I came across a question that left me stumped. Someone had asked, “If there is a God then why does he allow such horrible things to happen?” (Example: murder, rape, etc.) I realized that if anyone were to ever ask me this I would have no idea how to answer them. I know things that I could say but when it comes to subjects like that, none of them seem like the right thing.
The scriptures give us two reasons. First is in Abraham 3:
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
Here we learn the purpose of the creation of the earth was as a dwelling place for us as we are tested. Note the scripture says “all things.” Some people turn to God when things get hard, other people harden their hearts. To be proven we must be tested when things are hard as well as when thing are easy. Horrible things happen to us, to our loved ones and to strangers. All of this is part of the test. Do we curse God and wish to die like some do in the scriptures when horrible things happen? Or do we turn to him? The choice is ours and it is why we are here.
The next reason we can find in the Lord’s response to Joseph Smith asking pretty much the same question you are. Joseph Smith was imprisoned for months in Liberty Jail. Sections 121 and 122 are very good places to study the Lord’s answer. I will use only one verse but I recommend reading it all.
7 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.
The Lord is very much aware of the horrible things that can and do happen. He also gives a very powerful promise that he can and will turn this horribleness into something good. That can be a hard thing to understand. Joseph Smith probably did not understand the Lord’s purpose in the moment either. He could only act in faith. Only later after time has passed do we begin to see the wisdom of the Lord in allowing Joseph Smith to suffer as he did.
We lack the Lord’s perspective on suffering and the horribleness of life. We can not see the glories and wonders of eternity so we can not understand what it takes to be ready for it. However the idea that we need to suffer now to have a better future later is something we can understand. For example, many choose to exercise, or change the way they eat. We can choose to undergo dental or other medical procedure, all of which can be varying degrees of horrible. And we voluntary choose it all with the expectation of it to be worth it at a future date.
In regards to the situations of rape and murder, both are horrible things. But we know that God has given all of us agency to act. Unfortunately some are victims to agency of others.
Knowing this from our personal experiences… Is our short span of mortal suffering to much to ask in exchange for being ready for eternal joy and happiness? I think that when we counseled in the pre-existence, we knew the suffering we would face… and we jumped and shouted for joy anyways, because we knew it would be worth it.