Carborendum

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

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It has been said that this is the one question that theists cannot answer.  I would say that it is one question that atheists will not accept an answer to.  There is history to this question that needs to be pointed out.

Thousands of years ago, people asked this question of "the gods."  But this was not meant as an excuse to disbelieve there were gods or even "God."  At the time, such an idea would be like saying that the stars didn't shine at night.  It was intended, instead, to be a philosophical question to allow people to ponder and consider the nature and purpose of suffering in the world.

While I don't know where, when, or who... the question was eventually turned on its head by atheists as a weapon to bludgeon the theist.  "If you can't answer this question, then you are just an ignoramus who believes in the unbelievable."  The atheist (who claims both moral and intellectual superiority in this vein) fails to recognize how ignorant this position is.  "I refuse to believe in a God that allows good people to suffer."

The fact is that the question itself is flawed in many ways.  For example:

  • What is considered "bad"?
  • Why is "suffering" an automatic "bad thing"?
  • What exactly makes a "good person"?
  • Is suffering all you see?
  • What have YOU done to alleviate suffering of those you cite?
  • Regardless of the answer, how does that change the reality of God in any way?
  • If you were God, what would you do that is different?  How would you handle all the side-effects of going your route?

Omnipotent

By the very nature of reality, there cannot be a truly, completely, in every conceivable way:  "All powerful"  Imagine how completely boring that would be.  Where would the glory be in that?  Where would be the joy?  What power can there be when anything can be anything else?  Nothing is anything, therefore any power to do anything is meaningless. 

It is a philosophical paradox that if you were truly all powerful, you actually have no power to do anything meaningful.  And if you can't do anything meaningful, you're really a failure.

"Omnipotent" in previous centuries didn't really mean what many people think of in the absolute sense.  It tended to mean two things:

  • Having so much more power than any other being in consideration that they may as well be completely all powerful.
  • He is the final authority.  There is no higher court to take your appeal.  He's the last and final word on whether you live or die.

With this, we understand that there are certain realities that have to be addressed, if not obeyed -- no matter if you are all powerful or not.

A Good Person

The Savior said:

Quote

 ... Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

 -- Matt 19:17 

(Also see Ps 14: 2-3; Ps 53:1-3; & Rom 3:10)

With this one verse, the Savior pointed out that NO ONE has a claim on the title of "good person."  We're all sinners.  We're ALL fallen.  Yet the atheist would have us believe that there are some among us that don't have need of redemption.  How can we answer a quesion that starts out with an incorrect assumption that has already been pointed out?

None of us has a credible claim to rewards in heaven earth.  The late Milton Friedman said, "First of all, none of us get what we deserve.  And thank heaven for that."  The reality is that without a Savior, every one of us would be deserving of the pains of hell for all eternity.  Think about that.  That is how evil every one of us are.  That is how terrible the nature of sin is.  And if we had all the worst things in life happen to us, that would be justice for our sins.

So, when someone asks, "Why me?"  I might ask, "Why NOT me?"

Yet we sit smug in our comfortable world where we can say "Meh,  I'm a good enough person and have a good enough life."

False assumption.  False conclusion.

Bad Things

How do we know what is a bad thing?  It causes pain or suffering?  Sounds reasonable. But is it true?  Read the following story:

https://www.lollydaskal.com/leadership/good-luck-bad-luck-knows/

I heard a better much longer version that went back and forth to good and bad things to hammer the point home.  But the point is illustrated sufficiently here.

I know of a lot of things in my life that seemed bad at the time (Seriously.  I was in the middle of long term unemployment and was considering suicide, literally) but with hindsight, I now see what good eventually came of it.  Most of my life I've had "bad things" happen that were necessary steps to get me to another place where some really good things happened.

So, how do we know?  I'd submit that we simply don't.  I could also tell you of some stories in my family history where an untimely death in the family turned out to be a good thing.  An abusive situation turned a life around and many good things eventually turned out good.

By saying this, I'm sure some smart aleck will ask, "So, you're saying that abuse is a good thing?"  Well, live up to the moniker "Aleck" and you can miss the gold by looking for the sludge.  Again, this is the attitude of the atheist who asks the original question.

Third Parties

Suffering/misfortune is required for there to be the opportunity to serve.  

Quote

 ... wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

  -- 2 Ne 2:23

This is often discussed as a commentary on "opposition in all things."  Yes, it is.  But it also says something about the nature of "need."  We see people suffering all the time.  But when we KNOW those people, then we tend to place them in two camps:

  • Well, that's what they get when ...
  • Oh, wow!  That's unfortunate.  We need to help them out.

Even there we tend to make a partial judgment about "bad things happening to good people".  But at no time is it an excuse to disbelieve in God.  It is whether we would be helping or harming by offering succor to that person at that time.

I'd submit that the vast majority of Christians use it as an excuse to perform some meaningful service.  I'd also submit that the vast majority of Atheists use it as an excuse to disbelieve God.  Thus we see that the "allowance of suffering" says very little about God.  It speaks volumes about the person asking the question.

Most of the time when atheist decry God's ambivalence to human suffering, it is just an excuse.  How many of them actually try to do something about it themselves?  Most don't.  That's why the question was never about the suffering itself.  It was just an excuse.  And as an excuse, no answer to the question is acceptable.

Nature of Trials

Too often we think of anything unpleasant as "undesireable".  Well, then why the heck did I eat all those peas (I hate peas).  They're good for me.  Well, so is kim chee.  But no one was trying to force me to eat that all the time.  We do some things we don't really enjoy because we know they're good for us.

Quote

We could bear nearly any pain or disappointment if we thought there was a reason behind it, a purpose, to it.

  -- Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. 

The successful person is willing to go through that which the unsuccessful person is NOT willing to go through.  Let me rephrase.

One who inherits the Celestial Kingdom is willing to suffer what the Telestial/Terrestrial person is NOT willing to suffer.

Quote

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them

 -- Abr 3:25

We tend to think of "prove" as in a court of law or a matter of debate to determine if something is true or false.  It isn't really just that dichotomy alone.  Another definition of "prove" is

Quote

to subject to a test, experiment... to determine quality,...characteristics, etc.

