Adversity as a form of the love of God

Stephen MarshMormon 37 Comments

“For whom the Lord loveth, he chaseneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”  (Hebrews 12:6; 6-8, 11)”

Many times we need the experience of making the right choices when it is not easy in order in order to transform what we are.While adversity can just grind us down, everyone is aware that adversity need not only be ablative — that the things that happen to us can be more than just the grinding.  Paul writes about how tribulation is not joyous at present, but can bring us positive results. As a result, bad things happening, opposition occurring, can be something that helps us in our transformation into children of God.
Skipping the ablation vs. transformation debate (see side bar), if this life is intended to offer transformative experiences, then adversity is a gift from God, not an interruption, because if enables transformation.
Ablation vs. Transformation

I’m going to shorten some quotes and scriptures to save on space and because I’m sure everyone has seen them in the longer versions.

Consider the classic quote “I am a rough stone rolling … smooth and and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.” That is a description of ablation, the removal of excess until the good or true is revealed.

Now consider “Though he were a son … became perfect by the things he suffered”  That is transformation, where one is transformed from one thing to another by experience and choice.

The third way to consider it is found in the multiple times God talks about how he will “Refine the sons of Levi …” The truth is probably with both.  If you think of humanity in the raw state as iron ore, you have a good metaphor.  Iron ore is purified or ablated into iron, then it is transformed into steel by forging.  One gets steel from iron ore by both purification and transformation.

Anyway, the classic debate is whether life and judgment really just exposes what we really are or if life is the opportunity to be transformed.  Much like I think grace v. works asks the wrong
question, I think the ablation vs. transformation debate misses the point.

Many people are bothered by the fact that most people are more likely to be kind, honest or charitable in situations that are pleasant than when conditions are adverse.

Shake a man’s hand and he will be less likely to try and lie to you or cheat you.If you ask for change outside of a bakery, people are seven times more likely to make change for you than if you are standing next to a sewer.

Some times it seems that we are not choosing good or evil, but instead choosing to be affected by the pleasant vs. the unpleasant. There is a lot to referring to some things as the result of “getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

The reason for this is that we work with heuristic models (gut feelings) that work quickly for us, rather than with deeper rules.  You can tell the difference because when it is your internal heuristics, you just act.  When it is a rule (which I will refer to as a digital rule) you go “no, that breaks the rule.”

Think about the speed most people drive on the highway.  Most just drive the speed they are comfortable with.  Some drive the posted speed.

Driving the “comfortable” speed is heuristic or instinctive (think of it as analog).  The same is true for the way many decisions are made.  You don’t have to think and you don’t have to learn a formal rule.You can also think of people who follow digital rules.  Someone who stops for stop signs, even at 3:00 a.m.  Someone who never swears, rather than saving swearing for when they are really peeved or provoked.  Who does not let the sun set upon their wrath, even when they are really justified in being angry.

Adversity allows us to learn to make the right choice in spite of opposition. Using the traffic analogy, most people don’t have any problem letting someone in the lane of traffic ahead of them if the person is too far ahead to affected by anything they do.  That isn’t so much a choice as there is no alternative choice.  But being polite to another driver who has been acting rather foolishly or driving in an aggressive or hostile fashion is making the choice to be polite in spite of adversity.  It is letting who you are and who you are becoming control the situation rather than letting the situation control you.

Much like the story of the Quaker and the surely newspaper man. The Quaker was treated rudely but was polite.  His friend asked him “so the newsy is having a bad day?”  “No, he is always like that.”  “Why were you so polite?” “Why should I let him control me?”

Something that both the scriptures and experience reveal is that adversity helps us both refine and transform our reactions and our choices so that the heuristic intuitions we use can become free of context.
By adversity we can learn to choose good from evil, rather than pleasant from unpleasant, and sometimes without it we can not make the progress we are making as quickly or as thoroughly, much like one can cold forge iron, but one needs a hot forge for steel.

But that makes the experience and use of adversity, if it transforms us, a sign of the love of God, provided for our good to help us become better.

