One of our favorite things to do is teach classes at BYU Campus Education Week. We love meeting the great people who attend from all across the country and even from distant lands.
One of our classes this year was titled How to Become a “Miracle Family” through Faith in Jesus Christ. We concluded the class with Gary singing a new song Janice Kapp Perry and I wrote called Miracles Will Come.1
The comments of class members after the class touched our hearts so deeply that we decided to write this article and share some of the ideas we presented, hoping they might be inspiring to others.
Those of you who have heard us present know that we do it together, from an outline yet spontaneously, back and forth. We’ll try to recreate that spontaneity in this article and hope you can feel the Spirit in our effort. Writing it is never quite the same as live and in the moment, but we’ll do our best. This is a condensed version, so here we go.
JOY: When I was a little girl my Grandma Saunders used to pull me up on her ample lap and tell me about the miracles that happened in her life. These faith-promoting stories had such a profound effect on my life that I wanted to give that same blessing to our grandchildren.
Many times she told me about when she and my grandpa were trying out their new Model T Ford for the first time. She was afraid to drive it but Grandpa could hardly wait. It was a rainy day and as they drove on the muddy dirt road they got stuck. Grandpa asked her to drive while he got out and pushed.
She said, “No, absolutely not. You drive and I will push us out.” She was determined. As she pushed she accidentally turned her ankle and caused the bone to pop out of the socket. It was terribly painful. Grandpa got her home and he and her brother gave her a priesthood blessing. She said, “As they blessed my ankle to be healed I heard and felt it pop back into place. However, when I stood on it, it was still very painful.”
She went on, “The Lord had put the bone back in place and I knew he could finish the job and make the pain go away, too. I just had to have faith.” She was scheduled to teach the young women at church that evening and was determined to do it even though she had to walk to the church. She said, “I was not about to let Satan know that my ankle still hurt, so I walked without a limp even though it hurt like sixty.”
In pain, she stood and taught her lesson, acting as though all was normal. “Then,” she said, “immediately after I finished the lesson the pain went away completely and I walked home pain free.” She emphasized, “The Lord can do anything if we have enough faith in Him. We might have to wait a bit, but if we continue in faith the blessing will come.”
At every opportunity I share this, and other stories she and my dad told me, with our grandchildren, just as I did with our children.
GARY: One of Joy’s favorite ways to do this happens when we’re visiting them (most of them live out-of-state, which we consider to be one of life’s injustices). One particular set of grandchildren likes to climb in bed with us early in the morning. There are five of them in this little family. It gets very crowded so I end up slipping out of the bed, leaving room for them to be with Grandma.
JOY: He has his own way of teaching them, which includes a good dose of teasing. Well, one early morning when we were all snuggled in bed I told them the experience that happened when their daddy, John, was about 18 years old. (They love stories about their daddy.) He and I were on our way to speak at a stake Young Women fireside in Salt Lake City. I had been invited to speak because of the songs that Janice Perry and I had written on the Young Women Seven Values.2
My husband, Gary, always sings on our programs, (I don’t because I want them to like the songs – thank goodness the Lord blessed me with a husband who can sing and enjoys doing it) but he was out of town on business, so John, who also has a nice voice, was chosen for the duty. He wasn’t happy about it because he had other plans, but I prevailed.
It was a cold winter evening. When we started down the hill from our house the snow started falling. We live in Provo so we had a good forty miles to travel. After a few minutes of driving toward the freeway the snow became intense, almost blinding. I was very scared and pulled over to the side of the road and said to John, “There’s no way we can go in this storm. It’s too dangerous. We’ll have to call them and tell them we can’t come.”
To my surprise, John said, “Mom, they’re counting on us. We have to go.”
I said, “We can’t drive in this. We have to turn around and go home.”
He said, “We’re supposed to be there, so let’s say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father to help us get there.”
I thought he would have jumped at the chance to get out of going, but instead he became the strong one. It’s amazing how all those teachings come to the surface when we least expect it.
I continued telling the story to those little grandchildren and said, “We said a prayer, and, with faith in our hearts, off we drove into the storm.
“Carefully we approached the freeway with thick snow still falling. As soon as we entered the freeway, the sky cleared and so did the road and we traveled safely to and from the fireside. It was a miracle. That night we thanked Heavenly Father for blessing us.”
Just as I finished this story our six-year-old granddaughter sat straight up in the bed, looked at me and said in an ah-ha voice, “Grandma! We belong to a miracle family!”
My whole being smiled at her discovery. I agreed that indeed we did and said, “You will one day have children of your own and they too can be part of a miracle family as long as you keep the commandments and have faith in Jesus Christ.”
