms are for the benefit of all God’s children. On the day of Pentacost Peter manifested the gift in preaching, which was the means of bringing thousands to the faith. In the modern day there have been accounts of this same type of manifestation happening at church conferences in Asia, because the church leaders did not know the language (long before technology made translation easier).
    The second form is the same. Some missionaries serve as proselitors, bringing people to the faith. Others serve at the Temples, assisting the members. Other are sent as branch leaders to small areas to assist them in organizing their membership.
    Both forms are used for the benefit of all the earth.

  48. I know that the gift of prophecy is in operation in the LDS, and the gift of healing.
    What about the other gifts of the Spirit mentioned in Article 7? Do some have prophetic visions and dreams today?
    What does “revelation” refer to exactly? Is that the ordinary understanding we gain from reading Scripture and praying for wisdom?
    What about “interpretation of tongues”?

  49. In my own life, feel that the gift of tongues helped me learn German in the MTC.

    I felt that the Patriarchal blessing given to me was prophetic in terms of defining how I would get my wife (who is now my fiancee).

    I feel that I have received revelations that have spoken peace to my heart.

    I once had a dream that the girl I was dating would not be wife, and she did crush my heart for a while, which I view as a vision.

    I haven’t experienced something that I would consider the interpretation of tongues.

    I think most faithful LDS feel the gifts are in effect, are look for them, but try not to use them as “Proof”, in accordance with Alma 12:9, specifically in sharing revelations. What I’ve shared from my own life is about as much as I’d feel comfortable sharing…

    9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

  50. Personally, I think the way some people naturally learn languages is a miracle in and of itself. These people are born with a gift of Tongues. It is not generally spoken of as a Gift of the Spirit, as it is more just a natural talent. But it is still miraculous.

    I think people simply want to reserve the term miracle for far too selective a category of events. To me a miracles is anything that the average person is unable to accomplish on their own. since the average person has difficulty in aquiring even communicative ability in another language so late in life, the fact that they learn it at all is miraculous to me.

    So if I can run faster than average, that’s a miracle?

    If I got a high score on the LSAT, that’s a miracle? Tim’s a graphic designer, that’s a miracle? My wife can knit and I can’t. That’s a miracle?

    This is what I’m talking about: the contents do not match the packaging. There’s a lot of talk about how wonderful the restoration is and prophetic revelation and spiritual gifts and miracles and personal revelation, but then it turns out that it’s all just semantic sales language.

    Your prophet’s “revelations” turn out to be the same as every other church leader’s feelings of being led or inspired by God. Your miracles are being good at math and running fast, and your personal revelations are just some emotion you felt.

    I don’t get a gold coin out of a copper penny by simply declaring that “gold” includes all non-silver metals.

  51. “Personally, I think the way some people naturally learn languages is a miracle in and of itself. These people are born with a gift of Tongues. It is not generally spoken of as a Gift of the Spirit, as it is more just a natural talent. But it is still miraculous.”

    It’s not miraculous–it’s just a talent that they have that you don’t. If you are the standard for what is normal, then anything that would be extraordinary for you to do might seem like it must be a miracle, but for others it’s just one of the things their brain does better.

    And then what would you say to people who, for all intents and purposes, SHOULD have that talent but don’t? My grandfather spoke 8 languages fluently. I have lived in three countries in my life, each of which had a different language as the main language. With all of that, I should have a talent for languages, and at the very least I should be able to speak well in more than just English. However, I don’t. So, in that case, would that make me an anti-miracle? (What would be a failed miracle?)

    “I think people simply want to reserve the term miracle for far too selective a category of events.”

    But if you make it too broad, you’re making it not a miracle anymore. It’s just average. If everyone’s kid is above-average… then above-average is the new average.

    And speaking of average–if most people are average at things, and you know that some people suck at some things, then logically some other people are going to have to be much better at them than the average (or else the average isn’t average).

    But a miracle? A miracle is supposed to be something that should be beyond human capabilities. At the very least, it should be a wonder or a marvel. So if it happens to everyone… it’s less of a wonder and more of just standard fare. Right?

    “Since the average person has difficulty in acquiring even communicative ability in another language so late in life, the fact that they learn it at all is miraculous to me.”

    Is that true of all people? Or just Americans? Or just English-speakers?

  52. Kullervo and Katy,

    I would tend to agree that in some sense personal experiences with the Spirit as described by LDS and Evangelicals are both ordinary and generally unimpressive, and in that sense are not miraculous.

    However, I would also argue that their is a personal God with the power and love that they claim him to have, miracles should be ordinary.

    I think part of spirituality is recognizing that God (or gods, as you may please to believe) is here now and that he is in us and working with us. I couldn’t believe in God or Christianity if that wasn’t somehow the case, i.e. if there was not daily evidence available.

    I think there is a problem with claiming that some of these “miracles” are to be had by virtue of one being LDS or Evangelical, rather than just being a living creature, but I think its not necessarily inconsistent to call these ordinary, yet contextually extraordinary experiences “miracles” if you define a miracle as an occurrence of divine interaction with life. With this definition, there will always be a sliding scale with the most slight divine interactions and inspirations only barely different from completely “natural” events.

