If God, especially the God of Mormonism, intervenes in our lives, how do we explain the times no intervention seems to occur? If our ways are not God’s ways, is it even appropriate to question the outcome of any situation? If the outcome is good or bad, can’t it just be attributed to God’s will?
God Watches Over and Protects His Servants
“God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them, as He did for Alma’s people in the land of Helam (see Mosiah 24:13–15). He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries.“– Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Opposition in all Things,” April 2016
“Church leaders indicated that the deaths will not hinder missionary work around the world. Elder Perry said that since 1831, only seventeen LDS missionaries have been killed by assassins. ‘In all those years, just a few have given the ultimate,’ he said.
Elder Ballard indicated that of the 447,969 missionaries who have served since the days of Joseph Smith, only 525—about one-tenth of 1 percent—have lost their lives through accident, illness, or other causes while serving. ‘When you contemplate that number,” he said, “it appears that the safest place to be in the whole world is on a full-time mission.’”– “Church Honors Missionaries Who Dies in South America,”- August 1989
“I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield, and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes. Then I shall be offered freely.”—Joseph Smith, 22 January 1843″– “God Will Protect Me Until My Work is Done,”- Ronald Esplin- Ensign Aug 1989
“As the first missionaries to wander through the town in years, we apparently stood out, because after a few minutes a local police officer pulled his car over to come talk to us. He explained that we should immediately turn around and take the bus back to where we had come from, as this was a dangerous place for foreigners, especially missionaries. He told us that the last LDS missionaries had been run out of down by angry locals several years previous. We politely thanked him for the warning, and assured him we would leave as soon as we had visited the home of our referral. We were on the Lord’s errand and felt confident that Heaven would protect us…
As the angry men started to close in on us, it was apparent that they wanted to fight and beat us up for some afternoon entertainment. I said a silent prayer and braced for the first blow, knowing we had no chance to escape the men that had us pinned up against the wall. We were left with no escape. Suddenly the men all looked up above us in the air and stopped in their tracks. A look of terror fell on their faces and they quickly retreated back across the street to their construction project and returned to work. The man who appeared to be their leader humbly gave us a quick handshake and sincerely apologized for giving us a bad time and then he also left us alone and returned to his work site.
My companion and I looked up in the air above us and behind us to see what had frightened the drunken construction workers into abandoning their plans so suddenly. Whatever or whoever had appeared above us in the air was gone. We did not see what or who the Lord had sent to protect us that day in Mexico while we were on the Lord’s errand. I can only imagine and speculate who was standing above us in the air. We were doing what we were supposed to be doing and following the mission rules. I can only assume that the Lord sent an angel to intervene, and the veil was lifted for our attackers just long enough to have the intended purpose of protecting us. We quickly returned to the bus stop and departed back to our home town.”– “Missionary Moment: Miraculous Protection of Missionaries in Mexico”- Meridian Magazine January 2013
“Regarding the recent news of the earthquake that occurred here in Chile, we would like to take the time to inform all of you parents that your children are all safe and that the Lord has protected all of his servants here in the Chile Santiago North Mission.”– Email Sent to families of Missionaries serving in Chile Santiago North Sep 2015
“In Elder Nelson newest book, Accomplishing the Impossible, on page 25, he provides more details about what happened at the mission home.
He begins his account with the following scripture. “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up (3 Nephi 28:30).
My wife Wendy and I are the beneficiaries of that promise. On one occasion, we were attacked by armed men with malicious intent. They announced their purpose: to kidnap her, and to kill me. After they maliciously molested us in those evil objectives, they became totally foiled. A gun to my head failed to fire. And my wife was suddenly released from their hideous grasp. Then they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.”- http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com/2014/10/robber-holds-gun-to-apostles-head-and-pulls-the-trigger/
Elder Dallin H. Oaks also gave a talk in 1992, recounting many stories in the bible where God protected his servants. He states:
“Our missionaries also seem weak and defenseless, powerless against the armaments of the adversary and those who serve him. But the Lord has promised them that he “will be their shield” (D&C 35:14), and that promise is fulfilled every day in many places around the world.“-https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/10/bible-stories-and-personal-protection?lang=eng
Some Mormons take issue with the statement made by Dallin H. Oaks regarding the safety of faithful Mormons and their holy places. Some non-literal believers believe in a God who intervenes but are less likely to offer any reasoning why he/she/it intervenes in some cases and not others. Other non-literal believers tend to lean away from a divine presence who intervenes and look to deity more as the source of all love and goodness and that doesn’t intervene directly in our lives but does so through other people.
