Good morning, my dear sisters and brothers. Thank you so much, President Kusch, for this sacred and sweet opportunity. May I first say what an honor it is to be with you—again. I say again because many years ago, I had the privilege of serving as a stake president for two LDSBC wards and came to so love coming downtown to sacrament meetings in the Triad Center and getting to know a diverse and elect student body gathered from around the world who are fully invested in becoming educated, capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
Today I want to talk about a hallmark component of our Savior’s ministry, miracles. But rather than rehearse his myriad miracles in the old world and new, I want to relate a personal miracle I was witness to many years ago, in the hopes of opening your eyes to the miracles going on around you every single day. As the legendary broadcaster Al Michael once famously and rhetorically asked his enraptured television audience witnessing one of the greatest upsets in the annals of Olympic hockey, “…Do you believe in miracles?” Well, yes, I certainly do.
The prophet Moroni posed a similar rhetorical question when he asked, “…have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.” i
Meaning, miracles have been and will always be an operational part and parcel of a merciful and loving God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, expect to see miracles in your life.
Satan, however, would have you believe just the opposite. In second Nephi 28:6 we read of this deception:
“…if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.”
So, what exactly makes a life event a miracle rather than mundane? The world defines a miracle as, “an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause…an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God…a wonder or marvel.”
In other words, it is a manifestation of a blessing to which we cannot ascribe a tangible source. And no matter the source, be it perceived as paranormal or providential, miracles in our day and age are impossible to deny.
One of the seemingly innocuous lines in my personal patriarchal blessing reads, “…and you will see the hand of the Lord in your life…and you will witness miracles…” If anything, that has been an understatement. After 60-plus years of living—and nearly dying—but also, marveling at the goodness of God all along the way, I will testify to you that I see the miraculous and merciful hand of the Lord in my life every single day. I have indeed witnessed miracles. And—here’s a spoiler alert for any doubting Thomases out there— I can affirm with certainty that each of you here today, no matter your situation or circumstance, are also experiencing miracles, and on a daily basis - even though you may not be aware of most of them. Speaking in Conference in 1910, President Heber J. Grant said:
“I bear my witness to you that if a record had been made of all those who have been afflicted, those who have been given up to die, and who have been healed by the power of God, since the establishment of the Church of Christ in our day, it would make a book much larger than the New Testament. More miracles have been performed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than we have any account of in the days of the Savior and His Apostles.” ii
As Saints, our problem is not a dearth of blessings. Our problem is that we as a covenant people of the Lord, have the windows of heaven wide open with blessings literally gushing forth. We are so abundantly blessed, that the myriad of miracles around us sometimes become pedestrian or even invisible in our lives. Sadly, this embarrassment of riches doesn’t get our full attention, nor the gratitude, that they should. Like having the wind at our back, we sometimes simply don’t always recognize the majesty and might of the miracles around us.
As C.S. Lewis so beautifully put it:
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”iii
Today, I want to relate one of those small, improbable miracles written in large, bold and scarlet red letters, that got my full and undivided attention, and which I will never forget.
Not long after returning home from her honeymoon early in June several years ago, my daughter Emi and my son-in-law Chase had one week to stay with us before heading to their new home in California. During that week they planned to open all of their wedding gifts, write thank you notes, and then pack the car before heading to their new home on the west coast. Needless to say, it was a very hectic week. I remember specifically the night we gathered as a family to watch them open wedding gifts and carefully record the giver so that thank you notes could be sent. I marveled at people’s generosity as we sorted the gifts by those that Chase and Emi would take to California, those that we would store at our house, and the duplicates that we would return to various stores. It was a fun evening and a sweet capstone to the wedding festivities.
But the following morning, Emi noticed that something was wrong. Her wedding ring was not only not on her hand, it was not on the ring holder she faithfully placed it on every single night. Trying not to panic, she knew she must have set it down somewhere in the house, and began to look for it. Wherever it was, she was certain it would be found. But after a casual search around her room and bathroom turned up nothing, she alerted Chase and then my wife and me. Joining the search party we all had the usual questions like, “do you remember where you were the last time you had it on?” We then each began independent searches taking a second look at what had surely been overlooked, knowing that one of us would find the ring. Only, we didn’t.
Far beyond the cost of replacing the ring was the sentimental value of that precious and highly symbolic band. The custom diamond and gold ring represented love, sacrifice, hard work, an unflagging commitment to each other and a token of an eternal relationship.
Like you, Chase was a university student who had worked hard and scraped together everything he could to buy her that ring. And for the eight months of their engagement, Emi treasured the emblematic nature of that ring and the eternal nature of their bonds which that ring symbolized.
