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You are here: Allan's TIME > Spirituality > Why Does God, Who is Good, Create Evil?

Why Does God, Who is Good, Create Evil?

David W. Allan
June 15, 2011

I form the light, and create darkness: 
I make peace, and create evil: 
I the Lord do all these things.
– Isaiah 45:7

The following is an email David Allan sent to his family accompanying this article.

From: David W. Allan 
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2011 6:44 AM
Subject: Mom's shingles and article on pain

It will be six weeks tomorrow since Mom (Grandma) came down with shingles. I don't think I have ever witnessed a more horrible disease. Though her sores are healing, she still has great pain -- subsided some and is able to sleep this last week for the first time. She has been an incredible angel through the whole thing; I have been touched deeply, and we have both been asking what lessons we are to learn. To be thankful for it is soooo hard.

I have been working on the attached for some months for Institute class, because of the importance of the message. Mom was deeply touched when she read it. I shared it with the class last Tuesday evening. It was well received. Sterling is going to post it on our web site.

It is ironic that I would feel to write this -- almost in anticipation of her great pain. Thought you would appreciate it as well.


Dad (Grandpa)

And how does the Lord create evil?  Why is there so much of pain and suffering in the world?  The great thinkers of the ages have never come up with the answers to these questions. C.S. Lewis, after going through his own apostasy from Christianity, may have came the closest – becoming one of Christianity’s most avid advocates. During his teenage and apostate years, he felt that the strongest force for atheism was expressed in a poem of Lucretius:

Had God designed the world, it would not be
A world so frail and faulty as we see.

After  J. R. R. Tolkien, and others of his friends, persuaded Lewis to deeply consider Christianity, it turned his life around.  As he considered the Christ, he came to the conclusion, “that only two views of this man are possible.  Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said.  There is no middle way.  If the records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must submit to the second.  And if you do that, all else that is claimed by Christians becomes credible – that this Man, having been killed, was yet alive, and that His death, in some manner incomprehensible to human thought has effected a real change... in our favour.” [1]  After gaining his deep appreciation for Christianity, in regard to evil, pain, and the suffering that comes with life, Lewis poignantly states that if you “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, find that you have excluded life itself.” [1]

Albert Schweitzer – considered by some to be the greatest humanitarian and a great thinker of the last century – was a devote student of the teachings of Jesus. He mastered philosophy, music, theology, medicine, and became the world’s authority on Bach’s timeless organ music, and he also could build an organ. His great intellect and all his learning lead him to "Reverence for Life" – all life. He built a hospital in Africa to relieve the suffering there and with great success. He dealt with both world wars and wrote much. In 1945-1950 he was considered as the greatest man in the world. He won the Nobel peace prize. He had and is still having a great influence on the world’s thinking.

In all of his 80 years of learning, Dr. Schweitzer, could not answer the "great questions: What is the meaning of evil in the world? …In what relation do the spiritual life and the material life stand to one another? And in what way is our existence transitory and yet eternal?" [2]  He left these questions unanswered, but knowing of God’s love he focused his life on loving by relieving the sufferings of others.  Herman Melville had similar questions, "How can a God that is good create evil?" He wrote the classic book, Moby Dick, trying to deal with this question. In the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám – the great Persian thinker – he struggles with the same questions, and after listening to the world’s philosophers discuss these questions, he said, "I went out by the same door wherein I went." The questions remained unanswered!

One of the great validations of the truths of the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith is that it not only answers the above questions but also several other challenging questions: Who are we?  Where did we come from?  What is our purpose in life?  Where do we go – after death?  None of the great thinkers, including Lewis, give meaningful answers to all of these questions, which are gloriously now available to us through the latter-day restoration in this last dispensation of the gospel.  We will find that at the heart of why a loving Heavenly Father allows (creates) evil is because agency (free choice) is at the heart of His perfect plan of happiness for His children.  One of the grand ironies of the plan is that He brings perfection out of imperfection, a fullness of joy out of the deepest of sufferings, pain, and despair – through His Son’s infinite atonement.

Said Jesus, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) This He does in the midst of trials, adversity, and amongst many in bondage, as we come unto Him.  For He is “...the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6)  He means us to be free individually from sin and as a heavenly society, as part of His ultimate plan of happiness – filled with joy unspeakable.

The Apostle Paul so aptly said, “...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14)  The evil in the world has led many to doubt God’s existence; it is one of those doctrines not understood or appreciated by the “natural man.”  Even though this doctrine has been brought into light and understanding through the restoration of the fulness of the gospel, much of it is taught in the Bible, as we will see.

Through the restoration we learn not only that we had a premortal existence (Abraham 3:22-28; Jer. 1:5) with our loving Heavenly parents, we are literally their spirit offspring (Acts 17:28; Heb. 12:9; D&C 76:24) – making us gods in embryo – and we are each of infinite worth!  We sat in premortal councils where Father’s plan of happiness was outlined for all of us and each of us.  We rejoiced – “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) – as this infinitely loving opportunity was extended to us to make this mortal journey in our path to godhood – to perfection like our Heavenly parents are perfect. (Matt. 5:48)  As we looked at them, we knew that any price was worth paying to be like them.  We saw that any trial or challenge would be worth it; in fact, we saw that life’s challenges were actually extended to bring growth in our lives and were necessary because of free choice.  Further, we saw that we would sin.  The need for a Savior was clearly manifest, and Father’s firstborn (Romans 8:28-29; Collosians 1:14-15) offered to be our Redeemer – foreordained (1 Peter 1:19-20) to bring perfection to Father’s plan because of His infinite love for us, as well.

