Is evil really a test?

By JenJ

Because I just wrote a really long comment to this post at Feminist Mormon Housewives, and because I have been negligent in my duties as a BCC blogger and haven’t posted in months, I’m posting my comment here for your reading pleasure or displeasure.

Here is an excerpt from Lisa’s post:

What kind of mortal test is it for 2,500 children A DAY who get kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. So that they can be raped 45 times a day, held in cells, then die of AIDS. Die in misery and fear after living through years of torture. WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MORTAL TEST IS THIS?

It’s easy to see something like that and question God. And to wonder what possible good can come from such evil.

We are told that the problems we face in this life are for our own good and serve as trials. We like to shroud ourselves in the comfort of that belief. I think it’s true but only in a very general way. To believe otherwise is to make God the author of all evil.

We have free will to choose good or evil. Most evil acts are committed against other persons. It is the sinners who choose to inflict suffering, not God. Our trial is to endure through this life, sometimes as the victims of others’ choices. That is the test God has sent us to experience. The details of our experience and test are authored by ourselves and other people. (Excluding trials like disease and accident.) I don’t believe God has anything to do with the rape of children or any other evil thing people do.

Here’s an analogy: You send your kid off to the playground. You know there are mean kids there. You know some kids are going to be hurt by them,  yours is also at risk. But you trust your child not to join the bullies and you trust your child is strong enough to prevail. Better that she should live her life at the risk of bruising then to stagnate safely at home. So you send her off knowing that her goodness and strength will be tested by the mean kids around her. Don’t parents do this when they send their children to school? They have something to learn at school despite the dangers.

Imagine that your child got severely beaten in the playground and went into a coma. Do you fault yourself? Did you intend that to happen? Is this what you wanted your child to learn? No. It’s the nature of the playground and likewise the world. God has loosed his children to do what they choose to each other. Ultimately we’re here for our own good, but sometimes the other children commit acts of horrific evil. God can heal us from all wounds, so whatever happens we will be safe. So he sends us off to Earth to learn and survive among the bullies.

We chose to have free will knowing that it meant we’d have to suffer by the choices of others. We agreed to put ourselves at risk. God didn’t want children to be sex slaves so we could be tested. He doesn’t want us to suffer, "Men are that they might have joy." Like the parent who doesn’t want her child to get hurt but let’s her out of the house because she knows it’s better for her to experience life than not; God knows it’s better for us in the end to experience this life, and necessarily that means we will suffer, the worst suffering caused by the hands of men. There is no other way, to know joy we must know pain.

The test God has given to us is free will and our use of that freedom. Enslaving children is how some people choose to use it, don’t blame God for that specific act of unfathomable horror. The original post to which I’m replying did not blame God for that directly. But to question the purpose of something as a test implies that God was involved, that God intended and/or designed that test for His greater purposes. God has nothing to do with human acts of evil, nothing beyond giving humanity our agency. Make of that what you will.

I admit to addressing the ancient problem of evil in simplistic terms. For me, it has always been this simple. Discuss.

Comments

  1. It makes me think of Joseph Smith in prison asking God how long the saints would suffer, not why.

  2. the only way i can make sense of the world is to believe that if there is a god, that he’s mostly hands off. because there really is no rhyme or reason to why certain things happen to certain people and not to others. if god will answer someone’s prayers to find their car keys, why won’t he answer the pleas of a child sex slave? i’ve never really heard any comforting answers to these kinds of questions.

  3. Mike,
    It goes back to free will again. God might help you find your car keys because you asked and had faith. You chose to look to God for help. The difference with freeing a child sex slave who prays and your keys, is that freeing the child involves the actions of other people. God will not force people to do anything. He will influence us. And probably the film that portrayed the children’s story is one answer to their prayers. Someone was touched enough to tell their story. And it’s now more likely that people will do something to stop this evil now that they’re aware of it. Answering a prayer for keys is simple, stopping people from choosing to do evil requires other people to get involved and choose to stop it. Big difference.

  4. Remember that Alma stopped Amulek when the latter suggested they use the power of God to save the righteous being burned. His reason? So that the testimony against the wicked would be full.

    MRKH

  5. Jen J:

    Using the two analogies above, how would the child-sex-slave be different from lost-key-man if someone had hid the keys, and then the keys’ owner prayed and found them? Now, you have God intervening and messing with key-hider’s free agency to do evil (hide someone else’s keys). To me, the difference only seems now to be the degree of importance. How would you then differentiate between those two analogies still?