    However I don’t think you can reasonably contend that such miracles, especially the common ones, are any evidence of the relative superiority of one person’s spirituality or righteousness over another’s.

  53. I would tend to agree that in some sense personal experiences with the Spirit as described by LDS and Evangelicals are both ordinary and generally unimpressive, and in that sense are not miraculous.

    But we’re not really talking about “personal experiences with the Spirit.” We’re talking about things like the ability to consistently dress snappier than the average person.

  54. KULLERVO and KATY

    You don’t understand. High test scores are not enough, because the average person can get these test scores if they tried.
    Now, a twelve year old boy graduating from College is, to me, a miraculous thing because no matter what the average person does they will never be able to do this.

    The same can be said of almost anything. Just because a person can knit is not miraculous. However, a young girl who simply picks up the tools and starts to knit without instruction would be, to me, a miraculous event.

    These are the things I am talking about when I can personal talent a miracle. It is not just those who can do something, but those who can succeed beyond what others are capable of.

    In my opinion Miracles should be common. I liked what Jared said. As long as God is interacting with us Miracles will occur. The more he interacts with us the more frequently they will occur. I believe he is interacting with us on a daily basis and thus miracles should occur on a daily basis.

  55. Yeah, Jared, I’m with Kullervo on this one.

    I have experienced personal spiritual experiences that wouldn’t seem miraculous to other people, but for me, were.

    However, to say that people doing slightly better than average (or extraordinarily better) means that there is a miracle at work is stretching it.

    And it also takes away from the idea that God gave us all gifts originally, in the form of talents. To glorify God in using them is great. To disavow any hard work in developing talents on our part by saying that it was due to a miracle doesn’t seem consistent with other teachings of Jesus. (Don’t bury your talents, etc.)

    My in-laws are extraordinary artists. They both had talents, and then worked their butts off to develop those talents. That isn’t a miracle–it’s taking what you were given and making the most out of it. It’s doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

  56. I don’t think that is what psychochemiker is talking about. It seems that he is noticing events and abilities that he doesn’t think he would normally have, even though ultimately they are not so amazing as to rise above standard deviations from the norm. And he believes those events or abilities were direct influences from God or the Spirit.

    If I normally can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, it may be a miracle if God helps me do this, even though nobody else would really be able to tell God is helping me.

    If I normally can’t speak in public, but when I feel the spirit I am able to, this may be a sort of miracle even though tons of people can speak in public.

    There is nothing, in principle, problematic with calling ordinary events miracles. The problem, of course, proving that these are miracles, and consistently distinguishing such events with the non-miraculous ordinary.

  57. The point is that the nature of a miracle is not how amazing it is, its whether God is intervening.

    Of course in one sense “miraculous” is somewhat synonymous with “amazing” but for the most part, the only reason we would not consider an ordinary event influenced by God “amazing” is that we can’t reliably determine whether God is influencing the event or not.

    Consider the ever popular “I found my keys after praying” miracle. If we knew for certain and could prove to other that we found our keys because God miraculously moved them from the trash to the floor, we would be blown away.

  58. You don’t understand. High test scores are not enough, because the average person can get these test scores if they tried.
    Now, a twelve year old boy graduating from College is, to me, a miraculous thing because no matter what the average person does they will never be able to do this.

    The same can be said of almost anything. Just because a person can knit is not miraculous. However, a young girl who simply picks up the tools and starts to knit without instruction would be, to me, a miraculous event.

    These are the things I am talking about when I can personal talent a miracle. It is not just those who can do something, but those who can succeed beyond what others are capable of.

    In my opinion Miracles should be common. I liked what Jared said. As long as God is interacting with us Miracles will occur. The more he interacts with us the more frequently they will occur. I believe he is interacting with us on a daily basis and thus miracles should occur on a daily basis.

    So let’s say you have an exactly average person, Mister M, with running ability x.. In other words, if you quantified running ability, added up the running ability of everyone in the world, and divided it by the population of the world, the answer would be x. If Mister A works as hard as is conceivably possible and achieves the absolute maximum that he can, he will be able to run a certain speed. Let’s call that maximum achievable speed a.

    Now let’s take another person, Mister N, who has a barely-above-average talent for running. His running ability is x+1. Like, under normal circumstances, you might not even notice the difference between Mister M’s speed and Mister N’s speed. But if Mister N pushes himself to the absolute maximum possible limit, in his lifetime he will be able to run at a speed of a+1.

    According to shematwater, that margin, the +1, is miraculous.

    That’s completely absurd.

    “Average” is mutable. We could round up the slowest billion people in the world and kill them, and suddenly the “average” ability to run fast would rise. In other words, in the moment that we killed a billion slowpokes, Mister N’s miraculous potential to run at a speed that is slightly higher than average suddenly became not a miracle. Likewise, every time a significant number of talented-at-running people were born, the miracle threshold would rise.

