“There is a God; and He hath created all things… both things to act and things to be acted upon. …the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.” -2 Nephi 1:95-96, 99 RAV, 2:14, 16a OPV
Many say that the greatest gift God has given us is the Atonement of Christ. This makes sense, as it is this atonement that grants us the Grace that offers us salvation. However, until we accept it, this grace is merely that—and offering. Perhaps then, the greatest gift God has granted us is the freedom to choose for ourselves.
In the Beginning…
In the beginning, God created everything. As a part of this creation we were given the option to keep our free will, and by following YHVH this is what we did (Abraham 3:24-27 PoGP). God gave Adam and Eve instructions in the garden, the first commandments. Genesis 2:17 tells us God taught Adam the Law (do not eat of the tree of knowledge or good and evil) and the consequence (if you do, you will die).
The Book of Remembrance expands on this saying:
“Yea, and of every tree of the garden thou may freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat; nevertheless, thou may choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” -4:11-13
In 2 Nephi, Lehi talked to his son Jacob on this topic of free will, expanding on the creation story found on the brass plates. He teaches his son that there must be “opposition in all things” (1 Nephi 1:81 RAV, 2:11a OPV). We had to know the bitter to taste the sweet.
Learn to Swim
This seems like an odd concept to many. The question typically asked is: “why do bad things happen to good people?” The opposite is generally ignored, “why do good things happen to bad people?” The reality is that good and bad happen to everyone. What is good an bad other than perception? A wicked person may acquire vast amounts of wealth, attractive mates, all sorts of worldly possessions. While this may seem like a lot, it avails them nothing (Alma 17:74 RAV, 41:10b OPV).
On the mortal plane, there is no absolute balance or “fairness.” How can there be? If we don’t know what good and evil truly are, how can we be rewarded by our mortal expectation? A kind person isn’t owed wealth. The “nice guy” isn’t owed the girl. As we grow, and our perspective changes, we learn the truth: everything is as it should be.
Drown in the Light
“But,” some will ask, “why then does God allow so much suffering?” The answer is simple: God doesn’t, we do. Because we are granted free will, we choose wickedness. And, as Alma said, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 17:74 RAV, 41:10b OPV). We then are left with the world we have created, reaping the fruits of the soil we have tilled. As the story of the Book of Mormon teaches us, when we have equality we have peace and abundance; when we have pride and inequality we suffer (4 Nephi).
“But, God could set up a system that would allow us to find true happiness in creating a paradisaical world,” some might argue. What these don’t realize is that this is exactly what God has done. It is our pride and Egoism that stops us from living in that perfect world. We must have the freedom to choose.
This is because God is so good and so wonderful that if we merely basked in God’s glory we would drown in the Light and lose ourselves. We would lose our free will, our identity, our true selves. In Kabbalah this is know as “drowning in the Light.” The point of Christ and the Covenant is to help us become who we truly are, not lose ourselves entirely (John 3:16-17).
Might have Joy
“Adam fell, that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” -2 Nephi 1:115 RAV, 2:25 OPV
Reality is defined by how we see the world. As a walk the path of teshuvah, the way we see the world changes. In the beginning we see through human eyes, we see weakness and sin. Once born again our perception changes and we see God’s creation as He sees it: it is good. This is the seventh principle of Mormon Kabbalah: when we change perception we change reality (DoS 3a:7).
Many will say the question of evil can never be answered. We cannot know why evil exists, or why “bad things” happen to “good people.” Yet Lehi answered this question in one word in one sentence: ”might” (2 Nephi 1:115 RAV, 2:25 OPV). We are not guaranteed joy. We are not promised happiness in all circumstances. Even God, the Creator of all, weeps tears of sorrow (John 11:35, Enoch 37:15). If God Himself, and Jesus the Son of God have wept, who are we to avoid pain and sorrow? We must seek the greater understanding, the greater will—that of God.