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Problem with the LDS solution to the Problem of Evil?


LifeOnaPlate

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Forgive the long post.

There are a few problems with the Mormon solution to the problem of evil. I'm not saying I disbelieve possible LDS solutions, but only to say they don't come without downsides, however slight we might see them. This thread is dedicated to my Catholic pal Soren, who got me thinking about these things again.

A brief explanation of "THEODICY"

Before my mission I'd never heard of "theodicy," which refers to theological responses to the problem of evil. The problem: evil exists and we don't like it. Theodicies are ways to justify God's goodness and power in the face of the evil and suffering around us. How could an all-powerful and loving God allow such suffering and sorrow in the world? Truman Madsen explained it quite nicely in his "Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights" lectures (pirated copies circulated throughout my mission). Truman described a triangle with three points, any one of which would call into question the other two. Here's my awesome MS Paint illustration:

theodicy.jpg

This triangle assumes that evil exists, that it is real (some deny this premise from the get-go, I am not addressing them here). What does that say about the qualities of God? He is thought to be omnipotent, all-powerful. He is thought to be omnibenevolent, all loving. Yet evil exists.

So either God cannot prevent evil, and is thus not omnipotent, or he doesn't want to, and is thus not all-loving.

LDS Theodicy and Potential Problems

This problem is particularly acute for people who believe God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). Ostensibly, God could have created a world without evil, but didn't. Joseph Smith's revelations give Latter-day Saints a different perspective on God's relation to the world. Kathleen Flake described it this way:

[in LDS thought] evil is uncreated and co-eternal with good and God; so are we. Evil, like God and us, simply is, but evil pollutes, like a fly in the ointment, God
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This is your short post?

Let me give you my short answer:

You can only understand this issue if you study and understand the Plan of Salvation.

For example, one must understand that each of us gave our consent to come to this earth, and knew that bad things may happen. Bad things do happen, but we knew that in advance before coming here to the earth.

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This is your short post?

Let me give you my short answer:

You can only understand this issue if you study and understand the Plan of Salvation.

For example, one must understand that each of us gave our consent to come to this earth, and knew that bad things may happen. Bad things do happen, but we knew that in advance before coming here to the earth.

I said it was a long post, not a short one, yo.

I understand LDS responses which help vindicate God, including our willingness to endure pain and evil in order to progress. My point is that such a plan means that sin, suffering, death, etc. may come to an end for us of course, but that their effects on others continue, thus like God, we too could weep in heaven. Some Christians understandably don't look forward to something like that.

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I beleive that the scripture in Revelations is quite correct - the evil that occurred in this life will at some point no longer touch us in any manner. Though we may not be idle throughout eternity, the concerns that plagued us in this life will have a final end.

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Here is, I think, an excellent discussion on the problem of evil from an LDS pov.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=15&num=1&id=473

To this, I would add these two scriptures

Alma 14:11

11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in aglory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the bjudgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the cblood of the dinnocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

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God is considered "omnipotent", but since we know there are realities that are coeternal, our definition of omnipotence is not understood as the metaphysical power to bring about any state of affairs absolutely. Its the power to bring about any state of affairs consistent with the natures of coeternal realities.

These coeternal actualities include intelligences (perceived as primal selves or persons), matter (and energy), and laws and principles (the properties and relations of matter and intelligences). Agents, matter and laws are deemed uncreated, but as you pointed out, they can be moved, added, or removed. However, God

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I still don't see anything here that contradicts anything I said on the other thread.

And I was talking about the other thread with my coworker, who's non-LDS and relatively non-religious. His general reply was along the lines of "Apparently some people think they know better than God, which is problematic."

Annnnnd....I'm done. This is all philosophy, which is a CWOT.

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Forgive the long post.

There are a few problems with the Mormon solution to the problem of evil. I'm not saying I disbelieve possible LDS solutions, but only to say they don't come without downsides, however slight we might see them. This thread is dedicated to my Catholic pal Soren, who got me thinking about these things again.