    In an absolute sense, Mister N’s ability to run did not change. but we go from calling it a miracle to calling it a not-miracle, because we changed the average. That means that there’s nothing inherently miraculous about Mister N’s ability to run. You just label it a miracle and then label it a not-miracle. That’s just semantic games, not miracles.

    You are essentially labeling any distribution in human ability miraculous. The only way it would not be miraculous is if everyone was exactly the same, because if everyone was exactly the same, then nobody would be above or below average.

    In other words, your definition of the miraculous assumes a baseline (for the normal/non-miraculous) wherein everyone is identical. But no such condition or population distribution among humanity exists or ever has existed as far as we know. Which means your baseline for normal is in fact quite abnormal.

    You’re just re-labeling “above average” as “miraculous.” But by any reaosnable definition of “miracle,” that woudl have to mean that being above average ability was actually not physically possible.

  59. I don’t think that is what psychochemiker is talking about.

    But I am not arguing with psychochemiker. There’s nothing wrong with what psychochemiker is saying. I am arguing with shematwater, because what shematwater is saying is ridiculous.

  60. I would agree that saying that it is not reasonable to label exceptional or above average performance miraculous absent actual divine help.

    I would also agree that in most cases, people may infer divine help when, in fact, they are just doing better than they usually do, or certain events just happen that fall their way coincident with their praying about them.

    It is definitely a categorical mistake to equate exceptional performances with miracles.

  61. Big, undeniable miracles, like parting the red sea or moving mountains, appear to not ever happen in real life. I realize that other peoples’ religions are based upon their belief in the actual historical occurence of capital-m miracles, but I have no problem saying that kind of thing happens in mythology, not in reality.

    That being said, I think there is clearly a whole lot of anecdotal evidence out there of small-m miracles. Amazing coincidences. People going beyond what they can normally reasonably do. Knowledge of events people shouldn;t be able to know about, etc. Synchronicity. There is enough persistent anecdotal evidence of this kind of miracle that I also feel comfortable believing that this kind of miracle actually does happen.

    But there’s a fine line here, and I think we need to accept the possibility that most of our small-m miracles might not be miracles. I think it’s okay to talk about them, and even to suggest that they may be miraculous, that they feel miraculous, but it’s a mistake to overstate the case.

  62. Excuse me, Kullervo, if I’m wrong—I skimmed your letters quickly—but it appears that you don’t believe God does miracles anymore—as I defined them below. Where’s your faith? Where have you been? God is more awesome than you can possibly imagine. Awesome, man—I know you love awesome.

    The first definition of a miracle in my dictionary is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” Does God still instantly heal people of serious ailments today when they ask him to, believing that it will really happen when they ask? Absolutely!
    He also sometimes heals people by his Spirit even though they don’t have any faith at all.

    I really appreciated psycho’s comment back at 8:13 am. It was personal, informative, faith-producing, he tried to answer my question, and he didn’t go beyond what the Spirit had shown him. Thanks.

  63. Excuse me, Kullervo, if I’m wrong—I skimmed your letters quickly—but it appears that you don’t believe God does miracles anymore—as I defined them below.

    No, that’s not what I said at all. Why would you bother typing out a long response if you did not bother to actually read my comment.

  64. I liked the movie “The Other Side of Heaven” as it showed one young man learning Tongan. He sat for several days doing nothing but reading the scriptures. He would read a line in English, and then that same line in Tongan. After several days his body gave out and he fell asleep. When he awoke he could speak fluent Tongan. The movie is based in fact, and this truly did happen.

    We watched this movie when I was in the MTC (it was a fairly new movie), and Elder Groberg and his wife were out devotional speakers afterwards. Elder Groberg said that while the movie was based on his memoirs (entitled “In The Eye Of The Storm” before the title was changed to match the title of the movie), many scenes were made with a liberal amount of poetic license. He did indeed read a line or verse of the Bible in Tongan and then in English, but he didn’t do it for several days and then pass out and wake up speaking Tongan fluently. Sorry, shem, but according to Elder Groberg, that scene in the movie did not truly happen.

    What did happen is that he prayed to learn the language, he studied it, and struggled with it, he prayed more, he studied more, and the Lord blessed him to learn the language. Was it a miracle? I think so. At least, it was a miracle for John Groberg. Would it have been a miracle for someone who was gifted in learning languages? No, because that person had a gift that was different from gifts of the Spirit.

    I believe we are all endowed with different gifts, which come from God. We are responsible for cultivating and developing these gifts, or talents, and I think that the Saviour gave several examples in His parables as to why this is important.

    Gifts of the Spirit come at diverse times and for diverse reasons. Sometimes they come and stay, sometimes they come for a particular purpose, and then they depart from us. I believe that we all miss a lot of potential miracles in our lives, because we fail to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us.

  65. ALEX

    I never said the movie was completely accurate. I only said that the basic idea that was being shown by it was accurate.

    KULLERVO

    You are still not understanding what I am saying. Using your mathematical explanation, it should be more like this.

