Prophets or Evolution - An LDS Perspective


Chapter 9


Why Is There Suffering in the World?

Part 1 of 2



"In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners."

Albert Camus





Many years ago, in 1968, I was a PFC (Private First Class) in the United States Marine Corps and I was in Viet Nam.


One day, while we were on patrol, I "hit" a booby trap, loaded with a grenade.  I was literally three feet away from a grenade when it went off.


For several reasons I won't go into, I was not harmed as bad as someone might have expected.  One of my wounds was that a grenade fragment broke off a joint in the index finger of my left hand.


Because of this wound, and other wounds, I was sent back to the United States for medical treatment.  Because of my finger I was considered an "orthopedic" case and was sent to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, which was the top Navy and Marine Corps orthopedic hospital at the time.


The hospital ward I was in was a large room and had about 40 or 50 wounded soldiers.  All of them were “amputees,” meaning they had had at least one arm or leg amputated.  All of them were amputees, that is, except me.  I just had a finger joint missing.  I never complained about my wounds after living in that room for a month.


While I was in the hospital I learned there was another Latter-Day Saint in the hospital.  However, he was in a much smaller room; meaning he was much more severely injured than most of the soldiers.  In fact, he was a triple amputee.  He had had both legs and one arm amputated.


I visited him for a brief time and noted to myself that he was bitter about his wounds.  Many times I have thought about him and every time I have concluded I would have been bitter too, if what had happened to him had happened to me.  I am sure he asked himself many times "why me."  I am sure I would have asked the same question many times also.


At the time I visited him I did not have an answer to his bitterness.  I still don't have an answer, nor did I keep track of him and know if his attitude ever changed.  I hope it did.


But I have learned a lot since Viet Nam about why there is so much suffering in this world.  This chapter, and the next chapter, will discuss some of the many things I have learned over the decades, since 1968, about why there is so much suffering in the world.


The answer turns out to be central to the purpose of earth life.  While an understanding of these things may not answer the questions about an individual case of suffering; it will answer many of the general questions about why there is so much suffering in the world.


These chapters won't go into all the sordid causes of human suffering.  Examples will have to suffice instead of an exhaustive list.



Why Is There Suffering in the World?


It is impossible to chronicle all of the suffering and other unfortunate events that have happened in the world's history.


Of course, when we think about suffering we first think about World War II and the scores of millions of innocent victims of that war.


"What man has done to man is the saddest chapter in the history of the world. The story of the peoples of the earth is in large measure the tale of how the world whipped the nonconformist with its displeasure and visited upon him dishonor and ignominy, torture and death."

George K. Anderson, from The Legend of the Wandering Jew


What a profound quote!!


When considering all of the suffering in the history of this world, World War II was only significant in the sense that so much suffering occurred in such a short period of time and that small segments of society were specific targets of suffering.  Taken together, World War II only represented a small percentage of the suffering of people in the history of this world.


Sometimes people look at the suffering in the world, and claim that this is a proof that there is no God.  They claim that if there was a God that He would forcefully dispense with the suffering in the world.  They may even think that God is not powerful enough to overcome the suffering in the world.


Consider this quote President Heber J. Grant, the seventh president of the LDS church:


Here is the keynote, Latter-day Saints. Let us realize that God is mightier than all the earth. Let us realize that if we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. For He has said that not one jot or tittle shall fall to the ground unfulfilled [see Matthew 5:18].

President Heber J. Grant (2004 Priesthood/R.S. Manual - page 30)


President Grant makes it very clear that God is powerful enough to do away with the suffering in the world.


But God does not do away with the suffering in the world.  Why not?



Good and Evil and Free Agency


While many individuals who are faithful followers of God do suffer pain and other suffering, the prophet Job being one such example (and a rather extreme example at that!), these things do not happen because God in unable to protect us from pain and suffering.


A great deal of the suffering in the world is caused by evil.  To do away with suffering, God would have to do away with evil.  But to do away with evil, God would have to do away with free agency.  But free agency, and the ability of people to choose between good and evil, is the specific reason we came to this world!


Even though it may appear that satan has unlimited power to cause evil and suffering; in reality satan is severely limited in the damage he can do, and especially he is limited in what he can do to a righteous nation.


If satan was not strictly regulated in what he is able to do, the misery of this world would be an hundredfold worse than it is today.  Nevertheless, satan has been given a "very long chain" in order to allow people the opportunity to choose between good and evil.


Here is a quote from President John Taylor in 1875, more than 125 years ago!!


We are living in a critical and an important age. Men sometimes are astonished when they see the corruption, wickedness and evil, the departure from honesty and integrity, and the villainy that everywhere exist; but why should they be? ... Has it not been preached to us that the nations of the earth had the elements of destruction within themselves and that they were bound to crumble? And when we see honor trampled under foot, and integrity and truth standing afar off, while the wicked, corrupt and [disobedient] manage and direct affairs, we may expect that the axe is laid at the root of the tree and that [the tree] is decaying and will soon fall [see D&C 97:7]. And that is what is being accomplished among the nations today. We need not whine or think there is anything strange or remarkable about it. We have expected these things to transpire, and they will be a great deal worse than they are to-day.

President John Taylor, 1875


President Taylor is talking about the "corruption, wickedness and evil" in 1875!!  The last sentence in this quote (i.e. that these things "will be a great deal worse than they are to-day") is a prophecy that has literally been fulfilled many times since it was originally stated.


God is in charge of this world.  In his infinite wisdom He allows evil to abound at times.  And because God allows evil to abound (to allow people to choose between good and evil), then God must allow suffering to abound.  Someone will suffer if evil people are allowed to exercise their free agency.



An Example of God's Will


During the ministry of Alma the Younger, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma the Younger, and another prophet named Amulek, preached to the people in the wicked city of Ammonihah.


Alma and Amulek had success in converting some of the people of the city.  However, this success did not go unnoticed by the leaders of the wicked city.


In fact, the city leaders cast out all those who believed in the words of Alma and Amulek.  They had to flee to another city.


Then, the city leaders took the wives and children of those who believed Alma and Amulek and cast them into a fire to destroy them.


As the women and children were being burned, Amulek was pained.  This is what Amulek said to Alma the Younger:


  10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

Alma 14:10 [Amulek]


I suspect any person would say the same thing under the circumstances: "How can we stand by and watch this horrible scene?"


Alma the Younger, however, being a prophet, saw a bigger picture than Amulek saw.  Here is his reply to Amulek:


  11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

Alma 14:11 [Alma the Younger]


There are several things to be learned from this statement.  First, "[The Lord suffers] that they may do this thing ... according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day."  In other words, God allowed this thing so that the evil people who led the city of Ammonihah could be justly condemned before the great judgment seat of God.


But Alma also comments about the righteous who were being murdered: "... the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory."  In other words, their pains and suffering were but for a short moment, and then they were to be taken into the glory of God.


Another example of this doctrine can be found during the great wars between the Nephites and Lamanites:


  13 For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.

Alma 60:13 [Captain Moroni]


In this quote we see the same two concepts.  First, the righteous are allowed to be slain and "they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God."  We also see that the wicked will be condemned for their actions: "that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked."


We see in these two situations the correlation between suffering and judgment.  The wicked must commit an act or horror to be justly condemned before God.  But this act of horror will lead to there being victims.


We must remember that this earth life is nothing more than the "twinkling of an eye" relative to eternity.  From an eternal perspective, the suffering of those who suffer is but for a short moment.  But those who intentionally cause the suffering of others are putting themselves at risk for their own suffering; which could last for an eternal duration.


In other words, the long term suffering of those who intentionally cause the suffering of others may be far, far greater, in the eternal scheme of things, than the totality of suffering they have caused others; even counting all individuals they have caused to suffer.



Why We Are On Earth


In a profound talk by Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Seventy, he gives a warning to the members of the church:


Let’s begin with what we know. Good comes from God; evil comes from the devil. They are not, however, equal forces that are fighting each other in the universe. At the head of all that is good is the Christ—He who is the Only Begotten of the Father, who created our world and numerous others. Our Redeemer is a resurrected and perfect being. I know He lives.


The devil, on the other hand, “persuadeth men to do evil.” “He [has] fallen from heaven, … [has] become miserable forever,” and now works “that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” He is a liar and a loser.


The power of the Savior and the power of the devil are not truly comparable. On this planet, however, evil has been allowed a position of influence to give us the chance to choose between good and evil. The scripture says: “God gave unto man that he should act for himself. [And] man could not act for himself ... [unless] he was enticed by … one or the other.”


The choice between good and evil is at the very heart of our experience on earth. In the final review of our lives, it will not really matter if we were rich or poor, if we were athletic or not, if we had friends or were often forgotten.


We can work, study, laugh and have fun, dance, sing, and enjoy many different experiences. These are a wonderful part of life, but they are not central to why we are here. The opportunity to choose good over evil is precisely why we are here.


Not one of us would say, “I want to choose evil.” We all want to choose the right. However, the choice of good over evil is not always easy, because evil frequently lurks behind smiling eyes. Listen to these warnings:


“Take heed … that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God.”


“Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you.”


“Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.”


The message is: Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes!


I have known a few young men who began with every intention to stay firm in their loyalty to the Savior but who slipped from the path because they did not see the evil behind eyes that appeared quite harmless. They saw the fun, the pleasure, the acceptance, but they did not see the other consequences.

Neil L. Andersen, “Beware of the Evil behind the Smiling Eyes,” Ensign, May 2005, 46


All youth of the church, and even adults, should read Elder Andersen's entire talk several times!!  It is on the website in the May, 2005 Ensign.


The following section from the above quote is worth repeating: "The power of the Savior and the power of the devil are not truly comparable. On this planet, however, evil has been allowed a position of influence to give us the chance to choose between good and evil."


In other words, even though God is infinitely more powerful than satan in the context of the Universe; on this planet satan is given a "long chain" so that by using his seemingly unlimited power and money he can provide people the choice between good and evil.


Evil acts must be allowed in this world so that everyone has the opportunity to make choices between good and evil.


But if there must be evil; there must be suffering.


There have always been two great competing forces in the world. These began before the world was created. These opposing forces are the forces of good and evil. Between these two powerful forces each of us is caught in a tug of war. In simple terms, that which is good comes from God, and that which is evil comes from the devil. You can’t have it both ways and find true happiness; some have tried, but in the long run all have failed. If any of you young men think you can have it both ways, you are only deceiving yourselves. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. It never will.

James E. Faust, “The Devil’s Throat,” Ensign, May 2003, 51



The Tobacco Industry


Members of the church are frequently confused when they see versus like these, which both refer to the latter-days and to members of the LDS church:


  27 And it shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness.

Mormon 8:27 [Moroni, son of Mormon]


Or like this:


  22 And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

Ether 8:22 [Moroni, son of Mormon]


The context of these verses is that in the latter-days (in which we now live), many saints (i.e. members of the church) will die (i.e. the "blood of the saints" and "blood of his saints") as a direct result of the actions of the Secret Combinations of the devil.


The tobacco industry provides us with one of many examples of members of the church dying because of secret combinations.  While the members of the church who died because of the deception of the tobacco industry were generally less active members; there are many other situations where even the most active members of the church die because of secret cartels or secret combinations.


When considering the tobacco industry, no mortal can begin to comprehend how much suffering and death the tobacco industry has caused and is still causing!!  Did the tobacco industry cause all this pain, suffering and death out of ignorance or was it people who caused this suffering and death?


An "industry" cannot think or act.  Only people can think and act.  An "industry" is simply a bunch of pieces of paper and it cannot think or act.  It is people who cause and caused the suffering of those who have used, and do use, tobacco products.


In the early 1950s scientific studies were making it very clear that tobacco caused lung cancer.  The tobacco industry executives were well aware of these studies.  Did the tobacco industry quit making tobacco products when scientists clearly provided a connection between lung cancer and tobacco? 


The tobacco industry executives made several claims to the general public in a newspaper advertisement titled: "A Frank Statement To Cigarette Smokers."  First, they claimed they would find the “truth” about whether there was a relationship between smoking and lung cancer.  The ad even claimed that if it was shown that tobacco caused lung cancer (which they already knew was true) they would quit making tobacco products.  The ad was nothing but a lie.


The tobacco industry (i.e. people in the tobacco industry) knew perfectly well that their products caused lung cancer and other diseases.  So what the tobacco industry tried to do was convince the general public that there was insufficient scientific evidence that tobacco products caused lung cancer and other health problems.


Their thinking was that if people were convinced that there was insufficient scientific evidence that tobacco caused lung cancer, the people would continue to smoke (and chew) and the tobacco industry would continue to make many billions of dollars in profits every year.  The executives did not care how many people suffered and died.


They were and are the quintessential examples of "modern business ethics."


To achieve their profit goals the tobacco industry formed an organization in 1954 to fund scientific studies which were not looking for a relationship between tobacco and lung cancer.  The organization was eventually called the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR).


In other words, the CTR funded studies which pretended to look for a relationship between smoking and lung cancer, but in fact these studies were forbidden to look for such a relationship.


For 42 years after its inception, the CTR funded more than $280 million in scientific studies.  However, in order to get some of that funding you had to design a scientific study which had a title that sounded like it was looking for a connection between tobacco and disease; but in fact the actual study was designed to avoid finding such a relationship.


Think of these studies as you would an archery target.  The center of the target is the truth, the truth that tobacco caused lung cancer and certain types of heart disease.  For a research scientist who wanted money from the CTR, the title of their paper had to make it sound like they were going to aim directly at the center of the target.  However, their actual study had to completely miss the target.


Those who received this funding had to know exactly what was going on because it was very tricky to get funding.  This is how the CTR deceived the public.


"Since 1954, one of CTR's [Council for Tobacco Research - U.S.A., Inc.] principal activities has been to fund scientific research by independent scientists through its grant-in-aid program, under the supervision of its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) supplemented on occasion by research contracts. CTR itself has not conducted any scientific research.


Through this research program, from 1954 through 1996 CTR has provided approximately $282 million to fund over 1,500 research projects by approximately 1,100 independent scientists.

The researchers who have received CTR grant funding have been affiliated with approximately 300 medical schools, universities, hospitals and other research institutions, ..."


By having the studies funded by the CTR published in scientific journals, the tobacco industry could tell the public that the scientific evidence connecting tobacco and disease was inconclusive.


In other words, the studies which were not funded by the CTR generally did find a relationship between smoking and lung cancer.  However, the studies which were funded by the CTR did not find a relationship.


Thus, the tobacco industry could claim that the scientific results were “inconclusive” and that scientists could not agree among themselves as to whether smoking caused lung cancer.  It was a scam.


The media made little or no attempt to expose this fraud because they were receiving many, many millions of dollars a year from the tobacco firms.  Most large media companies own several different kinds of media (e.g. television, radio, magazines, newspapers, etc.), so when tobacco advertising was legally stopped in certain kinds of media (e.g. television), the big media companies were still making big money from the tobacco companies in other kinds of media.


Thus the media was pretending they “knew nothing.”


Even the movie industry was making a lot of money by having people smoke in their motion pictures.



Who Is To Blame?


While the general public blames the "tobacco industry" for the pain and suffering and death of millions of people, God does not look at things the way we do.


To God, corporations don't even exist.  The "tobacco industry" did not make any decisions because it is nothing but pieces of legal paper.  It was human beings who made the decisions.


It was human beings who were making the decisions not to shut down making tobacco products in the mid-1950s.  These decision makers included the owners of the tobacco companies, the executives of the tobacco companies, the members of Congress (especially after 1959), etc.


It was human beings (i.e. research scientists) who conceived, submitted and got funding from the Council for Tobacco Research in order to give them the propaganda they needed.  It was human beings who used the motion picture industry to influence millions of people to start and continue smoking.  And so on.


It is these human beings who will be held responsible before God on Judgment Day for the human suffering and death their decisions caused.


Any time a decision maker intentionally deceives someone, by any method, even when acting in the name of a corporation, knowing their deceit will cause people to suffer and/or die; they will be held personally responsible by God for the pain, suffering and death which their decision caused.


Thus, we can better understand Mormon 8:27, even though not many members of the church died as a result of the CTR.


In the Doctrine and Covenants the Savior refers to human beings in the last days when He stated:


  4 Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation...

Doctrine and Covenants 89:4


Note that the D&C does not refer to "conspiring corporations" or "conspiring pieces of paper" or "conspiring industries" or “conspiring governments;” but rather He refers to "conspiring men."


How would you like to stand before God and be grouped among the "conspiring men?"


While this verse definitely applies to the tobacco industry, the verse is actually much more general than just the tobacco industry.


By knowing what is in the scriptures, member of the church can begin to comprehend the viewpoint of God and how God will determine, on Judgment Day, the responsible parties.  See three chapters in the book of Matthew, chapters 23, 24 and 25, which describe the "big picture" of Judgment Day.  The sermon these three chapters came from was given by the Savior in the temple on the Tuesday before his crucifixion.  See also Alma 26:6-7 regarding the Lamanite converts.


