Chapter 6

The Mighty Acts of God: The Scriptural Witness of God's Involvement in Human History

LeRoy E. Whitehead

Praise him for his mighty acts….

(Psalms 150:2)

Many have argued that there is no god or that if there is, we cannot know Him; or that He is dead, or asleep, or gone away, or that for whatever other reason, He is disinterested in human affairs. Others have argued that even if God does intervene in human affairs, we have no reliable documentary evidence to support such claims, or that such evidence as we may have is too vague to rely upon. Documentary evidence, it appears, is an article of faith for historians trained in the paradigm of western secular humanism, and the evidence category does not include scripture. Since the Enlightenment, the secular humanist project has been all about distancing western civilization from God and enthroning Man in His place. That project has had great success and continues apace as the number of mockers and scorners occupying the “great and spacious building” spoken of in 1 Nephi continues to grow (1 Nephi 8:26-28; 11:34-36).

Providential history, on the other hand, is an alternate paradigm that seeks actively to identify and acknowledge God’s intervention in human affairs. But where does one start? This brief essay begins with the assumption that the scriptures are, indeed, authoritative texts, though probably in a different way than secular historians conceive of authoritative documents and sources. This essay is intended as one exploratory response to the question, “If providential historians affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept the scriptures as authoritative texts, what can they learn from them about God’s involvement in human history?” It will explore some of the scriptural evidence for the propositions that God has intervened in human affairs, even before this earth was created, that He continues to intervene, and that He has revealed some information about how He intervenes and His purposes for doing so. This will not be, by any means, an exhaustive treatment of the subject matter for “it is impossible that man should find out all his ways” (Jacob 4:8). However, what God has revealed about His purposes, actions and intentions can be of significant assistance to providential historians by providing a conceptual framework and starting point for those engaging in the work of providential history.

Latter-day Saint providential historians have the benefit of the biblical texts common to the rest of the Christian world: The Old and New Testaments. Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly (Articles of Faith 8). The LDS edition of the King James Version provides, in addition to the received text, the text of some inspired revisions made by Joseph Smith in the form of footnotes and an appendix. Additional revisions appear as the Book of Moses and as Joseph Smith—Matthew, both of which are included (along with the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith—History, and the Articles of Faith) in The Pearl of Great Price. In addition to the Bible and The Pearl of Great Price, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and The Doctrine and Covenants as canonized scriptures. For Latter-day Saints, neither the canon of scripture nor the heavens are closed. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 9).

This expanded collection of authoritative resources provides a powerful witness of God’s intervention in human history, as well as a source of analytical and explanatory power that is not available from the Old and New Testaments alone. We must keep in mind, however, that our human conception of what constitutes a ‘mighty act’ may not always coincide with God’s conception. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Alma’s instructions to his son Helaman may also be helpful as we consider God’s interventions: “God doth work by means to bring about His great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:7).

Before proceeding to the main portion of this essay, there is a relatively minor question that can be dealt with quickly. Can a faithful historian work in both secular history and providential history simultaneously, or must he or she choose one and forsake the other? The prophet-historian Nephi, who taught that we should liken the scriptures unto ourselves, provides an answer in 1 Nephi 9. He describes two different sets of metal plates upon which he is engraving his histories. On one set he is engraving “an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people,” and on the other he is engraving an account “of the ministry of my people.” It appears that he is engaging in both secular history and providential history simultaneously, though in different records. It is interesting that he is careful to point out that he received a commandment from the Lord to keep the history of “the ministry of my people.”

God’s Mighty Acts: The First Estate

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?

...When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

(Job 38:4,7)

The scriptures show that God’s involvement with humankind began before this earth was created. He has a purpose and a richly detailed plan, both of which He revealed in some measure to Moses and to Abraham.

When Moses stood in the presence of God and talked with Him face to face, God explained to Moses His purpose: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:31,39). He also told Moses about the contest between Satan and the Only Begotten in the pre-mortal, or “first estate,” how Satan rebelled when his plan was not accepted, a plan which would “destroy the agency of man, which…the Lord God had given him,” and how God caused Satan to be cast down by the power of His Only Begotten (Moses 4:1-4). Moses also learned about the planning for and the creation of this earth, and how God “created all things…spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth” (Moses 3:4-5).

