Monday, 28 February 2011

Questions of the Soul–Suffering

Last time we started answering from the Bible the Mormon missionary lessons’ “Questions of the Soul.” These are presented such as to imply that the Book of Mormon alone answers these questions but we saw that fuller, more correct answers can be found in the Bible.

As Mormons present their faith it is a useful exercise to ask what the Bible has to say about the issues they wish to discuss. This can prove a useful starting point for fruitful discussion and it is helpful to be able to declare, “But I already know the answer from God’s Word.” This week we look at just the subject of suffering.

Why does God allow evil and suffering? – The Mormon answer is found in three Book of Mormon texts: 2 Nephi 2 presents a dualistic view of suffering, declaring, “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery neither good nor bad.” (v11) This is a familiar Mormon view that says suffering is part of the natural order of things.

Alma 14:9-11 and 60:13 both address the suffering of the innocent declaring, “ The Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgement may come upon the wicked.” Both say the righteous slain will go to be with God.

But, while God uses our suffering to eventually bless us (Ro.8:28), nevertheless suffering and “opposition” are not natural. The Bible tells us that because Adam sinned, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles…by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Gen.3:17,18)

Work is part of the natural order (Gen.2:15) but “opposition” in the form of hard toil, suffering and death are part of the fall. While Mormonism teaches that suffering is part of the plan to make us like God the Bible teaches that suffering is a consequence of sin but is used by God for good anyway. Where Mormonism sees death likewise as part of the plan Paul describes death as an enemy to be conquered (1 Cor.15:26)

The suffering of the righteous does bring condemnation on the guilty but God doesn’t seek the suffering of the righteous in order to justify his punishment of the wicked and nor is suffering always the consequence of sinfulness on our part or on the part of others.

We suffer as a consequence of living in a fallen world (Jn.16:33), trials test our perseverance (Js.1:12), and sanctify us (Heb.2:10;5:8) and Christians are to be “faithful unto death” (Rev.2:10). Suffering, then, can be a cause for rejoicing because we share in Christ’s suffering (Philip.3:10) and because, whether we live or die, Christ is exalted as we suffer with him (Philip.1:20)

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