Gordon Monson: Do you believe in miracles? I do, and here’s why.

I can’t explain why God sometimes intervenes and sometimes doesn’t. I just believe it happens.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) "Christ Healing a Blind Man," by Del Parson.

Do you believe in miracles? Not the kind that come on the ice, via the most legendary and unlikely win in sports history — by the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team over the mighty Russians in 1980. No. The kind, rather, that seem to stretch straight from the heavens, from the hand of God, touching and making a profound difference in the lives of ordinary humans down here on the rock we call Earth.

I do. I believe. And I’ll tell you why in a personal and private way that I’ve rarely shared with anyone. Forgive me if that offends. As I do, though, I add a big ol’ “yeah, but” to the narrative.

Understanding the reasons for miracles is complicated, beyond my reach, and if you’re also a believer, maybe beyond yours. Miracles are, in a strange flip of the metaphor, a wildfire blowing in the wind, torching some houses and leaving others wholly unscathed. OK, the opposite of that.

The questions remain: Why is heavenly help extended in some circumstances and not others? Why are some tragedies averted and some not? Why are some individuals saved or healed or brought back from the edge of pain or peril or death and some are not?

Beats me.

One thing I do know: When miracles arrive, it’s not clearly because of worthiness or any kind of measure of it. As the memorable line from the movie “Unforgiven” goes, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” You don’t earn a miracle. Some say certain divine happenings come via faith. A problem with that conclusion is that there are people of extreme faith who call on the powers of heaven for something extraordinary, to help a loved one or to fix something that’s broken, and the help is withheld or the fix never comes.

You hear stories, meanwhile, about faithful folks who lose their car keys, so they say a quick prayer and — bingo — what was once lost is suddenly found.

Questions abound

I imagine those kinds of tales really bother fervent believers who call out for divine assistance in matters much more important and the miracle doesn’t kick in. People at church, whatever church is attended, need to be careful about tossing around their miracles — because they can be hurtful to those who, for whatever reason or for no reason at all, were left to suffer.

So, let’s set that right out front before we go any further.

If you believe in a higher holy power, you are blessed to do so, but remember that if calls for the miraculous have gone unheeded, it’s not your fault or the fault of the afflicted. It’s not anybody’s fault. There must be something else in the mix, some “plan” for something better, something not yet fully grasped, that will come into play in a massive way at some point.

Nonbelievers will scoff at that. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, coincidences happen to all people, and that’s life and death in the random, day-to-day existence in a fierce jungle.

(Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times) Actors playing Jesus' apostles hand out bread and fishes to extras during filming for "The Chosen" in Midlothian, Texas, reenacting a miracle described in the Bible, in June 2022.

Even for believers, hope is sometimes hard to dial in on, like when folks at a funeral say So-and-So, the dearly departed, was called away for some significant eternal purpose … but So-and-So is a young mother leaving behind four young children. It’s hard to figure what eternal purpose would or could be more pressing, more urgent than teaching and rearing and caring for and cuddling the little ones left crying at the casket, at the loss of their beloved mother.

She may have been prayed for by loved ones, tears may have been spilled on pillows in the pleading for a miracle, and now she is gone.

I don’t pretend to know about that, any of it, not the whys or the hows, the whens and the wheres of what’s happened or what’s to come. The wildfire jumps — and it doesn’t jump. It’s baffling and heartbreaking.

And when divine intervention is granted, when miracles do occur, it’s just as baffling and amazing. God only knows heaven’s reasoning.

I had nothing to do with my miracle, other than to benefit from it.

My miracle

(Gordon Monson) Wilma Mooring Monson, left, and her son, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson. Wilma Monson died Jan. 21, 2024. She was 97.

I was born at the start of March 1957, which, yeah, was a long, long time ago, and it was all good, except for the fact that I was supposed to be born at the start of June. I showed up three months early, weighing between 2 and 3 pounds, and afterward lost half a pound. Doctors told my mom and dad to forget about it, that I was a goner.

Advances certainly have been made in saving the lives of premature babies over the past 67 years, but back then, it was rare, almost unheard of, at least that’s what my parents were told by the medical professionals they presumed knew about such things.

It was early on a Sunday morning, so my father sent word to his Latter-day Saint ward asking fellow congregants to fast and pray for my mother and me.

They did. And much to the shock of the doctors and nurses on hand, all of whom were capable and caring, I’m told, my mom came through it and I lived.

That was a miracle.

In later years, I told my dad that if he hadn’t done that and I had died, I would have gone, according to Latter-day Saint doctrine, straight to heaven — a done deal. Mission accomplished. Instead, I survived and have gone on to live my life, stumbling and bumbling along my way. And now, or at least one day, some day, I’ll have to answer to my maker for my mistakes and — based on what some of you communicate to me — also the things I write and ask, do and say.

A shoutout to Jesus, then, for his grace and mercy.

I’m not sure I ever thanked those people in that congregation all those years ago — or whether they had a whole lot to do with my survival. Either way, I wish to thank them now. Thanks also to the doctors and nurses for their expertise and tender care.

In the mysteries of God’s disbursement of miracles, some given, some withheld, as a believer, I’m uncertain about those whys and hows. I can only trust there are reasons for the joy and eventual healing in the sorrow. In my case, thankful hearts replaced the initial tears spilled on my parents’ pillows, the ones that have long since dried.

For those whose tears have not dried, whose miracle heretofore went unextended, here’s to the hope that delayed miracles are yet ahead, granted according to the reasoning that only the Almighty understands.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune columnist Gordon Monson.

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