Miracles


Elder Matthew Cowley

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first reached New Zealand 150 years ago this month, on 27 October 1854. The missionaries began their work among European immigrants and then preached among the native Maoris. The Church grew slowly at first, then steadily. Expanding Maori membership created an urgent need to have the Book of Mormon translated, and this translation was published in 1889. During World War I, President Joseph F. Smith approved a second translation, and Elder Matthew Cowley, a young missionary with unusual skill in the Maori language, was assigned to the work. This second edition appeared in 1917. Elder Cowley was then assigned to translate the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. These translations appeared in 1919. During World War II, Matthew Cowley served as mission president in New Zealand for seven and a half years. On 11 October 1945, shortly after his return to Salt Lake City, Elder Cowley was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The following is an excerpt from an address he gave to the Brigham Young University student body on 18 February 1953. Elder Cowley died later that year on 13 December.

I can bear witness to you … that God can work through His priesthood and that He does work through it. I know that without any question of doubt. I’ve had too many experiences. I’m an expert witness about these things. …

Now, except [you] believe as a child, you can’t receive these blessings. [You] have to have the faith of a child in order to believe in these things, especially when you reach college age and your minds are so full of skepticism and doubt. I guess there are some things that you should doubt, but you can become as little children in these things. Miracles are commonplace, brothers and sisters. …

I’ve learned a lot from [the people of the Pacific islands. They] … live close to God. They have some kind of power. I guess it is just because they accept miracles as a matter of course. They never doubt anything. …

Remember, we have great opportunities, great opportunities to bless. Sometimes I wonder if we do enough in our administration of the sick. You know when the disciples tried to cast out a dumb spirit they couldn’t do it, or they didn’t do it. The Master came along, and he immediately cast out the dumb spirit. Then the disciples said, “Why could not we cast him out?” And what did Christ say? This kind cometh not out save by fasting and by prayer (see Matt. 17:21). Sometimes we rush in, administer to a person, rush out and say, “Well, he won’t make it. I know he won’t.” Of course, we have to go immediately in case of an emergency. Sometimes I wonder, if we have a little time, if we shouldn’t do a little fasting. …

A little over a year ago a couple came into my office carrying a little boy. The father said to me: “My wife and I have been fasting for two days, and we’ve brought our little boy up for a blessing. You are the one we’ve been sent to.” I said, “What’s the matter with him?” They said he was born blind, deaf, and dumb, no coordination of his muscles, couldn’t even crawl at the age of five years. I said to myself, “This is it. This kind cometh not out save by fasting and by prayer.” I had implicit faith in the fasting and the prayers of those parents. I blessed that child, and a few weeks later I received a letter: “Brother Cowley, we wish you could see our little boy now. He’s crawling. When we throw a ball across the floor he races after it on his hands and knees. He can see. When we clap our hands over his head he jumps. He can hear.” Medical science had laid the burden down. God had taken over. The little boy was rapidly recovering or really getting what he’d never had. …

I went into a hospital one day in New Zealand to bless a woman who didn’t belong to the Church. She was dying. We all knew she was dying. The doctor even said so. She was having her farewell party. Ah, that’s one thing I like about the [Maoris]. When you go, they give you a farewell party. They all gather around. They send messages over to the other side. “When you get over there tell my mother I’m trying to do my best; I’m not so good, but I’m trying.” “Tell her to have a good room fixed for me when I get over there and plenty of fish, good meals.” My, it’s wonderful how they send you off. There they were, all gathered around this poor sister. She was about to be confined, and the doctor told her it would kill her. She was tubercular from head to foot.

I had with me an old [Maori man], almost 90. [The dying woman] was his niece. He stood up at the head of the bed, and he said, “Vera, you’re dead. You’re dead because the doctor says you’re dead. You’re on your way out. I’ve been to you, your home and your people—my relatives. I’m the only one that joined the Church. None of you has ever listened to me. You’re dead now, [but] you’re going to live.” He turned to me and said, “Is it all right if we kneel down and pray?” I said, “Yes.” So we knelt down, … and after the prayer we blessed her. The last time I was in New Zealand she was physically well from head to foot and had had her fifth child. She has not joined the Church yet. That’s the next miracle I’m waiting for. …

I was called to a home in a little village in New Zealand one day. There the Relief Society sisters were preparing the body of one of our Saints. They had placed his body in front of the big house, as they call it, the house where the people come to wail and weep and mourn over the dead, when in rushed the dead man’s brother. He said, “Administer to him.” And the young [Maoris] said, “Why, you shouldn’t do that; he’s dead.” “You do it!”

This same old man that I had with me when his niece was so ill was there. The [dead man’s brother] got down on his knees, and he anointed this man. Then this great old sage got down and blessed him and commanded him to rise. You should have seen the Relief Society sisters scatter. He sat up and said, “Send for the elders; I don’t feel very well.” Of course, all of that was just psychological effect on that dead man. Wonderful, isn’t it—this psychological effect business? We told him he had just been administered to, and he said, “Oh, that was it.” He said, “I was dead. I could feel life coming back into me just like a blanket unrolling.” He outlived the brother that came in and told us to administer to him.

I’ve told the story about the little baby, nine months old, who was born blind. The father came up with him one Sunday and said, “Brother Cowley, our baby hasn’t been blessed yet. We’d like you to bless him.” …

I said, “All right, what’s the name?” So he told me the name, and I was just going to start when he said, “By the way, give him his vision when you give him a name. He was born blind.” It shocked me, but then I said to myself, why not? … I had faith in that father’s faith. After I gave that child [his] name, I finally got around to giving [him his] vision. That boy is about 12 years old now. The last time I was back there I was afraid to inquire about him. I was sure he had gone blind again. That’s the way my faith works sometimes. So I asked the branch president about him. And he said: “Brother Cowley, the worst thing you ever did was to bless that child to receive his vision. He’s the meanest kid in this neighborhood, always getting into mischief.” Boy, I was thrilled about that kid getting into mischief! …

God does have control of all of these elements. You and I can reach out, and if it’s His will, we can bring those elements under our control for His purposes. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. And if there ever was a miracle in the history of mankind, that miracle is this Church, which has grown to its present greatness in the earth. … May we always be loyal, devoted, and simple in our faith.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett