Unfailing Love and Justice


All of us struggle at times to understand why seemingly bad things happen to good people, and why God allows some awful things to happen, especially when we pray with great energy and faith to the contrary.

The usual explanations of why bad things might happen don’t seem to apply to most of my experiences. Let me see if I can list some of rationalizations we use to explain bad things.

  •      God gave us a trial to teach us something important.
  •      We did something wrong and are being punished by God.
  •      Random accidents, human error, acts of nature, and other “larger than ourselves” forces create trials.
  •      Acts of others using their agency wrongly cause trails for the innocent.
  •      We made bad choices and God is nudging us back onto the path.

There is also a list of things we tell ourselves to make bad things feel better:

  •      Trials help us learn patience.
  •      Trials seem to proceed blessings.
  •      Trials shape us and prepare us for greater things.
  •      Trials teach us to find the good in all things.
  •      Trials result in exaltation if we are humble and teachable

Then there are the catch all reasons:

  •      Life is by nature hard.
  •      We were sent here to experience pain and suffering.
  •      We don’t understand why, but it is God’s will.

I acknowledge that each of these points may be true at some time, but they still doesn’t answer the question of why it is loving and just that these things happen at all.

I believe there is a greater reason why bad things happen to good people. It is because we, ourselves agreed to these things before we were born.

Even more than explaining trials and why they occur, factoring in our pre-mortal consent leaves us with a sense of God’s love and justice. He loves us enough to show us our lives before we are born, and then let us make inspired decisions about how we will reach our own goals. I believe that we happily agreed to the course of our lives, and God granted that it would be so. In fact, we “shouted for joy” when we at last understood mortality. It’s not likely we saw every happening, but I do believe we reviewed the major events, the defining moments. We were able to do this because we were in the presence of God, and He knew (and knows) all things about our future lives. I rather doubt we could see the outcome of every choice we made then, but He undoubtedly could, and we trusted Him implicitly to chart these harsh events which bring us to everlasting blessings.

Elder Maxwell taught: “Our premortal choices were made earlier. Our consent was given-in the first estate-concerning our second estate. This being so, enduring well becomes not only a prime quality but also a reasonable requirement. It calls for shoulder squaring and not shoulder shrugging.” (Neal A Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine”, p. 125.)

I also believe that we chose our parents, our children, our spouse and other major players in our upcoming mortal lives. I also believe we agreed to be major players in other people’s lives, and made covenants with them to that effect. In some cases we agreed to play devil’s advocate for them – of this I’m convinced. One of the reasons I believe we live with a veil over our minds in mortality is so that we won’t remember who we were before birth, or what we agreed to put ourselves through in order to triumph in the end. Knowing such things would render faith impossible. In this life we agreed to walk by faith – including faith that fairness, justice and love truly are why God lets our lives progress as they do.

This line of reasoning honors the inviolate nature of agency. God cannot force us to become like Him, either by assigning us trials by His choice alone, or by standing by and allowing random events to shape us without regard to our faith in Him and our prayers to the contrary. That would be dropping someone into a meat grinder with the full understanding that they would be changed against their will into hamburger – and calling it just, loving and compliant with agency.

In this world our lives are shaped by our own will. We choose every step we take, and we plot the course of our lives as fully as we can see with mortal eyes. We pray for inspiration, and having received it, we aim our lives at eternal goals and eternal rewards, sacrificing and consecrating ourselves to that path we best understand will take us to these greater things. This is how God deals with us now, and it stands the test of the unchanging nature of God, that our former lives were exactly this way as well.

We know enough of what happens beyond death to make informed choices here and now, that will sculpt our future life. We even know the laws by which most rewards are governed. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, then we are also making choices that shape our future lives in ways that can only be to our everlasting reward. Our premortal life had to have been very similar because even though we change, God does not.

This is the grand evidence of the love and justice of God which is not dimmed by human tears – that we ourselves chose our own path, and we, not God, placed these obstacles in our mortal path because, after seeking divine parental guidance, we determined that this path best blessed our yet-future mortal selves, and those whom we loved. This also makes it just of God to let hard events play through, because we chose them as tools to shape our souls. When we pray with the limited understanding of mortals to escape such trials, I believe God honors the much wiser choices we made while our eyes were viewing eternal vistas.

Brother John

© February 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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24 Responses to Unfailing Love and Justice

  1. Jennifer Greenlese says:

    Sharon, thank you for sharing with me. My neighbor a few years ago felt impressed to share with me a truth she had been taught –she fought the impression (because she had been rebuked by the previous person she shared with) but when it came a third time she shared. I felt the truth of the words she shared. She also provided a book for me to read. I believe it is called The Message it is about a gentlemen who is in a coma and glimpses the manner of communication, eternal ordinances –sorry it has been several years.