 Dictionary.com

These trials are not only to strengthen us, but to show what our true qualities and characteristics are.

Quote

“To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.
What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.  Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.”

  -- Sun Tzu,  The Art of War.

Thus, we go back to the nature of "Omnipotent".  God is not to be revered because He overcomes simple tasks, but because He can overcome the greatest of challenges.  Similarly, we ourselves cannot hope for great reward in heaven without overcoming great trials either.  It has nothing to do with "what we deserve."  It has everything to do with eventual results.

In that way, we see suffering as simply a necessary part of life.  And we tend to be able to bear it much more easily.

************************************************

I'm going to use my recent experience during this winter storm as an illustration for all this.

During this winter storm, I did what I thought was supposed to be done.  But I was rushing through all my preps. Then I prayed to have the Lord bless my efforts that they would be sufficient.

But some "bad things" happened. 

  • A pipe burst in the well house.  And a pipe burst in the wall of my house.  These two things alerted me to some dysfunctional items of the plumbing at my house.  I needed to fix them.  I also learned a great deal from the experience.  I learned a lot more about plumbing than I had in the past.  I also have some drywall and framing work that I cannot do on my own.  So, I can hire a friend who's been looking for work.  And he's very good at drywall.  I learned other things I need to fix for some future expansion I was planning.  I learned about some things to NOT do with the shut offs that I had.
  • We thought we were well prepared for the cold because we had plenty of water and plenty of wood.  But one thing we discovered is that you can't stay warm on hardwood (oak) alone.  You have to have a balance of hard and softwood (pine).  We had plenty of oak.  We had very little pine.  I spent a bunch of time trying to split oak.  Very difficult.  My neighbor (bishopric) must have seen me suffering and came over to tell me that he had plenty of pine to share.  Later, my ministering brother came and gave me a bunch of more wood.  His was oak also.  But for some reason, his was easier to split into smaller pieces.  They burned hotter than the thick logs we had prepared.  More learning.  More opportunities for service.  This time, I was on the receiving end.  A rare thing.
  • The State of Texas experienced blackouts like never before.  This was bigger, longer, and more widespread than Harvey.  But what we learned was that we had weaknesses in the grid.  A large part was our dependence on renewables.  Part of it was an outdated system.  Part of it was the dependence on warmer weather (this was a storm like we'd never seen).  We learned what we need to improve on.

So, why is there no answer to the question?  There is.  In fact, there are many (many more than I've listed here).  But none that the atheist cares to listen to.

Edited by Carborendum

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It's a question that every thoughtful person has had. It's also fundamentally a stupid question. What makes a person "good"? A good person is one who does the right thing even when it's hard, painful, and unrewarding. If only good things happened to good people, and if only good people got good things, then guess what? EVERYONE WOULD BE GOOD. Which actually means that no one would be good.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Because that's how we define people as good.

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4 minutes ago, Vort said:

A good person is one who does the right thing even when it's hard, painful, and unrewarding.

From Brandon Sanderson (via Dalinar Kohlin):

A principle is a principle because it is a hard thing to do.  It is a principle because it asks us to sacrifice something and even suffer for it.  Without that, it isn't a principle.

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Didn’t read the long post... but I figured I would share my 2 cents (which is probably worth more like $100,000,000)

“Why do bad things happen to good people” is a misplaced question grounded in a false pretense. It’s begging the question from the start. It also is a question that comes from a Christian that doesn’t truly believe the gospel he professes.

Anyone who asks this question likely believes in some divine being that has and commands a moral way of life see and promises eternal life in the world to come. Like wise, anyone who asks this question also sees this life as the end all be all, that any blessing a god has for us is found in this life. Only when these two beliefs are held. Y an individual does the question arise. 
 

I liken it to a child who is going to get ice cream as long as he behaves on the car rise there. While on their way, the child’s car seat buckle begins to become uncomfortable, he becomes furious and shouts “I THOUGHT YOU SAID WE WERE GOING TO GET ICE CREAM!!”. The child believes that his moral mother is going to bless him with ice cream if he behaves. He also believes that it he car ride is all there is, that there is no ice cream store because he hasn’t seen it. He is expecting a reward equal to the ice cream he was promised because all he knows is right now. If he doesn’t get the expected reward, then he will start to think his mother is unjust, or even cease to belief he even has a mother.

Edited by Fether

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I am not sure that many understand very much concerning what the depth of the question is.  Since I have dealt with a great many atheists I will speak as best I can though I am not all that worthy to speak for atheists.  

First off -- What is meant by Good People are those that make and strive to keep covenants with G-d. 

Bad things are the maledictions expected to happen to those that deliberately do not make nor keep sacred covenants with G-d.

The classic example is Job as recorded in ancient scripture.  Perhaps the most misunderstood principle of the plan of happiness of G-d is that if we define all things between birth and death then the arguments of atheists are well founded and have no reasonable answer.  Without belief of a pre-existence and a post death resurrection no religion makes any sense any more than the beliefs of infidels and atheists.   Even the Book of Job would be proven to be fantasy with ample historical precedence unless we can project to a post resurrection. 

Regardless of whatever efforts any individual devotes themselves to in life - death is the inevitable result and only through faith can there be hope of a resurrection.  There is no empirical evidence of a resurrection - so without faith in the resurrection there is no possible hope beyond death - death being the ultimate bad thing. 

 

The Traveler

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On 3/5/2021 at 12:24 PM, Carborendum said:

It has been said that this is the one question that theists cannot answer.  I would say that it is one question that atheists will not accept an answer to.  There is history to this question that needs to be pointed out.

Thousands of years ago, people asked this question of "the gods."  But this was not meant as an excuse to disbelieve there were gods or even "God."  At the time, such an idea would be like saying that the stars didn't shine at night.  It was intended, instead, to be a philosophical question to allow people to ponder and consider the nature and purpose of suffering in the world.