Comments 37

  1. According to your understanding of the gospel, how does the gift of the Holy Ghost fit in? Is its influence transforming, ablative, both, or neither?

    Parenthetical Note:

    The scriptures emphasize the gift of the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 32:5), but we rarely discuss it in the Bloggernacle. Case in point, look at the category list for Mormon Matters, a category for gift Holy Ghost is not found. What are the implications of this?

  2. Post

    Discussions of the Holy Ghost tend to take place in one of three ways:

    First, the teaching of Gospel Basics.

    Second, in speculations even more outre than mine.

    Third, in discussions of General Authorities, Missionary Work, Testimony, Prayer, Repentance and a number of other topics, so that the Holy Ghost is discussed by sub-topics.

    Discussing the Holy Ghost, once you’ve moved past the basics, tends to be something too big to be contained in one topic.

  3. Stephen–

    If I understand the scriptures and the words of the prophets correctly, the Holy Ghost is the Lord’s agent of change. The baptism covenant is all about change, and so is the taking of the sacrament each week. Without the Holy Ghost the best we can do is reform.

    The library and bookstores are full of self improvement books that help us reform ourselves by following the wisdom of men. Many people improve themselves without ever calling on Heavenly Father. Prison systems are designed with reform in mind. I visited a young man in prison recently and after spending a few hours I could tell he is making improvement in many areas of his life. But reformation isn’t repentance and the Holy Ghost isn’t part of it because he isn’t invited.

    After spending nearly two years in the Bloggernacle I can count on one hand the number of posts that addressed the change that can come by diligently seeking to fulfill our baptism covenant by acquiring the gift of the Holy Ghost. The lack of interest in this topics is a concern to me.

    When I saw your post on adversity I thought of the Book of Mormon and the cycle of humility–prosperity–destruction it teaches. Adversity (crisis) reminds men of their dependence on God and humbles them, prosperity brings pride, and destruction of some kind then follows. So using your terms of ablation vs. transformation where does the Holy Ghost fit-in in your model?

    By the way, thanks for your post. It’s very interesting.

    Note: Regarding categories, God and Jesus have categories at MM.

  4. Jared, please understand where this is coming from:

    We know how passionately you feel about the Holy Ghost. However, this post isn’t about the HG directly. It’s fine to bring up the HG as related directly to the post, but just asking generically is not “good form”. Expressing concern over a scarcity of posts about that exact topic is not “good form”. It comes across as a chastisement – and, in this type of setting within a post about something else, that also is not “good form”.

    Stephen, I am a firm believer that adversity is a manifestation of God’s love in at least one very direct way – proof that He really does allow freedom and agency. I’m not sure He directs specific adversity toward us (that he “places” specific adversity in our path that is uniquely individualized). I use the words “specific” and “places” carefully, as I simply am not sure how much of the adversity we face is generic as a simple result of the Fall and our mortality and how much is “customized” uniquely for us. Currently, I probably would say the proportion is perhaps 90/10 (or even 95/5), but I simply don’t know with any degree of certainty.

    I found the following line especially powerful:

    “It is letting who you are and who you are becoming control the situation rather than letting the situation control you.”

    I agree with that completely – and believe we really can become “agents unto ourselves” if we work on it long enough and with enough sustained effort.

  5. “Without the Holy Ghost the best we can do is reform.”