God revealed to Abraham the eternal nature of spirits, or ‘intelligences’, and His relationship to them (Abraham 3:18-21). These intelligences dwelt with Him prior to coming to earth (Abraham 3:18-21; see also Acts17:28-29; Heb. 12:9). Abraham also learned about the choosing of a Savior, the banishing of Satan and his followers, the foreordination of some righteous spirits for particular assignments during mortality, the creation of the earth, the purpose of mortal life on earth and the glory to be given to those who successfully accomplish the tasks of mortal life (Abraham 3:19-28; see also Jeremiah 1:5).[1] Satan and those who rebelled with him in the first estate do not participate in mortality. They “tempt the children of men, or they [the children of men] could not be agents unto themselves….” (D&C 29:39:see also Moses 4:4-31; 5:13).

These scriptures and others show clearly that God does indeed have both a significant purpose and a richly detailed plan for this earth and for those of us who live upon it in mortality. The preparatory acts or processes that they reveal—the organization of the intelligences, the granting of agency to the intelligences, the provision of a plan of salvation, the selection and foreordination of some of the intelligences to assignments of leadership during mortality, including the foreordination of a Savior/Redeemer, the banishing of Satan and his followers and the creation of the earth—may be thought of as the grand, foundational interventions which give rise to all of God’s other interventions in the affairs of His spirit children while they inhabit the earth as humankind during the temporal or ‘mortal’ phase of the earth’s existence. These were mighty acts, indeed.

God’s Mighty Acts: Creation

We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and

we will make an earth whereon these may dwell….

(Abraham 3: 24)

As noted above, the creation of the earth was a mighty act; without doubt a foundational intervention in human affairs. The expanded cannon of scriptures available to Latter-day Saint providential historians includes three accounts of the creation: The Old Testament Genesis account, the Book of Moses account, and the Book of Abraham account. A fourth account is included in the temple ceremony[2] (Genesis 1-2; Moses 1–3; Abraham 3-5). Though all of these accounts have similarities, each one offers varied and significant insights into the processes and purposes of the creation. Additional authoritative information also appears in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.[3] Taken together, these accounts of the creation place this earth and humankind into a much broader context than does the Genesis account alone.

For example, these accounts show that Jesus, acting under the direction of God the Father, created not only this earth, but innumerable others like it, and that this work continues without end. This earth was not created ex nihilo but was organized out of pre-existing materials in a pre-existing space within a structured cosmos. It has been and continues to be peopled with individuals who existed in a premortal state as spirit children of God the Father, at least some of whom assisted in the earth’s creation. The accounts also show that this earth was not created/organized in six, twentyfour hour days but during six time periods of unspecified, not necessarily equal, length. They show that humankind, through Adam, are expected to act in a stewardship capacity over the earth.[4] The physical attributes of the earth, its mountains, valleys, rivers and small streams; its forests and plains; its geography and natural resources; its plant and animal life; as well as, night and day, the weather and the seasons are thus the legacy of divine intervention in the creation of the earth.

God’s Mighty Acts: The Second Estate

Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited;

and he hath created his children that they should possess it.

(1 Nephi 17:36)

The creation of the earth provided a beautiful and varied physical space where those spirit/intelligences who accepted the plan could gain a physical body, act out their mortality, and be tested to determine whether they would keep God’s commandments. The earth has been provided with all the resources necessary to accommodate all those who are to inhabit it: “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” (D&C 104:17; see also Acts 17:24-28). This is the point at which secular history begins; it is a history without reference to the pre-mortal antecedents necessary for full understanding and analysis of the human condition. The physical attributes of the earth have played a major role in human history.

As the offspring of deity evolve and move from their first, pre-mortal estate to their physical, second estate on earth, God’s role and means of intervention also changes: from organizing, planning and creating to supporting and ensuring the successful operation of His plan. The scriptures show that God has intervened and/or continues to intervene during this ‘operational phase’ to accomplish the plan in several general ways, including (but not limited to) those enumerated below. The kinds of interventions listed are neither isolated nor mutually exclusive; indeed, they are often, if not usually, interconnected. A limited selection of scriptural references will be provided for each intervention listed.

