Why Would Our Heavenly Father Do That to Anyone?

In a controversial speech during the Fall 2011 LDS General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following remark:

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural.  Not so!  Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?  Remember, He is our Heavenly Father.

The edited version that came out later in the LDS-sponsored Ensign deleted the phrase:  “Why would our Heaven Father do that to anyone?”

While Elder Packer was speaking specifically about gays, his deleted question has much wider application.  I frequently ask myself that same question as it relates to the vast majority of people who have lived or who are living on the earth now:  WHY WOULD HEAVENLY FATHER DO THAT TO ANYONE?

  • Why 2 million orphans in Uganda?
  • Why 6 million Jews died in Hitler’s extermination camps?
  • Why are people born in Somalia and Darfur?
  • Why the slaughter in the Civil War and World War I?
  • Why Downs Syndrome?
  • Why Tay-Sachs Disease?
  • Why the Khmer Rouge?

I think you get the idea.  Why do so many people have to live lives of desparation while I live in comparative luxury?  In some real sense, I hope that this life is nothing more a simulation, that some science fiction writers are correct with there speculations, that there really is a holodeck.  Life on earth just doesn’t make sense to me when you look at the entirety of life on earth, much of it miserable.

The Mormon Plan of Salvation seems uniquely suited to only middle-class Americans and Europeans.

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19 Responses to Why Would Our Heavenly Father Do That to Anyone?

  1. dor says:

    The concept of an omnipotent God is so damaging. It diminishes both our humanity and the awe of our divinity.
    On the one hand, asserting God is all-powerful/all knowing infers that disaster, disease and distress only happen to others. In so doing, it relieves us of the responsibility to treat others as we would ourselves wish to be treated. It works against our instincts for empathy because it suggests that at some level those who are suffering are deserving of the pain. It is so at odds with a loving God as to verge on blasphemy.
    When applied to issues like homosexuality or patriarchy, it assigns the bigotry of humanity to God and as such, serves as a veiled threat. To question outdated mores rises to the level of heresy.
    A humble faith would suggest that we need to participate with God, to eradicate suffering, to accept ourselves and others and to work for social and economic justice.
    What is “impure and unnatural” is to assume that God wishes us to subjugate others in God’s name.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I agree with your statement “faith would suggest that we need to participate with God, to eradicate suffering . . . and to work for social and economic justice.” However, it is the magnitude of the problem that is overwhelming. For every person that can do something positive, there are so many in need. As long as I don’t think about earthly conditions, I can stay positive. But for most of those dwelling on earth, life sucks . . . whether you are a persecuted minority, selling pencils on the sidewalks of Africa, or suffering some some extreme mental or physical handicap. (I suspect we are all suffering some mental handicap.)

  2. enrique cifuentes says:

    También me preguntaría porque tantos millones que tratan de justificar que Dios no existe.

  3. susan says:

    Roger, your reply to DOR says, “…as long as I don’t think about earthly conditions, I can stay positive”. You make it sound like such a fine line that you are walking. If I interpret your post correctly, you constantly have to “try” to make any sense out of this life, or to find good. I suggest that by using that logic, you are dangerously close to not being able to find the gold at the end of any of these crazy rainbows along the paths we take in this life. It is not selfish to look upon YOURSELF and what you have been able to accomplish. It is not selfish to look at what YOU have done for yourself, which in turn has helped many others. If you believe in God, and you believe in another life, then isn’t it possible that somehow, somewhere, it will be someone else’s turn to have the “best”. And you are right, “for every person that can do something positive, there are so many in need”. But that’s why you are there, and that’s why you have helped so many. You have been a God-send to many people throughout this world and have seen first-hand what people need. Do you ever consider yourself a cynical optimist?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Sue, I’ve always understood that there are good things and bad things (no value judgment intended), or rich and poor in the world. The problem I’m currently having is with the numbers. There are so many of the poor (with extremely limited opportunities) compared to the rich. This ratio doesn’t deter me as much as it depresses me. And thus my reason for questioning my beliefs about the “eternal” man.

      The other thing I occasionally wonder about are my motives. Is it guilt? Is it notoriety? Is it a pat on the back? I know it’s not because I expect a higher standing in the hereafter, I’m not sure there is a hereafter. And I don’t give a shit about my legacy. But I hope my motives are somewhat defenseable. But in reality, I will probably continue to do what I do, no matter what conclusions I come to about my motives.

      As for being a “cynical optimist,” I believe that most of the things in my vision (except overcoming world poverty) are doable. It’s organizations that make me cynical. They always seem to degenerate into self-preservation activities and lose sight of their original goals. It’s nice to have friends.

