Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

A blogger recently compiled a list of reasons people abandon the gospel and church. Some of those reasons are reasonable, but most have good answers. In hope to provide some of those answers, which I don't seem to see anywhere else, I will provide a series of answers to these questions.

One of these questions is why bad things happen to good people. The issue is this: when there is a tsunami and 200,000 people die, or when your kind grandmother dies of bone cancer, or when you suffer through the abandonment of a spouse through no fault of your own, how can God allow such a thing to happen?

This question reduces to two simple questions: 
1) Are the consequences of mortality limited to mortality?
2) Are the experiences of mortality limited to our current probation?

The answer to both of these questions is a resounding no. In brief, God not only allows but ordains bad things to happen to good people because it is one main ingredient in the pool of knowledge one must attain to become a god.

Mormonism is the only religion of which I am aware that provides an answer to this question. All Christians believe that God is omniscient in one form or another. Only Mormons believe that 1) his omniscience applies only to this sphere1, because he progresses, and 2) have an answer to how he gained his knowledge of this sphere. He was once a man, like you and I2. This condition preceded his mortal ministry by who knows how many iterations, because while on the earth he was not like you and I, already having a level of knowledge and power far exceeding any other mortal in this iteration. To get to that point, he had to experience everything mortality had to offer. In Christianity, God can commiserate with mortals through knowledge of their experiences. But only in Mormonism can God commiserate with mortals through experience of their experiences. Only in Mormonism is God's knowledge a product of his experience rather than some supernatural gift attained in absentia.

It may seem unfair or pointless for a person to suffer through bone cancer. In actuality, there are character traits that one can only attain through suffering3. There are character traits that one can only attain through losing a child. There are character traits one can only attain through suffering through abuse. And so on. To become a god, one must suffer through all these things. Because our experience stretches over many probations (worlds without end), the calculus of whether this suffering is pointless or essential has to be done with a long term view. Our knowledge continues with us even after this life4. Our suffering produces dividends worlds without end, as does everything else we learn in this life. An analogy to consider is that, if college were the sum total of what life had to offer, it would make no sense to select computer science as a major compared to, say, history, because computer science is so difficult and time consuming compared to history. It would be unfair, if college were the sum total of life, to arbitrarily assign some people to history and some people to computer science. However, life does not end with college, and those who major in computer science will earn a lot more money in their vocation than those who major in history. There is a benefit commensurate with the degree of suffering for every experience in mortality,5 even if that benefit does not necessarily occur during the mortality where that suffering occurs.

1 "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence." (D&C 93:30)

2 "God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:303–5)

3 "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7)

4 "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19)

5 "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly..." (D&C 100:15) "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17) "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life....It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him." (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:7-8)