    The current average speed is N. However, this is not what I am talking about. So, we must adjust this to be the average “Potential speed.” Meaning that for most people who really apply themselves this speed is attainable. Let us call this speed P.
    A person who currently runs as speed N, but then simply works and pushes himself until he is running at speed P, or even speed P+1, or +2 is not a miracle. It is the natural result of their hard work.
    However, for a man who never workout, and never practices, to run a race at speed P+20 would be miraculous.
    That is where you are not getting my point. I am not talking about people simply reaching the potential that they have. I am talking about people who, without effort, exceed the common potential of man.

    KATY

    You can agree with whoever you want. However, I think you are also falling into the same misunderstanding. Your parents may be great artists, and in general artists are not miracles.
    However, when I look at Mozart, who was writing full symphonies at the age of eight years, I see a miraculous display.

    In truth, there are few people who I would consider as desplaying this type of miracle. I still consider it a miracle, as I do see the hand of God in it. After all, even though we may all have had great talents before we were born here, it is God that allows for their use by the physical body. How many of those born unable to do sertain things were masters of them in the previous life? God’s hand is in everything, and as these things are extrodinary, to me they are miracles.

  66. The current average speed is N. However, this is not what I am talking about. So, we must adjust this to be the average “Potential speed.” Meaning that for most people who really apply themselves this speed is attainable. Let us call this speed P.
    A person who currently runs as speed N, but then simply works and pushes himself until he is running at speed P, or even speed P+1, or +2 is not a miracle. It is the natural result of their hard work.
    However, for a man who never workout, and never practices, to run a race at speed P+20 would be miraculous.
    That is where you are not getting my point. I am not talking about people simply reaching the potential that they have. I am talking about people who, without effort, exceed the common potential of man.

    Right. Take someone with average running ability who runs at the average running speed, N. If they push themselves to the absolute maximum limit–the fastest and best they could ever do–they run at P. No matter how hard they work they will never run P+1, because P represents an absolute limit on how fast this average person can run. P is the maximum attainable speed for the average person.

    Which means a slightly above average person who normally runs at N+1 and whose maximum potential is P+1 would be miraculous to you, and that’s absurd. He might not even be a standard deviation faster. The fact that there is such a thing as average means some people are faster than others. And your claim is that people who are able to achieve more than the average person’s absolute maximum are miraculous.

    In other words, the above average is miraculous, which is absurd, because “above average” has to exist for there to be such a thing as “average,” unles everyone was perfectly identical, which is plainly not the case and has never been. In fact, everyone being identical would be unusual enough that I would call it miraculous.

    I am not talking about people simply reaching the potential that they have. I am talking about people who, without effort, exceed the common potential of man.

    That’s ridiculous. Someone who is above average or who has an above average potential will exceed the average potential. Because they are above average.

    You are talking nonsense.

    Your bit about P+2 with hard work versus P+20 with minimal effort is nonsense: there’s no meaningful line to be drawn between the two. The numbers have no value anyway. If P is the absolute maximum an average person can run, then P+1 is more than the absolute maximum that an averager person could run. An average person could never run P+1 no matter how hard he tried, no more than he could run P+20 or P+1000. They’re made up values. Anything above your hypothetical maximum achievement of an average human being, no matter how small the margin, is according to you miraculous.

    And the bit about “with no effort” is nonsense, too. All motion takes effort. Even if you eat ice cream and watch cartoons all day, when you get up and run it takes some effort to run. The difference is only one of degree.

    You have posited a classification system whereby anything above what an average person is capable of is miraculous (otherwise you are making arbitrary distinctions on top of arbitrary distinctions). And that is absurd.

  67. You can agree with whoever you want. However, I think you are also falling into the same misunderstanding. Your parents may be great artists, and in general artists are not miracles.

    However, when I look at Mozart, who was writing full symphonies at the age of eight years, I see a miraculous display.

    The distinction is arbitrary. The difference is only degree. Where do you draw the line between miraculous and non-miraculous artists? And I’m not talking about two clear cases: I’m saying where do you have two artists, one who is only slightly better than the next one, and say one is miraculous and one is not.

    You say Mozart is miraculous and an average dude on the piano is not miraculous, but what about someone a little bit better than the average dude on the piano? What about someone a little bit better than the second guy? And a little bit better than him? You could keep finding another hypothetical pianist, each one only a teeny smidgen better than the one before, until you eventially get to one that is as good as Mozart. Where do you draw the line? Where do you look at two pianists, the dictinction between them so slight that it is almost imperceptible, and say one is a miracle and the toher isn’t.

    You can’t. Because you are talking nonsense.

  68. He sat for several days doing nothing but reading the scriptures. He would read a line in English, and then that same line in Tongan. After several days his body gave out and he fell asleep. When he awoke he could speak fluent Tongan. The movie is based in fact, and this truly did happen.

    (emphasis added)

    I never said the movie was completely accurate. I only said that the basic idea that was being shown by it was accurate.