    I think this statement is flatly insulting to the scores of people have made true change in their lives without “calling on heavenly father.” Every day people of other religions and people with no religion at all make real and meaningful change in their lives, and to tell those people whom you know nothing about, with a dismissive wave of your hand, that they have not in fact made change, but have only affected some middling, temporary “reform,” for the sole reason that they didn’t involve your conception of god, is pretty staggering. I have personally known atheists who have overcome years of severe and debilitating drug addiction without invoking god’s help, and I have also known LDS members with a fervent belief in god, who have tried all their lives to overcome similar dependencies with the help of the church, the scriptures and god, to no avail. I’m not saying god doesn’t exist or that he can’t help; what I’m saying is that it is the height of arrogance to tell someone who has made 180 degree change in his or her life and has sustained it for decades, that they didn’t really do what they think they did because they didn’t do it in a way of which you approve. This is similar to many mormons I have known who are perfectly willing to look another human being in the face and tell him or her in all their self-righteous glory that “even though you think you’re happy, your life is a facade and you are really miserable because you’re not involving god to the degree I think you should.” I’m sure this is not what you intended when you made that statement, Jared, but this is part of the problem, and frankly, this is one of the church’s big image problems. There is a sense of arrogance that permeates from many in the church that is difficult to endure, and the idea that “well it’s true so it’s ok to say it” or “it’s for their own good so it’s the right thing to do” makes people feel like they’re justified in such condescending beliefs and behaviors. Let me just assure you that no one outside the church thinks that behavior is ok. Shockingly, most mormons I know don’t appreciate it when non-members arrogantly tell them that mormons are brainwashed, unthinking automatons who are led around by the noses their entire lives drawing every breath at the behest of their church leaders. Such a statement is insulting and inappropriate, but in my opinion no worse than the statements made by some mormons to non believers. The fact is, it is your belief that YOU cannot make meaningful change without god. If that’s the case, then by all means I think you should continue to inolve god in your life, but it is wrong and hurtful to judge other people’s efforts (and when it comes down to it, that is a judgment).

    People make change in their lives without involving god and religion every single day, and many people live happy, full and fulfilling lives without those elements. Now, the question of whether the LDS church or any other church is true, and whether ignoring it will come back to visit these people at some point is another matter. But frankly, even if it were true that there is a degree of happiness that can be acheived with god that can’t be found without, I still find it astounding that one person would treat another person with such condescention and disrespect. I apologize if this seems like a personal attack on you, Jared, it’s really not. This is a very touchy subject for me, and I think you should think twice about the implications of such a statement.

  6. I believe the adversity in our life is not only an opportunity for us to become more like God but an opportunity to refine those around us. For example, if I have a son on drugs or a husband involved in pornography, etc. and others are aware of it, they have an opportunity to judge me and my family members or to refrain and be loving and compassionate instead. I think we are all so much more connected to one another than we realize and I believe that each decision we make to judge or not to judge has a great impact on those we are choosing to pass judgment. If we choose not to judge, I believe it leaves an “open space” for our willingness to surface and we are better able to tune into what would ease their burdens. On the other hand, if we are judging them, we are unable to see past the judgment and therefore completely miss an opportunity to be there to lift their burdens. I also believe in missing that opportunity we can very likely be adding to their burdens because we are essentially ignoring them in their suffering. I wonder how sad I will be to look back at my life and see the many times I chose to judge someone rather than to refrain from judgment and therefore missed an opportunity because my willingness never had a chance to surface through all my the false judgments.

    I definitely think that adversity is a form of God’s love, but I can say from my own experience, it doesn’t feel the least bit lovable, is excruciatingly difficult to rectify and to understand and can leave you feeling abandoned and deeply alone. If it were not for those very few who truly have chosen to love like the Savior, then my own adversity would be unbearable. I think it is very important to remember when we see others dealing with adversity that we refrain from judgment and do all we can to be willing to serve them and love them as the Savior would, for truly that may be the only expression of love they feel in their suffering. I think that is what the Lord is expecting us to do when He said “As I have loved you, love one another”.

  7. Ray–

    Adversity and the Holy Ghost are closely related. For those who have been baptized and who have the right to the Holy Ghost adversity is often the only means where they are humbled to the extent that they will call upon God with sufficient energy to be given the gift. That’s my experience, so I have to respectively disagree that my comments are not good form. I believe they are directly related to the topic of the post.


    To be insulting there would have to be intent on my part to be insulting. No such idea crossed my mind. I have nothing but respect for those who make improvement in their lives. My father was a drunk until he was 50 years old. He was a traveling salesman, when he came home he would be drunk much of the time. When he was sober he was a great guy, drunk he was mean. One day he hit bottom and stopped being a drunk. He spent the next 20 years building up a business and was very successful. He was not a religious man but he reformed his life and I am very proud of him. Reformation to me is a wonderful word.

