Recently I heard one of my favorite YouTube stars go on a rant about how there is no God. His argument was that people die of starvation in Africa and thus God either has no power to stop it or chooses not to stop it and is evil himself because he chooses not to. His argument makes several presumptions. One of which is that there is no possibility that he has the power, wants to act, but chooses not to for good reasons.
Religion is a very touchy topic which frequently brings on flaming, and a heated debate. I do not wish to incite such a thing, not am I trying to convert anyone. Rather, I am trying to explain a very difficult subject in such a way that people who are confused by it, or believe something because it is the only thing they have heard that makes since, etc… may have a new perspective to consider.
Before I start into my rebuttal to his statement. I have to try to explain my perspective. First, I am Mormon. Some of the doctrines we believe are critical to understanding our perspective. I’m a pretty open minded guy, and as I continually consider the entire body of Mormon Doctrine as I know it, and weigh it against my own experiences and what I see in the world. I haven’t found anything yet that doesn’t “fit” with what we call “The Doctrine of Christ”.
The first thing to consider is that in the dialog of God vs. No God our position is neither prove-able, nor un-prove-able to other people. This is because one of the doctrines is that “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).
With the preamble out of the way. On to the meat of my thoughts.
Mormons believe in the Plan of Salvation. Which is: We lived before we were born. We didn’t live as amorphous ethereal conglomerates of fluffy stuff that God conjured up on a whim. Rather, we believe that we are literal children of Heavenly Parents (yeah I know, it is different, but given a study of the bible, with this perspective, I think you can see how this position is tenable, and within the realm of possibility). What do children do? They grow up to be like their parents. Now think about that for a second. What is it like to grow up and be like God? When people hear this, they frequently imagine things like the Greeks, and their belief in a Soap Operaish Dysfuntional collection of all powerful beings. I can a-test, that is NOT what Mormon’s believe in. I don’t believe you could even call Mormon’s Poly-Theistic. We don’t worship multiple gods / deities. We worship a single being. While he has many words which you can use to represent him, the word we most commonly use is “Heavenly Father”.
So, let’s put ourselves in his position for a minute. Your children are growing up, over a period of millennia / eternities. One day they could achieve a position where they are heir to all you have. Where you share all that you have with them. How do you determine who has the discipline and patience to be trusted not to obliterate planets in a temper tantrum?
We believe that this Earth Life answers that question. It is a time where with limited knowledge, and opposition in abundance we are tested to see what we will do. When we feel the gentle subtle pulls of conscience to do what is right will we heed them, or will we ignore them? Will we seek out those things that feel good, not in a temporal immediate sense, such as pleasure, and immediate gain, but rather, those less tangible things that are the subtle fruits of a life full of service to others. The almost imperceptible tugs at our hearts.
To achieve this, it necessitates that this life has no obvious signs. No giant billboards that float in the air, and glow with power we don’t understand, that say “God is Real, and He Loves You.” However, to aid those that are seeking after good things, God does provide small crumbs, clues and hints that point the way. Things that when looked at closely, just don’t quite make sense until you frame it within the “Plan of Salvation”. That is why, (un-named YouTube star), God allows people to suffer, he allows evil to occur, because if he didn’t, it would not fit this Plan of Salvation, it would make all the suffering of the world, vain and pointless. It would make this test, an invalid experience. It’s not because he is impotent, nor because he is impassioned about his children. Rather, similar to letting our own children fall and stumble so that they can learn, he has to let his children, and thus at times, the majority of the human race fall and stumble to make the test valid. He cares, he cares deeply, however because of the laws he is bound to, and because of his love for his children he cannot act. One of my favorite scriptures is Moses 7:28 – This verse comes after the great evil of the world is show to Enoch, specifically in the time immediately before Noah. “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?”
This explanation of why bad things happen to good and innocent people can be especially hard to accept for those who have had great evil perpetrated upon them. There are other doctrines which comfort those which I didn’t touch on.
I, believe these things are true. I do my best to make choices based upon these things and to do what’s right from my understanding. Many members of the Mormon faith say things like “I know”, not just “I believe” because they have had this witness. No, they most likely haven’t had the veil parted and seen God face to face. But they have seen things, felt things, and experienced things to such a degree they can say with honesty “I know”. I believ I can say with honestly that I know what I have written here is true.
While I’m expecting a cascade of comments such as “What about children in China?” and “What about people who never heard about him?” and “I once knew a Mormon who did such and such…” Most of these questions have good answers, but they aren’t one sentence answers, some of them aren’t even one page answers, but there are answers for most of them. And if you really want to know the answer, and aren’t just shouting back in my face I may write up an answer, or point you to a good answer, there are lot of good answers on lds.org, and mormon.org. If you recognize and feel those gentle tugs at your heart I mentioned earlier, I would encourage you to go learn more, and consider a new explanation for the source of those feelings.