Monday, November 9, 2009

Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur?

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (from the Bible, Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (from the Bible, Matthew 26:39)

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given unto them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:27)

And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil; and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (from the Book of Mormon, Helaman 14:30-31)

Many have based their disbelief in God on the faulty logic that if there truly is a God, especially a loving God, then there would be no suffering or sadness in the world. A basic understanding of the principle of agency - the God-given ability of man to choose good or evil - reveals the simple, yet powerfully sublime answer to one of the greatest mysteries in theology: why does God allow suffering and evil to occur?

God possesses all things in the universe. Yet he has, in His infinite wisdom, given man the ability to choose for himself, including the ability to choose to obey Him and receive eternal reward or disobey Him and reap the punishment justice demands. God will never take the precious gift of agency from any person, no matter how evil or deplorable their choices may be. At times, He may enforce the consequences of people's choices according to His laws and justice, but He loves His children too much to take away their agency outright.

My personal understanding of the principle of agency has enabled me to view the suffering and sadness in the world as evidence of God's love, evidence of His willingness to maintain and preserve the agency of man, rather than evidence of his neglect or nonexistence. I have also learned that my agency is the only thing I possess that does not ultimately belong to God. My life has been truly blessed when I have followed the example of Jesus Christ in giving up my agency (or will) to the will of the Father. The consequences for doing so are as rich and sweet as the consequences for not doing so are bitter and painful.

Prophets in the Book of Mormon taught plainly and often about the vital role of agency in God's plan for our salvation. The Bible also contains a few references to man's ability to choose, and the principle is exemplified by righteous men and women throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Book of Mormon and Bible thus stand together in establishing the essential, yet often overlooked, doctrine of agency.

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