    The gift of the Holy Ghost is available to those who seek for it. I’ve experienced many manifestation of this gift and know it to be real and powerful. I am puzzled why it is that so few members are actively seeking for this gift.

    Elder Wirthlin said:

    Unfortunately, some in the Church may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure. With such a feeble light of testimony for protection, these travelers on life’s highways are easy prey for the wolves of the adversary.

    Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 34

    If you’re interesting in more information about how I view the difference between repentance and reformation click the following link.

  8. Jared, what I am saying is to make the point about the connection directly – instead of appearing to chastise everyone for not writing about the Holy Ghost enough. Also, please understand that the clarification about repentance and reformation you just gave changes radically the tone of your previous comment.

    Your latest comment is directly on topic – and very different than the one that prompted the responses. Can you see the difference?

  9. Ray–

    I have trouble seeing the difference. I write with the assumption that those who read will have similar understanding to me.

    I’m not chastising. I am observing and relating what I see and I am deeply concerned that so many of our members are struggling with their testimonies. I feel like weeping, not chastising.

  10. “I write with the assumption that those who read will have similar understanding to me.”

    Many don’t – and that doesn’t make them wrong or weak. It is that impression that comes across that bothers some people.

    For example, I agree wholeheartedly with the content of Elder Wirthlin’s quote in your last comment – but I think, applied in this setting and conversation, it carried an implication that those who comment here lack real testimonies (and, even worse, that they are deluded into thinking they do have real testimonies).

    It’s easy to say, “I never intended that meaning.” However, those who read words on a screen have no idea what someone intends outside the context of the words on the screen. “Intent” doesn’t mean much when push comes to shove in a forum like this, since the words one uses override intent every time.

    It’s like saying, “The Devil made me do it” in a comment here. There are too many possibilities for what is intended by those words to know with certainty what the actual intent is. The person might be facetious; he might be totally serious and mean that the Devil forced him to do it; he might be repeating a statement that means nothing to him personally; he might be referring to his natural man self and not a separate “devil” at all. There’s no way to know for sure without clarification, so it’s better to recognize possible reactions and try to address them within the initial comment – by changing the words used, if necessary.

    Do you see what I’m saying?

  11. I understand your point, and I’m working on the application. It’s a lot like learning the nuance of a new language. It’s very easy to have a one thought in mind and then end up communicating something else.

  12. “But that makes the experience and use of adversity, if it transforms us, a sign of the love of God, provided for our good to help us become better.”


    I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make much sense to me. If I use adversity to transform myself for good then it’s a sign of God’s love but if I fail and the adversity grinds me down what is it then other than my failure? Is it a sign of God’s love either way? It may be a sign of God’s love that I am alive and have my agency but all that means is that all that occurs, good, bad, or indifferent is that sort of a sign.

    Ray, you say “Stephen, I am a firm believer that adversity is a manifestation of God’s love in at least one very direct way – proof that He really does allow freedom and agency.” How does this reconcile with the fact for some he intervenes and takes away the adversity. In that case is He taking away agency since He doesn’t allow the consequences of our or someone else’s actions or the random effect of nature to harm us? I hope this isn’t off thread but this raises questions for me that I have no answers for.

  13. #13 GBSmith–

    You addressed your question to Stephen. I hope I can chime in with a few thoughts.

    There appears to be various kinds of adversity.

    1. To give us experience and for our good D&C 122
    2. To try us and prepare us for blessings from the Lord Ether 12:6

  14. I accidentally hit the wrong key while typing before I’d finished.

    3. To create humility which leads to repentance Alma 32:6, D&C 20:5-6

    Some are delivered from difficulties because of their faith while others are not because of the lack of faith Ether 12:12

  15. I don’t know, GB. I have had experiences both with having adversity and with having it removed – in situations where explanation truly was defied. I wish I could say I knew, but I don’t. It’s one of those paradoxes I simply can’t answer even close to fully.