God has intervened by providing a foreordained Savior. Without going too deeply into the theology, which is beyond the purview of this essay, suffice it to say that God’s grant of agency meant that humans would sin, or fail to keep God’s commandments to perfection, during mortality. In order for God’s plan to remain operative, a Savior was required to atone for humankind’s shortcomings. References to the Savior and His mission in the scriptures require many pages in the Topical Guide: a few token examples must suffice.[5] Adam was taught to offer sacrifice in similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten (Moses 5:4-12). Many prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, prophesied of His birth and ministry. The New Testament is virtually all about Jesus’ birth, mortal ministry, death, resurrection, and the ancient apostles’ testimony and teachings about Him, including references to His fulfillment of ancient prophecy. The Book of Mormon is subtitled Another Testament of Jesus Christ because of its many references to and teachings about the Savior, including a record of his visit to an ancient people in the New World following His resurrection (3 Nephi 9-28). Joseph Smith—History records the appearance of God the Father and God the Son to the boy Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 that began the prophesied restoration of the gospel in the last days. The Doctrine and Covenants includes many revelations given by the Savior to Joseph Smith, including an appearance by the Savior and three ancient prophets (Moses, Elias and Elijah) to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, on 3 April 1836, during which important priesthood keys were restored (D&C 110). The Doctrine and Covenants also records a remarkable vision given to Joseph F. Smith concerning the Lord’s visit to the post-mortal spirit world and the organization of missionary work among the spirits there (D&C 138).

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is universal in its application and opens up the way of salvation for all mankind, subject to their obedience to the “laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 3). That Jesus Christ was sent to atone for the sins of the world and to bring about the universal resurrection of all who have ever lived on the earth is the most significant of God the Father’s interventions in behalf of the human family (Alma 7:7). Many of His interactions with His children on earth are for the purpose of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and administering the covenants and ordinances associated with it (2 Nephi 2:6-8).

God intervenes by providing prophets and other foreordained individuals. God does not work alone but calls upon his faithful mortal children to assist in His work during the earth’s mortal phase. In the Doctrine and Covenants, He says, “Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised…And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me….” (D&C 35:13-14). In other words, He will display his power through the work of faithful mortals, those who are regarded as weak, unlearned and despised by worldly standards. The Savior, Abraham and Jeremiah have been specifically named, but many other “noble and great ones,” by God’s standards, were foreordained to various tasks and callings. The prophet Joseph Smith said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before the world was.”[6]

One of the key roles of prophets and apostles is to bear testimony of Christ and to teach the gospel so that the benefits of the atonement of Christ may be extended to all who are willing to access it (2 Nephi 2:6-8; D&C 20:21-26). Stake and ward leaders, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and many others also teach and bear testimony, as do those who are called to be full time missionaries. It has been estimated that from the time Samuel Smith served as the first official missionary of the restoration until June, 2007, a cumulative total of more than 1,000,000 missionaries, men and women, young and old had served.[7] By 2013, the total had reached approximately 1.3 million.[8] At the end of 2017, 67,049 missionaries were currently serving in in various countries around the world.[9]

The phrase “noble and great ones” appears to include individuals whose assignments helped to prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel, such as discovering previously unknown or forgotten lands (1 Nephi 13:12), preparing a milieu of political and religious freedom (D&C 101: 80), and bringing forth scientific and technical developments in communication and transportation that make spreading the gospel message easier.[10]

Those who were foreordained to various callings may accept or decline those callings when they are offered during the second estate. We have no way of knowing how elaborate the contingency plans are for cases where the calls are declined or even how many, if any, such calls are declined, but the incident of the lost manuscript pages strongly suggests the general principle that there are contingency plans (see 1 Nephi 9; Words of Mormon 1:3-7; D&C 3, 10; HC 1:20-23).

