Many--too many--gospel discussions focus on the provenance of books of scripture. Anyone whose faith rests in the archeological or other textual "evidence" of scripture has weak religious principles. The truth of scripture is not manifest in the shaky wisdom of men, but in the fruits the principles it teaches brings forth.
If you believe in God merely because of what the Bible says, for instance, than your religion is not much worth having. A religion worth having ought to be able to reproduce the fruits of the gospel documented in the Bible in your own life. If you do not have the fruits of the gospel in your life as recorded in the scriptures, either the scriptures or false or your understanding of the gospel is different than the gospel had by those who wrote it. Either way, you ought to change your beliefs.
The purpose of miracles is to help people have faith--to help people become willing to believe in what is purported to be the gospel sufficient to live what is taught and observe whether the promised fruits arrive.
There are many false positives. Organized religions will teach something, sure, but most teachings are unaccompanied by any fruits at all. Those that are tend to be diminutive compared to what we find in the scriptures. Others hide behind the promise that though their religion does not bear the fruits promised by Jesus in this life, it will magically become capable of saving you in the next!
I like what Joseph Smith said about testing what is offered:
If you will obey the Gospel with honest hearts, I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that the gifts as promised by our Saviour will follow you, and by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God. (Joseph Smith, Quoted in Hyrum Andrus, “Joseph Smith's Idea of the Gospel”.)
Before continuing, I strongly recommend you read these posts. I won't copy paste them here, but I should. Please go read them:
There are a few people I interact with who are constantly telling me that God does not exist. This is a curious statement to hear, because I have met God. I have seen him, he has spoken to me, and he has touched me. These people tell me that my spiritual experiences are a figment of my imagination. I realize that because there are so many false positives--so many people who claim to believe in God (without actually doing what he says, of course) and yet have no experiences with him--these people have very little reason to believe that God exists.
None of these experiences are shared to boast. I wish others would share them so I would not have to. I publish this account that you may know that God is real. This verse is true:
For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. (D&C 76:5)
His power is sufficient to save any of us if we will merely turn to him, believe him, and obey him. Normal, common people have the duty and privilege to reach higher toward heaven, that through their testimony others might come closer to Christ (see Alma 13).
Jesus is the Christ, that he is real, and that there is no sweeter prize in this life that to associate with him. If you want to know more about how you can have more experiences with God, I recommend you read the book "Seek Ye This Jesus," which you can download as a free pdf, read on Kindle, buy on Amazon for print cost, or listen to in a free audiobook.
In no order:
Brain cancer healed
I knew a woman who worked selling candy on buses. She had five little kids and a deadbeat husband. She was a very kind, sweet lady who worried about others more than herself. She had been fainting on the bus, and she was very worried. I advised her to go to a doctor, where she found out she had multiple large tumors growing in her head. Because of the number and locations of the tumors, the doctors could not operate, and radiation and chemo were a longshot. She came to me with all the faith in the world and asked me to pray for her. I spent some time fasting and praying. I wrestled with the Lord as described in "Seek Ye This Jesus." The Holy Ghost fell on me, and I went to her house, laid my hands on her, and the Lord healed her. She was immediately and completely healed. Her symptoms ended and the next radiology imaging showed the tumors were completely gone.
Baptized by fire
I was baptized in water in a portable font in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. As I sat on the steps of the font, still soaking wet, Elders laid their hands on me and said, "receive the Holy Ghost." At that moment, I felt a fire starting at the crown of my head that went down to my feet. I was not surprised at all, because I believed what I had been taught, and I was taught that when I was confirmed, this is what was supposed to happen. I began noticing the fruits of the companionship of the Holy Ghost right away. I was newly disinterested in sinful things, and my mind was frequently quickened with revelation about gospel principles (especially when I asked questions) and about life in general.
