Article of the Week | BYU Studies

Article of the Week

Why Bad Things Happen at All
October 2, 2017
Article of the Week
Why Bad Things Happen at All: A Search for Clarity among the Problems of Evil
John S. Welch

This daily feature is the introduction to a full article by John Sutton Welch that was published in issue 42:2. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

Why does evil, suffering, or injustice exist in a world created and watched over by a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent god? Two questions become crucial: What does omnipotence mean? And what greater good might be lost if evil were removed from our world?

An answer to why God would place us in a world that permits so many forms of evil and why we ourselves would have willingly entered such a world can be found by considering the kinds of virtues that are developed only in the presence of evil and through the voluntary choices that come in evil's aftermath. Slowly but surely I have seen, in case after case, how evil, suffering, and injustice serve as essential creative conditions that allow us to develop nearly every Christian virtue, creating opportunities for goodness and the grace of the Atonement to cure us. The development of such interpersonal virtues as forgiveness, mercy, generosity, compassion, and charity logically requires the prior existence of some form of evil, suffering, or injustice. But divine meaning and purpose emerge from the ashes of sin, suffering, or misfortune only when human confederates engage the healing power of the Atonement in becoming more sympathetic, forgiving, and compassionate.

The Book of Moses creation account begins with the earth being "without form and void" (Moses 2:2), going through the spiritual and then the physical creation. It is significant that the Book of Moses never describes or mentions "day seven" a second time. The book ends, not with the completion of humanity and God resting from his labors, but with the commandment to have faith, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost: an invitation to become perfected and completed in the future. This need for further completion characterizes the moment I find myself living in. Judgment has not yet come, evil and disorder still exist to some degree in this world, day six of the creation is ongoing, and there are still many wonderful possibilities of this creation left to be completed.

God's Creation was not intended to fashion and redeem me alone but rather as a part of an eternal community his work is eternal and involves the creation of open-ended and eternal relationships. Understanding this goal shifts my focus away from trying to give meaning to individual trials experienced by individual people and moves my attention toward the necessity of such experiences in the creation and development of collective virtues and the love of the others.