No, Not Everything Happens for a Reason

No, Not Everything Happens for a Reason

“Everything happens for a reason,” I am often told.  Though millions believe this, I do not think it is true.  Trying to bring sense and order to random suffering and injustice is like expecting to see a Rembrandt or Monet in a pool of retch, another inevitable human byproduct.  This primal urge to find meaning in everything is grounded in an ungodly appetite to control everything.  However, God’s plan was not that he (or we) would control everything but that, through agency, most everything would become out of control.  Consequently, accepting the randomness and injustice of life is part of accepting God.

“Accepting the randomness and injustice of life is part of accepting God”

I cringe nearly every time I hear someone say that “everything happens for a reason.”  I cringe whenever I hear someone say God gives us trials so that we can learn from them.  Do you know how that sounds to someone who hasn’t eaten a normal meal in three years and lives on a feeding tube?  Do you know how that sounds to someone who has seen countless, innocent children dealing with the terrible fall out and aftermath of sexual abuse?  It’s ridiculous to think that a good and just God would want any child to be sexually abused.  It’s offensive for me to think that God intentionally deprived me of food for three years just so “I’d learn my lesson.”

That God is a false God.  It’s not the God of love that I know.  Stuff happens.  People make bad choices that hurt others.  The body does strange and random things that we don’t understand and can’t control.  God is not pulling the switch on everything.  He is not the master of circumstance.

“Saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’ makes as much sense to me as blaming the paramedics for the accident.”

Indeed, God’s role is not primarily to control or change your circumstances.  It is to help you cope with them.  His power is most strongly felt not in creating the massive crystal chandelier of our existence or even suspending it, but in restoring it when we or others have shattered it into a million pieces.  He does not conduct the orchestra of life.  He gives us earplugs to alleviate the noise and clatter of a symphony run amuck.  God does not will life’s messes.  He is the humble and helpful janitor, who faithfully arrives on the scene to help you clean them up.  God does not cause or will suffering but uses it as a venue for communion with mortals. So saying that “everything happens for a reason” makes as much sense to me as blaming the paramedics for the accident.

Random, unwarranted suffering is simply part of mortality, an inevitable byproduct of agency.  But that doesn’t mean suffering has to be completely senseless.  Those who suffer often ask, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” I think the better question is, “What can I teach?”

“Those who suffer often ask, ‘What am I supposed to learn from this?’ I think the better question is, ‘What can I teach?'”

So if you are suffering, please don’t listen to the people who are telling you “everything happens for a reason.”  Please ignore the people who are telling you that God must have something really important for you to learn.  That’s nonsense.  Yes, you can learn from suffering.  In fact, you will learn from suffering.  But that doesn’t mean God willed or wanted your suffering.

When people tell you that you have some important lesson to learn from your suffering, politely tell them, “No, I have something important to teach.”  Teach people, through your grace and dignity in suffering, what it means to endure.  Teach them what it means to persevere.  Teach them what it really means to have hope.  Teach them, by example, that you can be happy in suffering.  Teach them how to love.

Teach them that you stand with Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”  (Job 13:15.)  Teach them and show them how to be like Paul—who was whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, betrayed, starved, sick and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) but said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  (Philippians 4:11-13.)

“Love your way out of the storm.”

Being grounded in Christ simply means living his mandate to love others.  Love your way out of the storm.  Love others.  Stop thinking about yourself and your problems.  Stop focusing on what you can’t do and just do what you can for others.  Love your way out of the storm.  As I have said repeatedly, if you live your life with love, you live your life with God, for God is love.  This is how you walk with God daily.  This is how you find his presence in his seeming absence.  This walk with God is the stabilizing factor of life.  It’s what brings order to a chaotic world that is spinning out of control.

No, not everything happens for a reason.  But your suffering can give you reason to live, to keep trying, to teach others, and to be an instrument in the hands of God to help bring his presence back into the world … for you and for all those around you!

For more ideas and discussion on suffering and utilizing love as a powerful coping mechanism for suffering, please read my books Gethsemamnesia and Built to Love, available now in paperback.

1,745 thoughts on “No, Not Everything Happens for a Reason

      1. Sorry, you really need to know God and Son. God has a Job. Son is love of the World and how we should treat our children. Thou shall have no other God before me – You cannot serve to Masters because I am the first and the last and a very jealous God. God bring the wars, and every things that humans thinks is bad and son tries to help us cope with his father’s Job in love. Everything happens because God said so. – Smiling

        1. hey ‘Stoney’ are you stoned ! first, learn to put spell and then put a sentence together that is grammatically correct, THEN go back to your dark and ignorant Fundamentalist Dogmatic closet, and stay there until you know what the hell you are talking about – Smiling

          1. Jesse Colvin!

            Speaking of sentences that are not grammatically correct…why should Stoney, as you suggested…”learn to put spell”?

            You lost what little credibility you had. If any, Jesse Colvin.

            Because you typing “learn to put spell” means that you don’t know what you’re talking about, Jesse Colvin.

            But I’m sure there’s repentance for that. And your nastiness. It remains to be seen if you make use of that option, though…Jesse Colvin.

    1. Yet so untrue. Everything does happen for a reason, even if it is God giving USB the opportunity to learn (if we choose), to love (if we choose), and to teach others (if something worthwhile needs to never taught to others).

      1. Wow. I should have read through my comment before submitting it with errors. To clarify: “…even if it is God giving us…” And “…if something worthwhile needs to be taught to others.”