    The statement that you “never said the movie was completely accurate” is immaterial, as my response was to you description of the particular scene as being something that “truly did happen”. But then you say that the events did not actually happen, just the idea that he learned the language.

    Which is it?

  69. Shematwater,

    after listening to you more, its clear that your definition of miraculous doesn’t make sense. All you are saying is that miraculous is a certain arbitrarily determined species of the extraordinary.

    Your definition quickly becomes incoherent, or impenetrably complicated.

    Nobody uses the term in this way:

    Usain Bolt is not miraculously fast.

    Bill Gates is not miraculously wealthy.

    George W. Bush, is not a miraculously successful politician.

    Everest is not a miraculously tall mountain.

  70. Kullervo,

    PC is engaged and now (possibly as a result, possibly not) is much less hostile than he has been in the past – hence the discussion about wanting to change his handle.

  71. JARED

    I have heard others use it this way, actually.

    Personally, I just like arguing. I realized long ago that I was getting a little too out there, even for me, I do apologize. I was just having fun.

    I do use the term miraculous in this way, but not to infer devine intervention. It is similar to saying that the birth of a child is a miracle. Do people mean that the child would have died without devine intervention? Not usually. But the term is still applied because it is something they find amazing. Thus, when I say that the Mozart’s skill in music was a miracle, I use it in the same way that these people use it referring to birth.

    (Oh, and even with my definition, Mt. Everest would not be a miracle unless it was formed over night.)

    No, devine intervention that constitutes a miracle is not the same as what I have been arguing, and I actually said that when I first started this, though I admit in a confusing way.

    I still think devine miracles are more common than what people want to claim, and I am more in line with you on this.

    KULLERVO

    It is interesting to see just how far you will go in arguing something.
    You are still not understanding what I was saying, but it doesn’t really matter, because the game is over.

    To answer your question about drawing the line, I would refer you to what is known as outliers in statistics. When a group of data is collected you will have a general range of scores, or degrees. But you will also have outliers, scores far beyond this range. When calculating the statistic these outliers are ignored, as including them would cause to great an error in the calculations.
    Example: Wealth: When calculating the average wealth of people in the United States we ignore people like Bill Gates, because his wealth is so far beyond others that to add it would disrupt the calculation.
    So, to draw the line: Outliers. Going back to the speed analogy – Everyones potential speed is assessed, and they all fall into a general range of say P-10 to P+10. Thus, anyone within this range would be used to calculate the average, and thus would not be considered miraculous by my definition. However, there will be a few outliers (meaing those with a Potential speed of P+20 or more). These would not be used in the calculation, and thus by my definition would be miraculous in speed.

    However, this is only an analogy. In truth, I do not really use the term Miraculous in reference to anything that can be easily measured (such as speed) but reserve it for those things that are more abstract (such as learning capability and the arts).

    But, as I explained, I was only carrying this on for the fun of it, seeing how well I could make the argument. It seems I have failed, and I am pulling out of it.

  72. You are still not understanding what I was saying, but it doesn’t really matter, because the game is over.

    No, I think you don’t understand what you were saying.

    Outlier status is a completely relative distinction. Someone is an outlier only because nobody else happens to be clustered around them. There’s nothing inherent that makes them be that way.

    Again, you have regular composers, and you have outliers like Mozart. But what if in 25 years, a whole set of composers were born that filled in the gaps? An entire continuum of composers that were equally distributed between what the average sued to be and Mozart.

    Would Mozart still be miraculous, even though he was not an outlier anymore?

  73. Or let’s say I rounded up all of the artists in the world and killed them all, except for one artist who was only fairly talented: near the top of the curve, let’s say, but not an outlier. So while he is very good, he is not generally what any of us would be comfortable calling an outlier.

    What if I rounded up everyone in the world except this one fairly good artist and the one thousand least artistic people on earth? I mean, people who have no artistic potential at all. The absolute bottom of the curve of artistic ability.

    All of a sudden, the curve shifts to match this new population demographic: all of humanity except one guy are really bad at art and have very little potential. And the one fairly good artist is suddenly a statistical outlier. And let’s assume that for the most part, artistic ability is hereditary, so going forward, there will probably never be artists as good as there used to be, and this one pretty good artist will forever be an outlier.

    Did I just change him into a miracle?

  74. Calling childbirth a miracle is simply referring to the wonder of life, and certainly alluding to the unexplainable “magic” of the occurrence.

    But I think you are playing a different language game.

    It may be consistent to call the birth of your child a miracle and Mozart a miracle but you would have to call Britney Spears a miracle as well, since she was born as part of the same “miraculous” process.

  75. KULLERVO

    No, I understand what I am saying, and it is you who are just trying to make it not work.

    First, if people were born to “fill in the gap” as you say that would be a miracle in and of itself.
    Second, I am not talking about only those people currently alive. I am talking about every person ever born on this earth, in any time (even future). So, killing people off will change nothing, because those people are still figured into the calculation. Having people all born with equal talent as the outliers will change nothing, because they are already part of the calculation.

    This is what you don’t seem to be understanding.