My first experience praying with real intent
Years ago, I learned my brother was going to Iraq, and the Spirit gave my a distinct impression that he would be killed in action. I spent several hours each night begging with the Lord to spare his life so that he might have the chance to hear the gospel as I did. I pleaded that it was not fair that I had the chance and he did not. I pleaded that God would take my life, if need be, to answer for his, that he might have a fair chance at the happiness that I had received. After over a month of praying late into the night each day, I heard a voice that told me to stop praying about it. This was the voice of God, and it was the first time I heard his voice. Accompanied with this voice was an outpouring of peace that I recognized could only come from the Spirit (not because I had been told so, but because I was coming to recognize what it felt like when the Lord was reaching out to me). Some weeks later, I was talking with my brother over the phone. He recounted to me that about that same time I heard God speak to me, he was involved in an intense firefight. He was the first man out of a building when several men opened fire on him and his squad. As he was running, he felt a hand push him to the ground with so much force that he broke his foot in the process. After the battle, he found bullet holes in the wall where his head had been before he was pushed. As he communicated this story to me he--an atheist--said that he knew that it was an angel who pushed him, and it was because of my prayers that his life had been spared. As he told me that, the Spirit witnessed to me that such was the case.
A word of comfort
My grandmother suffered for years in a nursing home after having several massive strokes. My mother, who worked full-time, spent many hours after work each day caring for her for years. It was an incredible emotional and physical burden to carry. Several times I prayed to God that he would let my grandmother die so that my mom could be released from that burden. Those prayers never went very long, because God told me that it wasn't expedient at that time and that he had a purpose in this. Early one morning, I was working out when the Lord spoke to me and told me to pray. I stopped what I was doing and immediately knelt down and began to pray. The Spirit told me what to say, and I was immersed in the Lord's mind and will. I thanked him for everything that had happened with my mom and grandmother, as he gave me to understand exactly what the purpose was for how things had happened. Then I asked him to free her spirit from her body, which request he granted. I was overwhelmed with his love for my grandmother and my mother, and also for his condescension in involving me in this process. I was given a message for my mom, and I called her and said what I was told. She was incredibly attached to my grandmother, and very much unwilling to see her die. Somehow, the Lord's words soothed her heart completely. That evening my grandmother died suddenly, and it happened in exactly the right way to help her children best deal with the situation.
Revelation of a podcast
Early one morning I was frying some eggs for my kids. Unexpectedly, the Lord spoke to me. He mentioned a friend who I had not spoken to in months. He said: "tell _____ that it is my will for him to start a podcast preaching the same things he does in his blog." I said, "but he will be afraid that he won't be able to maintain his anonymity." The Lord gave me a promise for him, and told me to tell him. I immediately stopped cooking eggs and wrote my friend an email. The friend wrote me back and explained that the Lord had just told him the same thing a few days prior, but that he wasn't sure about it and had in fact been worried about anonymity. He started the podcast, and has had many emails from people whose lives it has helped.
My first experience with the Book of Mormon
I was introduced to the Book of Mormon as an 18-yr old private in basic training. I thought the missionaries' story was plausible. At the time I was not a follower of Jesus, but I did not disbelieve that he existed. I was simply not worried about it. I had been introduced to the gospel according to several sects and had found gaping holes in their reasoning. It did not ring true to me. The missionaries' story seemed solid to me. I felt that it could be true.
After learning of the so-called plan of salvation, I decided that I had to pray and ask God about the gospel according to the Mormons. If it was true, I felt there was urgency in me being baptized and following God. If it wasn't, I was wasting my time. When I knelt to pray in the barracks after lights out, I realized that before I asked God if the book of Mormon was true, I would first need to know---not merely believe---if God existed. I always figured there was a God, but never had to make a decision based on that belief. I knew that if God existed, I wanted to do any and everything that he required of me. I had a desire to please him. It didn't make sense to make a commitment to a being when I did not know if the being was real or not.
Being in public, I prayed in my mind "God, are you real?" I felt a feeling of love that I had never in my life felt. It is impossible to describe, but it was exceedingly strong and impossible to dissociate with my question. God had just told me he was real. I thought, "thank you. Is the Book of Mormon your word?" The feeling came back over me, twice as strong as before. I thought, "thank you." I went to bed comforted.
My first revelatory dream came while I was on a full-time mission. I had left a girl I was very much in love with, and I had no doubt I would marry her when I got back. In the dream, I was shown that my choice to serve a mission meant that things would not work out with her. This was a big shock to me, and it is exactly what happened. She didn't want anything to do with me.
Revelatory dreams, for me, are very different than normal dreams.
