Mormon Musings: The Sadness of Free Agency

Every once in a while I post on Sunday some thoughts from my Mormon perspective. They’re not intended to proselytize, but to help others understand. I am no more afraid of my faith than I am of my ADHD or depression. I discuss them all openly. In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and in Pakistan, today’s post is about finding peace in your faith despite the evil that is done to the innocent of the world. It’s a lot better than the article I planned on the made up “White Horse Prophecy”.

I posted on Facebook the other day about Brussels and about the things I had been reading in the news. I noted that one of the terrorists responsible for blowing up the airport was also responsible for planting a camera outside of a nuclear power plant official’s home so his comings and goings could be studied. I read that the terrorists planned on making a dirty bomb. Then I read the next day about the security guard at a Belgian nuclear research facility who had been murdered in his home. The murdered guard’s security pass was stolen, so obviously Belgium is a bit alarmed.

Then I commented that I helplessly pray that Father will bless the Belgians and protect them, but I fear that His tendency to let all His children have free agency–even the evil ones–will prevent Him from intervening. It’s the one aspect of the Plan that I have the hardest time with. There is so much innocent pain and suffering while despicable people exercise their free agency. I just don’t understand it sometimes.

A long-time reader of the blog commented with the following:

It’s why people like me have abandoned the idea of any plan, if all but abandoned the idea of a creator. And, why I often envy those of you that haven’t abandoned all of that for very different reasons.

I want to share my response with you so that you can understand the Mormon perspective on death and free agency:

If it weren’t for personal experiences where I have felt the Spirit comfort me and bear truth to me of things, in all honesty I’d be right there with you. I remember the time years ago when I took the phone call in the middle of the night that my brother had been hurt in a car accident. I woke my parents with the awful news, and they quickly booked a flight to California. After they were on their way, I knelt in prayer and asked Father to save my brother, but I was rebuked. I distinctly felt that I could not ask that. It was then that I realized my brother would die. I changed my prayer and asked Father to keep my brother alive until my parents could arrive. I prayed that he would be comforted. And I made my peace.

If I believe in an omnipotent Heavenly Father, then I believe that my brother could have been saved. At the time, I did not know why he could not be. I learned later that the damage to his body was too extreme. He hung on for fourteen hours after the accident, hung in there while my parents said their goodbyes, then he was gone. He was a fully trained Marine fresh out of boot camp with his comrades for their first night on liberty. Then a drunk driver plowed into them at 80mph while the van they were in was waiting at a stop light. It hardly seems fair. He was two weeks away from filing his papers to serve a mission. How could the Lord allow this to happen?

I realize this aspect of religion is a deal breaker for many people. Why does a supposedly kind and loving Heavenly Father allow his children to suffer? I have heard many explanations over the years, including a great talk by Spencer W. Kimball, but it is still a hard truth to bear.

Yet, because of the comfort I received, I was prepared to comfort the dozens of grieving souls who came to our home to give their condolences after my brother’s death. It was a mixed blessing, to be sure, but I was thankful for it.

So I still pray for the deliverance of the innocent from the cruel hands of the wicked, and I don’t fault Father for letting his children suffer because I accept that free agency must be respected. However, I am determined to find out one day why and how He could allow great evil to happen when He intervenes here and there, but not everywhere. From my mortal perspective, it seems capricious. I have faith, though, that I will one day see the whole picture and understand.*

Another person commented that Mormons tend to think of death as going home. I thought the same thing after making my reply. It’s one reason why I don’t visit my brother’s grave that often. He’s not there. His body is interred there, but he’s moved on. I believe he still exists beyond this plane. That accounts greatly for why I am not usually rocked by death, though I am saddened by it. Who wants to lose a dear friend, lover, or family member? The separation pains us because even if there is an afterlife, we aren’t there with them. But I truly believe I will be reunited with them again, so it feels more like au revoir, not sayonara.

As for how that relates with the bombing, my faith in a gospel plan that calls for free agency is equally as strong. A God that intervenes, interferes with free agency. Even Christ had to suffer the consequences of others’ agency. But it’s still hard to wrap my head around, especially when terror savages women and children all over the world, even on Easter picnics. Why doesn’t a kind and loving Heavenly Father intervene? I’ve heard the explanations. Don’t we let our children fall and scuff their knees so that they can learn? Yes, yes, but blowing people up is a bit worse than that, don’t you think? The child chooses to run, and falling is its consequence until they learn to keep their balance. The victims of violence don’t choose to be victimized. This is a concept that I personally struggle over. The price we pay for freedom is that we are free to have bad things happen to us. However, when death is the consequence, it doesn’t feel very much like freedom.

But what would I have instead? Am I free to choose right from wrong if I know the hand of God will swoop down and correct things? It seems that some people would fall in line and never disobey, but others would take advantage of such protection, pushing the limits, knowing that there would never be any negative consequences. What would anybody learn if compelled to be good? If the Earth was turned into a Safe Space where nobody was harmed, and nobody was in danger of failing or dying, that would be Satan’s plan that we rejected. Yes, Mormons believe we elected to allow bad things to happen to good people so that we would all be free to choose. Christ offered to condescend to Earth in order to free us from the bonds of death and sin, but he also came to lead the way by example. Free agency is supposed to be a wonderful, beautiful practice where people choose light over dark. But witnessing this free agency abused by evil men as they harm the innocent is very, very hard to bear. I find no comfort in the knowledge. Only sadness.

from A Splintered Mind

Leave a Reply