The next morning, there were more questions, silent prayers and much more focus as we all jumped into what I’ll call a “second level” of searching urgency. This time we combed through rooms in the house where Emi might have been, but possibly forgotten. On hands and knees, we searched under couches. And then under all the cushions on those same couches. But once again, we turned up nothing.
In the days that followed, gifts were returned and exchanged and other gifts stored. All the while, the fervency of the search ramped up. As the day arrived for them to depart, my heart was broken seeing my daughter’s bare left hand, and the understandable look of incompleteness in her face. And yet, devastated as they both were, I was stunned to see them leave without a ring, but with an uncanny degree of hope that the ring would be found. I acknowledged their hope. However, the realist in me left me with no other conclusion than, after five days of searching with no results, this ring was gone.
But the Sherlock Holmes in me—and perhaps my DNA as a loving dad—put me back on the trail the Monday after they left. I was in full-on search and rescue mode…the third level of searching. After all, the ring had to be somewhere in our house, and I was determined to find it. This would require a what I call a “4G” search; meaning, gifts, gadgets, garbage and, yes, even the garbage. It meant doing all the unpleasant things like unscrewing and going through drain traps under the sinks, searching every heating vent and even going through a week’s worth of old—and very disgusting— garbage. And still nothing. With Emi now in California, I called her nearly every day with updates and continued to question her whereabouts when the ring was lost. It was painful.
And speaking of questioning, the one person who was not doing that, but who was certainly entitled to, was Emi’s husband Chase. He was a better man than I as he had every reason to be furious about it. Yet he remained calm, hopeful and reasoned. Which to me, and given the price and sacrifice he made for that ring, was the real miracle. He just continued to reassure Emi that the important thing was that their love was still intact—and not just a symbol of it. Meanwhile, and against all reason and logic, they both remained optimistic and somehow filled with faith that the ring would be found. Manifesting those critical catalysts in the formation of a miracle as they were anchored by faith, and unwavering hope—no matter how long the odds appeared to be. And instead of spending time in the mall shopping for another ring, they spent time on their knees and in the temple. In short, they were doing the fundamental things which President Ballard described when he said:
“Great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often do not hold our attention. Noting that the Liahona worked by faith, Alma stated, “Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means . . . [the people of Lehi] were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.” (Alma 37:41) Is our journey sometimes impeded when we forget the importance of small things? iv
Emi and Chase were committed to doing those small things that show faith in God. They believed what Nephi taught when he said that 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, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith” v
And even if their faith wasn’t rewarded in the way they wanted, they did not doubt. They trusted in God with all of their hearts, and leaned not to their own understanding. They refused to give into what Tolkien penned in his classic The Fellowship of the Ring, when he wrote:
“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”vi
Much to everyone’s dismay, nearly a full month went by with no luck. And the road had not only darkened, but it appeared to have hit a dead end. Everyone—with the exception of Chase and Emi—had pretty much given up.
Then, one night after work—and on Friday the 13th, ironically—and exactly one month to the day after the ring’s disappearance, I was just pulling into my garage at home after work when I got a text from Meagan, the girl who cuts my hair. Worried that I had somehow missed an appointment, I quickly opened the text. But instead of it being about an appointment, I ready one sentence that made my heart leap. The text read:
“Did you ever find Emi’s ring?”
About a week after discovering the ring has disappeared, Meagan was cutting my hair when I related the story of losing the ring and how sad we were. So she knew the full story. But I could not imagine why she would be texting me unless she knew something about it. With shaky hands I somehow texted back a very concise reply:
Seeing the three dot gray ripple on my screen, I knew she was composing a response back. My heart beat even faster as I awaited her reply. Which, when it came it, said this:
“Can you send me a picture of her ring?”
A picture? Why would she want a picture? It didn’t matter. I could feel something was happening and so I immediately texted my daughter whom I knew was on her way home from work in Los Angeles, and asked her for a picture of her ring. Because her bridal photos were on her phone, including a closeup of her hand with the ring on her finger from the wedding day, I received a reply and a high-resolution image of the ring within minutes. I copied it and forwarded it to Meagan. Then, still standing in my garage, I waited. An alert tone a few minutes later signaled Meagan’s return text. It was just four words. But as soon as I read them, I burst into tears. The text said:
“I have her ring.”
Gathering myself, but still shaking, I immediately called Meagan who asked me to come down to the salon to get the ring. “Are you sure,” I said. “I mean, really sure?” She chuckled and said, “Come and see for yourself. “But how---” She cut me off and said, “I’ll tell you when you get here. This is a miracle that you’re not going to believe.”