While I don't know where, when, or who... the question was eventually turned on its head by atheists as a weapon to bludgeon the theist.  "If you can't answer this question, then you are just an ignoramus who believes in the unbelievable."  The atheist (who claims both moral and intellectual superiority in this vein) fails to recognize how ignorant this position is.  "I refuse to believe in a God that allows good people to suffer."

The fact is that the question itself is flawed in many ways.  For example:

  • What is considered "bad"?
  • Why is "suffering" an automatic "bad thing"?
  • What exactly makes a "good person"?
  • Is suffering all you see?
  • What have YOU done to alleviate suffering of those you cite?
  • Regardless of the answer, how does that change the reality of God in any way?
  • If you were God, what would you do that is different?  How would you handle all the side-effects of going your route?

Omnipotent

By the very nature of reality, there cannot be a truly, completely, in every conceivable way:  "All powerful"  Imagine how completely boring that would be.  Where would the glory be in that?  Where would be the joy?  What power can there be when anything can be anything else?  Nothing is anything, therefore any power to do anything is meaningless. 

It is a philosophical paradox that if you were truly all powerful, you actually have no power to do anything meaningful.  And if you can't do anything meaningful, you're really a failure.

"Omnipotent" in previous centuries didn't really mean what many people think of in the absolute sense.  It tended to mean two things:

  • Having so much more power than any other being in consideration that they may as well be completely all powerful.
  • He is the final authority.  There is no higher court to take your appeal.  He's the last and final word on whether you live or die.

With this, we understand that there are certain realities that have to be addressed, if not obeyed -- no matter if you are all powerful or not.

A Good Person

The Savior said:

With this one verse, the Savior pointed out that NO ONE has a claim on the title of "good person."  We're all sinners.  We're ALL fallen.  Yet the atheist would have us believe that there are some among us that don't have need of redemption.  How can we answer a quesion that starts out with an incorrect assumption that has already been pointed out?

None of us has a credible claim to rewards in heaven earth.  The late Milton Friedman said, "First of all, none of us get what we deserve.  And thank heaven for that."  The reality is that without a Savior, every one of us would be deserving of the pains of hell for all eternity.  Think about that.  That is how evil every one of us are.  That is how terrible the nature of sin is.  And if we had all the worst things in life happen to us, that would be justice for our sins.

So, when someone asks, "Why me?"  I might ask, "Why NOT me?"

Yet we sit smug in our comfortable world where we can say "Meh,  I'm a good enough person and have a good enough life."

False assumption.  False conclusion.

Bad Things

How do we know what is a bad thing?  It causes pain or suffering?  Sounds reasonable. But is it true?  Read the following story:

https://www.lollydaskal.com/leadership/good-luck-bad-luck-knows/

I heard a better much longer version that went back and forth to good and bad things to hammer the point home.  But the point is illustrated sufficiently here.

I know of a lot of things in my life that seemed bad at the time (Seriously.  I was in the middle of long term unemployment and was considering suicide, literally) but with hindsight, I now see what good eventually came of it.  Most of my life I've had "bad things" happen that were necessary steps to get me to another place where some really good things happened.

So, how do we know?  I'd submit that we simply don't.  I could also tell you of some stories in my family history where an untimely death in the family turned out to be a good thing.  An abusive situation turned a life around and many good things eventually turned out good.

By saying this, I'm sure some smart aleck will ask, "So, you're saying that abuse is a good thing?"  Well, live up to the moniker "Aleck" and you can miss the gold by looking for the sludge.  Again, this is the attitude of the atheist who asks the original question.

Third Parties

Suffering/misfortune is required for there to be the opportunity to serve.  

This is often discussed as a commentary on "opposition in all things."  Yes, it is.  But it also says something about the nature of "need."  We see people suffering all the time.  But when we KNOW those people, then we tend to place them in two camps:

  • Well, that's what they get when ...
  • Oh, wow!  That's unfortunate.  We need to help them out.

Even there we tend to make a partial judgment about "bad things happening to good people".  But at no time is it an excuse to disbelieve in God.  It is whether we would be helping or harming by offering succor to that person at that time.

I'd submit that the vast majority of Christians use it as an excuse to perform some meaningful service.  I'd also submit that the vast majority of Atheists use it as an excuse to disbelieve God.  Thus we see that the "allowance of suffering" says very little about God.  It speaks volumes about the person asking the question.

Most of the time when atheist decry God's ambivalence to human suffering, it is just an excuse.  How many of them actually try to do something about it themselves?  Most don't.  That's why the question was never about the suffering itself.  It was just an excuse.  And as an excuse, no answer to the question is acceptable.

Nature of Trials

Too often we think of anything unpleasant as "undesireable".  Well, then why the heck did I eat all those peas (I hate peas).  They're good for me.  Well, so is kim chee.  But no one was trying to force me to eat that all the time.  We do some things we don't really enjoy because we know they're good for us.

The successful person is willing to go through that which the unsuccessful person is NOT willing to go through.  Let me rephrase.

One who inherits the Celestial Kingdom is willing to suffer what the Telestial/Terrestrial person is NOT willing to suffer.

We tend to think of "prove" as in a court of law or a matter of debate to determine if something is true or false.  It isn't really just that dichotomy alone.  Another definition of "prove" is

These trials are not only to strengthen us, but to show what our true qualities and characteristics are.

Thus, we go back to the nature of "Omnipotent".  God is not to be revered because He overcomes simple tasks, but because He can overcome the greatest of challenges.  Similarly, we ourselves cannot hope for great reward in heaven without overcoming great trials either.  It has nothing to do with "what we deserve."  It has everything to do with eventual results.

In that way, we see suffering as simply a necessary part of life.  And we tend to be able to bear it much more easily.

************************************************

I'm going to use my recent experience during this winter storm as an illustration for all this.

During this winter storm, I did what I thought was supposed to be done.  But I was rushing through all my preps. Then I prayed to have the Lord bless my efforts that they would be sufficient.

But some "bad things" happened. 