A brief explanation of "THEODICY"

Before my mission I'd never heard of "theodicy," which refers to theological responses to the problem of evil. The problem: evil exists and we don't like it. Theodicies are ways to justify God's goodness and power in the face of the evil and suffering around us. How could an all-powerful and loving God allow such suffering and sorrow in the world? Truman Madsen explained it quite nicely in his "Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights" lectures (pirated copies circulated throughout my mission). Truman described a triangle with three points, any one of which would call into question the other two. Here's my awesome MS Paint illustration:

theodicy.jpg

This triangle assumes that evil exists, that it is real (some deny this premise from the get-go, I am not addressing them here). What does that say about the qualities of God? He is thought to be omnipotent, all-powerful. He is thought to be omnibenevolent, all loving. Yet evil exists.

So either God cannot prevent evil, and is thus not omnipotent, or he doesn't want to, and is thus not all-loving.

LDS Theodicy and Potential Problems

This problem is particularly acute for people who believe God created the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). Ostensibly, God could have created a world without evil, but didn't. Joseph Smith's revelations give Latter-day Saints a different perspective on God's relation to the world. Kathleen Flake described it this way:

Longer and more complex responses to the problem of evil have been crafted by Latter-day Saints.* Our solutions don't come without potential downsides, of course. One such downside was pointed out to me by a Catholic friend during a conversation about Verdi's "Requiem," which was performed last week by the Utah Symphony Orchestra. He commented on the lyrics of the piece:

Of course, I believe this description of God resting overlooks other scriptures, including LDS verses about God weeping (see DCP's piece, "On the Motif of the Weeping God in Moses 7," in Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks eds., Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, [Provo: FARMS, 2002]). Mormons also have uniquely LDS scriptures discussing eternal rest (e.g. 2 Ne. 24: 3; Jacob 1:7; Enos 1:27; Alma 12:34; 13:6, 29; 40:12; 3 Nephi 27:19; 28:3, Moroni 7:3; 9:6; 10:34; D&C 15:6; 59:2; 121:32, etc.).

At the same time, we believe in "eternal progression," which seems to imply action (D&C 101:31 has interesting implications, tying rest and glory together, considering D&C 76). One of Joseph's revelations explicitly ties rest to works:

This goes to show how a Mormon view of the afterlife might not be entirely appealing to everyone, and perhaps especially to those who deal with great tragedy in life and look forward to eternal rest.

On the Mormon view, it is possible to say that evil itself may never entirely be overcome for everyone. A nice eternity of nothing but resting, where there are no more tears because God wipes them away forever (Rev. 21:4), doesn't seem to be in the game plan for Mormons. Or maybe it's an option in a particular degree of glory.

In short: many non-Mormon theodicies appeal to mystery--that our sorrow here is God's mysterious will but that all will be made up to us in a wonderful eternity of rest. This doesn't help confirm God's goodness and loving nature in the here and now. On the other hand, the Mormon view exonerates God here and now by explaining that he is not the creator or delighter in evil, but that through Him evil can be overcome. Eternity, though, may not be that easy and comfortable rest hoped for by Soren and others.**

What's your take on this problem with our solution to the problem of evil?

*

For instance, see Blake T. Ostler, and David L. Paulsen, "Sin, Suffering, and Soul-Making: Joseph Smith on the Problem of Evil," in Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and Stephen D. Ricks eds., Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, (Provo: FARMS, 2002).

**

If you're interested in this topic check out my blog post "Kristen's Dilemma: Eternity or Annihilation," which I wrote a few weeks ago on LDS views of eternity and Alphaville's "Forever Young."

Actually, if you read the account in Genesis where the Lord God and Cain are discussing the nature of sin, there is something very relevant that many people miss. This is the one passage of scripture that actually speaks out against predestination, as well as the misconception of "free will".

The interesting aspect of this particular passage is that the Lord God tells Cain that if he gives into his anger, it is his anger that will become his master. In order for Cain to gain mastery over his Anger, he had to learn how to control it. In this sense, when the Lord God said to Cain that sin lieth at the door, what is being related is that we are emotionally driven beings. Part of mortality, we are subject to all kinds of things. Temptations being amongst them. Christ himself taught that when a man looks upon a woman with lust in his eyes, he has already committed adultery.

