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Miracles by Matthew Cowley
[Matthew Cowley was born in 1897. His father, Matthias Cowley, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Matthew was called to serve a mission in New Zealand in 1914, while only 17 years of age. He became fluent in the Maori language and developed a great closeness to the people. In 1945, Elder Cowley followed his father in becoming a member of the Quorum of Twelve. He passed away in 1953.]
Address at Brigham Young University
February 18, 1953
I feel very humble this morning, and sometimes when I'm introduced, I get the idea that others feel that I'm untouchable, but I want you to know that I'm neither untouchable nor unteachable. And since I've been in this position in the Church, I have learned some very fine things from some of the members of the Church, generally in anonymous letters. I don't know why they don't sign those letters because almost invariably what they say is true, especially when I look it up in the books.
When I was invited to come here, President Wilkinson suggested that I might talk a little bit about miracles. Well, it will be a miracle if I do. I had a particular assignment or instruction from President George Albert Smith when I was called to this position. He called me into his office one day and took hold of my hand, and while he was holding my hand and looking at me he said, "I want to say something to you Brother Cowley."
I said, "Well, I'm willing to listen."
"This is just a particular suggestion to you, not to all the brethren but to you," He said, "Never write a sermon. Never write down what you are going to say."
I said, "What on earth will I do?"
He said, "You tell the people what the Lord wants you to tell them while you are standing on your feet."
I said, "That certainly is putting some responsibility on the Lord."
But I've tried to live up to that instruction. And I've had some great experiences. There have been times when the Lord has forsaken me. But when he hasn't, I've had some miraculous -- well, I shouldn't say miraculous -- it is the normal experience of the priesthood, of having the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I can bear witness to you, my fellow students, here this morning 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.
A few weeks ago I was called to the County Hospital in Salt lake City by a mother. I didn't know her. She said her boy was dying from polio and asked if I would come down and give that boy a blessing. So I picked up a young bishop [Glen Rudd] whom I generally take with me, for I think his faith is greater than mine, and I always like him along. We went down there, and here was this young lad in an iron lung, unconscious, his face rather a blackish color, with a tube in his throat, and they said he had a tube lower down in his abdomen. he had been flown in from an outlying community. The mother said to me, "This is an unusual boy. Not because he's my child, but he is an unusual boy." I think he was eight or nine years of age. After they put the usual coverings on us, we went in, and we blessed that boy. It was one of those occasions when I knew as I laid my hands upon that lad that he was unusual boy, and he had faith. Having faith in his faith, I blessed him to get well and promised him he would. I never heard any more about him until last Sunday. I was on my way to Murray to conference; I dropped in the County Hospital, and I asked if I might see the lad. The nurse said, "Certainly. Walk right down the hall." as I walked down the hall, out came the boy running to meet me. He ran up and asked, "Are you Brother Cowley?"
And I said, "Yes."
He said, "I want to thank you for that prayer." He added, "I was unconscious then wasn't I?"
I replied, "You certainly were."
He said, "That's the reason I don't recognize you." Then he asked, "Come in my room; I want to talk to you." He was an unusual boy. Well, we went in the room. He still had a tube in his throat. I said, "How long are you going to have that tube there?"
He said, "Oh, two weeks, two more weeks, and then I'm all well. How about another blessing?"
So I said, "Certainly." I blessed him again. I was in a hurry. I wanted to get out to my conference. But he stopped me and asked, "Hey, how about my partner in the next bed?" There was a young fellow about sixteen or seventeen.
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Don't go without blessing him. He's my partner."
I said, "Sure." Then I asked the boy, "Would you like a blessing?"
He said, "Yes, sir. I'm a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood in my ward." I blessed him, and then my little friend went and brought another fellow in. Here was another partner. And I blessed him.
Now, except ye believe as a child, you can't receive these blessings. We 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 you should doubt. But you can become as little children in these things. Miracles are commonplace, brothers and sisters.