  • A pipe burst in the well house.  And a pipe burst in the wall of my house.  These two things alerted me to some dysfunctional items of the plumbing at my house.  I needed to fix them.  I also learned a great deal from the experience.  I learned a lot more about plumbing than I had in the past.  I also have some drywall and framing work that I cannot do on my own.  So, I can hire a friend who's been looking for work.  And he's very good at drywall.  I learned other things I need to fix for some future expansion I was planning.  I learned about some things to NOT do with the shut offs that I had.
  • We thought we were well prepared for the cold because we had plenty of water and plenty of wood.  But one thing we discovered is that you can't stay warm on hardwood (oak) alone.  You have to have a balance of hard and softwood (pine).  We had plenty of oak.  We had very little pine.  I spent a bunch of time trying to split oak.  Very difficult.  My neighbor (bishopric) must have seen me suffering and came over to tell me that he had plenty of pine to share.  Later, my ministering brother came and gave me a bunch of more wood.  His was oak also.  But for some reason, his was easier to split into smaller pieces.  They burned hotter than the thick logs we had prepared.  More learning.  More opportunities for service.  This time, I was on the receiving end.  A rare thing.
  • The State of Texas experienced blackouts like never before.  This was bigger, longer, and more widespread than Harvey.  But what we learned was that we had weaknesses in the grid.  A large part was our dependence on renewables.  Part of it was an outdated system.  Part of it was the dependence on warmer weather (this was a storm like we'd never seen).  We learned what we need to improve on.

So, why is there no answer to the question?  There is.  In fact, there are many (many more than I've listed here).  But none that the atheist cares to listen to.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I think it's a matter of perspective, and what one chooses to call good and bad.

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On 3/5/2021 at 12:24 PM, Carborendum said:

The fact is that the question itself is flawed in many ways.  For example:

  • What is considered "bad"?
  • Why is "suffering" an automatic "bad thing"?
  • What exactly makes a "good person"?
  • Is suffering all you see?
  • What have YOU done to alleviate suffering of those you cite?
  • Regardless of the answer, how does that change the reality of God in any way?
  • If you were God, what would you do that is different?  How would you handle all the side-effects of going your route?

 

On 3/7/2021 at 3:20 PM, CV75 said:

Why do bad things happen to good people? I think it's a matter of perspective, and what one chooses to call good and bad.

 

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Here's an example of a conversation I had with an atheist who decided to mock me (yes, literally mocked me) for being a theist.

A: Why does he let bad things happen to good people?
C: There are thousands of answers for thousands of different circumstances.  Which one do you want?
A: So, you can't answer it?
C: For the most part I can.  But each circumstance is different.  So, the purpose of suffering is different for each circumstance.  It would be impossible to do know the purpose in EVERY single situation.  But there are many that we do know and do understand.
A: So give me just one example.
C: OK.  So in this one  circumstance I recall (I proceeded to tell the story of something that seemed very bad, but turned out to be good).
A: Well, sure.  But that doesn't explain...
C: Now wait.  What did I start off by telling you?
A: What do you mean?
C: I said there are thousands of circumstances with their unique purpose for suffering.  We can't know them all.
A: Yeah, but you can talk about some of them.
C: Yes.  You asked for one example.  I gave it to you. And you even AGREED with me that it was a plausible explanation.  But now you want another.  Then another.  Then another...  How many will you insist upon before you realize that there are answers to this question?  But you throw them aside.
A: Well, I just want to get a good idea that there is an answer.
C:That's you're problem.  You are insisting there is ONE answer for ALL suffering.  There isn't.  I said at the beginning that each circumstance has its unique reason for suffering.
A: So, you can't answer the question.  See?  I told you.
C: Yup.  You told me.

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2 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Here's an example of a conversation I had with an atheist who decided to mock me (yes, literally mocked me) for being a theist.

This is the type of circular reasoning you really can't compete with. The answer is already made up in their minds (stiff necks as the scriptures like to call it), and as the answer is already deemed -- unanswerable -- the result is being pigeonholed.

How good follows bad circumstances is an authentic answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people, and to be clear when I hear the phrase "good people" I am always reminded of Christ's words, "Why callest thou me good..."?

Define good? In order to have "bad" things happen to "good" people please define good? Please define bad? What is the transition from "bad" to "good" and vice-versa?

Edited by Anddenex

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4 minutes ago, Anddenex said:

This is the type of circular reasoning you really can't compete with. The answer is already made up in their minds (stiff necks as the scriptures like to call it), and as the answer is already deemed -- unanswerable -- the result is being pigeonholed.

How good follows bad circumstances is an authentic answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people, and to be clear when I hear the phrase "good people" I am always reminded of Christ's words, "Why callest thou me good..."?

Define good? In order to have "bad" things happen to "good" people please define good? Please define bad? What is the transition from "bad" to "good" and vice-versa?

Gee, where have I heard this before?

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9 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

Gee, where have I heard this before?

The sad thing is I didn't read the whole original post. I read the first part, so I assume great minds think alike -- maybe. I think I will go with that rather than being lazy in reading the hole post. 😅

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2 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Here's an example of a conversation I had with an atheist who decided to mock me (yes, literally mocked me) for being a theist.

A: Why does he let bad things happen to good people?
😄 There are thousands of answers for thousands of different circumstances.  Which one do you want?
A: So, you can't answer it?
😄 For the most part I can.  But each circumstance is different.  So, the purpose of suffering is different for each circumstance.  It would be impossible to do know the purpose in EVERY single situation.  But there are many that we do know and do understand.
A: So give me just one example.
😄 OK.  So in this one  circumstance I recall (I proceeded to tell the story of something that seemed very bad, but turned out to be good).
A: Well, sure.  But that doesn't explain...
😄 Now wait.  What did I start off by telling you?
A: What do you mean?
😄 I said there are thousands of circumstances with their unique purpose for suffering.  We can't know them all.
A: Yeah, but you can talk about some of them.
😄 Yes.  You asked for one example.  I gave it to you. And you even AGREED with me that it was a plausible explanation.  But now you want another.  Then another.  Then another...  How many will you insist upon before you realize that there are answers to this question?  But you throw them aside.
A: Well, I just want to get a good idea that there is an answer.
C:That's you're problem.  You are insisting there is ONE answer for ALL suffering.  There isn't.  I said at the beginning that each circumstance has its unique reason for suffering.
A: So, you can't answer the question.  See?  I told you.
😄 Yup.  You told me.