In premortal, Lucifer offered a different plan that would save all mankind, but would take away free choice.  (Moses 4:1-4)  Father knew that to take away our agency would destroy the plan.  Father will force no man to heaven; it would not be heaven were that the case.  Lucifer rebelling against Father’s plan brought about a war in heaven, and a third part of the hosts of heaven followed Lucifer, and they became the devil and his angels and were cast down to the earth. (Rev. 12:1-10) The Lord could have cast them into outer darkness, but that would have denied the opportunity for opposition for us here on earth, which we needed for our growth and development.  We learn further, through the restoration, “that there must needs be opposition in all things...” – otherwise, there would be no existence. (2 Nephi 2:11-29)  We knew that through the atonement, we could overcome all things, and that this was the path to perfection.  We saw that sin, suffering, pain, and challenges would help us better appreciate the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and these would only bring us closer to Him when properly appreciated.

Isaiah asks the question, “How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isa. 14:12) And then he gives the answer in the verses following as Satan sought to “exalt” himself “above the stars of God.”  His pride had led him to believe he had a better plan to save all by taking away the agency (free choice) of man.  We honor God because he is the author of our agency,  perfectly personifies love, patience, humility (opposite of pride), long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and all the other wonderful attributes of godliness and goodness.  As we come to know God, we come to honor Him because of these marvelous characteristics.  This is His power. (D&C 29:36-37) We exercise true faith in Him as we focus our body, minds, and spirits on 1) the truth that God exists, on 2) modeling our lives after His character and attributes, and on 3) asking the question, “Are we doing everything we can to fulfill our own personal missions in mortality to honor Him.?”  In this faith we will find His love, joy and peace, as we treasure up His word.  In so doing, we are promised that we will not be deceived. (JS Matt. 37)  The great deceiver, who sought to destroy the agency of man, will not have power over us.  What a remarkable promise and assurance from our infinitely loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.

In the Book of Job is a great lesson regarding pain and suffering.  He was foreordained and agreed to perform an incredibly difficult mission, as a type and shadow of the Savior’s mission.  Job teaches us to always trust in the Lord in spite of any and all pain and suffering we may endure, the Lord will more than make it up to us, and in the end we will say, “Thank you, Lord!” with deep feelings of gratitude.  Roy Mills says, "Some spirits choose a life of extreme sacrifice or nearly unbearable suffering. The light of God shines brightly around these people, and in heaven they are thought of as mighty spirits, because they come to earth to suffer so that others can grow in understanding and love... These courageous souls choose their conditions in order to inspire love, compassion, caring, patience, or forgiveness in others...” [3]  When we succor the suffering, reach out to the poor, the widow, the fatherless, etc. the Lord is very pleased when we do it with His pure love in our hearts, and especially when we share His glorious gospel message.  There is no more important message.  That is why the gospel means the good news!  It is THE BEST NEWS!  Through the atonement, Christ has overcome all things, and as we come unto Him, we know that He will help us overcome all obstacles and sins in our lives on our path to eternal life, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Properly viewed then, every challenge and trial is an opportunity for growth.  Like C. S. Lewis, we will be Surprised by Joy, as we come to understand Father’s plan.  “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)  Rejoicing in our trials as well as our blessings will lift us out of the mire and darkness of life, that so many find themselves.  “...all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Romans 8:28)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that there are three reasons for life’s challenges: 1) a natural consequence of mortality; 2) the sins or mistakes we make; and 3) those given us by a loving Lord for our growth and benefit.   “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6), and he loves us all.  Let us thank the Lord for our chastisements and challenges as well as our uncountable blessings; they all have a Divine purpose.  When they come, and they will, let us ask the Lord what lessons He wants us to learn from them.  Viewed from His perspective, we know that they will always be for our eternal good.  He loves us with an infinite love and can and will turn every bad thing into good as we listen to the Spirit – asking how we may best benefit from these challenging opportunities.

Deut. 8:5  Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.  Ps. 94:12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law;  Prov. 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.  Heb. 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  Rev. 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  D&C 59:7 Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.  21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.  D&C 95:1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you— D&C 101:2 I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions; 3 Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels. 4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. 5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.

Thus we see agency (free will) led to the Fall and thus to sin, pain, suffering, and life’s challenges.  Ironically, the Fall is a major and necessary step in the Father’s perfect  plan of happiness.  Another of the grand ironies of the universe – perfectly exemplified by our Savior – is that as we surrender our will to the will of the Father, then we can be totally free – as our Redeemer so succinctly said: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free...  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36) The Holy Spirit will guide us to all truth, if we choose to listen and to hearken to “the still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12; 1 Nephi 17:45) His angels are there for each of us and all of us and speak the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost to bring about the Father’s great work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His precious children, as they may choose to hear and hearken. (2 Nephi 32:2-5; Moroni 7:27-32; Moses 1:39) If we choose otherwise, we will find ourselves following the ways of the world and in opposition to our eternal happiness.  We are promised the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, which is most desirable, as we love the Lord, exercise charity toward all mankind and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46)

2 Nephi 2:8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise...  26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.  27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto him.

Therefore, let us use our agency in the midst of all the challenges of this life to be grateful for them and to follow Him, who will lead us through them all back to the Father and a fullness of joy with our loved ones; for we can overcome all things through Christ. (Matt. 11:28-30)



[1]  C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp 13-14

[2]  Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought

[3]  Roy Mills, The Soul’s Remembrance; pp 118-123

See also

Spiritual writings index


Page posted by SDA June 16, 2011
Last updated: June 16, 2011
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