Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), like most Christians, believe that God loves each of us with a perfect love. He is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children. Why, then, does God allow evil and suffering in the world? If He loves us, why does He let us experience pain? An understanding of who we really are, why we are here on earth, and what our true relationship is with God can help us understand why earth life is so full of both joy and suffering.
Mormonism teaches that we lived with God before the earth was created. We are His spirit children, nurtured by Him during our pre-earth life. During that time we learned many things. Our Heavenly Father’s work and His greatest desire are that we grow to become like Him, and that was our greatest desire also. But in order to truly become like God, we needed to understand fully the difference between good and evil, and to have the opportunity to choose for ourselves. That is why we have been sent here to live on earth.
Evil is in the world because without the presence of evil, we cannot understand good. If no one ever suffered because of sins, why would we care what people did? If we never felt sorrow, how could we ever feel joy? Many people choose evil because they think it will make them happy. In reality, wickedness will never bring happiness. Evil choices harm us and harm others. God does not prevent the consequences of our choices, even when they harm others, because otherwise we could never learn, and we could never understand what He understands. He also does not prevent the natural events that take place in the world, for the same reason. It helps when we remember that we are part of eternity, and our life here on earth is just one step along the road. Some of the lessons we learn here are hard ones, but all of them help us learn what is good and what is evil, and therefore increase our ability to love and to experience the fullness of joy that God experiences.
Because God knew we would all suffer and make poor decisions from time to time during our earth life, He knew we would need a Savior to help us overcome evil and return to Him. Our Heavenly Father is wholly good, and no unclean thing can dwell with Him. But we all have sinned. To pay for our sins and help us be clean again, God the Father, in His great love and mercey, sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. Christ came to earth to teach us, by word and by example, how to live. In Gethsemane and on the cross, Christ took upon himself the burden of all the evil and suffering in the world. Because of Christ’s experience, He is able to lift our burdens when we turn to Him. Alma, an ancient prophet in the Americas, taught about Christ’s atonement in The Book of Mormon: Another Testimony of Christ:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me (The Book of Mormon, Alma 7:11-13).
If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can feel peace and hope in even the worst of circumstances. Through repentance, we can overcome the effects of our own sins, so that the suffering caused by our own poor choices will diminish in our lives. Through prayer, we can feel the great love our Heavenly Father has for us and for others, which can sustain and comfort us when we suffer. The Holy Ghost can show us how to take actions that can relieve other’s suffering. We come to rely on God’s love to see us through life’s difficulties. And after this life, we can look forward to returning to live with our Heavenly Father again, able at last to fully experience the joy of His goodness. It is a joy worth suffering for.