A high school student once asked me why the students couldn’t be issued textbooks like the ones issued to teachers containing all the answers. After a moment’s thought, I responded that there are no easy answers to many of life’s greatest questions. More often than not, we have to figure things out for ourselves through study, exertion and hard earned experience.
Spencer W. Kimball said, “The daily newspaper screamed the headlines: ‘Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy’ and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: ‘Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?’
“Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?
“Why should the young mother die of cancer and leave her eight children motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her? A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?”
“A man dies suddenly of a coronary occlusion. His wife cried out in agony, ‘Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who still need a Father?’
Elder Kimball said, “I wish I could answer these questions with authority, but I cannot. I am sure that sometime we’ll understand and be reconciled. But for the present we must seek understanding as best we can in gospel principles.
“Was it the Lord who directed the plane into the mountain to snuff out the lives of its occupants, or were there mechanical faults or human errors? Did our Father in Heaven cause the collision that took six people into eternity, or was it the error of the driver who ignored safety rules?
“Did God take the life of the young mother or prompt the child to toddle into the canal or guide the other child into the path of the oncoming car? Did the Lord cause the man to suffer a heart attack?
“Answer if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about.
“Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.
“We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering.
“Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, 1972)
Orson F. Whitney taught, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven…”
“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence,” said Spencer W. Kimball, “then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.” (Teachings of …Spencer W. Kimball, 2006)
Wilford Woodruff said, “It appears plain that God’s purpose is to suffer his Saints to be thoroughly tried and tested, so that they may prove their integrity and know the character of the foundation upon which they build.”
He went on to say, “Calamities and troubles are increasing in the earth and there is meaning in these things. Remember this, and reflect upon these matters. If you do your duty, and I do my duty, we’ll have protection, and shall pass through afflictions in peace and in safety.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff)
Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Faith in something greater than ourselves enables us to do what we have to do, to press forward when we are tired or hurt or afraid, to keep going when the challenge seems overwhelming and the course entirely uncertain.”
The Great Teacher has made available to us basic texts in the form of Scriptures. They contain the answers to many of life’s most pressing questions, but finding the answers still requires careful study, prayer, contemplation and application.