    Joe –I have done a quick read of your references and I now have an area to plumb deeply thank you! Without going into details or becoming a woe-is me contributor –A blessing from my bishop at BYU after a significant life altering event informed me that what I was going through was worse than some people’s Gethsemane . . . here is my mind in action my response “he doesn’t say that this is mine” the blessing continues to bless me to be faithful through the trials that were to come . . . His blessing coincided and enhanced my own Patriarchal Blessing. I have jokingly said that when God was divvying out trials I either had a hiccup causing my hand to raise or a scratch in the record of my voice and I kept saying “I will”.

    Psalms 91:4 reminds me of my own Patriarchal Blessing “You will have a shield of righteousness for your protection and God will bless you.” Verse 7 Oh, how many times have I been in the middle of destruction not even knowing the dangers, which were brought into my home . . . a long story. I could go on and on with realizations -but the end result is God and His Son are our true safety it is through them we are protected from the destroyer and his followers. Alma –it is a privilege: Why then does it not feel like it so very often?

    ************ Comment trunkated to adhere to 250 word limit. ***************

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  2. LaReta Brinkerhoff says:

    Roy Mills wrote a book, telling of his experiences of God allowing him to “not lose the memory of his pre-mortal life” He tells that he was around 40 or so before an angel came and told him it was now OK for him to tell his wife etc. and write the book. What he wrote is in line with what you have stated. He chose those experiences that would lead him back to the Savior. He states that he had to put some of the items he chose back, or “he would have a very miserable life” He met all who would influence him or that he would influence before he was born. Very fascinating book. My good, kind husband is on the other side. I have often thought that I had agreed to that, but viewing it from the pre-mortal world is obviously easier than being here and going through the experience. What makes it bearable are the promises made in the temple, the gospel, and my Patriarchal Blessing. I can’t say enough about how your books, blogs, firesides etc. have impacted my life for the better. Thank you so-o- much for your time, efforts for all of us. Gratefully yours. LEPB

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  3. Mimi says:

    Robin,
    My heart breaks at the pain you suffered as a child/teenager. Could it be that
    you chose to accept that burden in the pre-existence, absorb it and NOT pass
    it on to future generations, but break the cycle. You must have had/are an
    extremely strong spirit to have come through with your faith in the Savior and
    his redeeming love intact.

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    • Robin Carlson says:

      Mimi;
      thanks for your comment in response to mine.
      As to my strength I refer you to Ammon’s statement in the Book of Mormon. I am still here in mortality because I experienced the Lord’s love for me during the administering of my Patriarchal blessing. First time I ever felt totally loved and accepted, warts and all, by anyone.
      Yes, I tried to block passing on the family dysfunction but was only partially
      sucessful. I often petition the Lord for compensatory blessings on my now adult children, through His Atonement, to compensate for my failures as a parent.

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  4. Marian Bowman says:

    Dear Brother John

    This really is a message for you. Thank you for following the spirit and for writing the books that you have written. They are so….inspired and have helped me and my family. I realize from many things that you have written that you understand the adversary very well. Many times we have used your inspired words to help our children understand the workings of the Spirit.

    May I give you some background on our family. My husband and I are both returned missionaries and have very strong testimonies. My husband was born and raised in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico and comes from a very strong heritage in the church. We live in a small town in northeastern Arizona. In 1988, we decided to buy the old LDS church here. It felt like it was something we really needed to do. We have converted it into our home and my husband has his Chiropractic office in the chapel area. Living here however has been very difficult. Unbeknownst to us, it had been desecrated. Now, we understand that is a very common happening as Satan loves to desecrate LDS chapels. Anyway, we have had challenges with some of our children, not understanding what we had put them into. We have nine children, 7 sons and 2 daughters. A few years back, everything came to a head when our then 16 year old daughter had an intense experience with the other side. We then realized that from the time that she was eight she had had horrible dreams of being killed and raped. She had been sleeping in a room with a huge portal in it. We went through an intense experience with her. She was left with the ability to see those that have passed on, both good and bad and also demons and devils. She could then see all that was in this building and at first it was very frightening for her. She is an amazing young woman, she is almost 19 now. It is always interesting to watch how the spirit works. She is always careful with whom she shares. The war in heaven really continued here and it is a battle. She sees and hears those that follow the adversary whisper in the ears of those that will listen and as you have so well said, “because they hear it in their own mind, they think that it originated within themselves”. These people often say or do just what was prompted. She also sees those that think that they are attracted to the same sex. They ALWAYS have the same spirit with them which is the opposite of what they are. For example a girl might have a man with her. He puts his attraction for women or girls on her and she thinks that she is attracted to the same sex. She also sees what the adversary places on people to cause sickness and pain.