    I personally think the story of Job is allegorical, but I also think it’s a very good caution for people who want to see a direct correlation between righteousness and adversity.

  16. Post

    So using your terms of ablation vs. transformation where does the Holy Ghost fit-in in your model?

    That is about three posts worth of material. I’ll have to find time.

    If I use adversity to transform myself for good then it’s a sign of God’s love but if I fail and the adversity grinds me down what is it then other than my failure?

    Ah, the ol’ “that which does not kill me only has failed to kill me” (a complete refutation of the “that which does not kill me makes me stronger” philosophy, given that sometimes things just maim us).

    I’ve an essay that brushes on that: — though if you’ve read my previous essays on affliction you know that I think that (a) things are much worse than we appreciate (we are all slapping on mud and eating grubs compared to heaven) and things are not as bad as we think they are (it really is just a short moment and none of it is permanent except that which we chose).

    But, more directly, I think that adversity will transform you, one way or another, even if it seems like it is not. Life needs to be allowed to run, and often we are in the midst of something, not the end. If you are ground down, but do not choose evil, then you haven’t failed, regardless of how you look at it.

  17. Post

    I don’t know, GB. I have had experiences both with having adversity and with having it removed – in situations where explanation truly was defied. I wish I could say I knew, but I don’t. It’s one of those paradoxes I simply can’t answer even close to fully.

    I would say that God generally acts to preserve your ability to react to things freely and to allow growth, within a context of not distorting the world too badly.

    I’d also say that sayings, such as “God is not a tame lion” or “God is not a slot machine” or “God is not a black box” (a “black box” is a machine that you figure out how it works by what it does in response to input, as it may be a mystery how it works, but it works the same every time), do not do much for me. Fine, God isn’t tame, but that still doesn’t explain why sometimes tangible positive miracles occur and sometimes they do not.

    On the other hand, it makes a lot of sense to me when I read “My ways are not your ways” and God goes on to explain that he really is a lot smarter than we are with a lot more perspective. From there it makes sense that in the long run, God is putting it all together, especially as he has promised to make things right in the end.

  18. For him, maybe; for me, I’ll pass. I see the whole story as allegorical, so it doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t think God would do that just to prove a point to Lucifer. Then again, I could be spectacularly wrong about that.

    I’m not about to pray for trials like that. If they come my way, they come my way. If they don’t, I will bless God for it.

    Stephen, I know this is much more personal for you than for me, but I would be interested in your response to Rick’s question.

  19. Ray, I agree about Job as allegory. Bart Ehrman’s book, “God’s Problem” has a section on Job that’s very interesting. The story probably doesn’t involve lucifer as we understand him but a character referred to as the satan who in the story seems to be part of God’s council.

    Stephen, I remember your previous posts on this subjects and I’m afraid I don’t find you explanations very satisfying. To me it works better to just say there is no answer than to say, all in due time, God’s ways are not our ways, as bad as it is it will be better. My feeling is that the whole concept of heaven was a construct in the early Christian church to explain away why Christ hadn’t come and why as bad as this life is it will all be better on the other side. But when all is said and done the here and now is all we have. As the old hymn used to say before if was correlated, “there is no tomorrow but only today.”

    From what I’ve gathered from your posts, you’ve been through more than most and suffered hardships that I hope I never have to bear. But in my work I see people on a regular basis that are called to suffer. Some may be ennobled by it and others not but I see none of it as a sign of God’s love for them. Suffering just is. Bringing God into the picture risks seeing him as not all powerful on the one hand and random in his actions on the other.

  20. GBSmith – Perhaps I can address your questions. I feel that I’ve all but hit a literal brick wall of adversity in the past month and have therefore been doing a great deal of thinking on the matter and have some thoughts that I don’t think have been brought up so directly.

