MR says: Though this was originally published in 2008, the counsel in it remains just as applicable, if not more so, to us today.
Why do bad things happen, even to good people? Thanks to modern revelation, we have a few answers.
The past few years have produced a lot of scary headlines. We’ve seen it all, from large scale to small scale, from international terrorism to the breakdown of individual families. Innocent people, even children, are not spared. Why do these things happen? Philosophers and theologians have wrestled with that question for centuries.
However, as Latter-day Saints, we have something many philosophers and theologians don’t have. We have revelation, both ancient and modern. So, rather than just asking why these things happen, let’s ask a slightly different question: What do we know for sure? Let’s explore five scriptures that will help us find comfort in the things we do know.
We Know That God Allows Evil to Exist in the World (Moses 7:26–33)
Sometimes our trials are a direct result of someone using their agency to do evil. Often when tragedy strikes, someone will say, “Well, it must have been God’s will.” What exactly is “God’s will”? It seems to me that God’s will is that we choose righteousness over wickedness! However, He also desires that we have a choice in the matter.
In the Pearl of Great Price, Enoch sees a frightening vision. “And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced” (Moses 7:26).
Chains often symbolize bondage in the scriptures, and Enoch sees Satan looking up and laughing at the world in chains. Enoch also sees the Lord, who looks down on the sinful world and weeps. Enoch asks:
“How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” (Moses 7:29).
The Lord answers in what I think is one of the saddest passages of scripture:
“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
“And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood” (Moses 7:32–33).
Clearly, what the Lord desires is that we love one another and choose to obey Him. But some do not.
They are “without affection.” Everyone on earth has agency, and sometimes those who misuse it have an impact on many innocent people. This scripture provides evidence that the Lord notices the tragedies on the earth and that He is affected by them.
Many of the bad things that happen are contrary to God’s will. But remember that man’s will is temporary, and ultimately God’s will is what will be done.
There are other questions in all of this, too. How many acts of premeditated evil has God prevented? How many of these tragedies could have been much worse? There is no way we could know. Sometimes we see things on the news and ask, “How could God allow this to happen?” Could it be that one day we’ll discover that God prevented much more than He allowed?
How many times has someone prayed that “we might get home in safety,” and we actually did? How many traffic accidents has He helped you avoid? How many times has He inspired you to do something that saved someone from injury? We will never know in this life.
The plan of happiness allows for agency, and therefore it also allows for evil. There is no flaw in the plan.
For more scriptural insights from John Bytheway, check out this great scripture study bundle. From explaining Isaiah for Airheadsto showing unexpected insights into familiar parables, John Bytheway will open your eyes, help you learn, and bring the Spirit into your scripture study.