28. "O God, Where Art Thou?"
Joseph Smith's heart-wrenching question "O God, where art thou?" is felt by most people at some point in their lives. The answer from the Lord contains words of solace, perspective, hope, and redemption.
Joseph Smith's Letter
The letter of Joseph Smith to the Saints on March 20, 1839, is the original source for D&C sections 121, 122, and 123. To read the original letter and a transcript, go to:
A transcript is also found in:
"Revelations in Context: Joseph Smith's Letter from Liberty Jail, March 20, 1839," Dean C. Jessee and John W. Welch, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 3
This article also contains an introduction to the letter that explains the structure of the letter and Joseph's purposes in writing the letter.
Persecution of the Saints in Missouri
Some Missouri persecutors in Daviess County profited from driving Mormons off the lands they had settled. In 1830, laws allowed squatters the first opportunity to buy land they had improved after the land was surveyed. If squatters did not make the payment deadline, other interested parties could buy the improved land at unimproved prices. Walker argues that some Missourians were motivated by greed in cleverly orchestrating the timing of their persecutions. The Extermination Order given by Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs and the siege of Far West occurred at the same time the Mormons' land payments were due. Walker explains that when the Mormons' preemptive rights lapsed because they were forcibly prevented from leaving the city to make their payments, their persecutors quickly purchased the most valuable improved land.
Joseph Smith's Teachings on Suffering
Joseph taught a doctrine of entities coeternal with God and a new definition of divine omnipotence. From Joseph's theological platform, it does not follow that God is the total or even the ultimate explanation of all else. Thus Joseph's worldview, unlike that of classical theism, does not imply that God is an accessory before the fact to all the world's evil, nor does it follow that God is responsible for every moral and nonmoral defect that occurs in the World. Indeed, it does follow that the strictly logical problem of evil is dissolved.
The Savior's Suffering for Us
LDS doctrine provides two explanations that are uncommon in the Judeo-Christian tradition. First, all mankind chose to enter mortality with full knowledge of the great price that would be required of the Christ and of discipleship in his name. Second, one's suffering is to be in the image of that of the Lord, whose suffering was requisite "that his bowels [might] be filled with mercy…that he [might] know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12). In no other way could the redemption of the universe and the unleashing of authentic love and compassion be achieved.
Suffering is one way we can come to Christ, to experience the miracle of the Atonement by coming to learn the meanings his atoning sacrifice has for us.