In the Book of Mormon, we read of many Antichrists, and the fates that befall them. In Jacob chapter 7, we read of Sherem, trying to overthrow the doctrine of Christ. He clashes with Jacob and insists that Jacob show him a sign. In response, Jacob invites God to smite Sherem, which God does. This moves Sherem to repent and testify of Christ just before his death. Interestingly, Jacob was sure that Sherem would deny any sign he received, but Sherem did the opposite.
Another famous Antichrist from the Book of Mormon is Korihor, the atheist. In Alma chapter 30, Korihor denies not only Christ, but God and prophecy and afterlife as well. Alma the Younger confronts him, and Korihor demands a sign. He gets one: God takes away his voice. Korihor then testifies (via writing, of course) that God took away his voice, and never preaches against God again. He didn’t get a very nice sign, but like Sherem, he got a sure sign, and it convinced him and all his followers.
Some Antichrists don’t meet such bad ends. Alma the Younger was himself an Antichrist, along with his friends, the four sons of King Mosiah. In Mosiah chapter 27, we find them trying to destroy the church of God. But without their ever demanding one, they receive a sign: an angel appears and commands them to repent, with a voice that shook the earth. The shock leaves Alma catatonic for two days, but he recovers, and he becomes a powerful advocate for the church of God, along with Mosiah’s sons. It would appear that signs from God are very convincing.
So why is it that we don’t see these signs today? Why is it that I have never received one?
You may say that God is sparing me by not granting me such violent signs. It certainly is true that these signs, taken by themselves, are not pleasant at all. But when taken in context, the signs appear to be ultimately beneficial to the people who received them. Consider Korihor, who lost his voice but gained a certainty of God. Isn’t that worth it? Take an example from Disney: Ariel the mermaid gave up her voice to be with the man she loved. How much better a deal, then, to be with God in exchange for your voice! Yet no one has ever made me the offer. Why not?
These aren’t the only incidents of God displaying power in the Book of Mormon. We read of God destroying prisons, taming beast, lighting up the night sky as bright as day, protecting his servants with an angel or a ring of fire, and other signs. The scriptures seem to indicate that these signs, harsh as some of them were, had some power to convince people to believe in God and keep His commandments. So why don’t we see these signs today?
The Bible, too, is full of such signs. God sent plagues on Egypt to convince them of His power. He cursed the Philistines with mice and hemorrhoids for stealing the Ark. He sent down fire from heaven to refute the priests of Baal. He delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a superheated furnace to show His power to Nebuchadnezzar. So where have these signs gone?
The Book of Mormon assures us that these miracles are still happening; when I searched for miracles+ceased in the Book of Mormon, I got six results that assured me that miracles have not ceased, and two results listing specific circumstances in which miracles did cease due to wickedness. There are millions of active Mormons in the world, so by Mormon standards, we’re not living in a time of great wickedness; in other words, the circumstances that prevent miracles do not apply. So, where are the miracles? There are plenty of hostile voices declaring the church to be false; why are they not silenced like Sherem or called to repentance like Alma? Why hasn’t anything like that happened to me?
This absence of the miraculous shows up even in church talks. Consider Jeffrey Holland’s 2008 talk, The Ministry of Angels. He begins by recalling angelic visitations to Adam and Eve, to Mary, to Lehi, and to Jesus, and then he moves to more modern times, recalling an experience of the late Clyn D. Barrus… but Clyn’s story has no angels in it at all! The closest we get is Clyn’s father saving him from drowning, which Clyn very much appreciated, of course, but what about the heavenly beings the scriptures tell us about? Where are they?
This problem is obviously not limited to Mormonism. Most of Christianity preaches the existence of miracles, and they are also unable to deliver the actual product. Faith healers are unable to heal (especially when it comes to amputees), prophets deliver false prophecies, and the wicked are not destroyed. The closest we get to a sign from God is Jesus appearing on people’s food.
I opened this piece with a series of negative signs – punishments from God, in other words – because I am willing to accept any sign from God at this point. If I am unworthy of signs like visions and healings, then give me a punishment for my sins, a divine spanking, and I will be satisfied, because I will at last have evidence that God cares. But I cannot get even that, and apparently, neither can anyone else. There are no signs at all. So does God actually care?
I won’t debate now whether there is a God or not (I tend to think not, but there’s room for disagreement). Instead, let’s assume that there is a God, and ask: what has God done lately? Where is the evidence that God interacts with us at all? As far as I can tell, the answers to these questions are, in order, “nothing” and “nowhere”. When we listen for God’s voice, we hear only divine hiddenness. When ordinary folks like us cry out “Oh God, where art thou?”, we don’t get a response. And what is the point of believing in God, even a true God, if God doesn’t care about us?
The old scriptures (which aren’t necessarily true) tell of God’s great deeds, but they cannot make up for the lack of God in the present. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have had good reason to believe, but we in the present have good reason not to believe at all.