    I would suggest that we all will fail, at least at some point, to some degree, when presented with adversity. That seems a given. But I would also suggest that God gives us lots of chances, and especially on what he sees as the most important qualities for us to develop. If we don’t pass a big first challenge, hopefully we’ll grow from smaller subsequent challenges and become more as we should be. A failure does not always have to mean loss of hope.

    Some challenges keep coming anyway, that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It may be a key quality Heavenly Father desires us to learn during this life. I have a medical condition that can be quite debilitating at times, and have had it for a third of my life now. I don’t believe that there was anything for which I was punished at the time it began, or that I have failed to repent in attempt to heal (trust me, I’ve tried). I do think that there are certain things I might be unable to learn other ways. And God does love us enough that he provides us ways to grow–ways that may well be the very most effective for us, individually–even though I imagine it must break his heart at times as a parent (the Godly equivalent of a broken heart, of course).

    I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen: “God is putting it all together, especially as he has promised to make things right in the end.” Trials fit into that, whether some are failed tests or not. I enjoyed Pres. Eyring’s recent conference talk, “Adversity”, which I have read several times in the past few days and have gained some interesting insights from.

  21. Jared, I would disagree with you that for a statement to be insulting there needs to be intent to insult. Some statements are insulting for the very reason that the person making the statement seemingly has such little consideration for those to whom the statement is directed that they don’t even appreciate that it might be insulting. That said, I believe that you did not intend any insult. Your posts are generally very introspective and are clearly intended to be constructive. At the same time, this sort of speaks to my point. To wit, it can be frustrating to interact with someone who assumes a whole host of things that are absolutely not accepted among the parties as settled matters. I think it would be equally frustrating for a religious person to be in conversation with a proponent of evolution, and to have that person repeatedly say “because evolution is true, then …” This is exactly the same thing as a religious person making a statement that presupposes the truthfulness of the church or even the existence of god. This is particularly important when one is engaged in conversation with those whom he knows do not agree with him about those things that are being assumed to be true. Simply adding the words “I believe,” “in my experience,” or “according to the scriptures” as a precedent to statements asserting your strong religious convictions would go a long way in sending a message to others that you recognize there are differences of opinion and that you respect those that may be in opposition to yours. I think that even comments that express a sure knowledge of religious or LDS principles would be perfectly acceptable, when preceded by such an acknowledgement. Incidentally, I think it would increase your credibility on these issues as well, which should appeal to someone who clearly has a desire to spread what he considers to be an important message.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to stir the pot, these are the thoughts of someone who may be in the minority on this board.

  22. brjones–

    I’ve carefully read your comment and agree with many things you’ve stated. I particularly appreciate you’re desire to create understanding where points of view are at variance.

    There is no doubt I can improve in communicating what I would like to contribute to a given post.

    The point I want to make without offending others is that I am not seeking for truth any longer-I have it. The Lord is my friend and teacher. I am at a point, because of His grace and mercy, where I am able to access heaven’s help on a regular basis. This is the promise that every LDS has available, but few in our day are taking advantage of it. I have a desire to help others obtain what the Lord is willing and able to give each of us if we will fully embrace the doctrine of Christ.

  23. Well, I respect and appreciate your point of view, Jared, and I understand that you don’t have any questions about your religion, god, etc. The two points I would make are 1) it might be helpful for you to make an effort to recognize that everyone does not have the same sure knowledge of things that you do – even some who are diligently striving to find it; and 2) again, I think it’s an awful big assumption to say that “few in our day” are taking advantage of heaven’s help. The fact is, you really have almost no idea what anyone outside of your immediate family is or isn’t doing vis-a-vis his or her relationship with god. Many people have struggles and limitations that you can’t begin to comprehend and many are doing the absolute best they can. Beyond that, there may be someone out there who has an even higher level of communion with the almighty who is looking at you wondering why you aren’t progressed to his or her level and making judgments about you. Either way, it’s not appropriate. There is no need for any person to make judgments about what another person or group is or isn’t doing with their religion. It’s great that you want to help people find what you’ve found, but I’m not sure that starting out by saying “through my righteousness I have acheived constant access to god; I wonder why more people aren’t like me?” is the best way to get people’s attention. It comes off sounding arrogant and condescending, even though I believe that’s not how you mean it. In any event, I appreciate your sincerity, and that you are gracious in receiving criticism, even when you don’t agree with it.