  4. dor says:

    You are asking the questions of mature faith. You are exploring what blessing means and what the severe disparity and suffering mean.
    Organizations, indeed, are institutions of self-preservation, often from the start. The best ones serve in spite of themselves.
    As an undergrad, I took a class that was designed to make people preparing for “helping professions” understand that there is no such thing as pure altruism. The exercises helped each of us see that we as people who seek to help are also healing from a wound or filling a need. The clarity that it is so is needed so that when we serve, we are not contributing to the problems we encounter by acting unconsciously. It is why therapists and pastoral care providers also have supervisors/therapists/spiritual directors — so they can help rather than trying to do their work through their clients.
    And this is perhaps how God works. We are called to serve from our own motives and in the acting from that call, we embody the holy.
    The Jews have the concept of the “tzaddik (Hebrew for ‘righteous man’). The righteous man, personified by Joseph, is the foundation of the world; he lives by faith, and in each generation there are at least thirty-six men whose merits support the world” (Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend). Imagine as few as 36 holding the world together.
    Poverty is something we all share. For some it is poverty of means, for others poverty of faith, for others poverty of compassion.
    So what does that say about God? For me it means that the gross injustice, the rampant violence are not related to God. They are not a test, they are not a plan, they simply are. God didn’t make some people homosexual so knowing that they could resist their urges; some people simply are homosexual. For some, living celibate is an authentic choice, for others it is a violation of their identities. perhaps God accepts both because God is is in the whole, the entirety of creations.
    “The Fall” in Genesis is eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of believing that we can actually tell when that judgement is God’s alone . God did not design the world to be this way; God is that force that gives us the tools, the awareness, the call to serve.
    You, Roger, perhaps a tzaddik yourself, answer that call, I suspect, with your whole life.
    Thank you for the post, for the questions, for the opportunity to meditate on this. It helps me with my faith walk. Thank you.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I wish I was the person you think I am! The problem that I am having is with the magnitude of the world’s poverty. There are 7 billion people living on the Earth today. Most live hand-to-mouth. Many will die in infancy or childhood. Many are brain scared caused by malnutrition. What is the purpose of their existance?

  5. You ask a very valid question. There are some presumptions that cause this to be a real issue for most people. We believe, falsely, that man is basically good. The Bible asserts that man, because of the fall, is sinful from day one. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–” Romans 5:12 and Ephesians 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” And that because of this sin we don’t deserve our next breath, since the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23) But God’s grace has allowed us to live, some to prosper some not so (Matthew 5:45) And isn’t that the right of the Creator? We humans think very highly of ourselves, but if you believe that man was created by God, (Genesis 5:1 This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.) is it not the Creator’s prerogative to do what he wishes with His creation? The question I have to ask is not “Why would [He] do that to anyone?” but “Why wouldn’t He do it to me?” I certainly do not deserve in anyway to live a life of relative ease. The fact that He spares anyone from pain is not an indication to me that He is NOT good but that He is merciful (He withholds immediate punishment that our sin deserves) and graceful (He bestows blessings that are undeserved) but my comprehension.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I believe personally that man is born with a clean slate. I think that this is consistent with LDS doctrine. And I know that this isn’t the teachings of Evangelical Christians. But even if you assume that humanity is born in sin, why would God “spare” so few and leave so many in dire straits? There are currently 7 billion inhabitants on the Earth. The vast majority are living hand-to-mouth. What is the purpose of their earthly sojourn? Your explanation is difficult for me to understand. I think you are arguing that they have no purpose.

      • The Bible is pretty straightforward in that no one is free from sin (Romans 3:23, Ecclesiates 7:20, Ephesians 2:3) There is nothing to indicate that we start with a clean slate. Our hearts are born sinful, meaning our natural inclination is to be selfish and sinful. The Bible also tells us that God saves who he pleases and for his glory. God chose a small, unimpressive people, the Isrealites (Deut 7:7) to raise up so that the great things that would happen would be attributed to Him and God’s glory would be shown. (Ezekiel 36:22)

        Can I ask, why is it that you feel God owes it to the 7 billion inhabitants of the earth to save anyone? Is there anyone who can make a case that they don’t deserve punishment for sin?

  6. rogerdhansen says:

    I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, but the author was an existentialist (I’m guessing your religion is not very compatible with existentialism). You are cherry picking your scriptural quotes. I would agree that all men sin, but that doesn’t mean we are “born sinful.” I’m not a big believer in the OT.

    If there is a God, I assume he put us on Earth for a reason. I just need to better understand what that reason is, particularly as it relates to the inhabitants that are born without much of hope of what we would consider a normal life. To me, the shear magnitude of those suffering is overwhelming. Your explanation doesn’t make any sense to me.

    • I’m going to be out of town for a few days, but when I get back I will dig into my proof text a little more so that it doesn’t look like I’m just taking things out of context and better explain myself. Can you provide me with any Bible verses that would imply that we are born with a clean slate? Maybe that would help be better understand where you are coming from. I think that we were put on this earth for a reason…we were created to be the crowning jewel for our Creators work. We were created to live in relationship with Him, free from the affects of sin (pain, death, evil doing, life struggles etc). The door to sin was opened when Eve gave Adam the fruit and he, like she insisted, ate. God the creator cursed the earth and the people who would inhabit it. Our lives became subject to the perversion of what was good because of the effects of sin (work became hard, relationships became difficult, love of self became prominent over love of others etc) The suffering in this world is the product of what Adam and Eve ‘wanted’ when they wanted, and did, eat the fruit. God could have wiped out the earth (he almost did in the flood), or turned from it and left us all to death and destruction which we rightfully deserve because even when we do our best our hearts are still tainted with sin, but he didn’t. Christ took on the form of man lived the life we couldn’t (free from sin) and died the death we should’ve (penalty for sins) so that for those whom he saves, the sufferings of this world will not be worth caring about in light of the joys and pleasures of the next.

