This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
Job 1–3; 12–14; 19; 21–24; 38–40; 42
It’s natural to wonder why bad things happen to good people—or for that matter, why good things happen to bad people. Why would God, who is just, allow that? Questions like these are explored through the experience of Job, one of those good people to whom bad things happened. Because of Job’s trials, his friends wondered if he was really good after all. Job asserted his own righteousness and wondered if God is really just after all. But despite his suffering and wondering, Job maintained his integrity and faith in Jesus Christ. In the book of Job, faith is questioned and tested but never completely abandoned. That doesn’t mean that all of the questions are answered. But the book of Job teaches that until they are answered, questions and faith can coexist, and regardless of what happens in the meantime, we can say of our Lord, “Yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
When I read this introductory paragraph, I immediately thought about Mormonism’s view of the preexistence. After all, it is traditionally taught that everyone who has ever been born on the earth once lived as a spirit child of Heavenly Father and Mother in a previous existence. Because we all supposedly chose the plan offered by Jesus rather than Lucifer’s, we were given the chance to be born on this earth and enjoy mortality. As eighth President George Albert Smith put it, “We lived before we came here and our birth into this world was the reward of having kept our first estate” (Conference Reports, October 1926, 103).
Mormonism’s leaders have taught that our behavior in the spirit world determined where we were born on earth. Our actions in a state we no longer remember apparently do matter. If this is the case, then just like karma and reincarnation, it seems logical to assume that anything that happens to us, both good and bad, could be a result of what happened in the preexistence. Perhaps those bad things happening to “good people” mentioned in this article are the result of actions from this previous life. I wonder how many Latter-day Saints have considered this possibility.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Job 1–3; 12–13
My trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can help me remain faithful in all circumstances.
The opening chapters of Job are intended to emphasize Satan’s role as our adversary or accuser, not to describe how God and Satan really interact.
Returning to the topic of the preexistence, we must remember that Lucifer is supposed to be our brother as well as the brother of Jesus. As Apostle Joseph F. Merrill explained,
According to our teachings, Satan and an army of supporters were cast down to earth from the premortal spirit world. They are spirit brothers of ours, and are real persons having spirit bodies (Conference Reports, April 1941, 49).
Seventy Milton R. Hunter put it this way,
The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind (The Gospel Through the Ages, 15).
It is hard to imagine that Satan is not only our spirit brother of Lucifer but also our adversary. It is also hard to fathom how Satan plans a major role in the LDS temple endowment ceremony and, when he tells the patrons to put on their fig aprons, they obey. If Satan tells you to do something, you should reject his request! Apparently faithful Latter-day Saints don’t see it that way.
As you read Satan’s claims about Job (see Job 1:9–11; 2:4–5), you might ponder if the same could be said about you. You might ask yourself, What are my reasons for remaining faithful to God? Ponder the trials Job was given and his responses (see Job 1:20–22; 2:9–10). What do you learn from him that might help you respond to your challenges?
Satan did not remain faithful to God. And neither do Latter-day Saints. D&C 1:30-31 says that God “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” It is commanded that not only repentance is required in order to be forgiven. If you are a Latter-day Saint, have you kept the covenants you made at baptism and at the temple as well as each week in the sacrament service? Or do you break your covenants regularly? What is the difference between Lucifer and you? Have you considered that the rebelliousness of your heart is just like how Lucifer acted?
Even though Job was trying to stay faithful, his trials and his suffering continued (note his laments in chapter 3). In fact, his suffering seemed to intensify, and his friends suggested that God was punishing him (see Job 4–5; 8; 11). As you read part of Job’s response in chapters 12–13, consider what Job knew about God that enabled him to continue trusting, despite his suffering and unanswered questions. What do you know about God that helps you face challenges? How have you come to know these truths, and how have they strengthened your faith?
This first sentence of this paragraph makes it appear that suffering should not take place to the person who is righteous. (Perhaps that is not what was meant, but it does sound that way.) While Galatians 6:7 does say we reap what we sow, the Christian worldview is that our righteousness does not prevent harmful things from occurring. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” When we are tried in our faith, James says in James 1 that this is meant to build the individual to be more like Him. Testing develops character and perseverance.
Jesus Christ is my Redeemer.
Sometimes the most important truths are revealed to us in the midst of our deepest anguish. Ponder the trials Job described in Job 19:1–22 and the truths he proclaimed in Job 19:23–27. Then ponder how you know that your Redeemer lives. What difference does this knowledge make when you experience difficult trials?