  24. Heh… One of my favorite scriptural verses.

    I always follow it in my mind with: “God must love me a who~le lot!”

    Occasionally followed by “I wish He’d spread the love He’s giving me around a little bit more” depending on my mood.

  25. brjones–

    Its always interesting to have an exchange of ideas. Just a few points for clarification:

    Any access I have to the things of the Spirit is not due to my righteousness, it comes because of the atonement and then according to one’s desires (3 Nephi 12:6).

    I am always on the look out for someone who has experienced greater light and knowledge. It can be a learning experience. I’ve come across a few who fit the bill, Polynesians appear to be some of the most gifted among the saints. I was with a Polynesian lady recently and she shared many experiences, including an angelic visitation.

    Regarding this generation of LDS and my observation that many appear to lack interest in things of the Spirit, Moroni warned us about this. Out of all the things we could have told us he chose to say:

    24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.

    25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God. (Book of Mormon | Moroni 10:24 – 25)

  26. Post

    . My feeling is that the whole concept of heaven was a construct in the early Christian church to explain away …

    Well, if you decide that the afterlife is a construct and not real, then obviously you won’t like my thoughts or perspectives. I’m not sure we have enough in common then.

    It was Paul who said that if But when all is said and done the here and now is all we have then we are of all men, most miserable.

    In that context, there is no God that matters.

    I’d disagree, of course, and would side with Paul, with a good deal of attention to the midrash that is Hebrews — regardless of who wrote it.

  27. Stephen, actually in I Cor 15:12-34 Paul is arguing for the reality of the resurrection. In verses 12-19 (19 is the one you’re referring to “But when all is said and done the here and now is all we have then we are of all men, most miserable.”) he’s arguing that if there’s no resurrection, then Christ could not have been raised which is the basis of salvation and believers’ faith would be in vain. (foot note page 289 in the New Testament section of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV.) It’s not an afterlife that Paul’s referring to, it’s the reality of the resurrection. The old testament mentions almost nothing about any sort of life after this one and in the gospels Christ spent his time almost exclusively preaching about this life and made only a few passing references to a life after this one.

    I never said that I don’t believe in a life after mortality but but I think it’s important to consider where the concept may have come from along with possible reasons. My concern is the here and now and why things occur, specifically why there’s so much suffering. One of the main function of any religion is to try and help a person make sense of his/her experience and find meaning in their life. I’ve read your posts on the subject going back more than a year and though I can appreciate what you’re saying it’s just not convincing to me as to why adversity, suffering, etc. happen and there still be a loving all powerful all knowing god. To me is makes more sense to say that god doesn’t have anything to do with any of it, good or bad than to try and decide when and why we’re blessed and cursed.

  28. GB, I understand what you are saying and agree to a large degree – and I might agree totally if it weren’t for one thing:

    Especially in a handful of cases, in various ways, I have been given glimpses of the future in such a way as to burn indelibly into my heart the belief that God is aware of us and reaches down sometimes to give someone specific comfort, instruction or advance warning. Perhaps, in the end, we are saying much the same thing (that God isn’t “behind” or “causing” adversity and suffering), but I am left to wonder why it seems he assists some people, sometimes, in some way to be able to understand and accept their adversity and suffering while not seeming to assist others to the same degree (or at all). I can’t chalk it up to a difference in sincerity or effort, since I know I am not a single bit more sincere or dedicated than others I know who have not had my experiences. I am left to wonder if it isn’t something more ambiguous – more fundamental – more intrinsic – more SOMETHING, but I have no idea other than being convinced to my core that it has nothing whatsoever to do with me being “better” in ANY way than those who lack my experiences.