    Not to give the impression that it is all bad for her. She has a wonderful relationship with the Savior, but that also means that she has had to see Lucifer as well. She has had sweet experiences with having those from the other side ask to have their temple work done. She is great to take to a funeral. She also has a sweet relationship with members of our family that passed on before she was born. She shares how our family is protected and we know how much they are aware of us.

    I guess why I wrote this here is because I have a testimony that we agreed to what we are experiencing on this earth. First, because I had a vision where I saw myself watching what I would experience on earth and saw myself agree to it. Second, because when I expressed my sorrow to my daughter of having put her here in this building to experience the horror that she has gone through, She said, “Oh, Mama, I agreed to do this. I had to be born in this house, I had to release the children that were trapped here because of Satanic rituals.” This was something that I agreed to do. You and daddy followed the spirit to buy it. We have been protected.” It has not been easy. We still live here, but we know now that soon we should take our family to Utah. We are patiently waiting until he makes it possible. Until then, we have been told to stay here and we have been protected.

    Anyway, thank you for having the courage to write the books that you have written. I am possitive that the adversary fought to stop you. Your words have helped me in my quest.

    Marian

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    • Dear Marian,

      Thank you for this story. I decided to publish it even though it was over 250 words because it is a sweet testimony. I felt the Spirit as you told of why these things happened. I hope by now you have dedicated your home and ended your experience with these things.

      God bless, and thank you,

      John

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      • Marian Bowman says:

        Actually, it has been rededicated countless times. It seems that things coming from Satanic Ritual Abuse create portals that are very hard to close. We do close them, but they reopen. Our daughter described this place as grand central station with evil pouring from it. Most people with experience of this nature tell us that the building will have to be burned and the ground never built upon again. It is in the center of town, not possible to burn it, unless an act of nature were to do it. We are so blessed to be protected as we live here, but we have had close calls and have had help from beyond to survive. Our daughter was shown much of what occurred here to desecrate it. It makes us sad that a beautiful building that had been dedicated for worship was defiled in such ways.

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    • Nick says:

      Marian, Have you read the book “Spirits & Spiritual Interactions” by LDS author Christopher Palmer? Excellent book that talks about these sort of things and how to get rid of them.

      Nick

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  5. Thank you so much for putting this into words so well. I have understood this for sometime, but have recieved some opposition that it could not be true from other people. It is so refreshing to hear your words and feel your openness to the teachings of the spirit.
    Sabrina Latham

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  6. Chris says:

    Brilliant! Thank you for thinking this through with us.

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  7. Robin Carlson says:

    Bro John;
    Dangerous territory and a sore point for many, including myself, who are adult survivors of childhood neglect and abuse, parental figure child sex abuse and adult addictions (substance and process).
    I wish you had been clearer that even if these occurrences were something we agreed to in the pre-mortal existence the perps are in no way justified in their thoughts and deeds nor are the rest of us justified in turning a blind eye to the plight of their victims.
    Indeed, the parable of the Good Samaritan and King Benjamin’s address almost demand that a part of committed discipleship is aiding those sinned against.
    I personally have a tough time agreeing with the pre-mortal choice theorum. My childhood/teenage experiences were an almost intolerable burden, suicide looked like a way out several different times. Thankfully something whispered “Don’t” and I wasn’t so far gone as to ignore that.
    However, I have struggled with the “baggage” of those experiences all my adult life (I’m a senior citizen now) and that burden has been a heavy one.
    I am thankful for the now and present blessings of the Atonement; there is indeed “balm of Gilead” in it for those like me.
    All praise and glory to the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ for the Atonement and it’s incredible power.
    Sincerely,
    Robin Carlson

    P.S. Would like to respond more fully but not on a public forum. Where may I direct my reply?

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  8. Elder Stroud says:

    So there really isn’t such a thing as bad things happening to good people…there are only things that happen as a result of our being in mortality. What our attitude is towards these experiences determines either heavenward fist-shaking, or inspired, informed gratitude. Brigham Young referred to these as “ordained ordeals.” Discourses of Brigham Young p.345

    Thanks John for your inspired insight. We look forward to each post, and fireside recording.

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  9. darrell brashear says:

    This is just what I needed to hear tonight. I have been going through some testing lately that has seemed to me to be almost unbearable, but in the midst of all this testing, I am learning some priceless truths and I marvel at the way the Lord strengthens and guides me.

    Tonight when I got off work I began to pour my heart out to Heavenly Father as soon as I got in the truck. I felt a great yearning to come unto Christ and to stay with Him and never leave. My heart was heavy, but I had a very heartfelt prayer.

    As I was praying, a voice came into my mind and it simply said, “Read the unblog tonight”. I can see now why I was directed to do such. I thank the Lord that He hears and answers prayers, and I am grateful to you brother John for being an instrument in the Lord’s hands tonight by giving me words I needed.

    Brother D.