GARY: Teaching our children that they can experience miracles in their lives is vitally important. They need to know that the promises of the Lord are for them as well as for the people in the scriptures.
Nephi taught us:
“For behold I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 27:23)
To experience miracles we must lay a foundation of faith in our own hearts and those of our children. Elder Henry B. Eyring taught us how to do this when he said:
“Simply hearing the words of doctrine can plant the seed of faith in the heart. And even a tiny seed of faith in Jesus Christ invites the Spirit.” (Henry B. Eyring, The Power of Teaching Doctrine, Ensign, May 1999, 73)
The power of personal and family scripture reading paves the way to having faith in Jesus Christ, thus inviting the Spirit. Once the Spirit is invited, miracles can happen. Sharing these personal miracles with our family will give them another witness of the loving concern Jesus has for each of us.
JOY: There is nothing more powerful than a personal witness. It is through the sharing of the stories of miracles in our own families and family histories that our children grow in faith and begin to realize that miracles continue to happen and can happen to them personally. We need to make the telling of these miracles a tradition in our families.
GARY:Every family can be a miracle family. Look at your own life and remember the times the Lord has caused a little miracle in answer to your prayers. Then find ways to share it with your family, at bedtime, family night, or special holiday.
Every Christmas Eve we have a tradition of serving homemade clam chowder and telling the story of a time when the Lord answered our prayers in a miraculous way regarding clam chowder. It shows that He cares about little things that may seem big to us at the time.
This experience happened when Joy was PTA (Parent Teachers Association) president at our elementary school and was also a counselor in our ward Relief Society presidency. It was a very busy time for her. On this particular Monday she had been at the state capitol building lobbying for save sidewalks for the school our children attended. She was tired.
The next day was Relief Society Homemaking Meeting (this was in those days when the women met on a weekday morning and finished the meeting with a luncheon) and it was her turn, along with a couple of other sisters, to fix the meal. Since she has a great recipe for clam chowder,3 that’s what she chose to make. She also decided to do some carrot sticks to go with it. The other sisters would bring rolls and dessert.
I had spent a hard day at work and on the way home I thought about how much I was looking forward to the good meal she would fix, followed by a pleasant family home evening with our five children. When I walked into the house I knew those two wishes were probably not going to materialize. Chaos was in full swing. She was throwing together a simple meal and at the same time trying to get the kids to do their homework so we could have family night. I joined the fray and we got the meal and the homework done, then had one of the shortest family nights in history.
When the kids were in bed she began chopping the onions, celery and potatoes for the clam chowder. I offered to help but she said she could handle it and that I should to go ahead and work on my project. I was building a TV from a kit (cheaper than buying one).
JOY: While he was upstairs in his attic study working on it, I added the clams and the half and half cream to the cooked vegetables. It was late by then and I was so very tired. I can remember standing over that hot stove stirring the chowder, all the while saying, “Don’t let it burn, don’t let it burn.” It’s so easy to burn milk products. I nearly fell asleep stirring, then all of a sudden noticed black flecks being stirred up from the bottom of the pan. My heart sank, “Oh, no. I burned it!”
I quickly changed pans, which revealed the burned bottom in the pan. I put a big scoop of the soup into a bowl and took it up to my husband to try. Surely it would be okay. He loves clam chowder and would tell me it was fine.
GARY: She set it down and quickly walked out without saying a word. I was delighted. I took a big bite and nearly gagged. It was awful. The burn taste was so strong I couldn’t eat it. I went down and found my wife leaning exhausted over the kitchen counter. I took her in my arms and said, “Honey, you can’t serve this. It tastes awful.”
She broke into tears and sobbed on my shoulder as I held her. She was beside herself knowing what to do about it. Ingredients for clam chowder are expensive and we were on a very tight budget. We could barely afford what we had already purchased. It was about midnight and I knew she was too tired to be burdened with this.
I said, “Honey, please go to bed and we’ll figure it out later.” She said, “But they’re counting on me to have this for the luncheon, and I have to be over to the Church by 8:00 in the morning to help set up and…”
“Please, honey, go to bed. Things will work out.”
“But I haven’t even peeled and cut the carrots yet.”
“Just go to bed.” We said prayer and she went right to sleep.
By now it was nearly midnight and I began to work on the problem. I looked in every cookbook we had to see if there was anything that told how to take the burnt taste out of milk products. Nothing. I tried a late night call-in show to see if anyone knew. Couldn’t get through. As I peeled and cut the carrots I tried to think of what I could do. There was only one thing left.