“So terrorism and physical disasters can be averted for righteous Mormons who pray, but not for other people?
More than two dozen people are dead after the terrorist attacks in Brussels two weeks ago. I’m grateful that all four of the LDS missionaries who were injured at the airport that day are going to recover. But to suggest that the Lord will “blunt the effects” of evil acts for Latter-day Saints and not for others is a slippery theological slope. First of all, even within our own narrow community, you would then have to account for all of the missionaries who have in fact been killed while serving the Lord on their missions.
Secondly, and more importantly, we pit Mormonism against the world. We diminish God into a pocket deity who cares the very most about Mormons, who constitute about two-tenths of one percent of the world’s population.”- Jana Reiss, “Apostle suggests Mormons were saved from Brussels attacks and Fiji cyclone”
Doug Fabrizio: I have a lot of questions then on how the nature of God fits into all of this.
Steven Peck: Yeah, yes..
Doug Fabrizio: Does God just sit back and get the ball rolling, get the cell dividing, and then just sit back and watch because you believe, as a Mormon I presume, that God does intervene, does answer prayers, does respond to that.
Steven Peck: Mmm hmm
Doug Fabrizio: How does it work? I guess we’ll get to that…
Doug Fabrizio: Because on one hand there’s the..it’s Spinoza’s God, the idea that God is nature and that God cannot be something outside of nature to control it, and it seems like you sort of believe that on the one hand but on the other hand you believe in a literal embodied God who has you know, and I don’t want to be facetious about this but like a beard and a robe and stuff like that, so…these are hard to reconcile…
Steven Peck: Let me take a stab at it…I don’t know any specifics about God, or I don’t make any claims
Doug Fabrizio: But you believe in an embodied God
Steven Peck: Right, an embodied God is really important and I do believe in that. Umm, the the one thing that escapes us from this Spinoza’s world is the idea of consciousness. Consciousness, for me, is how I see God acting in the world for the most part. Consciousness is completely mysterious from a scientific point of view…
Doug Fabrizio: Do you believe in miracles?
Steven Peck: Yes.
Doug Fabrizio: So David Hume, the philosopher said a miracle is a suspension of natural order, not a part of natural order, and Hume’s logic is this: What is more likely, that the laws of nature have been suspended in your favor, and in a way you approve, or that you just perceived it wrong, that you made a mistake? You believe in miracles, you believe that natural order was suspended in your favor, that God did that for you.
Steven Peck: Let me give you an example.
Doug Fabrizio: Do you believe that?
Steven Peck: Yes, but in a way that sort of modifies that a little bit. When I was on my honeymoon I was in a head on collision with a drunk driver. My wife and I were within minutes of dying. The first car on the scene happened to be a couple of guys going fishing who had all of their EMT equipment with them. They were EMTs. They were the first car, they jump out, they save us. Now, that to me was a miracle. The reason it’s a miracle is because God got through to somebody’s consciousness to say “Ok, you know, put your stuff in the car.” And this is tricky and I admit this is tricky…
Doug Fabrizio: So tricky because what happens to the couple who died in the head on collision?
Steven Peck: Right!
Doug Fabrizio: Where the natural order of things wasn’t suspended in their favor? How do you explain that?