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  10. Mila says:

    Brother John,

    Thank you for your insightful and always timely posts. I just discussed this principle with a non-member friend. This is the only explanation of human suffering that makes sense. Especially when it comes to little children.

    Would you mind clarifying something for me? What did you mean when you said that in some cases we agreed to play devil’s advocate for our family members?

    Thank you.

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  11. kathryn Hughes says:

    If we could see ourselves from the beginning to the end and really understood what we all went over with our Heavenly Father before we were send here and then be given the choice to change things in our lives that we were going to have to go through, I am sure not one of us would want to change one thing . I am almost 70 years old and when I look back on my life I see the trials that I went through in my life but now I can realize how those trials led me back to where I need to be . It took several times of going through the same trial over and over again to learn anything and I know the Lord was with me every step of the way, even if I didn’t feel Him with me then . He lead me back without me even knowing it . I use to be ashamed of those things I did but knowing now I went over those things before with Our Father in Heaven made me realize He knew I was going to do those things before I even did them and had already allow for those stumbling blocks in my live for He knew the end results .Oh to know…. Our Father has everything covered for us if we will just leave it up to Him and stop trying to second guess Him by doing things our way . All we have the power to do is listen and believe and He will show us what we once were and what we can become . May we all be in tune to listen to that still voice is my prayer . . Thank you so much for sharing that with us all my dear brother John

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  12. Jennifer Greenlese says:

    Brother John,

    I am not sure why I want to share this with you and am not sure it fits with this particular post, except it would support your claim that ” Our premortal life had to have been very similar . . . ” I have felt much the same; that is, this estate is a type of our former estate. For example: Here we receive Patriarchal Blessing to remind, prepare, warn, encourage, and inform us along with so very much more. Years ago, I shared my belief, that while in our first estate we had the opportunity to receive a blessing before beginning our second estate. Ten years later in my sons Patriarchal Blessing my belief is confirmed with these words, “Before leaving the presence of your Heavenly Father, you were called and prepared to exercise your priesthood for the blessing of others when coming into this mortal experience. You were faithful in every aspect of that pre-mortal experience.” I believe, I have hope that our Celestial spirits recall the words of our Pre-mortal Patriarchal Blessing (for lack of a better description) reminding us of the course of study along with its incumbent curriculum requirements we once chose, “while our eyes were viewing eternal vistas”, to pursue, while here in mortality.

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    • Sharon Cox says:

      Jennifer, I am sharing this to confirm your feelings regarding the pre-mortal estate: My son-in-law (who is a member of this un-blog family but never comments:-), shared a with me, a dream/vision that he recently had of our premortal life, wherein he saw a temple-like ordinance being performed prior to our departing that estate. What you have said rings true to me as well.

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      • Joe says:

        I would like to add to this vein. Now this is my own opinion – Psalm 91 is a pre-mortal ordinance and patriarchal blessing and it coincides with Alma 13:3, in particular the phrase “preparatory redemption”. I think I will leave it at that rather than expound on Psalm 91, letting you find out for yourself, but I will give this key – the voice changes a few times; figure out who is speaking in each verse.

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      • Sharon Cox says:

        Joe, thanks for the follow-up comment. I was just reading Alma 13 this morning and when I came to verse 3, I paused because I it never dawned on me before that we had need to exercise faith in the pre-mortal life, but according to that verse, we did. I read Psalm 91 again and I feel that you are right, it is referring to a pre-mortal ordinance and I was able to differentiate the 2 voices. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

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  13. kenh says:

    One way to look at our choices in the pre-mortal existence is like this. God told us about life on earth and what He expected us to accomplish personally in this life. He then asked us to work out the details of fulfilling His expectations. So we went to our closest friends and brainstormed to come up with how we could help each other in fulfilling our mortal blessings. We would return to Father and present our plan to fulfill His will. He would say, as an example, “Well, your plan accomplishes A, B, C, but leaves D through Z unable to be done. Go back and make changes to accomplish those things.” And we did just that until our plan with countless changes and versions was finally accepted by our Father in Heaven as His will for us. Then with His approval we earnestly prepared ourselves and others to be ready to accomplish our life’s work and others as well, who would be there for us and us for them. This way our will became God’s will and we were allowed to work out the details in the righteous use of our agency. This is just an observation.

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    • Steve Hansen says:

      That seems plausible; it’s what happens with Stake Presidencies and the First Presidency when ward boundaries are re-drawn.

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  14. Tammy Jensen says:

    How refreshing to hear thoughts that have been tossing around in my head for years put so succinctly and beautifully. Your gift with language and inspiration are so helpful in further awakening truth to my mind and heart. I appreciate your obedience to the spirit.

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  15. Jeff says:

    A very interesting topic. I had opportunity to have a mini-discussion at lunch today regarding this very subject. You’ve expanded my simple understanding. These concepts “taste good”. Thank you for sharing.

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