*eyeroll*

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The next time this question comes my why, if my memory is working, I will be tempted to commence my reply by saying something like, "so what you're asking is why do things that I think are bad happen to people that I think are good?" 

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On 3/5/2021 at 12:24 PM, Carborendum said:

It has been said that this is the one question that theists cannot answer.  I would say that it is one question that atheists will not accept an answer to.  There is history to this question that needs to be pointed out.

Thousands of years ago, people asked this question of "the gods."  But this was not meant as an excuse to disbelieve there were gods or even "God."  At the time, such an idea would be like saying that the stars didn't shine at night.  It was intended, instead, to be a philosophical question to allow people to ponder and consider the nature and purpose of suffering in the world.

While I don't know where, when, or who... the question was eventually turned on its head by atheists as a weapon to bludgeon the theist.  "If you can't answer this question, then you are just an ignoramus who believes in the unbelievable."  The atheist (who claims both moral and intellectual superiority in this vein) fails to recognize how ignorant this position is.  "I refuse to believe in a God that allows good people to suffer."

The fact is that the question itself is flawed in many ways.  For example:

  • What is considered "bad"?
  • Why is "suffering" an automatic "bad thing"?
  • What exactly makes a "good person"?
  • Is suffering all you see?
  • What have YOU done to alleviate suffering of those you cite?
  • Regardless of the answer, how does that change the reality of God in any way?
  • If you were God, what would you do that is different?  How would you handle all the side-effects of going your route?

Omnipotent

By the very nature of reality, there cannot be a truly, completely, in every conceivable way:  "All powerful"  Imagine how completely boring that would be.  Where would the glory be in that?  Where would be the joy?  What power can there be when anything can be anything else?  Nothing is anything, therefore any power to do anything is meaningless. 

It is a philosophical paradox that if you were truly all powerful, you actually have no power to do anything meaningful.  And if you can't do anything meaningful, you're really a failure.

"Omnipotent" in previous centuries didn't really mean what many people think of in the absolute sense.  It tended to mean two things:

  • Having so much more power than any other being in consideration that they may as well be completely all powerful.
  • He is the final authority.  There is no higher court to take your appeal.  He's the last and final word on whether you live or die.

With this, we understand that there are certain realities that have to be addressed, if not obeyed -- no matter if you are all powerful or not.

A Good Person

The Savior said:

With this one verse, the Savior pointed out that NO ONE has a claim on the title of "good person."  We're all sinners.  We're ALL fallen.  Yet the atheist would have us believe that there are some among us that don't have need of redemption.  How can we answer a quesion that starts out with an incorrect assumption that has already been pointed out?

None of us has a credible claim to rewards in heaven earth.  The late Milton Friedman said, "First of all, none of us get what we deserve.  And thank heaven for that."  The reality is that without a Savior, every one of us would be deserving of the pains of hell for all eternity.  Think about that.  That is how evil every one of us are.  That is how terrible the nature of sin is.  And if we had all the worst things in life happen to us, that would be justice for our sins.

So, when someone asks, "Why me?"  I might ask, "Why NOT me?"

Yet we sit smug in our comfortable world where we can say "Meh,  I'm a good enough person and have a good enough life."

False assumption.  False conclusion.

Bad Things

How do we know what is a bad thing?  It causes pain or suffering?  Sounds reasonable. But is it true?  Read the following story:

https://www.lollydaskal.com/leadership/good-luck-bad-luck-knows/

I heard a better much longer version that went back and forth to good and bad things to hammer the point home.  But the point is illustrated sufficiently here.

I know of a lot of things in my life that seemed bad at the time (Seriously.  I was in the middle of long term unemployment and was considering suicide, literally) but with hindsight, I now see what good eventually came of it.  Most of my life I've had "bad things" happen that were necessary steps to get me to another place where some really good things happened.

So, how do we know?  I'd submit that we simply don't.  I could also tell you of some stories in my family history where an untimely death in the family turned out to be a good thing.  An abusive situation turned a life around and many good things eventually turned out good.

By saying this, I'm sure some smart aleck will ask, "So, you're saying that abuse is a good thing?"  Well, live up to the moniker "Aleck" and you can miss the gold by looking for the sludge.  Again, this is the attitude of the atheist who asks the original question.

Third Parties

Suffering/misfortune is required for there to be the opportunity to serve.  

This is often discussed as a commentary on "opposition in all things."  Yes, it is.  But it also says something about the nature of "need."  We see people suffering all the time.  But when we KNOW those people, then we tend to place them in two camps:

  • Well, that's what they get when ...
  • Oh, wow!  That's unfortunate.  We need to help them out.

Even there we tend to make a partial judgment about "bad things happening to good people".  But at no time is it an excuse to disbelieve in God.  It is whether we would be helping or harming by offering succor to that person at that time.

I'd submit that the vast majority of Christians use it as an excuse to perform some meaningful service.  I'd also submit that the vast majority of Atheists use it as an excuse to disbelieve God.  Thus we see that the "allowance of suffering" says very little about God.  It speaks volumes about the person asking the question.

Most of the time when atheist decry God's ambivalence to human suffering, it is just an excuse.  How many of them actually try to do something about it themselves?  Most don't.  That's why the question was never about the suffering itself.  It was just an excuse.  And as an excuse, no answer to the question is acceptable.

Nature of Trials

Too often we think of anything unpleasant as "undesireable".  Well, then why the heck did I eat all those peas (I hate peas).  They're good for me.  Well, so is kim chee.  But no one was trying to force me to eat that all the time.  We do some things we don't really enjoy because we know they're good for us.

The successful person is willing to go through that which the unsuccessful person is NOT willing to go through.  Let me rephrase.

