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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

With all of the horrific abuse heaped upon animals and children by others, and the unspeakable pain suffered by them as a result, how can God sit in heaven and watch it all and not be moved with righteous indignation?  Is this what we have to look forward to if we become exalted?  Forever witnessing horrific situations?

Robert

 

Answer

 

Dear Robert,

It is understandable that some, especially survivors of childhood abuse, might wonder if God cares about the evil that goes on here on the earth.  But I want to assure you that He does.  He cares very much.

The first “evidence” of this I would like to show you is when Christ cleansed the temple.  If you consider for a moment the Savior’s life, you will recall that He did not anger easily.  When He was being crucified, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  And yet, He was angry when He cleansed the temple.  Why was He so angry then?

Some scholars believe, and I agree, that He was angry because people were being taken advantage of.  Some people had to travel long distances to visit the temple. Sometimes bringing an animal was not feasible, so they would purchase one when they arrived.  First they had to exchange the coins with Caesar’s image on them, for temple coins.  The money changers though did not give a fair exchange.  They were taking advantage of people.  Then these travelers would take their coins and purchase an animal for sacrifice.  Those who sold the animals did so at very high prices, also taking advantage of the poor. So people coming to the temple to worship were being cheated, and this certainly defiled the meaning of the temple. But the main issue was that people were being mistreated.

We can also see this story in a symbolic manner.  The Savior was angry that the temple was being defiled.  Our bodies are temples.  (1 Cor. 3:16-17).  Thus He surely is also angry—angry enough to brandish a whip, shout and turn over tables, when our physical bodies/temples are defiled by abuse.

Another example in the scriptures that shows that God cares is found in the Pearl of Great Price.  The Lord is conversing with Enoch, and while they are looking at the world, Enoch notices that the Lord is weeping.  Enoch is surprised by this and asks Him why He weeps:

 32 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;

 

33 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;

 

34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.  Moses 7:32-34

Likely the Lord was thinking about many things here, but when He says, “ . . .they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;” that could certainly be applied to abuse (as well as other situations).

Another example is found in the Doctrine and Covenants section 98.  At the time this revelation was given, the Church was undergoing severe persecution.  In this section the Lord gives counsel to the Saints about how this should be dealt with. In the latter part of the section the Lord instructs them that if the enemy comes upon them and then asks for forgiveness they should forgive him until seventy times seven.  But notice what the Lord says about the offender who does NOT repent (as often is the case in abuse), for the first, second and third offenses they are told to forgive.  However, on the fourth offense:

44 But if he trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out until he repent and reward thee four-fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee.

 

45 And if he do this, thou shalt forgive him with all thine heart; and if he do not this, I, the Lord, will avenge thee of thine enemy an hundred-fold;

Now that we know the Lord is moved with righteous indignation against the horror that occurs in this world, how does He stand it?  How can we if this is what we will experience if we become exalted?

Part of our answer is in D&C 121, remember that here Joseph was pleading unto God for some relief and redress for the suffering of the Saints.  The Lord said:

 7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

 

8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

I believe that though it does pain Him to see us suffer due to the sins of others, He allows it because He knows that it is a small moment and a much greater reward is coming.  I think that it must be like when we, human parents, take our child to the doctor to get stitches, for example.  We sorrow for the crying child who doesn’t understand, but we know that this is but a small moment in their lives, and that they will benefit from these stitches. You might ask if that is a fair analogy, the child benefits from the stitches, but can anything good come from abuse?

To answer that question, I‘d like to share the words of one of my heroes Admiral James Stockdale.  He was a pilot during the Vietnam War and was shot down over North Vietnam and taken as a prisoner of war.  He suffered terrible abuse and torture.  Later when James C. Collins interviewed him for the business book, Good to Great, Collins asked how he had survived. Admiral Stockdale said:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Is this sort of healing and overcoming possible for everyone though?  Dr. Richard Mollica says it is, absolutely.  His opinion is important because he works at the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma.  He and his colleagues have treated over ten thousand patients who have been emotionally and mentally scarred by war, rape, violence and torture. He has met people who survived the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacres of Bosnia, the genocide of Rwanda and the destruction of the World Trade Center.  Still he says,

“Every human being is born with the strength to heal. No amount of violence or torture can destroy that capacity. No barbarism or savagery can crush the ability to recover and rebuild. Even in the most hopeless human being there is hope.”

It has been often been said that Satan tries to pervert all the good things that God gives us, for example, music and the Internet. I think the lesson from Admiral Stockdale and Dr. Mollica is this: any evil that Satan can create in the world, the Lord can turn to our benefit and growth.  Ours is a powerful God.

So, Robert, rather than thinking of being a God as a position of forever witnessing horrific things, I like to think of it as forever turning pain into growth, peace and eventually even joy.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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