The first waking vision I had was about the preexistence. One day I was sitting in the living room when all of the sudden, the room I was in disappeared and I saw myself in a large area with lot of people in small groups. Everyone was wearing white. I saw a cluster of people whose faces I did not recognize, but whose spirits I did. They were my loved ones. I saw myself in the center of this group, and I was promising them that if they agreed to come to earth, I would do everything in my power to help them accept the gospel and keep their estate here. Then I was back in my living room.
Another waking vision I had was about an apocalyptic time. I was going up the steps to tell my kids something, when all of the sudden I was outside. There had been a plague, and I was with a group of men. We were armed. We were looking for houses to spread out into after having been cramped up in one small area for some time. We came to a house and had to decide who was going to go into it to see if there were any bodies. We drew straws and I drew the shortest. I opened the door to the house and as I went inside, saw the corpse of a man who had died from the plague. I then came out of the vision. I had been in the vision for what seemed like hours, but no time had passed here. I was very distressed and physically tired. This vision happened shortly after we moved into our present house, and before I was able to drive around the neighborhood. I found out later that the house I saw exists, exactly where I saw it.
I was once minding my own business when the voice of the Lord came to me and told me my National Guard unit was going to be deployed to a certain country, and that I shouldn't put in any more offers on houses (at the time, I was house hunting). My commander called me a few days later and said "have you heard our unit is getting deployed?" I told him I had. He didn't ask from whom.
The gift of tongues
When I first arrived to Chile on a mission, I knew what the people were saying even though I did not yet understand the Spanish they spoke. My companion would attempt to interpret during lessons, but I would interrupt him and say, "it's okay. I know what he said. How do I say ____?" Many times, I would notice his translation wasn't correct.
The gift of discernment
At times I have experienced the gift of discernment. On one occasion on my mission as we taught a man with a good heart but plenty of struggles, the Spirit opened the window of his soul to me, and I saw plainly what the truth was, in comparison with what he was saying. I told him what the Lord had revealed to me. His response was very much like what we find in Alma 12:7.
Comfort on a cold day
One day in Chile, while in the street in the rainy winter, I found myself exhausted, cold, and hungry, a common occurrence on that mission. I paused and looked to the sky in prayer. I asked God why he didn't stop the rain, even just for a moment? I was given to feel why he didn't stop the rain, which isn't important right now, but more importantly, he made it very clear to me that he was with me and was quite aware of my situation. It was a very special experience.
A promised land
One day I was driving home from work. As I crested the mountain pass that opens to the valley I live in, the Lord spoke to me and said, "this is a promised land to you and those I will give to you."
I was invited to interview for my job. My wife hopped on Zillow to see what houses were like in the area. When she came to a certain house she said the Lord had shown her that this would be our house. I said, "isn't this a bit premature? I haven't even interviewed yet, and the odds are low that I'll get this job." She said, "you will get this job, and we will get this house." The house was $220,000 out of our price range. She made me promise to get a realtor and see the house while there. We had our offer for the house ready when the offer for the job came, and we got the house for $220,000 less than the list price.
The Lord's hands
I was once agonizing in prayer over some things external to me that were very troubling. All the sudden, I was filled with peace as I saw the Lord's hands held out in front of me, together with palms up. I saw the nails in his hands. He said, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (Isaiah 49:16). Then he disappeared. I was absolutely overwhelmed that he--the creator of the universe--had stooped before me (I was kneeling) to show me his hands.
The Lord is whipped
One morning, as I was praising God, he opened the eyes of my understanding and I saw a brief glimpse of his scourging. I only saw the scene for enough time to see one stroke land across his back. I saw the flesh of his back split open as the whip landed. I had never imagined it the way I saw it. Just as the flesh burst open, my heart burst open, and I praised his condescension, patience, mercy, and goodness through my tears.
A comforting touch
One morning, I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. He touched my right shoulder with his hand to comfort me. I was not dreaming, and it was not a vision.