God intervenes by providing priesthood keys and authority. In every dispensation, when the gospel has been upon the earth, God has empowered his chosen servants with priesthood keys and authority to act in His name to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation. “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4). The fifth Article of Faith says “…a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and to administer in the ordinances thereof.” The administration of sacred ordinances such as baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and the temple ordinances are necessary for salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God, “for without the ordinances. . . and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84:20-21).

The New Testament tells of Jesus’ calling of apostles and “other seventy also,” and giving them authority (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 9:1,10: 1; John 15:16). Paul talks about “the household of God [as being] built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, [with] Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-22). He also talks about the need for apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; Till we all come in the unity of the faith…That we henceforth be no more…tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-14). Latter-day scriptures document the restoration of priesthood authority in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times by angelic messengers, including the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist on 15 May 1829; the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood the following month by ancient apostles Peter, James and John; and the restoration of additional keys and powers by Moses, Elias and Elijah in the Kirtland Temple on 3 April 1836 (Joseph Smith—History 1:68-74; D&C 2; D&C 13; D&C 27:7-8,12-14; D&C 110: 11-16).

God intervenes by providing an organizational structure. Officers and, by extension, organizational structures for the purpose of accomplishing God’s plan are mentioned frequently in the scriptures. Whenever the gospel or a part of it is on the earth an administrative structure is required to teach the people, administer the ordinances of salvation to them, and, as required, sit in judgment among them. A few examples from the Old Testament include references to “Melchizedek…the priest of the most high God” to whom Abraham paid tithes (Genesis 14:18-20), and Moses’ acceptance of Jethro’s advice to appoint “able men” as “rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons…and they shall bear the burden with thee” (Exodus 18:21-22). Exodus goes into much detail about the preparation and consecration of Aaron and his sons to preside over the tabernacle (Exodus 28-29, 19-20). The New Testament refers to Christ’s organization of his Church with a foundation of apostles and prophets (Matthew 10:1, Ephesians, 2:19-22) and also to various other church officers, including the seventy (Luke 10:1), elders (Acts 14:23), bishops (Philippians 1:1), teachers (Acts 13:1) and deacons (Philippians 1:1); and to branches of the church at various places. Paul sent epistles to churches as well as individuals, and John addressed the “seven churches which are in Asia” in the opening chapters of Revelation (1-3).

Foreordained people, priesthood authority and church organization together provide an important infrastructure for carrying out much, if not most, of the plan. It should be remembered, however, that some individuals, such as those who were foreordained to prepare the way for the Restoration, or to bring forth scientific or technological advances, may function without priesthood authority as we know it and outside the organized church structure as they perform significant and necessary tasks.

God intervenes by communicating through visions, revelations, and inspiration, and through answers to prayers on both the group and individual levels. One key element of the plan is that we as individuals are free to choose between good and evil. Many of God’s interventions during this operational phase have been for the purpose of making available to humankind the necessary information, what we call the gospel of Jesus Christ, to enable us to make informed choices. God has used a variety of intervention strategies to make available ideas, information and instruction to humankind. These have included theophanic and angelic visitations, visions, revelations, inspiration, and answers to prayer given to prophets and other individuals.

Many prophets, especially those charged with the opening of dispensations, have received panoramic visions or grand revelations outlining and explaining all or significant parts of the plan of salvation (Moses 1:1-11; Abraham 3-5; Isaiah 6; Revelation 4-22; 1 Nephi 1:8-13; 8:11-14; D&C 76; D&C 138). In addition to these grand panoramas, the prophets have also received revelation and inspiration as they encounter and work through the daily problems of organizing and managing the work of preaching the gospel and building up the church of God upon the earth. Many, if not most of the revelations in The Doctrine and Covenants are the result of prayerful requests resulting from situations and questions encountered by Joseph Smith and some of his successors. Perhaps the most direct evidence of the importance which God places on visions and revelation in His communication plan is found in Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

