Why does an all-powerful God allow his children to suffer?
If we are God’s children and he is a loving and perfect God, why does he allow suffering? This question has perplexed and troubled many people for years, and it’s truly difficult to come to terms with the immense suffering in the world God created. I found insight into this question in “A Latter-day Saint Theology of Suffering,” a talk that Francine R. Bennion gave at a women’s conference in 1986. The talk was recently published in the book At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses of Latter-day Saint Women, which is now available online for free.
Sister Bennion explains that the reason we suffer is related to the purpose of our existence. As God’s children, our purpose is to become like him and to work toward becoming gods ourselves. But to be like God we need to change and develop, and suffering is part of what helps us make those changes. As spirits, we chose to come to earth, chose to live, and chose to suffer. We chose this for the opportunity to become more like our Father in Heaven. According to Sister Bennion, “One reason we were willing to pay the high costs of continuing to address reality and become ourselves is that God told us we can become more like himself. We can become more abundantly alive, with ultimate fulness of truth, joy, and love.” This fulness cannot be achieved by “souls ignorant of good or evil, pleasure or pain, souls afraid of the unknown.”
Suffering is a difficult necessity of life and improvement. However, we’re all incredibly blessed because we’re not left to suffer alone. The Lord has promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). Through any suffering we experience, we will have his support and love; we are not alone, and we have been promised, “Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
Read all of Sister Francine R. Bennion’s talk, “A Latter-day Saint Theology of Suffering.”
Source: Church Historian’s Press
—Sarah Bennett, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
For more information on At the Pulpit, read Heather Randall’s article “New Perspectives: Women in Church History.”
To learn more about God’s promise to always be with us, listen to President Thomas S. Monson’s talk “I Will Not Fail Thee Nor Forsake Thee.”
Discover what Joseph Smith taught about evil and suffering by reading David L. Paulsen’s article “Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil.”