I went to my favorite chair in the living room, knelt down by it and began to pray. I apologized to the Lord for coming to Him with such a small matter when people were dying and wars were being fought. I said, “But this is really important for my wife and she deserves this blessing, so would you please just take the burnt taste out of the clam chowder?” I apologized to Him again, thanked him, and closed the prayer, then put the chowder in the refrigerator and went to bed.
At 6:00 am, Joy sat straight up in bed and said, “Oh, no.
I’ve got to do something about the clam chowder.”
I said, “Honey, just get up and go taste it.” I had not tasted it since she had brought it to me the night before.
She went into the kitchen, got it out of the fridge, warmed a small bowl of it and took a bite. She said incredulously, “It’s perfect! And there are no black flecks anywhere. What did you do?”
I told her about the prayer and we both knew that the Lord had intervened. He took the burnt taste out of the chowder and in the process took away all the black flecks. It was a miracle. We thanked him with all our hearts. And the Relief Society sisters loved it.
This is why every Christmas Eve we serve clam chowder and tell this story. It’s our way of helping our children and grandchildren know that Jesus Christ loves us and that through faith in Him, miracles will come.
JOY: Moroni taught: “My beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.” (Moroni. 7: 29)
That night the Lord heard and answered my husband’s humble prayer and gave us a miracle, and we want our children and grandchildren to know about it, and to pass it on to their posterity. To our delight, the Christmas Eve clam chowder tradition continues on in their homes.
GARY: Does the sharing of these stories have an affect on our children? It has been significant in building our own faith and just recently we realized how much it has meant to our grandchildren.
JOY:A few months ago when I called our son in Oklahoma our 14 year-old granddaughter, Jade, answered the phone and said, “Oh, Grandma, I’m so glad you called. I have to tell you what happened.”
She said she was riding on the school bus when a friend of hers told her that her horse had fallen and during the fall a stick was driven up into the horse. The doctor said an infection had set in and nothing was working to cure it. They all knew the horse would probably die. Jade’s friend was very distraught about it, as was she. Jade loves horses and cares deeply about her friends.
She said to me, “Grandma, I sat there wishing with all my heart that there was something I could do about it. Then all of a sudden I remembered I belong to a miracle family.’ There is something I can do.”
She continued, “I then said a silent prayer and asked Heavenly Father to bless my friend’s horse so it wouldn’t die. The next day my friend told me that an amazing thing happened to her horse. It suddenly got well and was doing fine now.
Then Jade said, “And I knew why, Grandma. Heavenly Father did it. He still makes miracles happen if we have faith.”
Can you imagine the joy I felt at that moment. It’s all worth it! They’re getting it!
GARY: Some may be thinking that you don’t have any miracle stories to tell. I don’t think you can be a member of this Church without having some miracles. Problem is, sometimes we don’t recognize them, or we fail to record them and forget them.
Think back and try to remember any experience you’ve had when the Lord answered your prayers, even tiny little incidents like praying and finding your keys or other experiences. My cousin told of her experience just last week when she lost her keys. She searched and searched, but to no avail. Her husband said, “Have you prayed to find them?” At that suggestion she went into their bedroom, knelt down by the bed to say the prayer and as she went down on her knees she saw her keys under the edge of the dresser. Even just the willingness to pray revealed the keys. It’s one of those little miracles worth sharing.
If you need examples, then share the miracles that have happened to others. They can be very inspiring to yourself and your children and can be a foundation for building your faith. One such example can be found in the Relief Society/Priesthood lesson book Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant 2002, p. 47-48.
President Grant’s story is one that teaches that we may not always get the blessing we seek, but another one will come to help us through whatever happens. It tells about his wife dying and the blessing that came to his little daughter at that time. It’s a very inspiring story.
JOY: If you’re thinking, “I wish I were a member of a miracle family.” The good news is, you are! Every member of the Church, as a result of baptism and taking the name of Christ upon themselves, is a member of this preeminent “miracle family.”
The miracles of Christ recorded in the scriptures bear witness of His miraculous powers. We are His family, so these stories are our heritage. Share these stories with your children and bear testimony of the power of Christ in your own life. My grandma used these stories many times. Remind them of what the Lord said in latter-day scripture:
“For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name.” (D&C 35: 8)
GARY: Also, remind them and yourself that one of his greatest miracles is that He forgives us; that we can be cleansed of our sins through repentance. Pres. Kimball called it The Miracle of Forgiveness. Help your children understand and experience that miracle in their lives.
JOY: We bear testimony that Jesus Christ lives and loves us and will bless us and our children in large and small ways if we have faith in Him. Miracles will come.
3. For Clam Chowder recipe