Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is occasionally asked why Latter-day Saints don’t experience the types of miracles that defined the early days of the Restoration.
The Apostle’s reply is always the same: “We do!”
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Elder Bednar taught a vast Brigham Young University devotional audience — some gathered at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, many others virtually — that daily, life-altering miracles are continually happening in the lives of people honoring their covenants and faithfully receiving the “power of godliness.”
The Nauvoo exodus
Elder Bednar began his devotional message by revisiting the desperate, yet miracle-laden Nauvoo Exodus of 1846 that commenced the westward migration of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois.
The winter phase of the exodus in particular caused “unimaginable hardship” for the mob-expelled Saints. Many sought shelter in camps along the Mississippi River. When word of the suffering exiles reached President Brigham Young at Winter Quarters, he dispatched a letter to the brethren at Council Point, asking for their help:
“Now is the time for labor,” wrote President Young. “Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable.”
Within days, wagons were rolling eastward to rescue the Saints.
“What was it that gave those early Church members such strength?” asked Elder Bednar. “What fueled their devotion and enabled them to press forward in overwhelmingly adverse conditions?
“It was the fire of the temple covenants and ordinances that burned in their hearts. It was their commitment to ‘worship and honorably hold a name and standing’ in the house of the Lord.”
Utilizing teachings from President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Bednar reminded his listeners Tuesday that serving others in meaningful ways is rarely convenient. But spiritual power does not come in living by convenience — but by keeping covenants.
Covenant-keeping fueled the lives of the early Latter-day Saints.
“In their extremity, these devoted disciples were keenly aware of their dependence upon God and trusted in Him for deliverance,” said Elder Bednar. “And I believe they understood that sacred covenants and priesthood ordinances received worthily and remembered continually open the heavenly channels through which we have access to the power of godliness and all of the blessings made available through the Savior’s Atonement.”
Through their faithfulness, those early Saints invited the “fire of the covenant” and the power of godliness into their lives. Through that fire, they found strength and blessings.
Elder Bednar noted the “eternal importance of temple covenants and ordinances” anchoring both ends of the Latter-day Saint movement west.
In Nauvoo, Brigham Young labored indefatigably so the Saints could receive their temple blessings in Nauvoo before traveling westward. And one of the first things the pioneer prophet did upon entering the Salt Lake Valley was select a site for what would become the Salt Lake Temple.
“My dear brothers and sisters, sacred covenants, priesthood ordinances, the ‘fire of the covenant,’ and the power of godliness are central to understanding the breadth, depth and reach of the migration of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake Valley,” Elder Bednar said. “And the lessons learned in Nauvoo and along the trails as the Saints traveled west continue to bless us to this very day.”
A three-day warning
The miraculous power of the “fire of the covenant” was recently evident in North America when, on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, government officials in a large jurisdiction announced that religious organizations should suspend all public gatherings in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement included a three-day warning that all such religious operations should cease by day’s end on Friday, Nov. 13.
Because the temples had been closed for a period of time earlier in the year, temple patrons and leaders in the affected jurisdiction were disappointed that ordinance work would again be halted.
“Temple leaders and workers in one temple prayed earnestly for direction, counseled together and sought inspiration from heaven,” said Elder Bednar.
Soon the answers came.
The decision was made to keep the temple open around the clock on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to accommodate as many patrons as possible. The doors of the temple would remain open, and the lights would not be turned off until midnight on Friday, Nov. 13.
The tasks that needed to be completed seemed overwhelming. Patrons needed to be contacted to confirm existing appointments and reschedule appointments affected by the changes. Temple workers schedules had to be evaluated and extended. Cleaning efforts needed to be arranged and modified.
“The work began,” said Elder Bednar “Phone calls were made. E-mails were sent. Text messages were delivered and answered. Volunteers were requested, and they responded by the dozens. The temple doors opened early Wednesday morning, and the lights were not turned off until midnight on Friday.”
To illustrate the “remarkable experiences” that occurred in that temple, Elder Bednar shared quotes from eight individuals who were involved, first-hand, in that unprecedented temple effort.
Said one person:
“Office clerks and secretaries spent countless hours calling patrons affected by the closure to see if they would like to reschedule their appointments. Every time I walked by their desks they were on the phone. When they hung up, they would have smiles on their faces as they filled the schedule with new appointments for ordinances to be performed throughout the night. I have never seen such dedication as these sisters worked so hard to accommodate patrons in the work of the Lord.”
And from another:
“Serving in the temple during the middle of the night, as the Nauvoo pioneers of old, was one of those treasured once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
“Our entire shift was in awe of the light that showed in the eyes of the patrons that came and their gratitude — and touched by the sacrifice and the privilege it was for us as workers to serve them in this way.”
The day of miracles has not ceased
The faith-filled events in Nauvoo in the winter of 1846 and in North America in November of 2020 are “stunningly similar,” said Elder Bednar.
Miracles occurred when the temple secretary and a patron were able to schedule an appointment — in an almost completely filled schedule — at the precise time that the patron could come to the temple.
Miracles occurred when a recent convert discovered in her live endowment session a beloved ordinance worker and friend who did not know about the convert’s appointment.
“The mighty miracles in our lives are exactly the same today as they always have been for devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ: making sacred covenants with God and receiving worthily priesthood ordinances, the fire of those holy covenants working on and within us, and receiving the power of godliness in our lives as we honor those covenants and ‘walk in all the ordinances of the Lord’.”