  6. “I admit to addressing the ancient problem of evil in simplistic terms. For me, it has always been this simple.”

    I think it is that simple, too. What was the question in the premortal world? Do we really need the freedom to choose good or evil? Jehovah said yes; Lucifer said no. Most of us realized the wisdom of Jehovah. It was a battle of words, thoughts, and ideas (much like political campaigns?). The third of the host of heaven that chose Lucifer’s side must have been swayed by such rhetoric as “Do you know what kind of world this Jehovah would create? He would allow little children to be sold into sex slavery. He would allow people to destroy others in mass slaughters. He would allow all manner of sexual perversions, and even allow the killing of innocent babies. Is this the kind of world you want?” And how terrible that must have sounded.
    Yes. We have all those horrors and more. But it is necessary that we be able to choose between good and evil, or true good could not exist either. There is much more good in the world than there is evil, still, I believe.

  7. David King Landrith says:

    I think that Hobbes’ statement that man’s life is “nasty, brutish, and short” is relevant here. The full quote describes how the vast majority of mankind has lived:

    In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

    I think Hobbes is right here. And the lives of the most unfortunate humans on the planet are closer to the experiences of almost all of mankind than to our own. Perhaps it’s fair to ask what kind of real test our mortal trial can provide.

  8. When confronting the darkest evils this world has to offer, one needs a very healthy testimony of God’s ultimate justice and judgment … otherwise the confrontation can be an unusual challenge to faith. I sometimes ponder how precise and pointed God’s judgments and punishments must be and I feel confident that those who sell, rape and kill children will suffer for what they do.

  9. I don’t think it is appropriate to rely on the judgment of the next world in addressing the problems of this one, even if they someday may come to pass. I think Jen’s approach is correct insofar as God cannot remove our agency, and the end result of this is the good and evil consequences of our choices. But I don’t think that the evil of the sex slave industry is one of God’s tests. I don’t think God has to make tests for us; the evil we generate on our own creates enough obstacles for all of God’s children.

  10. john fowles says:

    In light of the evil involved in the child-sex-slave industry, it amazes me that many of the same people who are criticizing it here would defend the perpetrators against the death penalty. I for one would not be squeamish at the thought of either the administrators of this industry, the kidnappers themselves, or the indulgers in this evil (or all of them together) frying in the electric chair.

  11. John, what amazes me is that you would try to threadjack this great dialogue into a discussion about the death penalty.

    Christina, I’m curious about your statement that it’s not appropriate “to rely on the judgment of the next world in addressing the problems of this one.” Isn’t that the basis of obedience to most principles of the gospel — some sort of eternal reward? Are you suggesting that rewards or punishments outside of this life aren’t a sound basis for current decision-making? I’m not sure how I come out on that, but it’s an interesting thought.

  12. “John, what amazes me is that you would try to threadjack this great dialogue into a discussion about the death penalty.”

    Not to mention that your statement makes a whole raft of assumptions about other people’s views on a topic we haven’t (to my recollection) discussed here. You simply have no idea what any of us thinks about the death penalty, and it’s offensive that you think you do. People are complicated, John, even liberals.

  13. And what amazes me, John (apart from the myriad of assumptions on the death penalty) is that while true evil exists in the world, so many Latter-day Saints are telling ridiculous stories about how Satan made a waterline break in the temple, causing flooding, or made a missionary miss his flight to the MTC so he had to catch a later one.

    When we don’t know what real pain and suffering is, we have to make up our own brand, and how insulting it must be to people with real problems.

  14. john fowles says:

    Kristine, I can’t imagine anyone at BCC supporting the death penalty. Sorry.

    Steve, my point was that despite all of the warranted outrage and criticism on this thread about this horrible evil, I can realistically say that many of you would go to bat for these perpetrators if some white male chauvinist put them on trial for the death penalty. You are right though that it was a bit of a threadjack and so I apologize.

    To the point of this thread, I actually agree with Christina. I would also add, though, that the notion of the final judgment and justice in the next world is not irrelevant here. Pres. Faust had some comments on this in the recent general conference. He quotes PRes. Kimball as saying:

    If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency. . . . There would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood.

    Fine, but what does this have to do with the children themselves? That is the better question. Pres. Faust states,

    Now all this suffering might indeed be unfair if everything ended at death, but it doesn’t. Life is not like a one-act play. It has three acts. We had a past act, when we were in the premortal existence; and now we have a present act, which is mortality; and we will have a future act, when we return to God.