Now, because we are mortal beings, we are subjugated to the volition of our own will. And, one of the most promised blessings of the Fall that most modern Evangelicals do not comprehend is that we believe man has an opportunity to gain self-control over his/her own desires. Now, before one launches criticism against this statement, consider the process of addiction recovery. If you know of anyone, or are a former addict, the very first thing one has to come to terms with is understanding their particular addiction.

For the Alcoholic, they have to overcome their addiction by making mental choices, understanding particular triggers, and even replace the particular addiction with something that is better for them, and healthier for them. As they slowly gain control over their desire, their will power (volition) increases to where they no longer are slaves to their addiction, but masters over the addiction.

Prime example. On June 1, 2010, I will be smoke free for a whole year. One of the factors that helped me overcome my addiction to nicotene is realizing my dependency upon this particular addiction. I allowed it to gain mastery over my life, controlling every aspect of it. When I got frustrated, I needed to light up, because it helped calmed the nerves.

Yet, when I could not smoke in the house, the car, and finally, no where near the apartment. I was only limited to smoking at work. Finally, when I lost my job, out the window the coffin nails went. Yet, by that time, I had come to the point where I could quit cold turkey and gain mastery over it. Was it difficult? Did I slip a couple of times? Yes, because that is what happens.

This is why Paul said that we are to count ourselves dead to Sin. Once we have made a covenant, it is now a process of living our lives, not according to our own will, but according to the will of God. This is where obedience comes into play. And, from a more psychological perspective, it centers around a change of behavioralism.

All of this is quite evident in life as we understand and comprehend.

Now, returning back to the passage of where the Lord God is talking with Cain, we find (as stated previously) that Cain suffered jealousy, hurt, rage, and anger over the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice and not Cain's sacrifice. While most of us understand the symbolism, and application, what tends to get lost is the nature of the conversation.

Thus, when something like this comes up - If God is so loving, omniscient, and omnipotent, then how can he allow suffering and evil to continue in this world? The answer is that it is not because God is allowing it, or not allowing it, but it is because it is based upon humanity's moral agency and accountability. If we choose to do evil, it is because we choose, not because something God has done. If we choose to do good, it is not because God commanded us to do good. It is because we reason within ourselves, and make the appropriate choices necessary within the given circumstances.

Therefore, God is still Loving, Omniscient, and Omnipotent and yet man has a volition of moral agency and accountability.

furthermore, not only this, but when we look at the over all plan of salvation, and the uniqueness of the LDS position, we find that God truly did understand and know that humanity was going to fall into transgression and disobey his commandments. Again, many modern Evangelicals cringe at this thought and understanding, but if they truly were open to the reality of truth, they would come to terms with understanding how a perfectly loving all knowing and all powerful sovereign God our Heavenly Father is and our relationship with him, and the reality and necessity of the process of repentance and sanctification.

Another dilemma in dealing with this issue is trying to bring it down to our own finite understanding and then define the concept with our finite thinking.

Thus, the overall purpose in this life is to gain mastery and control over our desires, emotions, and become more and more like Christ by denying the natural elements of the flesh, rather than allow those natural elements, desires, and lusts become the master over us.

And, in case if one is wondering, what things have we allowed to become the master over our lives?

Violence,

Anger,

Resentment,

Discord,

Jealousy,

Sex,

Drugs,

Alcohol,

Crime,

Greed,

Money,

Popularity,

Social Status,

Educational Prestige,

Egocentric Attitudes,

This list can go on.

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The most problematic variable within the equation is God's alleged omnipotence. The way that we solve this issue is to admit that God is absolutely NOT omnipotent. He operates within the boundaries and the sphere in which he governs. Then we can insert a "free will" theodicy that allows/requires God to limit his involvement and still allow the existence of Evil. This evil is often born of individual choice, a fallen world, or in the rare case a hardship designed to "test" us.

Big UP!

Lamanite

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So either God cannot prevent evil, and is thus not omnipotent, or he doesn't want to, and is thus not all-loving.

I think this sets up some false dichotomies which go back perhaps even to Neoplatonism.

If one takes an approach using linguistic analysis, an approach which has dominated philosophy for the last hundred years, the false dichotomies imo become non-existent.