  76. First, if people were born to “fill in the gap” as you say that would be a miracle in and of itself.

    How? That’s moronic. A person born just a little bit better at art would not be a miracle. And a person just a little bit better than that person would be no more miraculous. You can keep having someone born only a tiny increment better until voila, the outlier is no longer an outlier. Nothing miraculous about a new artist coming along who is only a teensy bit better than his peers, is there? I’m not talking about outliers, I’m talking about one at a time, artists who are only a little bit better. Until the gap is filled with an entire continuum of non-miraculously born artists.

    Where do you draw the line then?

    Second, I am not talking about only those people currently alive. I am talking about every person ever born on this earth, in any time (even future). So, killing people off will change nothing, because those people are still figured into the calculation. Having people all born with equal talent as the outliers will change nothing, because they are already part of the calculation.

    Time goes both ways. If you killed everyone with a given relevant hereditary trait, you would forever change the population’s average going forward. And given the exponential growth of human populations, future generations would massively outweigh past generations in determining human average over time.

  77. Let me put it this way. There are a lot of really freaking amazingly smart people who comment here. So I will ask them:

    Does anyone else here not think shematwater’s argument is preposterous?

    I realize that total agreement that you are a moron and your argument is stupid will not prove your argument wrong, but maybe, just maybe if a whole bunch of smart people think your idea is stupid, maybe you should think about it really, really carefully.

  78. Does anyone else here not think shematwater’s argument is preposterous?

    I think virtually everything shematwater posts is preposterous and would rather stick a fork in my eye than attempt another “discussion” with him.

    Not only are his posts preposterous, but he does it all with this grating condescension wherein he insists that, in actuality, the people who disagree with him are the ones who are too dumb to grasp his arguments. Because, of course, if we truly understood his positions, we’d see how superior and rational they were and we wouldn’t disagree with him to begin with. Duh.

    So yeah, you guys have fun with that. Might want to have your spouses hide your silverware drawers in the meantime, just to be on the safe side.

  79. wait, Shem is a Mormon and Kullervo is a pagan. I can’t decide which way my allegiances are supposed to predetermine my vote.

    It’s an extraordinary day when PC is in hearty agreement with Kullervo. Some might call it miraculous.

  80. Tim,
    Agreed.
    But there’s no arguing with K-Dawg this time.
    Remember there is a kinship from serving in the same mission country.
    Even if my pronunciation is far better than his ever could have been (a Hamburg snob…).

  81. KULLERVO

    I know what you think of what I am saying, and in all truth I admitted in a previous post that I even think it is rather rediculous.
    I quote “I realized long ago that I was getting a little too out there, even for me, I do apologize.”
    I later explained exactly what I meant in using the term.

    I still say you do not quite get what I am saying. You still think that killing people would change things, when I pointed out that they were still be figured into the calculations. You also bring up the concept of Heredity, which never once figured into my calculations, as I don’t think that things like artistry and learning ability are inherited in the same way as physical traits.

    However, as I said before, none of it it really matters because I was just having fun, purposely exaggerating my point simply to see how far you were willing to go in the discussion, which you have proven to be no farther than the low insulting and attempts to destroy that you started with.

    No, I do not think these things are true Miracles in the Biblical sense, as I explained. I do use the term in the more common way, such as the birth of a child being miraculous, but that is about it, which, again, I have explained.

    I answered your question about drawing the line simply because I wanted you to understand what I was attempting, even though I did not really believe it (practice debating) not to convince you I was right.

    MRS JACK

    It is fine that you don’t want to discuss anything with me, as discussing anything with you would be a living hell. As we are even, let us leave it at that and simply forget each other exists. It will save us both a lot of unnecessary pain.

  82. “I don’t think that things like artistry and learning ability are inherited in the same way as physical traits.”

    Except that they are inherited… At least to some degree.

    Oh, and speaking of killing everything and the remaining being a miracle… isn’t the fact that you survived being killed a miracle? Especially if it was divine intervention that saved you?

    Hooray! A miracle! 🙂

  83. shematwater ~ It is fine that you don’t want to discuss anything with me, as discussing anything with you would be a living hell.

    Alack! I am cut to the quick!

    As we are even, let us leave it at that and simply forget each other exists.

    No deal. I said I wouldn’t make any serious attempts to discuss anything with you; that doesn’t mean I won’t hang around and poke fun at your awful arguments.

    And, with that, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind any interested parties of the last time I put shematwater over my knee. Enjoy.

  84. Shematwater, you truley are a master debater and a cunning linguist.

    Dammit Kullervo, stop with the sexual innuendo. Do we even know if shematwater does such things?

  85. Sorry to ruin the party with a serious question . . .
    but does the LDS recognize that God sometimes uses non-Mormons to do miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit eve though non-Mormons don’t experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit? By a miracle I mean something like cancer disappearing so quickly that doctors are dumbfounded.

  86. but does the LDS recognize that God sometimes uses non-Mormons to do miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit eve though non-Mormons don’t experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit? By a miracle I mean something like cancer disappearing so quickly that doctors are dumbfounded.

