If our Heavenly Father is all-loving, why does he allow bad things to happen to innocent people and children?
First of all, our Heavenly Father does love us, completely and totally. However, we have been told over and over in the scriptures that this earth life is a time to prepare, a time to learn, a time to progress (see Alma 34:32–33). Our Heavenly Father has given us the ability to choose. And this ability is real. We have the opportunity to make bad choices as well as good choices. In other words, a lot of the suffering and bad things that occur in our lives happen because of our poor choices. In some cases, we are the ones who “allow” bad things to happen.
But the question was about bad things happening to those who don’t choose wrong, those who are innocent. Sometimes the bad things that happen are a result of evil choices by others that cause suffering to the innocent. An excellent example is in the book of Alma. While two great men, Alma and Amulek, were preaching to the ancient people of Ammonihah, they were thrown into prison. They were forced to watch as the believers, including women and children, were thrown into a fire and burned along with the scriptures. Distressed, Amulek asked if they could call upon God’s power to stop it. But the Spirit told Alma that “the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them” (Alma 14:11). Those who are innocent will be received by the Lord in glory, and those who have injured them will be judged by the Lord.
In other cases, accidents take place where fault or choice is not an issue. In those cases, the Lord has promised us the strength to deal with the things we must live with. Often people who are injured permanently will tell you that they have learned many great things and have become better people even though they wish their accident had never happened.
In considering how to answer this question, one of our readers, Susan Reese, 19, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, wrote about her job. “I am a firefighter and emergency medical technician. I see bad things happen every day, and there are some days when I ask myself the same question. Then I remember that Heavenly Father has a plan for his children, and although bad things are happening now, they will be better tomorrow. Remember the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–3 [D&C 58:2–3]: ‘He that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
“‘Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.’
“It’s knowledge of this and the promise that if we endure to the end we will have eternal life that allows me to do my job and help others realize they have the same promise.”
The Lord is aware of us. He has shown us the way to return to him. But we have the choice whether to remain faithful or turn away from him. The Lord can make weak things become strong, including our faith.
One reason is that it is through adversity that we experience growth. Only if we face trials will we grow as much as we should.
John Lambert, 17 Sterling Heights, Michigan
Heavenly Father knows us. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. One trial I’ve been tested with is having one hand. I was born with my left hand missing. I have learned a lot from this. Though sometimes I wish I had two hands, I believe Heavenly Father has given me an opportunity to use this challenge in my life to influence others and show that much is possible if you just have confidence in yourself.
Laura Zolman, 15 Taylorsville, Utah
Probably the death or injury of a loved one is not just meant to be a trial for them but for us. As life is a test, the pain of a friend or any one else affects us too. We can learn wisdom from it.
Jenny Sorenson, 14 Naperville, Illinois
Remember that Jesus Christ, the very son of God, suffered and was tried beyond measure. We’re not alone! He knows how we feel. And we will be blessed exceedingly through the eternities if we will have faith and put our trust in him and endure to the end!
Chelsie Tucker, 17 Morrison, Colorado
My mother died of breast cancer when I was nine years old. My second mother now has been diagnosed with a type of bone cancer. They were and are both righteous women. Our family tries very hard to follow the commandments. Why them? Why at these times? Why cancer? I don’t know all the answers, but I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and that Jesus Christ knows how all of us feel (see 2 Ne. 2:2).
God does allow everyone to have free agency. Sometimes people use their agency in a way that harms others, but God can’t take it away. Those who do wrong will be punished, but that punishment will not necessarily be exacted when you want it to be. God’s justice will prevail, and you must be faithful and patient and allow God to heal your soul (see Alma 14:11).
Jennifer Athey, 17 Dublin, California
Heavenly Father has to let people use their agency, and sometimes when people make bad choices it hurts the innocent.
Alene Hatch, 12 Tucson, Arizona