Melissa DeMoux is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon” woman) and resides in West Vally City, Utah.
Many people in the world question the existence of a God, due to their experiences with terrible acts and events which they cannot understand a loving creator permitting to happen. Such evil, however, is a necessary part of our mortality, and with a little study we can come to better understand it. While turning to the Bible is helpful, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the Mormon Church) has other books of scripture, the Book of Mormon, which contains revelations that make the purpose of the existence of evil more clear.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility (2 Nephi 2:11).
Without dark, there is no light. Without up, there is no down. These things are subjective to comparisons and must have opposites to be understood. For good, holiness, righteousness, happiness, and joy to exist, so must their opposites. Until we have tasted something bitter, we can make no comparisons in order to know or understand something sweet.
This opposition also gives us an opportunity for growth and learning. It creates a physical, mental, and spiritual struggle that shapes character in the same way that pressure forms diamonds, exercise forms endurance, and study forms intelligence.
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 (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).
How could something bad be for our good? I’m sure we can all think of terrible examples of evil that just don’t jive with this scripture. The abuse of children. Individuals killed by drunk drivers. Sufferers of malnutrition born into third-world countries. Those killed through natural disasters or acts of terrorism. Victims of kidnapping, human trafficking, rape, and murder. How can any of these experiences be for good? In some cases, it can build strength of character and produce opportunities for victims to show forth Christ-like love and compassion through forgiveness. Seeing the suffering of others also gives us a chance to exercise charity, but this seems a small consolation for such immense suffering.
Our time on this earth, however, is a time for us to exercise our agency, with which God will never interfere. To do so would usurp His purposes for our mortality. Much of the evil and suffering in the world is the result of the choices of man utilizing his agency. With our choices come unavoidable and irreversible consequences, as well as responsibility for those consequences.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given 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 (2 Nephi 2:27).
The consequences of choosing evil have a far-reaching ripple effect. Innocent people suffer, while the one responsible seems to sometimes bear little ill effect. But there will come a time of accounting in which all things will be made aright. A wonderful example and explanation of this can be found in the Book of Mormon, when the missionaries Alma and Amulek were held captive while those they had converted to a belief in Christ were burned in a pit of fire. Amulek asked Alma why he did not stretch forth his hand and, through the power of God, save those innocent women and children from such a horrendous death.
But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day (Alma 14:11)
If God stopped all the evil acts of the world, how could the final judgment be just? Would it be just or right to punish someone for an act they may or would have committed? Our own laws show the futility of such a concept. While it is a terrible and heart-wrenching thing to stand by and let someone commit an act of evil in order to be sure that punishment is just, no accurate and just court of law will punish someone for something they never did. We do know, however, that while the Lord does not stop all evil, He does weep over the wickedness He sees.
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? . . .
The Lord said unto Enoch: 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; . . .
But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:28–29, 32–33, & 37).
So, we can ultimately see two reasons why God does not always stop evil. The first is so that we may experience opposition, so that we may learn, grow, and be strengthened. The existence of evil also makes it possible for there to be good, so that it is possible for us to choose. The second is so that the judgment of our choices will be truly just. The consequences of our actions are permitted, even when they are terrible, so that so that we can be held responsible and accountable.
Like a loving parent who knows children learn best from their mistakes, God permits us to face and suffer the consequences of our actions so that we will learn and grow in wisdom. And like a righteous judge, God will not dole out punishments for acts that have not been committed. Knowing this helps us understand the character and the nature of God, and though the world is full of sadness and suffering, I know that He loves us and hope that my own actions will bring Him tears of joy rather than tears of sorrow.
Doris White is a native of Oregon and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in Editing. She loves to talk with others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.