Well, the real miracle was that I wasn’t arrested or killed myself or somebody else as I drove 80 miles an hour through the peaceful streets of Holladay, Utah on my way to the salon! After all, if this was truly a miracle, I wasn’t going to be late!
And indeed, I was about to witness a miracle, a miracle which Emi and Chase had qualified for, according to Brigham Young. Said Brigham:
“Miracles, or these extraordinary manifestations of the power of God, are not for the unbeliever; they are to console the Saints, and to strengthen and confirm the faith of those who love, fear, and serve God.”vii
Trust me, if there ever was a Saint in need of consoling, it was me. And as I ran into the salon that evening, I was praying that ring would be my “consolation prize!”
But before I tell you the rest of this miracle story, I want to ask you, have you done a personal miracle inventory? Have you, “counted your many blessings and named them one by one?” Have you, “counted your many blessings to see what God has done?” If not, let me suggest three ways that will help you identify the many miracles going on in your life.
And to help you remember them, I am going to use the three pulsing dots of the “Text Awareness Indicator” as a visual reference of three ways you can remember what “God has done” every time you look at your cell phone. Which, as young single adults, I believe is quite often!
First of all, you must “see the miracle.” God is much more than just a “Lord of the Ring,” as in my case. He is the Lord of all things. My little miracle is easy to see. But do you see the miracles going on around you every day? The fact that you are among the relatively few of God’s children who don’t worry every day about clean water or food. Or the fact that your heart, which if you are about twenty years of age, has already pumped blood through your body more than 840 million times. Or that you own the cell phone in your pocket which has over 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed man on the moon 50 years ago. Or that, of the world’s 7.5 billion people, you are among the 6.7% who have the opportunity to earn a college degree. And the most cherished miracle of all, you are among the 0.2% of the world’s population who have the restored Gospel, and all of its associated and exalting blessings.
Secondly, “be the miracle.” May I be bold and suggest that, instead of waiting for your miracle, decide instead to be a miracle worker yourself. God wants to answer your prayer, but maybe also someone else’s prayer through you. As President Monson enjoined, “Please do not pray – I plead with you – for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” viii
Follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and allow God to answer someone else’s prayer through you. And understand that these are not random events.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once explained: “None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersections ‘coincidence.’ This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by ‘coincidence’ but … by ‘divine design.’” Truly, when you, “…are in the service of your fellow beings, you are in the service of your God.”ix
Thirdly, we must “knee the miracle.” Meaning—in physiological terms—we must articulate to ninety degrees that joint between our thigh and lower leg as we—in spiritual terms— humbly petition God for the divine intervention we seek. Remember that our God is a God of Miracles…that our Savior Jesus Christ’s workings are arguably a “ministry of miracles.”
He created the earth and all things thereon…He turned water into wine…doubters into believers…that he walked on water…healed the sick…and raised the dead. And that his admonition to us today is to persistently petition him for those miracles in prayer, but then be patient in waiting upon his purposes and timing. As Jesus so beautifully reminds us in the Doctrine and Covenants:
“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:68)x
So, how did the miracle happen? Well, here’s the rest of the “see, be and knee the miracle” story. As it turns out, A woman named Jilda was driving home from Idaho to her home in Salt Lake City with her three children and husband, after a visit to her parents. Of the many things her kids enjoyed during that visit, the highlight were the banana muffins that grandma made. After constant pestering from her children in the car, Jilda promised she would make them the muffins once they returned home. “But how will I do that?” she thought to herself. “I don’t even own a muffin tin.” And with that thought she dozed off to sleep with her husband at the wheel and headed for home. But for some reason, she woke up just as the car was coming up on a familiar freeway exit. It was then that the thought popped into her head that her favorite home accessory store was right off that exit. Surely they would have muffin tins. She quickly asked her husband to exit the freeway and go to that particular store. Walking in, she went straight to the bake wear section where she began sizing up the muffin tins. Taking several down from the shelf, she contemplated one of the great questions of our age, “do I go with the regular or mini muffin size?”
Deciding on the mini muffin tin, for some reason she didn’t select the one at her eye level, but instead reached up to grab one from the top shelf. As she did so she heard a faint jingling sound. Looking at the tins she could see that one wasn’t stacking correctly. She then pulled it apart and realized why. Nestled inside the tin was a sparkling diamond ring. At first glance she wasn’t sure if it was real or costume jewelry. But not wanting to have it end up in the wrong hands, she decided to put it in her pocket and begin a search for the owner as soon as she went home.
After a fruitless search through the classified ads, she took the ring to her friend’s husband who was a jeweler, so that he could evaluate the ring’s value. Not long after dropping it off she receive a phone call from the jeweler that it was indeed a real ring—and a very valuable one at that.