In what way is Jesus the “redeemer” of the LDS people? Certainly Mormonism teaches that one of three kingdoms of glory is made possible through the atonement. But coming into the presence with God does not take place unless a person is in full conformity of God’s standards.
Mormonism does not have a good explanation of when bad things happen. Imagine, as well, that those Latter-day Saints who do not learn how to “keep the commandments of God continually,” as D&C 25:15 says you are supposed to do, will result in God not wanting anything to do with you in the end. In fact, His presence cannot be found outside the top level of the celestial kingdom. Yet the celestial kingdom is not a place for covenant breakers. Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,
Exaltation is available only to righteous members of the Church of Jesus Christ; only to those who accept the gospel; only to those who have their endowments in holy temples of God and have been sealed for eternity and who then continue to live righteously throughout their lives. Numerous members of the Church will be disappointed. All will fail of these blessings who fail to live worthy lives, even though the temple ordinances have been done for them (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 246).
These words come from a man who Latter-day Saints believe was a prophet of God and whose book has been recommended three times in general conference. It was produced in a leather-bound edition by the church’s First Presidency in 1998. Visit the Church History Museum across the street from Temple Square and you can see the copy prominently displayed under his portrait. (For more on this book, click here.)
“When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
As you read more of the debate between Job and his friends about the reasons behind Job’s suffering, you might ponder how you would answer the question at the heart of their debate: Why do the righteous sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes go unpunished? Think about this as you read Job 21–24. What do you know about Heavenly Father and His plan that can help provide answers?
According to the Christian worldview, “bad” things happen to draw His people to Christ. As 2 Corinthians 12 said (quoted above), His power is made perfect in weakness. It’s when we realize that He, not I, is in complete control.
But when those tough times come, the promise Paul gives is that everything works out for those who love God. Romans 8:28 says how we can “know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Verses 31-38 add,
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When Paul went through difficult times–including being imprisoned, beaten, and scourged–He counted
everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:8-10).
Earlier in the epistle, Paul explained in Philippians 1:6 that he was “sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul relished in the fact that what happened to him only served to advance the gospel, as
what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard6 and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
In other words, gaining Christ and His approval was most important to Paul, even when he had to endure difficult circumstances. He understood that his suffering resulted in God’s glory in other ways. Yes, we do go through difficult times, but if this means that we draw closer to God, then it is all worthwhile. This Come, Follow Me lesson seems to be missing this very important point.
God’s perspective is greater than mine.
Frustrated with the accusations of his friends (see Job 16:1–5; 19:1–3), Job repeatedly cried to God seeking an explanation for his suffering (see Job 19:6–7; 23:1–9; 31). Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed that “when we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing,” as Job seemed to be, “we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars” (“Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 63). Ponder these words as you read God’s response to Job in chapters 38 and 40. What truths was He teaching Job? Why are these truths important for us to know as we struggle with adversity and questions here in mortality? What impresses you about Job’s response in Job 42:1–6?
This comment gets a little closer to the reason why people go through difficult times, but it still is not as precise as what the Bible teaches. Obviously missing in the lesson are any references to the New Testament and the explanations given by the apostle Paul.
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
To understand how Job might have felt, as described in these verses, your family could read “Job” in Old Testament Stories or act out Job 1:13–22. What can we learn from Job’s example?
We can learn that faithfulness in enduring the hard times will give us more of a heavenly perspective and draw us closer to Him. Indeed, when life is “easy” and problem free, it is difficult to need God. When these storms appear, however, I run back to the starting base and seek His shelter.
How would we answer Job’s question in this verse? How could Alma 11:42–44 help us?
The question asked is Job 14:14 is, “If someone dies, will they live again?” Alma 11:42-44 reads,
42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. 44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
Previous to this passage, however, is Alma 11:37. It says,
And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.
So, the question is, are you in your sins? If so, how can you be saved? As the last part of verse 44 says, people are judged according to their words. Since the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, where do you think you stand, Latter-day Saint?
Are we ever like Job’s friends, who judged and criticized Job when he needed comfort? (see Job 16:1–4; see also John 7:24). How can our words strengthen others in their grief? (see Job 16:5).
Our words are critical. James 3 puts it this way:
5 How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
We must remember that we have but one mouth and two ears, so we should learn to listen twice as much as we speak. And when we do speak, we must make sure what we say out loud edifies rather than tears another person down.
Things we consider “bad” do happen, but God is not surprised. Sometimes we are the creator of our own fate (Gal. 6:7), and other times we have done nothing at all to deserve the consequences. Yet we can know that God has everything under control and treat every circumstance as an opportunity to draw closer to Him. Mormonism does not offer good answers to this topic because it minimizes God’s sovereignty.