    I truly don’t know; I am baffled by it; there is no other explanation for at least three of my experiences, but I can’t begin to comprehend the “why” and the “what” behind them. I just know I am convinced He does reach down sometimes, and I am left totally and completely “confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me”.

  29. I really like this thread, as I’ve spent a lot of time considering this topic lately.

    I think it seems like trials are brought on by sin or brought on by the Lord “allowing” the adversary to tempt us to let us grow. But it really seems unlikely such cooperation and effort is directed towards individuals. Instead, it seems to me that there is plenty of hardships in the mortal world, it is just a matter of time until we get our share.

    Being in this world will help us grow. No one will skate through with no problems to deal with. Why do we have to think we are so special to get special attention to have trials given to us or taken from us when the world is filled with enough to go around?

  30. Ray, your comments reminded of something, your quote:
    “I am left to wonder why it seems he assists some people, sometimes, in some way to be able to understand and accept their adversity and suffering while not seeming to assist others to the same degree (or at all). ”

    I remember when Elizabeth Smart was finally recovered and the parents talked on the news about how they prayed and God answered their prayers to save their daughter. And that comment highly offended one commentator whose daughter was abducted and not recovered alive, asking why God would care about the Smart girl more than their daughter… it is nice to feel that way when it works out, but in real life there are some bad things that happen, and it is hard to explain why God sometimes intervenes and sometimes doesn’t.

  31. Ray, I guess for me the root of the problem is that I’ve not had the experiences that you’ve had. I’ve never had that sense of caring and God’s awareness or that feeling of being anchored so it’s all a bit of a mystery for me. Without those experiences it can be more of an intellectual exercise which isn’t always very satisfying. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts.

  32. If Job’s acccount is allegorical, then how do you explain D&C 121: 9-10, when the Lord is comforting Joseph Smith: “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands. Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job”?

  33. I think the reference is to Job’s experience as compared to that of Joseph Smith’s but I don’t think it can be used as evidence that Job was a real person and not a story. People make references and comparisons to themes from literature and mythology without their having to be real. To me, it’s just a way of illustrating a point.

  34. Post

    it is hard to explain why God sometimes intervenes and sometimes doesn’t — especially because God sometimes intervenes very tangibly and doesn’t sometimes the same way.

    I agree we see in a foggy mirror or through a glass, darkly, the reality we are in.

  35. As far as adversity goes, I don’t see why god needs a place here. One can grow from adversity with a belief in god or without a belief in god. S___ happens, as the saying goes. How one deals with it, certainly shapes who one becomes. But why does god have to be involved? I agree with GB Smith in #21. Believe in god leads to frustration for many. Haunting questions like why did god do this, or why did god not prevent this, or why won’t god help me out of this can lead to serious unhappiness. Some believe god hates them or doesn’t care about them. Some feel even worse when someone else claims god answered their prayers (like the Elizabeth Smart example where the father of a girl who was never found felt offended that the Smart family claimed god answered their prayers).

    Whether one believes in god’s involvement or not, I definitely agree with Ray that the story of Job is a “very good caution for people who want to see a direct correlation between righteousness and adversity.” I think there is way too much of this going around, and many times, to the self more than to others. As Christ taught when asked upon seeing a blind man who had sinned, he or his parents: Neither this man nor his parents sinned.

    Whether or not one believes in god, this is a valuable lesson. My heart goes out to those who suffer adversity and then add to their sorrows by blaming themselves for not being righteous enough. Surely many have brought adversity on themselves by their choices. But also many have beat themselves up over things that had nothing to do with whether they sinned or not. As the bible states, “time and chance happeneth to them all.” One does not have to believe the bible is inspired to agree with that.

    I have thought of this Job issue before. If the story of Job is allegorical, and if Joseph Smith knew that, I think his natural response to the question of whether he has sufferedd as Job would be: “you mean the fictional character? I haven’t suffered as much as the fictional character? That’s supposed to comfort me?” Honestly, if I was trying to comfort a friend who was going through a tough time I would use a real world example, not a storybook character.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *