Chapter five of ‘Eternal Man’ by Truman Madsen is on Evil and Suffering. Madsen concedes that the most staggering objection to a personable God is the overwhelming fact of human inequality and suffering. He then gives a few examples of extreme suffering. For most believers in God, they resort to believing that the ways of God are strange and inscrutable. Some religions go so far as to deny evil. Others find it difficult to not assign evil to God. For one there is no problem, for the other there is no hope.
This chapter is a unique chapter in that most of it is a hypothetical conversation between a woman with a baby that was born blind and paralyzed, and Joseph Smith. Madsen has such a gift for poetic descriptions that I can not hope to match. Yet, I do not wish to simply retype this conversation. If you want the full conversation, buy the book. I will attempt to provide the basics of this conversation in my usual simple way.
Mother: Is my suffering an illusion?
JS: Suffering is real, and we cannot escape it. Christ did not.
Mother: Why did God not prevent this? What have I done to deserve this?
JS: Suffering is not divine punishment. God can induce and prevent some suffering, but not all.
Mother: Is God not all powerful? How can we have faith in a limited God?
JS: How can we have faith in the unconditioned and absolute God of the creeds? They would say that God could have created a utopia with no suffering or pain, but instead he elected to subject humanity to suffering in this life, and for many, endless suffering. All this with an absolute foreknowledge. Many call such a God ‘Monstrous’, Christians call Him ‘inscrutable’. Thank God that revelation says that no such God exists.
Mother: But if God is not behind all suffering, what is? Is there another explanation?
JS: Yes. You have been taught that God is the total cause of everything. In truth He is not the total cause of anything. God has always been surrounded by us. We are co-eternal intelligences. The creeds say that God has always been God, but this is a travesty. God became God by mastery of the same ultimate and unchanging conditions that we are subject to. Likewise His Firstborn Son, Jesus Christ. It is not possible for God to give us experience, without us going through the experience. We can not become like Him without suffering.
Mother: Why do some suffer more than others?
JS: We are all equal when it comes to God’s love. We are all equal before eternal law. But in our original natures we are uncreated, and unequal. Individual differences result in individual needs. God can not transform Satan into Christ or Christ into Satan with a wave of a wand.
Mother: But why has God thrown us into this world with so much suffering?
JS: You assume that God alone accounts for you being here, and that your suffering is final. You freely agreed to come to earth knowing the risks involved. You recognized that the trials of life would be worth it.
Mother: But did not Christ come to relieve all suffering?
JS: Christ came to end needless suffering, and that suffering can result in a greater good.
Mother: Was His sacrifice necessary?
JS: Yes. And as we approach Him in the midst of our suffering, the more we can love as He loves, and the less we suffer needlessly.
Mother: It is so hard.
JS: Yes, but it also beautiful. As you go through this pain, you can realize that you are in God’s hands. He may not remove you from the fiery furnace, but he will see you through it. And you will not needlessly suffer in vain. Even from the smoldering rubble you can arise, through Christ, to an incredible shining joy, in the image of Christ, who is in the image of God, who has Himself overcome all things! There is no other way.