Steven Peck: Right, and for me, I don’t think miracles are necessary. I don’t think God..and…Elder Holland had a great talk on this on the angels we encounter. He talked specifically about encounters with others who are driven to do things. I don’t think we can negate the people who’ve had others enter their lives like this, through consciousness. This is my own opinion. I see God acting mostly in my life in miraculous ways, through the actions of others. And for me, that’s in fact the only place that miracles, I’ve never had a hand reach out or I’ve never had a boulder suddenly stop rolling towards me, or anything like that. But I don’t think that can be discounted either. I think that’s a powerful way we encounter God in consciousness. We get inspired to do things. People will die, I mean I don’t think God is in charge of manipulating things. This comes out of my evolutionary views in some ways, because I don’t think evolution has a direction…in the book I talk about this idea that we can’t easily expect God to interfere in the natural world, but when he does, it seems to me to be through other people through consciousness, and people will counter this. I know that others have had experiences, people have had the stuff…but that’s beyond me. And I only speak from my own experience with God and that’s where I’ve encountered God and the miracles that I’ve seen sort of escape the Hume idea, because Hume didn’t know what consciousness was. No one does, yet it seems to be used by God all over the place to you know, help widows and all of these kinds of things. – BYU Professor Steven Peck on Radiowest- Oct 2015- discussing his book Evolving Faith-starting about minute 25:00 and 33:37
If God truly protects his servants, then what about the servants that DO NOT escape serious harm or even death? Are those servants less worthy? Did they not pray hard enough, or have others praying hard enough for them? Were they making mistakes that caused God to withdraw his spirit and protection from them? Regardless of the outcome can these injuries or deaths just be attributed to God’s will for their lives? Does God really need them on the other side so desperately that he allows for these tragedies? If God does need them on the other side, wouldn’t it be more merciful if they were allowed to pass away in their sleep, due to natural causes as opposed to being brutally shot, knifed, or being involved in a horrific car crashes?
While angels were busy helping Elder Nelson avoid a bullet to the head and helping his wife escape the clutches of their assailants, where were they when these missionaries were brutally gunned down and killed in Bolivia by sub machine guns? How about when Mission President Lynn Madsen was shot in both legs during a robbery in Mexico? What about Elder Morgan Young who was shot and killed in Virginia while tracting? How about Elder Roger Hunt who was shot and killed in Portugal by a night watchman who thought he was trying to steal a car? What about Elder Jermaine Walker who was shot and killed in Jamaica, caught in the crossfire between the police and another car? What about Elder Jose Montero who was killed by a stray bullet while serving in Columbia? Couldn’t angels have stopped any of these bullets from hitting and killing the missionaries or prevented the guns from firing, like in the case of Elder Nelson?
Here is an extensive, albeit partial list of individuals who have been killed while serving missions. It seems more like random chance than a designed plan for their return to Heavenly Father- http://mormonmission.blogspot.com/2010/10/partial-list-of-lds-missionary.html
In a recent General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson gave some concluding remarks and due to his advanced age and condition, he struggled mightily to finish his talk and avoid collapsing. The internet was abuzz with talk about angels that were by Pres. Monson’s side, bearing him up, sustaining him and preventing him from falling. There were young children who reported seeing these angels and they even drew pictures describing them. There were recitations of the scripture Elder Nelson used for his own ordeal, that angels are round about, bearing up his servants.
You can watch the relevant portion of Pres. Monson’s address here:
Now, certainly nobody wanted to see Pres. Monson collapse at the pulpit and our hearts go out to him in his fragile condition, but are angels on his right hand and his left really the best explanation for why he did not fall? If so, one can rightly wonder where these angels were when President Hunter fell while giving an address at General Conference.
God’s Protection During Natural Disasters:
“God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them, as He did for Alma’s people in the land of Helam (see Mosiah 24:13–15). He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries.”– Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Opposition in all Things,” April 2016
Houston Texas Temple:
Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple:
“Sister Brumfield related the following: ‘The President and I knew the storm was coming so we went to the temple to lock it up and make sure everything was secure. Before we left, we said a prayer… you know if there is something large in a river, the river goes around the object on both sides… that is exactly what happened at the temple. The hurricane went around the temple on both sides and we sustained very little damage.‘”- https://www.ldsliving.com/Miraculous-Stories-of-Temples-Surviving-Natural-Disasters/s/81658
Apia Samoa Temple:
“President J. Phillip Hanks and his wife, Dawn, were serving as Temple President and Matron of the Apia Samoa Temple at the time. President Hanks recorded: ‘I felt the earthquake for about three minutes. The noise of the earth’s shaking sounded like a semi truck rushing by. We received an immediate tsunami warning and evacuated the temple. I planned on staying with the temple because of my stewardship. After being persuaded to leave, my wife and I drove inland and waited in our car. We soon learned that only five minutes after the earthquake, the tsunami had already struck the north side of the island.’ It was later determined that the temple only suffered minor quake damage, including the Angel Moroni’s trumpet and thumb breaking off.“- https://www.ldsliving.com/Miraculous-Stories-of-Temples-Surviving-Natural-Disasters/s/81658
Oaxaca Mexico Temple:
“Because earthquakes are an ever-present possibility in southern Mexico, the temple in Oaxaca was built on pilings to make it as earthquake proof as possible. But two major earthquakes tested the temple’s construction even before it was completed. The first—a 6.5 quake with its epicenter 200 miles north of Oaxaca—occurred in July 1999, as the temple’s footings were being put into place. Though little damage was sustained at that time, the next quake two months later was much closer and more severe. On September 30, as the temple’s exterior walls were nearing completion, a three-minute, 7.6 earthquake struck.
The temple’s project manager, Jay Erekson, described the event: “As we were running out of the temple, the ground was bucking up and down six to eight inches. I stood there and watched as the windows went out of square in both directions. The temple’s tower was whipping back and forth four or five feet. As I watched it happen, I started to cry because I thought, ‘Our temple is ruined.’ I thought we would have to tear it down and start over again.”
More than 100 buildings in the city were destroyed by the quake or damaged to the degree that they were later condemned. After the disaster, however, instruments were used to check every angle and line of the temple. “When we were through, we discovered that the temple had not moved a millimeter out of square or out of plumb. It was a miracle,” said Brother Erekson.“- https://www.ldsliving.com/Miraculous-Stories-of-Temples-Surviving-Natural-Disasters/s/81658
Las Vegas Nevada Temple:
“On the day of the quake, the window that was to be hung in the celestial room of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple was in a glass factory in Santa Cruz, near the epicenter of the quake, hanging in a sling where it was scheduled to be polished and then shipped to the temple. It had taken six weeks to make the window, and the temple’s open house was only two weeks away. When the tremor hit, the window swung wildly, but amazingly escaped any damage. Other glass projects in the factory were shattered, ruined beyond repair but the special window arrived, intact, one week before the temple opened for public viewing.“- https://www.ldsliving.com/Miraculous-Stories-of-Temples-Surviving-Natural-Disasters/s/81658
Manila Philippines Temple:
“On Friday Dec. 1, 1989, rebel forces in Manila, Philippines, attempted to overthrow Philippine President Corazon Aquino. During a week of skirmishes between government and rebel forces in Manila, the LDS temple there came under attack. In an article published in the Ensign of June 2001, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the topic of miracles by sharing a personal story of the miraculous protection of the Manila Philippines Temple. At about 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, rebel soldiers breached the gate of the temple and occupied the temple grounds exchanging gunfire with loyal government forces in a nearby military installation called Camp Aguinaldo, he said…
Elder Oaks said, “At 8 a.m., 3 December,  just 30 minutes after I received that alarming report from Manila, the assembled First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve bowed in prayer and pleaded with the Lord to intervene to protect His house. Elder Marvin J. Ashton led our prayer. As we prayed, it was 11 p.m. Sunday evening in Manila, the exact hour appointed for the assault.” The attack never occurred. “Twenty minutes after our prayer, President Cannon phoned Church headquarters to report that the military commander had unexpectedly decided against a night assault. Early the next morning, Philippine time, President Hogan phoned to say that the rebels had melted away during the night. I recorded in my journal, ‘I consider this a miracle of divine intervention no less impressive than many recorded in holy writ.’ ”- http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865630599/Viewpoint-God-of-miracles.html?pg=all
See non-literal belief section above
Elder Oaks stated that God does not prevent all disasters but does answer our prayers to turn them aside. As you can see above, there are abundant examples of God’s perceived protection of his holy temples and his servants amid the turmoil of natural disasters. Here are some examples below when God’s holy temples were NOT protected, which brings up an obvious question. Were the prayers offered to protect the structures below insufficient in either quality or quantity? Was the dedicatory prayer, asking for protection of the structure not sufficient?
