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The following is an excerpt from the newly released book: Answers Will Come: Trusting the Lord in the Meantime by Shalissa Lindsay.
Heavenly silence is not a proof against miracles, but a proof in favor of them.
Korihor claimed that spiritual experiences were “the effect of a frenzied mind.”1 When answers or miracles finally come, how will I know they’re from God, rather than from my own self-deception, hypnosis, or positive thinking?
I’ll know, partly, because I’ve tried really hard to produce them, with no success. Trust me, if I could hypnotize myself into receiving heavenly answers, I’m pretty sure I would have done it dozens of times by now. It doesn’t work. Much to my chagrin, my prayers, fasting, and temple trips are often met with silence. I’ve learned I really have little control over when and how heaven answers my prayers. I simply can’t conjure up that amazing peace whenever I want it. Self-talk during my prayers just doesn’t feel like those answers that have come on special occasions. No matter how hard I try.
Because we have repeatedly met silence, when the eventual answer comes, it feels clearly different. We recognize those special messages from the Lord precisely because they are rare and unusual and come at unexpected intervals. They feel so very different from the anguished or circular thought patterns that we create ourselves.
The woman who touched Jesus’s robe recognized her miraculous healing because she had tried everything she could for twelve years—without success! The pregnancies of aged Sarah and Elizabeth were exceptionally miraculous because they took exceptionally long to occur. Alma and Amulek “could not be confined in dungeons,” but “they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison . . . that the Lord might show forth his power.”2
I’ve heard it said, “The prerequisite for a miracle is great difficulty; the prerequisite for a great miracle is impossibility.”3 The difficulties and impossibilities are shown during the silence that precedes the miracle. Miraculous answers, when they come, will be clear and recognizable precisely because of the wait today. We are already in the process. It has already begun. The silence today is part of the miracle tomorrow.
I’ve already obtained the answer. I just haven’t seen it yet.
I trust that my online orders at Amazon.com will be fulfilled because I receive an email telling me so, and I believe it. The Lord’s version of a “shipping confirmation” is even better:
Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.4
Heaven’s fulfillments must be at least as trustworthy as Amazon’s. The Lord told Nephi—2,416 years ahead of time—the exact words He would speak during Joseph Smith’s First Vision.5 The whole vision was planned in very detail, ready to deliver as soon as Joseph was ready. Likewise, Lehi considered God’s fulfillment so certain that even before his wilderness journey, while still in a tent, he declared, “I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice.”6
God likely has many answers already beautifully packaged and on the way to me. I bet He doesn’t mind if I keep eagerly checking the mail, but I shouldn’t be accusing Him of neglecting to send the answer. Ensign writer Adam Kotter7 pointed out that this is essentially the difference between gospel questioning (good) and faithless doubting (bad):
Questioner: “There must be an answer to this question. I’ll keep obeying until I see it.”
Doubter: “I doubt there’s an answer to this. I’m not obeying unless/until I can see it.”
With that in mind, I want to say with other believers, “I have questions, but no doubts.”8 I also want to learn to pray, in advance, the same way I respond when someone tells me they have sent a gift in the mail: “Thank you so much! I’m sure it will be great.”
When faith is too weak for a blessing, God increases it through sacrifice.
Let’s say God wants to send me a huge, miraculous blessing, but my faith isn’t strong enough to receive it. What will prepare me for the upcoming gift? President Harold B. Lee declared, “I [am] persuaded of one great truth: Whenever the Lord has a great blessing for one of his children, he puts that son or daughter in the way to make a great sacrifice.”9
I have seen this happen with small sacrifices, too. I was once prompted to befriend a woman who seemed very needy. Feeling overwhelmed with the demands in my own family, I hesitated. But I obeyed. This sister later blessed us with many hours of babysitting. The “sacrifice” God prompted me to make ultimately blessed me as much as it did her.
A family I know prayed hard to be able to handle the upcoming student loans for graduate school. They felt, unexpectedly, that they should contribute generously to the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund to help some far less fortunate student. After following that prompting, they received such a large funding offer that student loans became unnecessary. They felt certain that God’s gift was linked to their willingness to sacrifice.
The widow of Zarephath needed to feed Elisha before she could receive miraculous food for the famine and the healing of her dead son.10 Adam needed to sacrifice animals to receive additional direction.11 Peter, James, John, and Andrew had to leave their nets to become Apostles.12 Early Saints needed to build a temple so they could receive their endowments.13
Chances to build faith come more often as tiny inconvenient sacrifices than grand gestures that earn public praise. How many minutes will I divert from other pursuits to spend time in family history research and indexing? How many leisure hours will I devote to callings and missionary work?
Lehi sacrificed part of his recently gathered provisions in a voluntary offering of gratitude.14 Ancient Saints worshipped by presenting voluntary thank offerings at the temple.15 When I’m grateful enough to volunteer extra resources or temple service, I may more fully approach the level of faith that allows for greater opportunities ahead.
(Continue reading in the newly released book: Answers Will Come: Trusting the Lord in the Meantime by Shalissa Lindsay)
1 Alma 30:16.
2 Alma 8:31.
3 Quote from the movie Faith Like Potatoes (2006), distributed by Affirm Films; directed by Regardt van den Bergh.
4 D&C 98:1–3.
5 588 BC + 1828 AD = 2416 years. Nephi recorded the Lord’s words in such detail as to include a phrase that Joseph himself forgot to report in our Pearl of Great Price. Compare JS—History 1:19 with 2 Nephi 27:25 and Isaiah 29.
6 1 Nephi 5:5.
7 Adam Kotter, “When Doubts and Questions Arise,” Ensign, Mar 2015. Available at lds.org. The questions on this page are my own paraphrase of his ideas.
8 This quote is often attributed to Neal A. Maxwell, but I cannot find the source within the lds.org database. I think perhaps it originated as a book chapter by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel— “Questions, but No Doubts” in Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars, ed. Susan Easton Black, (Deseret Book Company, 1996).
9 Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, Apr. 1947, 50. Thanks to President David Glew of Wilmington, North Carolina, for bringing this principle to my attention.
10 1 Kings 17.
11 Moses 5:5–6.
12 Matthew 4:18–22.
13 D&C 95:8.
14 1 Nephi 2:7.
15 Leviticus 7:12; 2 Chronicles 29:31.