One who inherits the Celestial Kingdom is willing to suffer what the Telestial/Terrestrial person is NOT willing to suffer.

We tend to think of "prove" as in a court of law or a matter of debate to determine if something is true or false.  It isn't really just that dichotomy alone.  Another definition of "prove" is

These trials are not only to strengthen us, but to show what our true qualities and characteristics are.

Thus, we go back to the nature of "Omnipotent".  God is not to be revered because He overcomes simple tasks, but because He can overcome the greatest of challenges.  Similarly, we ourselves cannot hope for great reward in heaven without overcoming great trials either.  It has nothing to do with "what we deserve."  It has everything to do with eventual results.

In that way, we see suffering as simply a necessary part of life.  And we tend to be able to bear it much more easily.

************************************************

I'm going to use my recent experience during this winter storm as an illustration for all this.

During this winter storm, I did what I thought was supposed to be done.  But I was rushing through all my preps. Then I prayed to have the Lord bless my efforts that they would be sufficient.

But some "bad things" happened. 

  • A pipe burst in the well house.  And a pipe burst in the wall of my house.  These two things alerted me to some dysfunctional items of the plumbing at my house.  I needed to fix them.  I also learned a great deal from the experience.  I learned a lot more about plumbing than I had in the past.  I also have some drywall and framing work that I cannot do on my own.  So, I can hire a friend who's been looking for work.  And he's very good at drywall.  I learned other things I need to fix for some future expansion I was planning.  I learned about some things to NOT do with the shut offs that I had.
  • We thought we were well prepared for the cold because we had plenty of water and plenty of wood.  But one thing we discovered is that you can't stay warm on hardwood (oak) alone.  You have to have a balance of hard and softwood (pine).  We had plenty of oak.  We had very little pine.  I spent a bunch of time trying to split oak.  Very difficult.  My neighbor (bishopric) must have seen me suffering and came over to tell me that he had plenty of pine to share.  Later, my ministering brother came and gave me a bunch of more wood.  His was oak also.  But for some reason, his was easier to split into smaller pieces.  They burned hotter than the thick logs we had prepared.  More learning.  More opportunities for service.  This time, I was on the receiving end.  A rare thing.
  • The State of Texas experienced blackouts like never before.  This was bigger, longer, and more widespread than Harvey.  But what we learned was that we had weaknesses in the grid.  A large part was our dependence on renewables.  Part of it was an outdated system.  Part of it was the dependence on warmer weather (this was a storm like we'd never seen).  We learned what we need to improve on.

So, why is there no answer to the question?  There is.  In fact, there are many (many more than I've listed here).  But none that the atheist cares to 

Edited by Jedi_Nephite
Accidentally posted before I wrote anything.

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This reminds me of the movie “Signs.”  For those who have not seen it, it’s about an alien invasion. However, the movie mainly takes place on a farm and is told from the perspective of a family that recently lost a mother who was killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel while she was out for a walk.  The husband, who was a farmer and minister, was so angry with God that his wife had to die, that he divided God wasn’t real and abandoned his faith.  Meanwhile, his son has asthma, and his daughter has a weird phobia about germs that causes her to constantly leave nearly full glasses of water all over the house.  At some point in the movie, when it looks like the son is about to die from an asthma attack, it turns out that is the very thing that saves his life.  The daughter’s germ phobia, as well as some some other things, also contribute to what saved everyone.  Basically, the point the movie makes is that God has a purpose to our afflictions that we don’t understand.

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On 3/5/2021 at 1:24 PM, Carborendum said:

It has been said that this is the one question that theists cannot answer.  I would say that it is one question that atheists will not accept an answer to.  There is history to this question that needs to be pointed out.

Thousands of years ago, people asked this question of "the gods."  But this was not meant as an excuse to disbelieve there were gods or even "God."  At the time, such an idea would be like saying that the stars didn't shine at night.  It was intended, instead, to be a philosophical question to allow people to ponder and consider the nature and purpose of suffering in the world.

While I don't know where, when, or who... the question was eventually turned on its head by atheists as a weapon to bludgeon the theist.  "If you can't answer this question, then you are just an ignoramus who believes in the unbelievable."  The atheist (who claims both moral and intellectual superiority in this vein) fails to recognize how ignorant this position is.  "I refuse to believe in a God that allows good people to suffer."

The fact is that the question itself is flawed in many ways.  For example:

  • What is considered "bad"?
  • Why is "suffering" an automatic "bad thing"?
  • What exactly makes a "good person"?
  • Is suffering all you see?
  • What have YOU done to alleviate suffering of those you cite?
  • Regardless of the answer, how does that change the reality of God in any way?
  • If you were God, what would you do that is different?  How would you handle all the side-effects of going your route?

Omnipotent

By the very nature of reality, there cannot be a truly, completely, in every conceivable way:  "All powerful"  Imagine how completely boring that would be.  Where would the glory be in that?  Where would be the joy?  What power can there be when anything can be anything else?  Nothing is anything, therefore any power to do anything is meaningless. 

It is a philosophical paradox that if you were truly all powerful, you actually have no power to do anything meaningful.  And if you can't do anything meaningful, you're really a failure.

"Omnipotent" in previous centuries didn't really mean what many people think of in the absolute sense.  It tended to mean two things:

  • Having so much more power than any other being in consideration that they may as well be completely all powerful.
  • He is the final authority.  There is no higher court to take your appeal.  He's the last and final word on whether you live or die.

With this, we understand that there are certain realities that have to be addressed, if not obeyed -- no matter if you are all powerful or not.

A Good Person

The Savior said:

With this one verse, the Savior pointed out that NO ONE has a claim on the title of "good person."  We're all sinners.  We're ALL fallen.  Yet the atheist would have us believe that there are some among us that don't have need of redemption.  How can we answer a quesion that starts out with an incorrect assumption that has already been pointed out?

None of us has a credible claim to rewards in heaven earth.  The late Milton Friedman said, "First of all, none of us get what we deserve.  And thank heaven for that."  The reality is that without a Savior, every one of us would be deserving of the pains of hell for all eternity.  Think about that.  That is how evil every one of us are.  That is how terrible the nature of sin is.  And if we had all the worst things in life happen to us, that would be justice for our sins.