Oquirrh Mountain Temple:
“Mother Nature left her mark on a new Mormon temple over the weekend when a lightning strike hit the building, blackening the golden angel that tops it.“- http://www.californiansagainsthate.com/2009/06/15/new-mormon-temples-angel-struck-by-lightning/
Washington D.C. Temple:
“On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, a 5.8 earthquake caused “minor damage” to the Washington, D.C., Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said the temple’s spires and facade were damaged during the earthquake. “There was no damage to the temple interior and no injuries were reported,” Trotter said. “The temple remains operational.” Area resident Douglas Wiggins told the LDS Church News that the tips broke off of four of the temple’s six spires. The tip on one of the remaining two spires was bent.-http://dcmormontemple.com/39/history-of-the-washington-d-c-mormon-temple
Pesega Samoa Temple:
“Media reports indicate that the cyclone has led to the deaths of three people. The cyclone has also caused a school building to topple over in Apia. Hundreds of people are taking shelter in churches and other larger buildings on higher ground, including Latter-day Saint chapels. Flooding has caused some damage to the Latter-day Saint temple in Pesega, and the temple grounds. The temple will be closed except for two weddings scheduled for Saturday morning.“-http://www.mormonnewsroom.org.nz/article/cyclone-evan-pounds-samoa
Apia Samoa Temple:
“On the evening of July 9, 2003—nearly 20 years after its dedication—the Apia Samoa Temple was destroyed by fire while closed for an extensive remodeling project. One week later, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that the temple would be rebuilt.“- http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/apia/
Logan Utah Temple:
“On Dec. 4, 1917, fire broke out in the temple and caused extensive smoke and water damage. Its origin was in electrical wiring. Later, it was gutted and rebuilt inside and rededicated in 1979 by President Spencer W. Kimball.“- http://www.heraldextra.com/logan-utah-temple/article_af494ff1-1d35-586b-8c33-4ae19f9a701d.html
Fort Collins Colorado Temple:
“A temple under construction by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was damaged by vandals who broke in and caused ‘significant damage’ to the inside and outside of the building, according to police.“-http://kutv.com/news/local/lds-temple-significantly-damaged-by-vandals-in-colorado
Regardless of what you believe, I think we all need to exercise caution and compassion. No one can prove or disprove that the hand of God is manifested in the protection of either his so-called servants or LDS temples. That should be clear from the abundant examples given above.
For those who believe, please be cautious, especially when these examples are personal to you. Please understand that by getting up in testimony meeting, or sharing a faith-promoting story of when you or a family member have been “protected,” there may be others present who were in a similar situation and received no such protection. I remember in Gospel Doctrine one Sunday, a sister shared an example of when she was “listening to the spirit” and was warned of impending danger and was able to escape it. She expressed how grateful she was, that she was living her life correctly so she could heed the promptings of the spirit. Another sister raised her hand and said something to the effect of “How does that apply in my situation, where my baby drowned in the bath tub when I stepped away? Was I not righteous enough to hear the promptings?”
For those who are skeptical and don’t believe, be charitable to those who see these incidents as an example of God’s love and protection. These faith-promoting stories can provide real hope and comfort. Don’t be in a hurry to debunk every example you see, even though a God who selectively intervenes makes little sense to you.