Another way of saying this is that it all comes down to definitions- that for these dichotomies to work, "evil" has to be defined in very absolute terms which are totally incompatible with "good" whereas in reality we all make decisions every day which contrast choices which are "better" than others with ones which might be "worse". Should I go to the temple or do my home teaching? It is not that one is evil, and the other "good" but one is just better (perhaps, perhaps not,) than the other.

It is wrong to kill, but it is right to defend one's country so is killing "evil" or not?

It would be hard to make sense of any discussion of these issues in philosophy since Wittgenstein.

Just the concept of "tough love" where one teaches lovingly by using the consequences of one's own actions illustrates how false these dichotomies are- Does the perfect parent never allow a child to fall or make a mistake? Obviously not- that is how we all learn.

And our Father IS the perfect parent.

Edit: The supposedly classic problem of free-will vs determinism is another example which melts away in practical life (or the philosophy of Pragmatism as championed by James Dewey and Wittgenstein). We can argue for determinism all we like, but when we have to decide whether or not to drop off the laundry before or after work, it sure feels like we are free to decide either course, regardless of of God knows what we are going to do in advance. So one is forced quite honestly to ask "What difference does it make?"

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I beleive that the scripture in Revelations is quite correct - the evil that occurred in this life will at some point no longer touch us in any manner. Though we may not be idle throughout eternity, the concerns that plagued us in this life will have a final end.

We'll never have to worry and ache over wayward children?
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If I understand LifeOnaPlate correctly, he is absolutely right.

Other Christian denominations can't fathom that pain and suffering of any kind could exist in Heaven. LDS can. Evil is a necessary part of the universe, and can't be totally eradicated. We will have to live with it for eternity, no matter how much we suppress it.

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Thus, the overall purpose in this life is to gain mastery and control over our desires, emotions, and become more and more like Christ by denying the natural elements of the flesh, rather than allow those natural elements, desires, and lusts become the master over us.

And, in case if one is wondering, what things have we allowed to become the master over our lives?

Thanks for this post!

You have absolutely nailed it, and in my opinion this is precisely the center bullseye of the gospel.

Rev 3:

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne

The entire problem of good vs evil is not played out in some abstract Neoplatonic realm of forms but in our everyday lives where determinism is fantasy, and for the most part, choices are shades of grey, and one gets to choose between them by throwing a dart.

But sometimes the choices are very clear, and giving up what controls our lives is THE central question here. WE CREATE freedom and we CREATE good by overcoming what is holding us back. As Paul said, evil can make a home in us and overcoming is our task. And the only way this is possible is by surrendering to the atonement of Jesus Christ and putting him in charge.

Great post!

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This is all philosophy, which is a CWOT.

Speak for yourself! I couldn't disagree with you more. Philosophy can be a waste of time, but to call philosophy in general and in all cases a waste of time is almost nonsensical. In fact, such an assertion would be grounded in philosophical reasoning, however insufficient. :P

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If I understand LifeOnaPlate correctly, he is absolutely right.

Other Christian denominations can't fathom that pain and suffering of any kind could exist in Heaven. LDS can. Evil is a necessary part of the universe, and can't be totally eradicated. We will have to live with it for eternity, no matter how much we suppress it.

I tend to disagree but am not really certain about this.

So much of suffering is due to our point of view. If we could see our loved ones as glowing spirits in their happiness, would we mourn them really? If they could "stop in" and talk to us and tell us of the wonders they experience, wouldn't we just be happy for them?

And how much more would this be true if we were in the celestial kingdom and KNEW God's glory and could see all the inhabitants of the earth and their problems, and if we knew how they were going to resolve both for good and bad?

I know there is an opinion that heavenly Father retired to some "corner" of the universe when Jesus died, but I have always thought that I would be rejoicing over his strength and fortitude for having accomplished the most difficult task anyone has ever achieved: the atonement. I think I would be proud of him and waiting for him to return from his mission with great joy no matter how hard it was! Perhaps even with more joy because of what he was able to do! That's the way I felt when I knew my son had performed well under difficult situations on his very difficult mission- why would our Father NOT feel that way?