    According to LDS doctrine, the Holy Ghost can be present and miracles can be worked through anyone.

    You can have the Holy Ghost’s companionship without having the right to the Holy Ghost’s constant companionship.

  87. CAL

    It depends on what you mean. I do not think that a person professing priesthood power is going to call down a miracle from heaven to heal someone, no.
    However, the gifts of the spirit are given to the faithful, not only to the church. There are times when non-LDS will be healed through divine intervention, but it will come through the power of prayer and faith, not through a person professing such a gift.
    There are miracles that occur outside the church, and many are divine intervention. However, there are also those miracles performed by Satan to deceive. As such I would be hesitant to declare the source of a miracle unless I was present at the time it occured.
    (I know the story of a missionary who broke his leg one day in Bolivia. A local shaman came over and healed it. When he told his mission president he was informed the healing was done by satan. He was then given a priesthood blessing which undid the power of Satan-breaking the leg again-and was taken to the hospital for medical treatment.)

    KULLERVO

    Thank you. I do try to improve in my debating skills.

  88. K-Dawg is again correct wrt Mormon understanding.

    Elder Oaks shared this story in the most recent General Conference.

    “We also hear examples of this among people of faith in other churches. A Texas newspaperman described such a miracle. When a five-year-old girl breathed with difficulty and became feverish, her parents rushed her to the hospital. By the time she arrived there, her kidneys and lungs had shut down, her fever was 107 degrees, and her body was bright red and covered with purple lesions. The doctors said she was dying of toxic shock syndrome, cause unknown. As word spread to family and friends, God-fearing people began praying for her, and a special prayer service was held in their Protestant congregation in Waco, Texas. Miraculously, she suddenly returned from the brink of death and was released from the hospital in a little over a week. Her grandfather wrote, “She is living proof that God does answer prayers and work miracles.”5

    Truly, as the Book of Mormon teaches, God “manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles . . . among the children of men according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:13).”

    That is certainly an example of an LDS leader accepting God using non-Mormons to perform a miracle.

  89. Cal ~ does the LDS recognize that God sometimes uses non-Mormons to do miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit eve though non-Mormons don’t experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit?

    If you want an interesting quote on that note:

    [T]he Lord gave the commandment to Joseph Smith that those who are baptized for the remission of sins shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and this is the practice in the Church. This does not prove, however, that the gift of the Holy Ghost may not be received without the laying on of the hands, although we assume that this was the general custom of the Church in ancient days . . . We discover in the reading of the scriptures that the Lord conferred authority on some of his chosen servants and gave them exceptional powers without the laying on of hands, but merely by his spoken edict. In this manner Elijah obtained the keys of power in the priesthood to raise the dead, heal the sick, close the heavens that it did not rain only by his word, and for more than three years there was no rain, and moreover he had the power to call down fire from heaven to destroy the enemies of the Church . . . We may correctly believe that the Lord may bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by other means than by the laying on of hands if occasion requires it. While it is the practice to lay on hands, there are many incidents recorded in the scriptures where divine authority has been bestowed by the divine edict to the prophets. ~ Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 4, circa p. 93

    This quote was passed on to me by Seth R. and I haven’t verified the source myself.

    Assuming it does come from Joseph Fielding Smith, it’s a fascinating quote. He was being more observant and knowledgeable of what the Bible teaches on this matter than most Mormon leaders since we do indeed have very clear passages in the Bible where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit without any laying on of hands (Acts 10:44-48).

  90. It depends on what you mean. I do not think that a person professing priesthood power is going to call down a miracle from heaven to heal someone, no.

    Where in the scriptures does it say that the priesthood is required to heal people? Nowhere. And the mountain of anecdotal evidence of non-priesthood holders performing miraculous healings is going to be a tough mountain for you to get around. If you believe that miracles are real, you are going to have to engage in some pretty intense special pleading to try to claim that only those miracles performed by priesthood holders are real.

    According to the scriptures, the laying on of hands is a sign that follows them that believe, not a sign that follows them that hold the priesthood.

    My understanding was always that only faith was really required to heal. The priesthood gave you the authority, so everythign could be done in the proper order, but it never was a prerequisite for miracles.

  91. Of course, the special pleading problem is a problem for Christianity, since the world is pretty plush with stories of miraculous healings performed by non-Christians the world over.

    And saying “the ones done by non-Christians were really Satan’s imitations” is the most farcical special pleading you could bring to the table.

  92. Don’t watch that video. You will probably not be able to handle the awesomeness.

    And for the record, I’m seeing Slayer in Chicago with Megadeth and Testament (another testament!) on the 20th of August (thanks, Katyjane!). Everyone who will be in town is invited to come to my church with me.

  93. And don’t get me started on the sisters….

    Okay, I know this is WAAAAAY after the fact and almost like a drive-by comment with how absent I’ve been lately (I still love you all, though!)…but PC. I will have you know I could speak Bulgarian circles around most of the Elders. 😉

    (Of course, that DOESN’T mean that my language skills were great! Just that I could hold my own with the majority of the mission’s best speakers. To toot my own horn!)