    Pres. Faust goes on to teach that [s]ome of the healing may take place in another world. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord.

    I am someone who is greatly troubled by the existence of such evils as child abuse, child-sex-slavery, kidnapping, rape, drug abuse, abortion, poverty, inequality, and a variety of other things that make this mortal existence truly miserable. I take issues like this very seriously, and do not lightly consider such questions as why God allows such suffering. We just don’t know the intricacies of eternity although we were assured in the last General Conference that once there, even the most excrutiating of suffering will have seemed like nothing more than a brief, unpleasant moment. That is only a comforting thought to people with a firm faith in the Restored Gospel’s teachings of the Plan of Salvation, eternal justice, and the healing power of the Atonement. And granted, it does nothing for the immediate suffering of those child sex-slaves. True, we can trust that later on, after they have finished with their lives of horror, it will only seem like an unpleasant memory. But if we want to alleviate their suffering right now, there’s not much that can be done because of the evil that resides in the hearts of these perpetrators.

  15. john fowles says:

    Looks like my blockquotes got messed up. Sorry.

  16. Andrew said this:
    Using the two analogies above, how would the child-sex-slave be different from lost-key-man if someone had hid the keys, and then the keys’ owner prayed and found them? Now, you have God intervening and messing with key-hider’s free agency to do evil (hide someone else’s keys)

    My response: Still a totally different scenario. The keys were hidden by a single act of evil, past tense. God did not stop the key-hider from carrying out his own will. It was after the fact that God helped a person find the keys for himself. It is in the power of one human to find the hidden keys (usually depending on the location), in spite of the evil-doer’s will to hide them. A sex-slave industry is a continuing evil which involves the will of hundreds if not thousands of participants. Stopping it means God would be intervening on the slavers and buyers current and future actions–thus destroying their free will. Look how long it took the US to abolish slavery? And how many people did it take? Certainly God had an influence in showing the abolitionists what an evil it was, but he didn’t come down and put a stop to it.

    Sex slavery is not one single act that one single human has the power to stop with God’s guidance. The act of kidnapping a child and then abandoning her is more similar to your key example because the act is finished and the kidnapper is no longer involved. God can then direct people who pray for help to find her. All through the scriptures, it is God’s servants who choose to act in accordance with His will that get things done. We are responsible for freeing the enslaved children, not God.

  17. john fowles says:

    God can do it if he decides to, and I’m sure that he wants to, but, as has been noted on this thread in the comments about free agency, his is a broader work than making sure that everyone has a cozy existence in mortality.

  18. “His is a broader work than making sure that everyone has a cozy existence in mortality.”

    Errr…, I’m sure you didn’t mean to John, but this sounds like you’re saying not being raped and beaten several times a day is a “cozy” lifestyle.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a God that we insist helps us find our car keys, or allows us to drive farther on a single tank of gas on than normal so we don’t have to fill up on the Sabbath, why he can’t stop children from being kidnapped, sold, and raped.

    It’s easy to say “well, he has a larger plan,” or “hey, free agency, don’t ya know!” in response to these kinds of problems when we’re idle viewers of the evil. I suspect if one of our own children was involved, or we had a more direct connection, such answers would sound empty and meaningless, which frankly, they are.

    I’m not arguing someone should be necessarily angry with God, or that he doesn’t exist because of his seemingly capricious nature, but the pat Mormon answers don’t do the problem justice.

  19. john fowles says:

    John H., if I had my way, these abusers of children would be sitting on an electric chair right now (or would at least have been castrated). So don’t fret about whether I am suggesting that getting raped and beaten is merely uncozy. I am not saying that.

    This is a real dilemma. But stripping God the benefit of the doubt in these situations is unproductive, unless the real agenda in the question is to animate a little fist-shaking gen Himmel. It is one thing for an atheist or agnostic to take that approach. But it seems that a belief in the plan of salvation rescues some of the perspectives that you summarily dismiss as “pat Mormon answers.” Maybe they are more than mere pat Mormon answers and really do provide a key in understanding the horror that these children are experiencing.

  20. john fowles–a friendly challenge: can you go one day in the blogosphere with no references to Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

  21. Way back in the comments, I brought up the idea that a testimony of God’s justice (and perhaps I should have said vengeance as well) would be useful in countering any doubts that might arise from evil in the world.

    I didn’t mean to sound like I was suggesting that was the only remedy we should rely on or that we should wait until the next life to confront the problem of evil in the world.

    I just wanted to clarify myself a little.

