Viewpoint: “Move Forward”

  • 11 January 2013

Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

“‘Why does a just God allow bad things to happen?’ While we do not know all the answers, important principles allow us to face tragedies with faith and confidence that there is a bright future planned for each of us.” —Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve  

Three months after an earthquake and tsunami devastated northern Japan, a man balanced himself as he walked around what was left of the cement foundation that used to be his home in Kobuchihama, Japan—located on the Oshika Peninsula. He pointed to the empty spaces and described the tsunami.

When the alarms sounded on March 11, 2011, the man and his neighbors looked to the harbor and their boats. The ocean was quiet. Then the wave, which hit dry land through another inlet, struck them from behind.

He spoke of an older woman who was asleep and explained that her daughter tried to save her. He spoke of school children who evacuated to an open field after the earthquake, only to be lost in the tsunami. And he spoke of his own family.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and powerful tsunami left more than 15,000 people dead, displaced thousands, and destroyed more than 550,000 homes in northern Japan. Some 5,000 people remain missing.

The image of the man and a nation that lost so much causes us all to ponder a very real question. Why do bad things happen?

As we ask this question, “we realize that the purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop and be strengthened through our own experiences,” said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve during the October 2011 general conference. “How do we do this? The scriptures give us an answer in one simple phrase: we ‘wait upon the Lord’ (Psalm 37:9; 123:2; Isaiah 8:17; 40:31; 2 Nephi 18:17). Tests and trials are given to all of us. These mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son. He already knows, and we have the opportunity to learn, that no matter how difficult our circumstances, ‘all these things shall [be for our] experience, and … [our] good’ (D&C 122:7).”

The doctrine is clear. Often, however, such insight does not come for days or months or years after hard times. Take, for example, the school shooting rampage on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 dead—including 20 children. Just as in the days after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, millions of people around the world continue to mourn for the victims and pray for their families.

Speaking at the December 22 funeral of 6-year-old shooting victim Emilie Parker—the daughter of Latter-day Saint parents—Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve said the nations weep with the families of the victims. 

“Our tears flow in fulfillment of a commandment of the Lord, who said: ‘Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die’ (D&C 42:45).”

Elder Cook offered hope. “Let me share with you our doctrine contained in Moroni chapter 8 of the Book of Mormon: ‘Little children need no repentance, neither baptism … but little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world. … [He, the Savior loves] little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation’ (Moroni 8:12, 17).”

And he offered context. “Whenever tragedy occurs, we mourn and strive to bear one another’s burdens (see Mosiah 18:8–9). Some ask: ‘Why does a just God allow bad things to happen?’ ” said Elder Cook. “While we do not know all the answers, important principles allow us to face tragedies with faith and confidence that there is a bright future planned for each of us.  

“First, we have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves us personally and understands our suffering perfectly.

“Second, His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation, but will compensate for all the unfairness of life.”  

President Thomas S. Monson said as Church members ponder the events that can befall all of us—even sickness, accident, death, and a host of lesser challenges—“we can say, with Job of old, ‘Man is born unto trouble’ (Job 5:7). Needless to add, that reference to man in the King James Version of the book of Job encompasses women as well. It may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and tribulation. Nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil, ruin, and misery. …

“At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end—no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the despair of vanished hopes. …

“Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life’s fight, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome” (Teachings of Thomas S. Monson, pp. 9–10).

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Church members gave thousands of hours of service, helping each other and their communities. And after the Connecticut shooting, people across the United States vowed to honor each victim with 26 acts of kindness. Prayers were offered for those lost and their families. In both cases—as well as millions of other events that cause mourning across the globe—hope rose from devastation.

In Japan, the word “Ganbarou!” meaning “hold out, stand firm, and hang in there,” was seen on prominent signs placed amid the miles and miles of devastation and destruction following the 2011 disaster. 

A Latter-day Saint who survived the disaster explained what the term meant to her and to her family. Her example—along with the example of Emilie Parker’s family and others who endure hard things—gives each of us the courage to face our own challenges. She said, “We have to move forward with God.”