On an individual level, the light of Christ is given to every person to enable us to distinguish between good and evil. (Moroni 7:16-19) This blessing, frequently referred to as our conscience, is universal in application, and is given to all people. In addition, the ministration of the Holy Ghost is available to those who sincerely seek to know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:3-7). While the Holy Ghost may shed his influence at times on all people, the gift of the Holy Ghost, or the right to His continual guidance, is only available to those who receive baptism and confirmation by persons holding the proper authority from God. The Holy Ghost is the normal channel by which God communicates with righteous men and women, bringing divine teachings to their remembrance, prompting them to do good, warning them of danger, bringing comfort to their souls, bearing witness of the Father and the Son, teaching them correct principles and confirming their faith (John 14:26; 16:13; Moroni 10:5; 3 Nephi 11;32, 35-36). God answers sincere prayers, often through inspiration or revelation from the Holy Ghost (Enos 1:1-18; Moroni 10:4-5; Joseph Smith—History 1:11-20).

Patriarchal blessings (Genesis 49; D&C 124:91) and other priesthood blessings (D&C 42: 44) are available for guidance and comfort through proper priesthood authority. We are to seek other gifts of the Spirit, as well, such as knowledge, wisdom, discernment and faith to heal or be healed, to mention but a few, which are for the blessing of the faithful (D&C 46:7-33; Moroni 10:7-26).

Much scientific and technical knowledge has also been made available through inspiration or other communication from God to scientists, inventors and agriculturalists. New technologies can not only benefit mankind generally but also help immensely in moving the work of the Church forward. As one example, the prophet Isaiah seems to be talking about great advancements in the speed of travel in the day of the gathering of the house of Israel from the ends of the earth: “…they shall come with speed swiftly: None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken….” (Isaiah 5:26-27).

God intervenes by communicating through the scriptural record and other records. When Moses spoke with God face to face on the mountain, God instructed him to “…write the things which I shall speak” (Moses 1:40). The scriptures record many visions and revelations received by prophets, and the prophecies and teachings that result from them, as well as the histories of God’s covenant peoples as they keep, or fail to keep, their covenants. The independent witness provided by various scriptures that have arisen and will yet arise provides an important means of convincing people of the testimony of Christ and of the great latter-day work. The Bible and the Book of Mormon are but two examples. We expect other scriptures to come forth as the house of Israel is gathered again according to prophecy (2 Nephi 3:12; 29:11-14). The scriptural record extends the availability and influence of the prophets’ teachings to other places and other times.

God intervenes by providing ordinances and covenants, to individuals. To assist those who choose to follow His path to prepare to become joint heirs with Christ, God provides covenants that we may receive of our own free will and choice (Romans 8:16-17; D&C 84:36-39). If received and kept, these covenants become our engine of spiritual growth and sanctification through the grace and atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. We receive the covenants through priesthood ordinances rich with symbolism. The making of each covenant follows a period of instruction. The ordinance of baptism provides a good example. The prerequisites for baptism are described “by way of commandment” as follows: “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifested by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church” (D&C 20:37; Mosiah 18:8-10). Each time we observe the baptism of another person or participate in proxy baptisms for the dead in holy temples, we have the opportunity to remember and reflect upon our own covenants, and to assess our state of compliance. Other ordinances, including partaking of the sacrament, by which we renew our baptismal covenants, are also received with their attendant covenants (D&C 20:77, 79).

Temples are central to the concept of ordinances and covenants. Many ordinances and covenants for the living, and all those by proxy in behalf of the dead, are normally only to be received within the precincts of temples.

God intervenes by establishing a covenant people. The making of covenants through ordinances not only fosters our spiritual growth and development as individuals, but also helps to create and nourish a covenant people to assist in the work of God’s great project. One of the important ways people of faith help to move forward God’s plan is through temple marriage of faithful women and men and the subsequent provision of physical bodies for others of God’s spirit children through procreation, and through teaching and nurturing of the children in the gospel. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in a solemn proclamation, have declared “…that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children…. The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.”[11] (See also Genesis 1:27-28; 3:20; Moses 1: 27-28; 4:26.)