The next day, Jilda brought the ring to the hair salon where she worked as a stylist. Throughout the day she told the story of finding the ring to the other stylists and customers as she sought their ideas of how to get it back to the rightful owner. Meanwhile, it was nearing five o’clock. And after a long day of perms, colors and cutting hair, Meagan was more than ready to go home. But as she grabbed her belongings, she noticed several stylists gathered around Jilda at the other end of the salon. Jilda obviously had their attention with whatever she was showing them. The last thing Meagan wanted to do at this time of the day was to get into a conversation. But, feeling prompted, Meagan walked over to the group to see what the fuss was all about. As Jilda held up the ring, Meagan gasped. Then, and without hesitation, she exclaimed, “I think I know whose ring that is.” That’s when she texted me and, well, now you know the rest of the miracle ring story.
The complex threads of this miracle story are almost too much to comprehend. The precise timing and sequencing of all those seemingly unrelated and disparate elements that had to synchronize seems unfathomable. But as Jeremiah rhetorically reminds us, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?xi
My daughter Emi later wrote of the experience:
“Thank you to God for proving more than ever that He truly is involved in the details of our lives and can make the most unlikely things happen! What a sweet reminder of the fact that our prayers are heard, no matter how small our problems are. If it’s important to us, it’s important to Him!”
Now, while this miracle was magnificent, what about the miracles that don’t materialize? And why would a silly ring matter? There are global, macro events like the Coronavirus or micro events such as what you are probably desperately praying for right now in your life. And the answer is, I don’t know. But I know that He knows. And I trust Him. I also know that, if He knows when a sparrow falls, then He also knows when even a single one of your teardrops falls. I also have implicit faith that, He is “mighty to save,” and, as Paul taught “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”xii
Isaiah further elaborated when he wrote:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”xiii
Supporting this premise, the Apostle Erastus Snow wrote: “It is through faith that the Lord performs his wonders among his people; and in enduring that trial of their faith he gives a blessing; and often the Lord shapes trials in a manner different from our expectations. We, in our limited capacity may mark out in our minds a program; and when he moves upon the checker-board, he does not move the men we have in our minds, but he shapes and moves in another way and we should be satisfied with the result.”xiv
Here’s what I can tell you; while waiting for your miracle, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in your life. Don’t miss the everyday marvels all around you. Such as the miracle of seeing someone fully embrace the Gospel and have a change of heart… Someone who chooses to abandon sin and completely change their lives, and thus, they’re eternal fortune. Or just the weekly miracle of the Sacrament, the sealing and healing power of temple ordinances and every other blessing of the restored Gospel. And please don’t forget the “ultimate miracles,” as described by President Oaks, the Atonement and resurrection. Not to mention the miracle we will collectively celebrate in a few weeks of the two-hundredth anniversary of God the Father and His Son pulling open wide the curtains of the restoration through the boy prophet Joseph Smith.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught this:
“What should you be looking for in your own life? What are God’s miracles that remind you that He is close, saying, ‘I am right here’? Think of those times, some daily, when the Lord has acted in your life—and then acted again. Treasure them as moments the Lord has shown confidence in you and in your choices. But allow Him to make more of you than you can make of yourself on your own. Treasure His involvement.”xv
And not only treasure it, seek relentlessly for it. Remember that God can do anything, and everything in between. Again, be reassured that He is not only the Lord of the Ring, but, indeed, the Lord of all things.
Sisters and brothers, decide today to see, be and knee the miracle, and great and wondrous blessings—big and small— surely await you. Like Chase and Emi, exercise your faith vigorously knowing you will be blessed whether or not your miracle moment is realized. Trust the Lord’s timetable. Go gratefully forth treasuring what the Lord has done in your life, and remember the words of Job, “I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
i The Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:29
ii Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, October 6, 1910
iv M. Russell Ballard, “Small and Simple Things,” Ensign, April 1990
v The Book of Mormon, 2 Ne. 26:13
vi J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
vii Dallin H. Oaks, “Miracles,” CES fireside, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on 7 May 2000.
viii Thomas S. Monson, BYU Commencement, April 25, 1991; Church News, May 4, 1991
ix Neal A. Maxwell, “Brim with Joy”, January 23, 1996, BYU Devotional
x Doctrine & Covenants, 88:68
xi Holy Bible (KJV), Jeremiah 32:27
xii Holy Bible (KJV), Romans 8:28
xiii Holy Bible (KJV), Isaiah 55: 8-9
xiv Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 5:301
xv Ronald A. Rasband, “By Divine Design,” General Conference, October 2017