In 1851 or 52, Parley P. Pratt wrote a book called The Key to Theology. In that book he said the day would come (these were not his exact words), when man would not be satisfied with going along the surface of the earth at the rate of sixty, seventy, eighty or ninety miles an hour, but we would use the air and go at the rate of a thousand miles an hour. Now in 1852 when he wrote that the was "crazy," wasn't he? He was "mad" -- but he was a prophet. Today it is commonplace. Since the first time I flew from San Francisco to Australia the flying time has been decreased twelve hours. I see in the paper where they are going to have a jet plane from Vancouver to Tokyo, Japan, which will require only eight hours for that long journey.Now, are they miracles? No, they are just commonplace -- just commonplace! The boy prophet went into the grove and prayed -- a young lad with simple faith. He opened up his heart to God. He apparently reached out and by prayer got under his control the proper channels, and God and the Son came down and appeared to him. A few weeks ago I sat in my front room and had Dwight Eisenhower come right into my front room. I saw him sworn in as President of the United States. I saw the parade over other people's shoulders -- all of this right in my own front room, and the same thing in millions of homes! Now there was no wire connecting me or my home with Washington D.C., just these channels, or whatever Brother [Harvey] Fletcher and others call them out there, air waves, or whatever they are. But through those channels I brought into my home the President of the United States and the inaugural ceremonies. If I'd have told you twenty-five years ago that this would be done in this year 1953, I know what you'd have told me. Well, no man invented those elements out there. Man has invented instruments whereby he harnesses those elements, but he never invented the elements; they are eternal; they've been there all the time, and if I can turn a little gadget and bring the President of the United States and into my front room, God can bring himself down within the vision of man. The Master can come down within the range of man's vision because he has more control over those elements out there than man does himself. The Prophet Joseph said that Moroni appeared to him in his bedroom. I've been back there to that house. I've stood there and wondered how he got through those walls, how he came in. Now I don't doubt any more about the Angel Moroni coming into the prophet's home. Man hasn't yet harnessed all of these elements. He's working at it and meeting with great success.
I was on an island down in French Oceania one Sunday afternoon. I started fooling with the radio; I don't know whether you're supposed to play radios on Sunday afternoon or not, but I started turning the dials, and all of a sudden I heard the voice of Richard L. Evans from the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The strange thing about it was that I wasn't in contact with Salt Lake city, I was in tune with a station in Houston, Texas. that station was getting the program from Salt Lake City, and I was picking it up from Houston. I can't explain these things. Some of you fellows can. But I had an instrument there which man had invented so that he could bring under his control and direction these elements out there.
I was over in Samoa. I couldn't sleep, worrying about the centipedes, and so forth. So I got up. It was three o'clock in the morning. I went in the room where they had the radio. I started turning the dials, and all of a sudden I heard a voice say,"Station KSL, Salt Lade City. Songs of Harry Clarke." I sat there and listened to Harry Clarke sing for fifteen minutes. Then I had to get up the next morning at three o'clock because I'd sent him a cable and I wanted to see if he got it. He had. He mentioned it over the air. So I listened to him sing for another fifteen minutes. You know, the strange thing about it was I was hearing him sing four hours before he actually sang. And you talk about miracles.
I got on a plane one day in Tonga. It was Saturday morning, the Sabbath of the Seventh-day Adventists. The head of the Seventh-day Adventists' mission in the Pacific got on the plane with me. Down at the airport were his Sunday School children, giving him a send-off, singing hymns, and so on. Well, we got on that plane Saturday morning, and we went to Samoa. When we arrived at Samoa, it was Friday, the day before we left Tonga. I just wondered how he was going to straighten out that "seventh day" business. He's already had one Saturday, one Sabbath, an there he was again in Samoa on a Friday, the day before he'd had the Sabbath. The next day he had another. Now I tried to find him to ask him form which Saturday he was going to start counting the seven days. Well, these things happen. This is going on all over the world.
The missionaries down in Samoa didn't have a president for a few months. I was the president but by remote control. I used to go to a Chinaman's home in Honolulu and tell him to tune in one of our natives down in Samoa, then tell that native to round up all the missionaries and have them come there, as I wanted to give them some instruction.
So he'd tune in down there and get this young Samoan with his ham radio. and I'd sit there in that Chinese home and talk to these missionaries down in Samoa and give whatever instructions I wanted to give them. But being the usual missionaries, I don't think they paid any attention. I telephoned one day from Honolulu to my home, and I asked the engineer there at the radio-phone place, "How can I talk confidentially to my wife? I send this message out into the air and anybody with a ham radio can each out and pick it up."
He said, "Yes, that's right, but they won't understand it."
I said, "Well, why not?"
He said, "Well, when your words go out of this transmitter we jumble them up; there is no meaning to them. But when they go into the receiver on the mainland they are all straightened out again, and your wife will understand them just as you spoke them."
My, I'm glad of that. I'll tell you why. I get my prayers so jumbled up sometimes that I'm glad there's a receiving set over on the other side that will straighten out the things I'm trying to say. And I believe that, I'm just simple enough to believe that. I'm simple enough to believe that if man can talk to man across the ocean and across the world with these instruments, that man can talk to God, that God has as much power as man, as much control over the elements. And so, brothers and sisters of the Church, God has his priesthood here upon the earth, his power, and with that power we can be used by God for the accomplishment of his purpose. Don't ever forget that. I've had these experiences. I know.