Throughout the ages, as people of great faith have demonstrated their willingness to participate in God’s work in this manner, God has entered into covenants with them regarding the number and role of their posterity, thus creating covenant peoples, as well as covenant individuals. Among others, Noah and Lehi obtained such promises (Genesis 6:17-18, see footnote ‘a’ for v.18; 9: 9, 12, see footnote ‘a’ for v. 9; 1 Nephi 15: 13-16). Perhaps the most prominent, however, is Abraham, the “father of the faithful.” Abraham sought these blessings and received them (Abraham 1:2-4). Jehovah said to Abraham, “And I will make of thee a great nation… and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations….” It is significant that the blessing is not one of privilege as much as it is one of responsibility: to bear the priesthood and carry the gospel to all nations. It is also significant that no one need be excluded: “And I will bless them [all nations] through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father….” Through Abraham “…shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:8-13; emphasis added). These covenants were perpetuated through Isaac, Jacob and the various branches of the house of Israel. Whether as a direct descendant of the house of Israel or by adoption, entry into the Abrahamic covenant with all its blessings is available today to all who seek, as did Abraham, through the oath and covenant of the priesthood (see D&C 84:33-41) coupled with the family sealing ordinances performed in the latter-day temples.

God sometimes intervenes by initiating extraordinary actions to preserve or restore His covenant people. These kinds of interventions and the disasters and destructions discussed in the next section of this chapter are what often come first to mind when we think about ‘mighty acts of God.’ After the enslavement of the Israelites (some of Abraham’s descendants) in Egypt following the death of Joseph, Moses was sent to perform wonders before Pharaoh to secure the release of the tribes of Israel. Later, Moses was instructed to part the waters of the Red Sea to allow the escape of the Israelites from Pharaoh’s pursuing army. A cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night attended the camp of Israel. Manna, quail and water were provided in the wilderness that the people might not perish from hunger and thirst (Exodus 1-17). But when the people refused to enter their land of promise, they were required to wander forty years in the wilderness, until everyone who had been born in Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, had died (Numbers 13-14).

God’s covenants come both with blessings if they are kept and with curses if they are not. This is true at both the individual and group levels. When Moses was about to take his leave of the children of Israel, just as they were finally about to take possession of their promised land, he reviewed and renewed with them their covenant with God, setting out in detail the nature of both the blessings and curses their covenant entailed (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). The curses for non-compliance included, among other dire consequences, being scattered among all nations; but there was also a provision for compassion, for scattered Israel to be gathered again from all nations in the day they remember again the covenant. Eventually, the people were scattered, and we anticipate the fulfillment of their gathering (Articles of Faith 10).

The scattering and gathering of Israel is a dominant theme throughout the scriptures, and the gathering is an important part of the work to be accomplished in the latter-days. Nephi explains the role of the “gentiles” in gathering Israel: “. . . after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded…. the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles….and by them shall our seed [descendants of Lehi] be scattered. And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed;…And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles…unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed….Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel….he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance….and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:7-12). Nephi’s brother, Jacob, explained the scattering and gathering by quoting at length the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees from the apparently lost writings of the prophet Zenos (Jacob 5-6).

The creation and preservation of an organized, covenant people led by prophets holding the keys of priesthood authority, informed by revelation and scripture at both the organizational and individual levels, is a very powerful suite of interventions, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Of note also is that in order to fulfill His promises for the latter-day gathering of the house of Israel, the Lord would have to do “a marvelous work” (2 Nephi 25:17) and “to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations” (D&C 133:3). The reach of His intervention would thus extend well beyond the covenant people to include all the nations of the earth. He is in fact the God of the whole earth (3 Nephi 11:14; 22:5) and as Alma related “doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8).

God intervenes through disaster and destruction. God uses disaster and destruction for His own purposes. The pattern illustrated in the scriptures seems to indicate, however, that the use of these devices is not arbitrary, but rather a last resort after all else has failed; usually after the people have completely rejected Him, or in the case of the covenant people, after they have completely repudiated their covenants with Him. The case of Noah is instructive. The Lord was angry with the people because of their great wickedness, but Noah and his sons were righteous. Noah prophesied and preached repentance, but the people mocked him. Some “giants” tried to kill him, but the Lord protected him. He continued to preach, specifically warning of destruction by flood, but to no avail. Eventually, the prophesied flood came, and only Noah and his immediate family were saved (Moses 8; Genesis 6-9).