  22. I had sworn off bloggery but this is a subject too close to my heart to pass without making two quick points here:

    (1) The larger issue raised here is why God doesn’t just make everyone be nice. This is the fundamental problem of evil for traditional religion that believes in an totally omnipotent god that is the sole original maker of everything. The idea that God HAS to let free agency run its course in order to enable eternal progression because He is not the absolute creator nor absolutely omnipotent (see D&C 93 and the King Follett sermon) is unique to Mormonism and represents (IMHO) one of the restored gospel’s greatest contributions to modern faith. Two excellent but non-technical expositions of these ideas are Dave Paulsen’s “Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil” (http://speeches.byu.edu/htmlfiles/PaulsenF99.html
    and Eugene England’s “The Weeping God of Mormonism” (http://www.nd.edu/~rpotter/england_element1-1.html). Sorry I don’t know how to insert hyperlinks in these comments, but both of those URLs are live.

    to be continued

  23. continued

    (2) The original comentator (Lisa?) is reacting against a grossly simplified way of thinking about of this profoundly powerful theological insight. To think of this life as some kind of special customized test just for US is a rather self-centered point of view. It too easily slips into thinking that those who are beaten down by this life have somehow “failed,” whereas we the righteous are getting straight As. This life is not a test — it’s trial that we have to go through and there’s nothing God can do about it. And, as Jen points out, it was our choice to put ourselves through it, not God’s. Rather than the tired and noxious cliche about this life being a “mortal test,” I would suggest that we see it rather as a trial of mutual suffering together with God himself (the “weeping God”)and if it is a “test,” one of the main components is how well we who are blessed with strength aid those who are not.

  24. JWL, thanks for providing those links. I’ve printed up both articles and am reading through them. Interesting stuff.

    [Is this changing God concept the thing that got Eugene England into trouble at BYU? I thought I heard rumors about this but I'm not sure how much fact is behind them.]

  25. “If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency. . . . There would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood”

    I have seen and used quotes similar to this one from Pres. Faust in the past. However, a new thought just occurred to me that makes me wonder. If what he says is true, then wouldn’t it follow that people who understand and have testimonies of the Plan of Salvation would be incapable of doing good and would not grow in character. It is not the immediacy of the reward for good and the punishment of evil that is important, it is the certainty thereof. So if “know” that the Gospel is true, and I know that the Plan of Salvation is true, then how can I ever grow in character or do good, if Pres. Faust’s argument is sound? Once I have a testimony, am I not just responding to incentives as any rational person would do? Is doubt essential to salvation?

  26. john fowles says:

    Kristine, did I mention “the big three” today? I can’t remember doing so. If you’re referring to the post over at a bird’s eye view in which I mentioned Mao, that wasn’t today but rather last Saturday.

    But I will admit, they are pretty regularly on my mind, especially in a discussion involving human suffering.

  27. JF, you didn’t mention Hitler, but above you did talk about “a little fist-shaking gen Himmel.” Pretty close. If we broaden the categories a little to talk about references to totalitarians, you’re toast.

  28. Thanks, Steve–that was, of course, exactly what I meant to refer to, and I assumed it would be obvious enough.

  29. Well, it isn’t every day I see a chance to correct somebody as smart as Steve or Kristine, so I better take it while I can.

    I think “fist-shaking gen Himmel” translates to “shaking your fist at heaven” or something close. Is it possible you are confusing Himmel with Himmler?

    Of course, pointing out somebody else’s mistakes in public is something Hitler would do . . .

  30. The noise you hear is me eating crow. I assumed he’d meant Himmler. A thousand pardons.

    Of course, knowing JF he probably wanted to refer to Himmler instead…

  31. Steve,

    Since you came up with a very cool name of “Kulturblog”, I assumed you were good at German. That word is even more german-sounding that German. How did you think of that term?

  32. john fowles says:

    cb is right: gen Himmel means “towards heaven.”

    Steve, Kristine: I didn’t want to refer to Himmler. I hope that you know that if I did ever refer to Himmler, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, it wouldn’t be in support of what they did but would be in criticism of such.

  33. “Kulturblog” sounded like a nice word that The Sprockets would have used for their blog. It sounds modern and elitist, like the soundtrack would have lots of goth trance music or something.

  34. um, my mouth is too full of crow to talk. But “gen” does need an apostrophe somewhere to make it stand in for “gegen”? Or maybe it’s slang I don’t know. Anyway, I’m an idiot for jumping to such a conclusion. Sorry, John. Is there some corollary to Godwin’s law for people who see Nazi references where none are intended? Sheesh!!

    (And of course I know you wouldn’t cite Nazi generals approvingly!)

  35. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m not sure if I believe in “evil” at all, and I possibly don’t believe in Satan or any kind of personified tempter. If I did believe evil existed, it wouldn’t be represented in such types as Jeffrey Dahmer who really can’t help themselves, or even Mao who is just leading his people the way he thinks is best.

    If evil exists, it is selfishness taken to such a degree that others are enslaved, tortured, or killed. Drug czars have a particular kind of evil, one which brings capital gain on the virtual enslavement of people to their own bodies’ needs.

    But mostly, I think “evil” exists in all of us — it’s not that different than the “natural man” argument.

  36. Christina says:

    A late response to Steve: I don’t think it is useful to point to rewards or punishments in the next life to justify or seek to understand actions in this life. Mainly, that is because I don’t think we know a hell of a lot about what comes next (pun intended). Otherwise, religion makes it too easy to see life as a means to salvation rather than an end in itself, the great criticism of Nietzsche. Another good reason not to look at the world this way: we justify commiting immoral acts in this life as a means of salvation in the next – think suicide bombers as well as, perhaps, polygamists (I said, PERHAPS!).

  37. Welcome to the club, D. I’m not so sure I believe in Satan either, other than a symbol representing all evil. Yes, I’ve heard the quote, the greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing people he doesn’t exist. It works best in “The Usual Suspects,” but it is basically meaningless.

    Actually, I can handle the idea of Satan, I just can’t handle the sometimes shocking way Latter-day Saints refer to him. As I pointed out earlier, too many Latter-day Saints think Satan makes pipes break in temples and causes people to be late for Church – so annoying! Anytime anything happens that we don’t like – Satan! It’s a bit silly, as I said, when there is real evil in the world.

  38. John H, Satan made you write that comment!

    But seriously folks, Satan’s individualized nature is secondary to an acknowledgment that evil exists, and temptation can (though it doesn’t always/often) come from some externalized source. While I don’t think Satan is very necessary today because we’re doing just fine being evil on our own, I still believe in this amorphous external source of evil. Too much Tolkein? Perhaps.

  39. D.,

    Yes, I like to remember that evil exists in all of us. It helps me to be more careful with my choices than I otherwise might be. I also think it helps to temper our judgement of others.

    Christina,

    I agree with your point that it can be unproductive to think of rewards and punishments in the next life as a means of understanding actions in this life. But I do think there is value in believing or hoping that, eventually, there is some sort of ultimate justice.

  40. Christina says:

    There may yet be ultimate justice, and we need to live to try to be worthy of that, whatever that means. I just don’t think we have any idea of what it will be, and so it is difficult to aim our hearts in that direction.

  41. D. Fletcher says:

    I made a similar point last week at Steve and Sumer’s, but Christina has put it far more eloquently. I can’t stand the idea that “all will be worked out in the next life.” If the next life is where everything happens, what’s the point of this one? I can’t live my life hoping I’ve made the right choices for the next one. I’ve got to live my life for THIS one, to make this one work out, to find love and happiness and fulfillment here. Man is that We might have joy, and I believe it.

  42. It is not the immediacy of the reward for good and the punishment of evil that is important, it is the certainty thereof.

    But does the certainty come from faith or from immediate physical law?

    Gravity takes little faith to believe in. The ressurection moreso. Certainty in the ressurection comes by faith which requires contiued growth to keep and nourish.

  43. How do you reconcile existing for the purpose of joy with the Lord’s injunction to give no thought to yourselves and to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven? Christ very clearly taught that it was all about the next life, and that this life was the time to be obedient, patient and humble to earn a future reward…

    I don’t really disagree with D. and Christina as much as it sounds, but I think their perspective could too easily lead one to a shallow, selfish existence.

  44. May I recommend The Brothers Karamazov to anyone looking for a theodicy?

    It seems that, despite our belief in the possibility of divine intervention, God has put the onus to act against evil on his children. I might rail against what I perceive to be an unjust and unfeeling God, but I do so little myself to help my brothers and sisters that I am too ashamed to point the finger. I’m afraid that too often I deal with the great evils of the world in the abstract–condemning them is easy–combating them considerably harder. I honestly believe that making real, difficult sacrifices for those who have suffered things I don’t even want to think about will bring more understanding of God’s apparent silence than anything else. I’m guessing that I would become less concerned with God’s injustice and more concerned with binding the wounds and healing the spirit–to the extent that I can.

    I’m bothered enough with how little I have done to combat genuine human suffering that I’m going to do something about it. I’m taking suggestions and invite anyone else who would like to be involed to join me.

  45. Just a comment on the rewards/punishments motivation for moral behavior. This reliance is problematic and ultimately unchristian, because it is selfish. If I do good things because I want to go to heaven–then I haven’t truly followed Christ’s example. He teaches us to do good because we love Heavenly Father and we love our fellow people.

    Although, because we believe in a just God, we believe there will be rewards and punishments. It is morally juvenile to act for rewards. Children have to be taught that way, hopefully when they grow up they don’t do cruel things because they don’t want to hurt another person not to avoid punishment.

  46. John H,
    You said that the pat mormon answers to the problem of evil such as ‘it’s because of free will’ are insufficient to explain things. I didn’t even know that was a pat LDS answer because I’ve been in primary my entire adult life and haven’t been to conference since 1999 and don’t read church magazines.

    Try this intellectual experiment: What would God have to do to end the child sex trade? He could cause a natural disaster to kill the perpetrators but that would also kill the victims. Even if he gave everyone a heart attack so they all dropped dead, would that really end the trade? Wouldn’t someone new just step in? Killing the guilty will hurt their loved ones who are innocent which just shifts the suffering from one group of people to another. Any other method I can think of requires stripping the participants of their free will which also removes the onus of punishment from them. (As mentioned by someone above.)

    That the children get Aids and die young looks like an act of mercy on God’s part, he’s releasing the victims from suffering by giving them death. Isn’t that the simplest and least obtrusive way for God to respond? No one’s free will is violated and the suffering is decreased.

  47. I’m afraid that too often I deal with the great evils of the world in the abstract–condemning them is easy–combating them considerably harder“.

    Mathew, you said it well – I struggle with this a lot, and get frustrated because my efforts, even in my small circle of influence, don’t appear to bear fruit very often.

  48. john fowles says:

    Christina wrote There may yet be ultimate justice, and we need to live to try to be worthy of that, whatever that means. I just don’t think we have any idea of what it will be, and so it is difficult to aim our hearts in that direction.

    I find it hard to understand your perspective on this. After all, we have abundant scriptures that give us a pretty good idea of “what it will be” and enable us “to aim our hearts in that direction.”

    D., your comment was a little conflicted: you don’t believe in evil at all but actually you do. Here’s my perspective: if the kidnapping, enslavement, and prolonged, repetitive rape of a child is not evil, then what is it? Just a function of our biology?

    John H., you can’t really mean that you don’t believe that Satan exists, do you? You believe that there is evil but not that Satan exists as described in the scriptures? What about BoM passages that explicitly deal Satan and his designs? Also, the BoM reveals that in the last days, Satan will have succeeded in bringing people to believe that he is no devil for there is none. What do you think of that passage?

  49. D. Fletcher says:

    I wasn’t very clear about that, John, you’re right. I’m *not sure* about this, but I don’t think evil is some external force, originating with Satan. Evil is selfishness taken to a high degree.

    Certainly there are bad things that happen in the world, often perpetrated by bad people. Some of these people are consciously, sanely and purposely doing these bad things, and I guess I would call that evil. Others, like mass murderers and the like, aren’t so much evil as they are biologically corrupted — they are ill. I wouldn’t call what they do evil.

  50. Wow, this really reminded me why I love the blogernacle. I wish I could have been more a part of the discussion. When I wrote my origional post that Jen J. was responding to, I wasn’t angry with God, or unaware of the doctorine of free will. I was really asking, what kind of test is this?

    If you believe that life is a test, and we are all required to pass this test, to improve ourselves to strive to be a better human being, to seek God and righteousness, if this really is the purpose of mortal life then I fail to see how the hundreds of thousands of child sex slaves could ever take part in any meaningful way in this ‘test’. A person can not “progress” while chained to a bed for ten years.

    There is something missing in the whole idea of life as a test.

    And Just one more thing, I wanted to respond to Jen’s (not Jen J I think) comment above that calls Dying of AIDs a mercy killing for victims of sex slavery. I find this kind thinking creepy and arrogant. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but I have a hard time saying that any victim and/or survivor of these kinds of horrors would be better off dead. Go and read some of the survivor’s storys. Strong women determined to live the best lives they can, helping others, and dying of AIDs. These women do not need a mercy killing, they need a chance.

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