The Lord chastened me
The first time I saw the Lord was after I spent about two years in consistent prayer and focus on seeing the Lord. It was all I thought about. One night, I had a night vision of the Lord. That experience is very hard to describe because of the contradictory nature of the feelings I experienced. On the one hand, the intensity of love that I felt in his presence was indescribable. On the other, my own awareness of my nothingness was beyond description. His presence is so empowering--you feel like you can get up and run into your potential faster than you ever have before. He explained some things to me, correcting my understanding of some things he wanted me to do in my life.
The tree of life
For a period of time I was pondering how Nephi was shown his father's dream after praying about it. I, too, wanted to see the tree of life. I prayed in absolute focus about this, and a vision opened. I was very close to the tree, and could see the color and texture of its bark. It was incredibly white, and the texture of the bark had deep grooves.
Once, through my carelessness, I accidentally killed a small bird while I was working in my yard. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I picked up the bird and walked to a quiet place. I prayed and explained to the Lord that it was not fair that this innocent bird suffer the penalty of my carelessness. I quoted his words from the sermon on the mount about caring for the sparrow, and I asked him to bring the bird back to life. The whole time, I had the small bird in my hand. I opened my hand, and the bird flew away.
An answer to prayer
One evening after a long, hard day, I prayed a quick prayer before jumping into bed. Just as I was as my head hit the pillow, the Lord told me to get a pen, and he gave me about a paragraph of a revelation to a man in my neighborhood. I wrote every word, and then he told me to go tell that man what he said. I said, "if I do that, he will think I'm crazy!" God said, "if you don't, I won't speak to you anymore." The next morning, first thing, I went to see this man. I knocked on his door, and as soon as he answered I said, "thus saith the Lord:" and said what he said, and was anxious to get out of there. Instead of telling me I was crazy, this man stood in silence for what seemed like forever. Then he started crying. After he got control of himself, he told me about the prayer he had offered. The Lord had given me a very detailed answer to the very prayer he had offered.
One day I was rushing out of the house, late to work. As I got into my car, the Spirit told me to go grab my Bon Jovi CD. In spite of how odd that may seem, I have grown used to obeying strange promptings. I went and got the CD. When the song "Keep the Faith" came on, it pulled in my attention from what I had been thinking about. About a minute into the song, a clear prompting came to contact a friend of mine, which I did. It turned out, unbeknownst to me, that the friend had miscarried a baby she had named Faith, and that day was the anniversary of the day the baby was stillborn.
At the cross
One time I found myself at the foot of the cross. It was taller than I imagined. The scene was awful beyond description.
A better kind of miracle
Temporal miracles are wonderful. They show us that God does indeed have all power to save mankind. They frequently alleviate suffering or support us in tough times. However, the greatest miracles, in my opinion, are miracles of the heart. The ultimate purpose of temporal miracles are to give us a reason to believe and live God's word. Temporal miracles do not save us. They do not necessarily change who we are. But God's power manifested in our hearts makes us a new person. Miracles of the heart happen as we willingly take in his will and word, and make it our own.
These miracles are the sweetest fruit of the gospel: when we notice the change in our hearts that reconciles us to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
The Spirit of God has caused me to intercede for those who seek to destroy me, who have bitterly used me, or who have selfishly mistreated me. I've cried long, intense prayers begging the Lord to forgive them. I've invested great deals of time, money, and trouble trying to give them another chance.
God has given me a framework of knowledge that supports me in the greatest trials, helping me maintain godly character through times of torturous pain, profound sorrow, and abject loneliness.
God has given me an unquenchable thirst for more light and truth.
He has made me ceaseless in my efforts to help others.
He has given me unlimited courage to do his will in spite of what men will do.
These have been wonderful opportunities to follow the light that comes from above, and it is miraculously different than what the natural man wants. Temporal miracles come from time to time as an outward witness, but gifts of character are always present in those that love God, and yours to keep as long as you are faithful. To me, these gifts of character are much more significant than the other miracles he has manifested in my life.
This list is not exhaustive. There are events that would reveal personal details about other people, events that I forget, and events I don't feel comfortable sharing right now.
The magical thing about the gospel is that no matter what experiences you have had, and what principles you currently believe, there is always something greater available. I know that there are much greater experiences in my future, because I know that there is more and better to know that what I currently believe.
The point is this: God is still a God of miracles, and he seeks to be intimately involved in the lives of everyone who will seek him.