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The most problematic variable within the equation is God's alleged omnipotence. The way that we solve this issue is to admit that God is absolutely NOT omnipotent. He operates within the boundaries and the sphere in which he governs. Then we can insert a "free will" theodicy that allows/requires God to limit his involvement and still allow the existence of Evil. This evil is often born of individual choice, a fallen world, or in the rare case a hardship designed to "test" us.

Big UP!

Lamanite

If we take this as being true, then we face a future heaven where evil seems to be a real possibility, or at least some of its effects. That is the problem I am referring to.

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If I understand LifeOnaPlate correctly, he is absolutely right.

Other Christian denominations can't fathom that pain and suffering of any kind could exist in Heaven. LDS can. Evil is a necessary part of the universe, and can't be totally eradicated. We will have to live with it for eternity, no matter how much we suppress it.

Yes! :P

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Thanks for this post!

You have absolutely nailed it, and in my opinion this is precisely the center bullseye of the gospel.

Rev 3:

The entire problem of good vs evil is not played out in some abstract Neoplatonic realm of forms but in our everyday lives where determinism is fantasy, and for the most part, choices are shades of grey, and one gets to choose between them by throwing a dart.

But sometimes the choices are very clear, and giving up what controls our lives is THE central question here. WE CREATE freedom and we CREATE good by overcoming what is holding us back. As Paul said, evil can make a home in us and overcoming is our task. And the only way this is possible is by surrendering to the atonement of Jesus Christ and putting him in charge.

Great post!

Sure, but again, this seems to accept that evil, etc. continue in some way through eternity, which is unsettling and objectionable to our Xtian bros and sisters.

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Speak for yourself! I couldn't disagree with you more. Philosophy can be a waste of time, but to call philosophy in general and in all cases a waste of time is almost nonsensical. In fact, such an assertion would be grounded in philosophical reasoning, however insufficient. :P

I agree.

Really philosophy is just "thinking about things". I am certainly not about to say that it is of "no value" to "think about things"! Who would really believe that?

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So either God cannot prevent evil, and is thus not omnipotent, or he doesn't want to, and is thus not all-loving.

I am not sure I accept the last conclusion. I believe that, to an extent, allowing evil is the loving thing to do. For example, if it is loving for a parent (or omnipotent God) to enable his child to know good, and if it takes evil in order for the child to know good, then allowing evil is a loving thing for the parent (or omnipotent God) to do. Right?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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It's interesting how fundamentally different (in their ancient roots) Eastern philosophy and religion is from Western philosophy and religion. At the roots of western civilization there is the concept of a God or Gods creating man like humans create artifacts. A western child asks his father, "Dad, how was I made?" In China it would be more common for a child to ask his father, "How was I grown?" I'm not an expert on the subject, but it seems that those from an eastern perspective have a much easier time wrapping their minds around the existence of evil because they assume it is part of the natural development of the Universe. A plant in its natural process of growth experiences the sunlight of the day and the darkness of the night. Eastern philosophy looks at man as growing out of the Earth like apples grow from a tree. There isn't, as Alan Watts would say, "as strong of a tendency in ancient Eastern thought to pit ourselves against some external reality." We are the universe looking at its self.

So if you have this understanding that good and evil are part of a holistic and natural function of the Universe, why would it seem like the existence of God would some how be in opposition to that if he is part of the same universe?

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I beleive that the scripture in Revelations is quite correct - the evil that occurred in this life will at some point no longer touch us in any manner. Though we may not be idle throughout eternity, the concerns that plagued us in this life will have a final end.

Will evil cease to touch you in the future when those spirits under your stewardship, who you will eventually come to love as much as God Himself, use their agency poorly and receive the buffetings of Satan?

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It seems the LDS response to this quandary is essentially that God isn't omnipotent. For example the following verse from Alma 42:

13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

In other words God is constrained by spiritual laws beyond his control just as man is bound by physical laws beyond his control.

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Will evil cease to touch you in the future when those spirits under your stewardship, who you will eventually come to love as much as God Himself, use their agency poorly and receive the buffetings of Satan?

Who knows?

The scripture seems to me to speak only about the evils, death, etc. of this life.

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