      I realize this lacks all scriptural citiation. I’m more than happy to provide, after my trip, just do not have the time I’d like to dedicate to this response and wanted to say the gist before next week.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        You and I are coming at this “problem” from different directions. I believe the Book of Genesis to be a metaphor. There was no Adam and Eve, and no literal Garden of Eden. History, geology, archeology, etc. tells us there was no universal flood.

        Having said that, if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the “fruit,” then it never would have been possible for you and I to live on the Earth. So in the story, the pair was predestine to take the course they did. They were doing God’s will by eating the fruit. Thus this earthly existence is in part God’s making.

        Which gets me back to my original problem: “Why have so many had to live lives of drudgery, pain, and suffering (literally billions)? I can sort of understand individuals needing trials, but for so many to lives that are nothing but a trial is hard for me to understand.

      • Forgive my delay….
        You are and I are definitely coming at this from different angles. I do not know how to answer the question of purpose of life and purpose of suffering away from the steadfast belief of the Bible to be the literal (and historical) word of God. I am not a scientist in anyway, and while I am married to someone who has spent years in study of anthropology to directly understand the Bible and history, I have not absorb any more information with which to form a response beyond “yes huh!” So even though I’ve read much information from scholars who believe it is possible for the events in Genesis to have occurred given our inability to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world has always environmentally been as it is, I will not insult you by trying to sound more informed than I am.
        All that being said, can we look at your questions Biblically (even if just from the hypothetical stand point that it is literal and not metaphorical) and see if, in the context of God’s truth, can we find answers? You said they had to eat the fruit in order for you and I to be here now. I do not see anything in the creation story that indicates procreation would not have been possible outside of sin. What I see is that God told them not to eat of the tree for when they do they will surely die (Genesis 2:17) When they ate of the tree they introduced death and suffering into the world. God does not cause the pain and suffering we see, He simply allows the natural consequence of the disobeyed commandment to take it’s course. He could intervene in every circumstance to circumvent this but He doesn’t. He did however make a way for the curse to be overcome. Since death did not mean just physical death but also a separation from God (which Adam and Eve suffered once they were expelled from the garden) we are able to be made alive to God through Christ. (In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11) And He will do away with the decaying earth and will create a New Heaven and New Earth, inhabited by those in Christ and free from the painful effects of sin. (Revelation 21)

      • roger hansen says:

        It seems to me that you are letting your biblical interpretations interfere with commonly accepted observations of the physical world. Do you believe in biblical dating, that Adam and Eve lived only a few thousand years ago. How literally are you taking the Bible? Physical evidence indicates (proves) there was no universal flood.

        To take the OT seriously as science, history, etc. doesn’t work for me. And increasingly it is not working for most scientists, historians, etc. And many of these professionals are deeply religious. That doesn’t mean there aren’t useful moral teachings in the OT, but it does mean that much of it is simplistic metaphors for shepards, who weren’t ready to learn about the Big Bang.

        We are here on Earth, regardless of the reason. So what should we do while we are here? I think Christ explains it best, “Love our neighbor.” In the present-day world, I have 7 billion neighbors, and I’m concerned about their wellbeing. I just don’t understand the reason for their plight.

        Instead of trying to work out the incongruates between science and religion, I think it best to try and find some moral teachings in the available, but imperfect, religions. All we can do is live what we believe. If there is an afterworld, I’m assuming that is how we will be judged.

        Along these lines, I believe that we are co-creators of the Earth, with God. The Earth wasn’t created in 6 days, it is still being created. That means we have a very important responsibility to the Earth and its inhabitants.

      • I am a creationist (I know I know, I am a simplistic loon who clearly doesn’t know anything…I’m ok with that). If I’m going to take the Bible literally when it said that Christ died for the payment of my sins and rose again so that I may have life eternal with God then I don’t have an issue taking creation literally. I agree we should love our neighbors, love fulfills the letter of the law. In loving my neighbors I will not only help them as I would myself but I will point them to the cross of Christ so that they may be found in Christ righteousness on judgement day not their own. Because even the best heart is stained with sin.

  7. roger hansen says:

    I thought that creationism had morphed into intelligent design? On the days I believe in God, I can’t help but think He has some hand in the on-going, evolutionary creation. That is why I’m so frustrated about the human condition in developing countries.

    Personally, I have difficulty believing that humanity is born in sin. And luckily, Mormonism seems to believe in the “clean-slate” version of birth (but it depends on who you talk to). I tend to view Christ more like Thomas Jefferson and the secular humanists.

    • I disagree with mormonism on that because it seems the Bible disagrees with mormonism.

      • roger hansen says:

        I suspect this ends our conversation. I’m Mormon by birth. I will probably stay Mormon. And there are two things I strongly believe: (1) Mormonism and Creationism (and its offspring Intelligent Design) are ultimately NOT compatible and (2) man is born with a clean slate.

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