So, when someone asks, "Why me?"  I might ask, "Why NOT me?"

Yet we sit smug in our comfortable world where we can say "Meh,  I'm a good enough person and have a good enough life."

False assumption.  False conclusion.

Bad Things

How do we know what is a bad thing?  It causes pain or suffering?  Sounds reasonable. But is it true?  Read the following story:

https://www.lollydaskal.com/leadership/good-luck-bad-luck-knows/

I heard a better much longer version that went back and forth to good and bad things to hammer the point home.  But the point is illustrated sufficiently here.

I know of a lot of things in my life that seemed bad at the time (Seriously.  I was in the middle of long term unemployment and was considering suicide, literally) but with hindsight, I now see what good eventually came of it.  Most of my life I've had "bad things" happen that were necessary steps to get me to another place where some really good things happened.

So, how do we know?  I'd submit that we simply don't.  I could also tell you of some stories in my family history where an untimely death in the family turned out to be a good thing.  An abusive situation turned a life around and many good things eventually turned out good.

By saying this, I'm sure some smart aleck will ask, "So, you're saying that abuse is a good thing?"  Well, live up to the moniker "Aleck" and you can miss the gold by looking for the sludge.  Again, this is the attitude of the atheist who asks the original question.

Third Parties

Suffering/misfortune is required for there to be the opportunity to serve.  

This is often discussed as a commentary on "opposition in all things."  Yes, it is.  But it also says something about the nature of "need."  We see people suffering all the time.  But when we KNOW those people, then we tend to place them in two camps:

  • Well, that's what they get when ...
  • Oh, wow!  That's unfortunate.  We need to help them out.

Even there we tend to make a partial judgment about "bad things happening to good people".  But at no time is it an excuse to disbelieve in God.  It is whether we would be helping or harming by offering succor to that person at that time.

I'd submit that the vast majority of Christians use it as an excuse to perform some meaningful service.  I'd also submit that the vast majority of Atheists use it as an excuse to disbelieve God.  Thus we see that the "allowance of suffering" says very little about God.  It speaks volumes about the person asking the question.

Most of the time when atheist decry God's ambivalence to human suffering, it is just an excuse.  How many of them actually try to do something about it themselves?  Most don't.  That's why the question was never about the suffering itself.  It was just an excuse.  And as an excuse, no answer to the question is acceptable.

Nature of Trials

Too often we think of anything unpleasant as "undesireable".  Well, then why the heck did I eat all those peas (I hate peas).  They're good for me.  Well, so is kim chee.  But no one was trying to force me to eat that all the time.  We do some things we don't really enjoy because we know they're good for us.

The successful person is willing to go through that which the unsuccessful person is NOT willing to go through.  Let me rephrase.

One who inherits the Celestial Kingdom is willing to suffer what the Telestial/Terrestrial person is NOT willing to suffer.

We tend to think of "prove" as in a court of law or a matter of debate to determine if something is true or false.  It isn't really just that dichotomy alone.  Another definition of "prove" is

These trials are not only to strengthen us, but to show what our true qualities and characteristics are.

Thus, we go back to the nature of "Omnipotent".  God is not to be revered because He overcomes simple tasks, but because He can overcome the greatest of challenges.  Similarly, we ourselves cannot hope for great reward in heaven without overcoming great trials either.  It has nothing to do with "what we deserve."  It has everything to do with eventual results.

In that way, we see suffering as simply a necessary part of life.  And we tend to be able to bear it much more easily.

************************************************

I'm going to use my recent experience during this winter storm as an illustration for all this.

During this winter storm, I did what I thought was supposed to be done.  But I was rushing through all my preps. Then I prayed to have the Lord bless my efforts that they would be sufficient.

But some "bad things" happened. 

  • A pipe burst in the well house.  And a pipe burst in the wall of my house.  These two things alerted me to some dysfunctional items of the plumbing at my house.  I needed to fix them.  I also learned a great deal from the experience.  I learned a lot more about plumbing than I had in the past.  I also have some drywall and framing work that I cannot do on my own.  So, I can hire a friend who's been looking for work.  And he's very good at drywall.  I learned other things I need to fix for some future expansion I was planning.  I learned about some things to NOT do with the shut offs that I had.
  • We thought we were well prepared for the cold because we had plenty of water and plenty of wood.  But one thing we discovered is that you can't stay warm on hardwood (oak) alone.  You have to have a balance of hard and softwood (pine).  We had plenty of oak.  We had very little pine.  I spent a bunch of time trying to split oak.  Very difficult.  My neighbor (bishopric) must have seen me suffering and came over to tell me that he had plenty of pine to share.  Later, my ministering brother came and gave me a bunch of more wood.  His was oak also.  But for some reason, his was easier to split into smaller pieces.  They burned hotter than the thick logs we had prepared.  More learning.  More opportunities for service.  This time, I was on the receiving end.  A rare thing.
  • The State of Texas experienced blackouts like never before.  This was bigger, longer, and more widespread than Harvey.  But what we learned was that we had weaknesses in the grid.  A large part was our dependence on renewables.  Part of it was an outdated system.  Part of it was the dependence on warmer weather (this was a storm like we'd never seen).  We learned what we need to improve on.

So, why is there no answer to the question?  There is.  In fact, there are many (many more than I've listed here).  But none that the atheist cares to listen to.

I ran  into several paragraphs from the near death experience of former Atheist Howard Storm that some Latter day Saints might just find to be useful in their missionary work???

 

What three time near death experiencer Dr. P. M. H. Atwater saw about the aftermath of the September eleven, two thousand and one terrorist attack sounds somewhat similar on some levels..

http://pmhatwater.hypermart.net/resources/PDFs/911.pdf

 

 

Quote

"I asked how God could let the Holocaust of World War II happen. We were transported to a railway station as a long train of freight cars was being unloaded of its human cargo. The guards were screaming and beating the people into submission. The people were Jewish men, women, and children. Exhausted from hunger and thirst, they were totally disoriented from the ordeal of being rounded up and sent on a long journey to an unknown destination. They believed that they were going to work camps, and that their submission to the brutality of the guards was the only way to survive.

We went to the area where the selection process was taking place and heard the guards talking about "the Angel Maker." We went to the place the guards were referring to as "the Angel Maker," which was a series of ovens. I saw piles of naked corpses being loaded into the ovens, and I began to cry. Jesus said to me, "These are the people God loves." Then he said, "Look up." Rising out of the smoke of the chimneys, I saw hundreds of people being met by thousands of angels taking them up into the sky. There was great joy in the faces of the people, and there appeared to be no trace of a memory of the horrendous suffering they had just endured. How ironic that the guards sarcastically called the ovens "the Angel Maker."

I asked how God could allow this to happen. They told me that this was not God's will. This was an abomination to God. God wants this never to happen again. This was the sacrifice of an innocent people to whom God had given the law to be an example, a light, to the rest of the world. This Holocaust was breaking God's heart. The anguish that Jesus was suffering at the slaughter of his people was too much for me to bear and I begged that we leave this place. I will never forget this: his anguish at this horror and what it represents. This was one of the low points in human history."

I asked, Why does God let things like this happen? They told me that God was very unhappy with the course of human history and was going to intervene to change the world. God had watched us sink to depths of depravity and cruelty at the very time that he was giving us the instruments to make the world a godlier world. God had intervened in the world many times before, but this time God was going to change the course of human events." (Howard Storm, My Descent Into Death, page 42,43)

Edited by DennisTate
add a link relevant to September eleven two thousand and one

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I think it is a good question to ask, and if it was unsolvable, then it rightly could be used as a bludgeon.  It can be looked at in several ways.

One way to look at it boils down to freedom and free agency. 

Which is more evil?  To keep slaves who you force to do anything you want, who cannot have any freedom, not even to think for themselves, but can only move and act as you specifically command them?  To have slaves but give them the ability to act for themselves?  Or to not have slaves but freemen who have the agency to speak and act on their own?

Which is the most evil of those ideas?

it can become a trick question.  Many of those who use the bad things happening use it as a way to try to convince people that there must be an evil deity or that a good deity must not exist.  Their reasoning is that a good deity would prevent any evil from happening.  No one would go hungry, no one would suffer, no one would get hurt, no one would die, no one would have any bad things occur.

However, when one looks at it, most bad things happen due to free agency.  Many are from the freedoms enacted by men who act upon their freedom to hurt others.  Some of it is with the freedom given or granted to animals or other creatures.  Sometimes it happens from smaller things and I personally believe in the spiritual war that is still going on, that there are evil servants of the adversary that do physical harm to those on earth if they can and they also use their freedom to act to the limits of what they can do to hurt as many as they can possibly harm.

The only way to curb this is to take away the freedom that man has currently.  The best way to do this is to make men act, talk, and behave ONLY as they are specifically commanded with no ability to act upon their own will.  This idea trends very close to the ideas of another individual who became our adversary for wishing to take away this freedom and free agency.

There was another plan presented though that would give us our freedom and agency and then test us to see if we could use that ability in a wise enough manner to merit granting us great power and gifts after a mortal life.

Ironically, there was a point in human history where there wasn't that much suffering, or pain, or ailments.  With our first parents, Adam and Eve, they lived in a paradise, except they still had a limited form of freedom.  They had the ability to choose, and they used that ability to bring about the rest of mortality.  With this, we each have our freedom and ability to choose, whether for good or evil.  Many choose to do evil, and sometimes accidents happen from our choices that harm others. 

So the question then isn't about whether the Lord loves us or not, but how much he loves us that he would give us the ability to act and the freedom to act upon our own desires, even when they go counter to his own and still not strike us down where we stand instantly.  In the end, from this persepective, you have to ask, which is the more evil, giving men the freedom to act and others in nature (animals, creatures, etc) or to force us all to be automaton slaves with no will or ability to act on our own accord.

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When I was in college I took a philosophy of religion course.  The instructor to the course presented us with the following logic:

If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and an omnibenevolent God, Then why didn't God simply make us perfect like himself?  Certainly if God is all powerful, he would have the power to create us to have all knowledge, wisdom, power, goodness, etc, etc. just like himself.  If God is all knowing, he would have the know how to make us perfect like himself.  And finally if God is an all loving being, surely he would have saved us from the suffering of this world and simply made us perfect like himself.  Because this did not occur, God does not exist.

 

I agree that the way people today view the concept of Omnipotence is flawed.  In today's world, Omnipotence means that you would have the power to do absolutely anything imaginable.  I reject this idea.  I don't believe that omnipotence means that one can do absolutely anything imaginable.  I believe Omnipotence means that you are able to do all things that are possible.  I do not believe that it is possible to exist and also not exist simultaneously.  I also do not believe that God can be a being who is all good and simultaneously all bad.  I believe that there are things that are eternally impossible even for God.  For example, I do not believe that things can be created from absolutely nothing.  Scripturally, God had told of one thing that not even He can do.  It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 93:29.

Doctrine and Covenants 93:29

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

 

In this verse God is telling us that intelligences cannot be created or made not even by God himself.  What this means is that our intelligences are eternal in nature and have always existed.  So it was not possible for God to create us out of nothing and make us be whatever he imagined.  The intelligences are in whatever state they have rose to in the past eternity. If our intelligence was not perfect, then God, who creates us from existing intelligences cannot create us perfect.  Thus going through a learning state is essential for our progression.  So if there are things that are impossible even for God, then Omnipotence does not mean that God can do absolutely anything imaginable.  Even God himself lives within certain bounds.  He is omnipotent in that he can do all things that are possible to do.  

I imagine that for us to progress, we need experience and learning.  This earth life is a temporary state where God can allow us to go through all sorts of temporary experiences for our learning and progression.  Even if that includes suffering and death.  To the prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said:

Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-8

5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

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.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

  

Edited by onefour1

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