There are in fact, other types of organizations and corporations which also knowingly cause people to suffer and die because of their lust for profits; and these owners and executives will also be held responsible for their actions on Judgment Day.


God has a very different viewpoint than mortals, as we will now see.  This discussion is led by the three chapters in Matthew just mentioned.



The Whited Scepucler


During the last week of the Savior’s mortal life He gave several talks in the temple.  In one of these talks He addressed the scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day.  This is one of the things he told them:


  27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

  28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Matthew 23:27-28


In these versus he delineates between how evil people appear to the world versus how evil people appear to God.  God sees the “inside” of the sepulcher and the world sees the outside of the sepulcher; which has been whitewashed many times by the sophistry of evil people who claim to the public that they are really righteous.


But God cannot be deceived.  God sees the inside of the sepulcher, behind the walls of stone and whitewash.  God sees the “dead men’s bones.”  The general public only sees the whitewash.


For example, the world views the tobacco executives (and many other executives in other industries) as highly successful and very crafty businessmen.  The world views them as role models because of their business expertise, wealth and power.  Their "business ethics," which cause massive suffering and death, are considered to be the ideal for young executives to emulate.


But on Judgment Day all people will see how God views them.  The Doctrine and Covenants gives us an advance clue that God will call them "conspiring men" on Judgment Day, not business role models and people with "high business ethics."


On Judgment Day no human being who makes key decisions will be able to hide behind a piece of paper - any type of paper.



The Key Questions


Here are some key questions.  Why did God allow the tobacco industry to thrive?  Why did God allow the media to use their absolute power over the minds of the people to whitewash and hide what was really going on?  Why did God put tobacco plants on this earth when it was created?


The reasons are, and were, because the purpose of this earth life is to give people the choice between good and evil.


The point to this long discussion is so the reader can better understand that those who have suffered at the hands of conspiring men can take some consolation in knowing that God is not subject to the laws of the land and that God cannot be deceived by the media.  God does not sit around all day watching television so He can gather information for Judgment Day.


The punishments of God on those who intentionally cause others to suffer and die; may, in the long run, be much, much greater than even the collective suffering of those they cause to suffer.


Rest assured the punishments of God can cause a great deal more suffering than any disease is capable of causing:


  15 Therefore I command you to repent - repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore - how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

  16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

  17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

  18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit - and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink -

  19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

  20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.

Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-20


The phrase "they must suffer even as I" should cause a little reflection to business executives and many others who have similar "business ethics" as the tobacco industry executives.


No one can hide behind a piece of paper on Judgment Day.  And no one can deceive God.


The point is that God will recognize that the suffering and deaths of many, many millions of people (as well as the suffering of their loved ones!!) were caused by human beings, not by pieces of paper referred to as "corporate charters" or "non-profit organizations" or "labor unions."


When Judgment Day rolls around, it is quite possible more people will have died in the wars of information than in all the military wars combined.  The deadliest weapon on earth today is information.


"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare."

Mark Twain


Since World War II more people have died prematurely from deceit (i.e. the outside wall of the sepulcher) than from any other cause, including guns, tanks and airplanes.  It fact, it is not even close.


Not only did tobacco executives plan and execute all of this deception, but they were adding chemicals to the tobacco products to make them more and more addictive.  They were also luring young people to start smoking by making smoking look attractive and sophisticated.



More on Suffering


If there were no evil; and if evil were not appealing for a variety of reasons (including high salaries, high status, public exposure, etc.); few would choose evil.  But many choose evil because of its "benefits" as they suppose.


If we are to be able to choose between good and evil, there must be both good and evil on the earth for us to choose between.


However, this also means that innocent people will be the victims of evil people.  This happened many times in the Book of Mormon.  And we have been warned it will happen in the latter days, even to members of the church, as mentioned above.


One of the major dividing lines between the different eternal consequences people will experience will be determined by the standard of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you [and to your family]."  People who cannot live this simple rule will have a very bad day on Judgment Day.


  9 Yea, verily, to seal them up unto the day when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure -

  10 Unto the day when the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:9-10


The next chapter will clarify these issues in even more detail.