  94. Shem said:
    I do not think that a person professing priesthood power is going to call down a miracle from heaven to heal someone, no.

    What do you make of the men casting out demons who the disciples told Jesus about?

    Kullervo,
    I’m quite comfortable with miracles happening through other faiths. It’s not at all my assumption that they are the work of the devil.

    $70 is nothing compared to 10% to enter the temple by the way.

  95. I’m quite comfortable with miracles happening through other faiths. It’s not at all my assumption that they are the work of the devil.

    Good.

  96. Hm…. Do I take shem’s word for it that not all miraculous events are God-sent because the person didn’t have the Priesthood, or do I take the word of an Apostle?

    Tough choice. I think I’ll stick with what Elder Oaks and many other GAs have said.

    I’ll just throw in my vote that, yes, Cal, Mormons believe that non-Mormons have, can, and do receive miraculous blessings from heaven.

    Heck, I’ll even throw in the passing reference to CS Lewis, who, in “The Last Battle” had Aslan explaining to the Calormene soldier that everything he did in the name of Tash that was good was actually done in the name of Aslan, whether he knew it or not. And, of course, Latter-day Saints would be hard-pressed to claim that these events aren’t from God in light of Mormon’s teaching in Moroni 7:6-17.

  97. Hm…. Do I take shem’s word for it that not all miraculous events are God-sent because the person didn’t have the Priesthood, or do I take the word of an Apostle?

    But shematwater is a master debater!

  98. FIrst, I never said the priesthood was required to perform a miracle. All that is required to perform a miracle is faith, which is what I said.

    My first statement about a person professing the Priesthood (meaning that they do not really have it) was not to say that the priesthood was required. It was to say that those believing in a false priesthood do not have the correct faith to perform the miracles.

    All miracles are possible to those who truly believe in Christ.

  99. But are miracles possible to those who do not believe in Christ? What about those who do not even know of Christ? Are they forever barred from divine intervention and miracles in their lives?

    As much as I truly believe in the eternal significance of having faith in Christ, I can’t help but acknowledge that there are far more who have never heard of Christ, let alone accepted Him, than there are of those who have. And I have an incredibly hard time believing in God would be so cruel.

  100. Pharaoh’s priests were able to conjure signs and wonders, but did they ever perform miracles? Perhaps we need a definition of miracle that is actually useful.

    To me, a miracle is a life-changing event that defies understanding and brings about a result that was not previously expected. Miracles frequently relate to some aspect of our mortality: creating food where there was no food, living when one should have died, suddenly recovering from an illness, bringing sight to the blind, etc.

    Signs and wonders are more often related to our perceptions: visually stunning events, changes in the apparent order of the cosmos, etc. that, in the long run, have no real effect on our lives, other than maybe leaving a lasting impression in our memories.

    I’m sure I could add more to it, but I wanted to come up with a general model that would be more useful than the +1 model suggested.

  101. Splitting hairs. Semantic nonsense. A system of categorization that would be only internally/theologically relevant.

  102. If Pharoah’s priest actually turned a staff into a snake, then it would be hard to distinguish it as “not a miracle”, unless you define miracle, as something that God himself did.

    However, most people use miracle to describe any unexplained/explainable event or phenomena that they attribute to their god. Seems Pharoah’s priests’
    miracle would qualify.

  103. The point of the story was not that Pharoah’s priest could do no miracles, but that Jehovah’s miracles blew them out of the water.

    It has only been very recently that Christians don’t believe in all kinds of other Magic other than the miracles of Jehovah. And I would say that these are still the minority.

  104. However, most people use miracle to describe any unexplained/explainable event or phenomena that they attribute to their god. Seems Pharoah’s priests’
    miracle would qualify.

    I think this gets at a much more widely applicable working definition.

    A miracle is when a divine being intervenes in the mundane world. In other words, assuming causality, “miracles” are events that have divine intervention as their proximate cause. Divinity interferes somehow in the usual chain of cause and effect, and that’s what we call a miracle, because without divine intervention, it would not have happened.

  105. ALEX

    If you are talking about miracles performed by God in behalf of his children, then I would say that faith is required. Where there is no faith in Christ and the Father there is no power for miracles to function.

    However, there are still miracles performed, as the preists of Pharoah demonstrate. They are simply not of God.

    God is not cruel to his children. Some are required to live this life without an opportunity of having a knowledge of God, and thus never see his miracles. However, this was decided before the world was created, and they agreed to it. They will have the chance to hear and accept, but not in this life.

  106. If you are talking about miracles performed by God in behalf of his children, then I would say that faith is required. Where there is no faith in Christ and the Father there is no power for miracles to function.

    However, there are still miracles performed, as the preists of Pharoah demonstrate. They are simply not of God.

    So, you’re saying “Miracles Performed By God” require faith to function, whereas “Other Miracles” do not?

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