In the Book of Mormon, Samuel the Lamanite preaches to the wicked Nephites, prophesying of the wondrous signs that would be given at the time of Christ’s birth, and warning them of great natural disasters that would occur at the time of Christ’s death, but the people mock and try unsuccessfully to kill him (Helaman 14, 16). As prophesied, the disasters occur, and many cities and their inhabitants are destroyed. In the ensuing darkness, the voice of Christ announces, “Many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations. O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 8-9).

Isaiah, John the Revelator, and others have prophesied great disasters in the last days, prior to the second coming of the Lord (e.g., Isaiah 2; Revelation 16; see also Doctrine and Covenants 29: 9,14-21; 45: 25-33; Joseph Smith-Matthew, 28-31). The pattern of prior warning is continuing in our day. In His preface to The Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord announces: “And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days…. And they who go forth, bearing these tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, to them is power given to seal both on earth and in heaven, the unbelieving and the rebellious…to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure…” (D&C 1:4,8-9). He goes on to explain as follows: “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments. . . That faith also might increase in the earth; that mine everlasting covenant might be established; that the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers” (D&C 1:17-23).

We are currently engaged in the ancient pattern of warning the people and inviting them to come unto Christ prior to the destruction of the wicked that has been prophesied. But Nephi counsels that “…the righteous need not fear…they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.” (1Nephi 22:17) In this same vein, the Lord says he has decreed wars, that the wicked may slay the wicked. “And the saints shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire” (D&C 63:33-34).

God’s Mighty Acts: The Scriptural Witness

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God

cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

(Doctrine and Covenants 3:1)

From beginning to end, the scriptures are all about God’s involvement in human affairs. They identify a number of specific ways in which God has intervened in the pre-mortal or “first estate” and in which He is now intervening in the mortal or “second estate.” He organized the intelligences, gave them agency, prepared a plan of salvation, foreordained a Redeemer, prophets and others for specific tasks to be performed during the mortal phase of the earth’s existence, and created the earth for our use.

During this mortal phase of the earth’s existence, He has provided a Savior/Redeemer, information and communications through a wide variety of channels, priesthood authority to act in His name, an organizational structure, covenants and ordinances to create covenant individuals and a covenant people to help move forward the great plan, temples as sacred venues for ordinances and covenants, extraordinary actions to restore or preserve the covenant peoples, and disasters and destructions on occasion when the people completely reject Him. All of these, not just the miracles, disasters and destructions, are mighty acts of God, designed to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:31,39).

The examples summarized above provide only a limited view from a human perspective of what God has chosen to reveal about His mighty acts. Nonetheless, knowledge of these means of intervention provides a basic conceptual framework for writers of providential history to use in analyzing historical events for instances of divine intervention.

The witness of the scriptures is that God has intervened in human history in significant and purposeful ways and continues to do so.


[1] John the Revelator also tells of Satan and his followers being cast down (Revelation 12: 3-4).

[2] Keith Meservy, “Four Accounts of the Creation,” Ensign, January, 1986. Accessed at The author cites Brigham Young as teaching that no revelation is ever received in its fullness. (See Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954), p. 40.

[3] F. Kent Nielsen and Stephen D. Ricks “Creation, Creation Accounts,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992), pp. 340-43. Available online at,_Creation_Accounts

[4] Meservy, op cit; Nielsen and Ricks, ibid.

[5] The Topical Guide is included as an appendix in the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, 1979.

[6] History of the Church, 6: 364; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois, 12 May 1844, recorded by Thomas Bullock.

[7] posted 25 June 2007, downloaded 29 January 2014.

[8] “A Global Christ-Centered Faith,” Accessed 29 January 2014.

[9] Accessed 3 May 2018.

[10] With regard to God’s intervention in scientific and technical development, see the chapters by Merrill J. Bateman and Sherilyn Farnes in this volume.

[11] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (1995)