What’s Wrong with Seeking Signs?

The prophet Zenos foretold a sign which would coincide with the Savior’s death hundreds of years later. Some members of the house of Israel, who would be living on “the isles of the sea,” would experience three days of darkness (1 Nephi 19:10).

Just five years before the Savior’s birth, a prophet on the American continent named Samuel the Lamanite prophesied of the same sign. He also provided a sign of the Savior’s birth: a night with no darkness (Helaman 14:2-5, 14, 20).

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He instructed His disciples to go “into all the world” and preach the gospel to everyone. He gave them a list of signs which would “follow them that believe,” including healing the sick and speaking in tongues (Mark 16:17-18). Moroni provided the same list and reiterated that signs will always accompany people who believe in Jesus Christ (Mormon 9:24, Ether 4:18).

God provides signs to help His children recognize truth.

However, on two occasions in the Book of Mormon, people demanded signs as a way of challenging the authority of prophets.

Sherem said to Jacob, “Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much” (Jacob 7:13). Jacob responded that Sherem already knew the truth, that they shouldn’t tempt God, and that Sherem would likely reject any sign he received anyway. Nevertheless, God sent a sign: the power of God overcame Sherem, and he fell to the earth (Jacob 7:14-20).

Years later, a man named Korihor challenged the high priest of the church: “If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words” (Alma 30:43). Alma replied, “Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?” (Alma 30:44). Note that Alma did not say, “You don’t need a sign.” He said, “You already have signs.” Again, God sent a sign anyway: Korihor was struck dumb.

When we demand a sign from God, we may be failing to recognize the signs He has already given us.

When Nephi provided the people of Zarahemla with a dramatic sign to prove he was a prophet, the people tried to explain it away (Helaman 9:24-25). When he provided a second sign, they acknowledged it, but wandered away, leaving him alone (Helaman 9:40-41, 10:1).

Years earlier, Laman and Lemuel, who had seen an angel, accused their brother Nephi of deceiving them “by his cunning arts” (1 Nephi 16:38).

And even the people who experienced the miraculous sign of the Savior’s birth

…began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen—
Imagining up some vain thing in their hearts, that it was wrought by men and by the power of the devil, to lead away and deceive the hearts of the people (3 Nephi 2:1-2).

When we don’t want to believe, we will jump through hoops to avoid acknowledging the signs we have seen and heard.

Alma told the Zoramites that faith requires incomplete knowledge. If you demand a sign from heaven before you will believe, then you are denying yourself the opportunity to exercise faith (Alma 32:17-18, 21).

And Moroni urged us not to be distressed when we don’t know everything we want to know, “for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

Some signs are postponed, to give us the opportunity to develop faith.

Today, I will be grateful for the signs I have experienced which have led me to a knowledge of God. I will strive to recognize the signs He gives me and to be patient when His signs are withheld for a time.

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