Tragedy or Destiny
By Elder Spencer W. Kimball
The Daily paper screamed the headlines: CRASH KILLS 3; NO SURVIVORS OF MOUNTAIN TRAGEDY. And thousands of voices joined in chorus: “Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?”
Two automobiles crashed one went through a red light and six people were killed. “Why would God not prevent this?”
Why should the young mother die so young? Why should her eight children be left motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her of her malady?
A young man died in the mission field and people critically question, “Why did not the Lord protect this youth while he was doing proselyting work?”
May I ask some questions?
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 error?
Was our Father in Heaven responsible for the collision of the cars and took six people into eternity or was it the error of the driver who broke the rules?
Did the Lord cause the man to die, or was the death of the missionary untimely? Would it have been better to have occurred years earlier or later? Answer, if you can.
Now a final question. Could the Lord have prevented there 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.
But is that what you want? Would you shield your children from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, suffering?
The basic gospel law is free agency. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law, and growth would be impossible.
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 permitted temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that me might be immortal and glorified’?
Apparently the Lord did not consider death always as a curse or tragedy, for He said, “... blessed are the dead that die in the Lord...”(D&C 83:49) Life goes on and free agency continues, an death, which seems such a calamity, could be a blessing in disguise.
Melvin J Ballard wrote:
I lost a son six years of age and I saw him a man in the spirit world after his death, and I saw how he had exercised his own freedom of choice and would obtain of his own will a companionship, and in due time to him and all those who are worthy of it, shall come all of the blessings and sealing privileges of the house of the Lord... (Three degrees of Glory by Melvin J. Ballard)
If we say that all death is a calamity, disaster or tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the Gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only m sin.
Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur. Some become bitter when oft repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrators by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer circles. But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected. and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principles of the Gospel, free agency, would be ended.
If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. Ifjoy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil-all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency only Satanic controls.
Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment or even death, and if these were not there would also be an absence ofjoy, success, resurrection, eternal life and Godhood.
We are assured by the Lord that the sick will be healed if the ordinance is performed, if there is sufficient faith and if the ill one is “not appointed unto death”. Here there are three factors. Many do not comply with the ordinances and great numbers are unwilling or incapable of exercising sufficient faith. But there is the other factor which looms important: “If they are not appointed unto death” Every act of God is
purposeful. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows what builds us, or tears us down, what will thwart the program and what will give us eventual triumph.
The Lord does not always heal the sick, nor save those in hazardous zones. He does not always relieve suffering and distress, for even these seemingly undesirable conditions may be part of a purposeful plan.
Being human we would expel form our lives, sorrow, distress, physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we closed the doors upon such, we might be evicting our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long suffering and self mastery. The sufferings of our Savior was part of his education.
The power of the Priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop Priesthood power as I perfect my life. I am grateful that even through the Priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.
Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of the firs when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him and limited him to a lower kingdom. He died a martyr and went into a martyr’s reward-exaltation. He would have lived on the earth and could have lost his faith, his courage, even his virtue, and his exaltation.
I would have likely have protected Paul against his woes is my power were boundless. I would surely have healed this “thorn in the flesh” and in doing so I might have foiled the program and relegated him to lower glories. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been so eloquent, well, handsome and free from the things which made him humble. Such a healing of Paul might have ruined him.
God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with His plan for us or we.. Shorten or terminate them.
I’m positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. We shorten our lives but I think we cannot lengthen them very much. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life which seemed so difficult for us to comprehend.
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, pain and comforts, ease , and hardships, health and sickness, success and disappointments, and we knew also that we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We were undoubtedly willing to have a mortal body, even if it were deformed. We eagerly accepted the chance to come... thought it might be for a day, a year, or a century. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease. We were willing to come and take life as it was and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur or complaint or unreasonable demands. WE sometimes think we would like to know what was ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day.
I fear that had I been in Carthage jail on June 27, 1844. I might have deflected the bullets which pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved then from the sufferings and agony. And stopped the martyrs death and reward. I am glad I did not have that decision.
With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, physical injuries. Perhaps I would have struck down his persecutors with shafts of lightening. When He hung on the cross I would have rescued Him and would have administered to His wounds and healed them, giving Him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved Him from death and lost to the world and atoning sacrifice and frustrated the whole program.
With unlimited power I might have healed my father and my mother. I might have never let them die.
Would you dare to take the responsibility of bringing back to life your own lovedones? I, myself, would hesitate to do so. I am grateful that w may always pray: “Thy will be done in all things, for Thou knowest what is best.” I am glad I do not have the decision to make. We might consign loved ones to loss of faculties, loss of powers, terrible doom.
Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life.
Why are we so afraid of death? WE pray for the sick-we administer to the afflicted- we implore the Lord to heal and reduce the pain and save life and postpone death, and properly so, but is eternity frightful? So awful?
The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed:
The Lord takes many away in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man and the sorrows and evils of the present world. They were to pure. too lovely, to live on this earth. Therefore I mightily considered,
instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil and we shall have them again. The only difference between the old and young dying, is one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable world.”
*This address was originally given by Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Council of the Twelve. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at a devotional assembly at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, December 6,1955