In one of the first New Testament classes Eric D. Huntsman taught at Brigham Young University, he shared the story of the man with palsy who was brought to Jesus Christ to be healed and how the man had to be let down through the roof of the house. Huntsman also added his testimony of having faith and of miracles.
He said several students were enthusiastic and smiled, but a few weren't and didn't.
“So many of us often pray for miracles that don’t come about when and how we want them to,” Huntsman said. “The stories that are encouraging for so many of us can actually be disheartening for others.”
Huntsman, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, and Alonzo Gaskill, an associate professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, are the authors of recent books that focus on different aspects of miracles and that have been released in advance of the New Testament being the topic for study in gospel doctrine classes next year.
Both use the scriptures, quotes from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and research from biblical scholars in their books as they also point out symbolic elements of the stories.
Huntsman’s book, “The Miracles of Jesus” (Deseret Book, $25.99), organizes Jesus’ 36 miracles categorically — power over the elements, healing the sick, casting out devils, causing the blind to see and deaf to hear, and raising the dead, along with a conclusion on “the greatest miracle of all” — and discusses how they reflect on different aspects of the Atonement.
The groupings came out of how the symbolism was similar among the miracles, he said.
He said the symbolism through healing the body is about the Resurrection, forgiveness and the strengthening power of the Atonement.
“Restoring senses was more (symbolic of) how we learn from God and the saving knowledge we gain through the Spirit,” he said.
As with his books on Easter, “God So Loved the World,” and Christmas, “Good Tidings of Great Joy,” Huntsman uses music and other information in boxes to share additional context.
Huntsman took several of the images in the book when he was teaching at the BYU Center in Jerusalem in 2011-12 and selected the other images of artwork depicting the Savior’s life.
Gaskill’s book, “Miracles of the New Testament” (Cedar Fort, $25.99), has sections for each of the more than 50 miracles in the New Testament, ordered chronologically, including the ones by Jesus and later by his apostles, along with sections noting the background, symbolic elements and modern-day applications for each miracle to help teachers relate the miracles to students in a variety of settings or to help a speaker relate them to an audience.
Gaskill, who is the author of a half-dozen books, had noticed that Christianity, including in the Christian churches after the deaths of the apostles, has traditionally looked at the stories of the miracles in ways that could be applied personally in life.
“There are some additional applications of these things beyond that he healed somebody,” Gaskill said. These applications could include a spiritual healing or the roles of other people present during the miracle.
It is after the death of Jesus Christ that the miracles by the apostles and their successors are recorded, Gaskill said.
“It becomes clear then to the reader, and certainly clear to early Christians, that these men indeed have the mantle of Jesus,” he said, adding that it shows they have the authority to act in Jesus’ name.
“Seeing the miracles that Peter performed, we recognize that the Christ’s authority was still on the Earth,” he said.
Gaskill initially wanted to do a book on the miracles in the scriptures, but as he was putting it together, “it was voluminous.” He separated the ones in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon into separate volumes.
“A miracle, for me, is when God’s power is manifest,” Gaskill said. That includes everything from dramatic healings to a small cut healing.
Recognizing miracles goes back to gratitude and paying attention, he said.
“What enables us to recognize miracles is attentiveness,” Gaskill said.
Using the different synonyms for miracles from the scriptures — “a powerful deed” from Matthew, Mark and Luke, and “a sign” from John — Huntsman see miracles as “a powerful deed of Christ that teaches us more about who he is, what he has done for us and what he can do for us.”
On a personal note, Huntsman includes in one of the appendices a miracle he experienced while in the Holy Land when his students were on a trip to Galilee that included a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. His family, including his young son with autism, Samuel, came on the trip. While on the sea, his son, who is normally not very verbally communicative, began asking him questions about Jesus, God, blessings, life and death.
It was a 15-minute conversation that Huntsman considers his own miracle.
Huntsman shared it on his blog that he kept for his students’ families, and his editor suggested including it.
“We can have individual miracles, even if they seem small,” Huntsman said of the experience. “I don’t just study them — I really believe it.”
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