I've learned a lot from these islanders that I see scattered around here. I see Albert Whaanga from New Zealand in the audience; I wish he'd teach you people how to rub noses. That's what we do down in New Zealand, you know. We don't really rub. You just press your forehead and your nose against the nose and forehead of the other person. It's a wonderful thing. You can always tell when they're keeping the Word of Wisdom down there. All you have to do is walk up and greet them and sniff a little bit, and you've got 'em! It would be a good practice to have over here, maybe even with some of our BYU students. So if I ever come up to one of you some day and say I'd like to rub noses with you, you'll know I'm suspecting something.
These Natives live close to God. They have some kind of power. I guess it's just because they accept miracles as a matter of course. They never doubt anything. They used to scare me. Someone would come up and say, "Brother Cowley, I've had a dream about you."
I'd say, "Don't tell me. I don't want to hear about it."
"Oh, it was a good one."
"All right. Tell me."
And they'd tell me something. Now I remember when President Rufus K. Hardy of the First Council of the Seventy passed away. I was walking along the street of one of the cities in New Zealand, and one of our native members came up -- a lady.
She said to me, "President Hardy is dead."
I said, "Is that so? Have you received a wire?"
She said, "No. I received a message, but I haven't received any wire." She repeated, "He's dead. I know."
Well, I always believed them when they told me those things. When I got back to headquarters, I wasn't there long when here came a cablegram which said that President Hardy had passed away the night before. But she knew that without any cablegram. She told me about it.
I got out of my car once in the city. I got out to do some window-shopping to get a little rest from driving. I walked around, and finally I went around a corner, and there stood a native woman and her daughter. The mother said to the daughter, "What did I tell you?"
I said, "What's going on here?"
The daughter said, "Mother said if we'd stand here for fifteen minutes you'd come around the corner." Now she didn't have any radio set with her, just one in her heart where she received the impression.
After President Hardy died, we had a memorial service for him. I'll never forget the native who was up speaking, saying What a calamity it was to the mission to lose this great New Zealand missionary who could do so much for them as one of the Authorities of the Church. He was talking along that line, and all of a sudden he stopped and looked around at me and said, "Wait a minute. There's nothing to worry about. When President Cowley gets home, he'll fill the vacancy in the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and we'll still have a representative among the Authorities of the Church." Then he went on talking about President Hardy. When I arrived home the following September, I filled the first vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. Now did that just happen by chance? Oh, I might have thought so if it had been one of you white Gentiles that had prophesied that, but not from the blood of Israel. Oh, no, I could not deny, I couldn't doubt it.
And so, 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 Apostles tried to cast out an evil 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 Apostles said, "Why could not we cast him out?" And what did Christ say? "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and by fasting." (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, in case of an emergency, go immediately. Sometimes I wonder, if we have a little time, if we shouldn't do a little fasting. "This kind cometh not out save by prayer and by 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, had not co-ordination of his muscles, couldn't even crawl at the age of five years. I said to myself, this is it. 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 Even the doctor said so. She was having her farewell party. Ah, that's one thing I like about the natives. 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--plenty of fish, good meals." My, it's wonderful how they send you off. Well, 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 native, almost ninety. She 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, your people, my relatives. I'm the only one that has 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. Everybody around there knelt down. And after the prayer we blessed her. The last time I was in New Zealand she had her fifth child and she's physically well from head to foot. She has not joined the Church yet. That's the next miracle I'm waiting for.
Well, now, this is just psychological effect, isn't it? There nothing to this priesthood business. it's only psychological effect. But where was the psychological effect on that little boy in the County Hospital who was so unconscious he didn't even know we were praying over him? He wasn't even conscious of what we were doing.
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 came 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 natives 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 younger native got down on his knees, and he anointed the dead 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. And he sat up, and he said, "Send for the elders; I don't feel very well." Now, of course, all of that was just psychological effect on that dead man. Wonderful, isn't it--this psychological effect business? Well, 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." Now, 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, "Why have you waited so long?"
"Oh, we just didn't get around to it>"
Now, that's the native way; I like that. Just don't get around to doing thing! Why not live and enjoy it? 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." Well, it shocked me, but then I said to myself, why not? Christ told his disciples when he left them they could work miracles. And I had faith in that father's faith. After I gave that child its name, I finally got around to giving it its vision. That boy's about twelve 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 the 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. And your institution here stems from the prayer of a boy who was persecuted, who was driven from pillar to post, whose life was taken, who has been branded as the greatest fraud that ever lived on the American continent. This Church from that kind of fraud is the greatest miracle of modern history. And it's a miracle of God our Father. May you all have an inward witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that God used him to bring about his purposes in this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. May we always be loyal devoted, and simple in our faith, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.