  1. I have been suffering from ALS with complications due to Diabetes and NASH. The pain can be overwhelming at times and I must admit that when I had heard “everything happens for a reason” and “we are only given trials that we can handle” from various Christians it made me angry. So, angry that I used my free agency to abandon my beliefs in God and Christ altogether. I found peace in my choice as I had no one to be angry at. I just took one day at a time and instead of anger, I found perseverance I finished my law degree and even went on to finish the LL.M degree in law. Through this I had by my side my lovely wife who also found perseverance in her faith and in me. She has supported me through the good and the really tough spots and has taught me that having faith is her strength and part of why I love her so much. Your article was sent to me by her and I must say it has given me much to think about. Thank you for your perspective and insight into those that are suffering every day with thoughts of “Why did God let this happen and why do I deserve this?” I am not sure if I am ready to embrace God or even acknowledge his existence yet, but I do love my wife and people like you that exercise their faith with love and kindness to all.

    1. It’s great that w/o God in your life you have been able to do so much for yourself and your own self esteem. Consider for just a moment how much more good you could do for others if you would let God be with you to inspire you to bless the lives of those around you in ways that only God can see.

    2. I read this article with an open mind, and I am interpreting it with an open mind. I agree with everything, including the related comment by the individual suffering from ALS, except for one thing: the belief that everything does NOT happen for a reason. I am so sorry that you have ALS. Sincerely I am. I have had close relationships with others in all stages of ALS, and one does question the reason for its existence.

      At the same time, I am amazed at what you describe as your perseverance -perseverance to complete a law degree, and what sounds like an advance degree, amongst the trial of ALS. If you boil it down, what was it that pushed you through ALS and all of its effects, in order to accomplish what you did?

      To me, it is the very essence of ONE of the author’s points- that you can learn to teach and to love others toward perseverance, amongst the trials that exist, BECAUSE of the trial. Would you be able to teach others as effectively by your example of perseverance without having gone through something that taught you how to persevere? While I understand the notion that someone may not agree that “everything happens for a reason,” I am open enough to accept that that “reason” may very well have been to learn to love and to teach my fellow man (mankind-including women). To interpret “everything happens for a reason” as God WILLING US to suffer, is a misrepresentation of God himself…and the love that He demonstrates, particularly by having given us our AGENCY. Everything does happen for a reason, it’s just that it’s God’s way of allowing us to be “taught.”

        1. Also, consider the source of your anger. It is not from God, nor would He “will” anger to you or for you.

  2. Keith, first let me say thank you for writing. I can’t even imagine what type of living hell your life must be at times. I’m glad you have a sweet wife like I do that keeps me grounded. It makes me feel good to know I’m not the only one that has been down a similar spiritual road. I was so angry at God at one time in my life that I raised both middle fingers to the air and screamed, at the top of my lungs, “$#@!%! you!!! You don’t give a (darn). You’re dead to me!” And from then on I abandoned my belief in God for a time. He wasn’t who or what I thought he was and I wanted nothing to do with him. It was easier not to carry around all that anger and bitterness. It’s interesting how, although we have totally different trials and physical disabilities, (mine are lung disease and a paralyzed digestive system), we end up having very similar spiritual turmoils and trials. I find that fascinating as I see it over and over again in the people I have listened to all over the world from many different faiths. God bless you in your journey. I’m glad you have your wife to mediate the presence of God. If only he exists through and in her, he exists, in part. Peace and blessings to you in your suffering. Thank you for teaching me and letting me experience the love and kindness of God through your kind and inspired words.

  3. This is incredible! As a nurse in an extended stay intensive care unit, I will be sharing this article with my patients. I often hear well meaning family, friends, and coworkers attempt to console patients by stating “everything happens for a reason” or “God is giving you this trial for a reason!” And, this has always slightly bothered me. It is absurd for me to think God intends to allow a five-year old suffer through cancer or an individual rely on a ventilator to breathe. Suffering is ugly. Sometimes, $h^t just happens. And, God is there to help us through it. He is there to love.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I have a special love for the nurses in ICU. I spent several weeks in a shock trauma ICU unit with my father after his spinal cord injury. What you do is incredible. People don’t tell you “thank you” enough so “thank you” for all that you do to comfort and help people. Love and blessings,


    2. Why is it absurd?

      To me, the absurdity is thinking that our finite minds can comprehend how we are sent her to Earth to be shaped and molded. Not only can we not see the future at all, we have a difficult enough time just recalling the past.

      Yes, there ARE most certainly “reasons” for the things that happen, both good and bad. And if we don’t comprehend them NOW, we certainly will at some “future” time when our minds aren’t so clouded and weighed down with the imperfections attached to a mortal physical body.

    3. That’s just it: God didn’t intend for that 5 y/o to have cancer, or that individual to be on a ventilator. Everything does happen for a reason, it is simply God’s way of teaching how to love and how to teach others.

  4. Thank you for this! Completely agree and am so glad someone put my very thoughts so perfectly. This reminds me of another saying I dislike–that something will happen “if it’s meant to be.” Along with that God-given agency, we have the ability to control many things in life, to make them happen if we desire, thereby controlling the outcome/consequences. While we don’t always get to choose, saying it was or wasn’t meant to be, lets us off the hook and feels like a cop out to me.

    1. While I understand your perspective on “if it’s meant to be,” by saying such is not a cop out. To me it speaks of trust in a loving Heavenly Father, amongst while we try to make things be.”

  5. I agree we teach from our traumas in life, but I’m sorry but in order to teach something, you have to learn what you are teaching first. As a victim of sexual and ritual abuse, losing my wife and other family members and life of a lot of pain, I have learned a great deal from my experiences and will teach others from what I LEARNED. I can only teach people how to heal from life’s traumas only if I have learned to heal myself first. One thing I have learned from my experiences is to not define other peoples trials, especially if you’ve never experienced what they are going through.

    1. I love the part where you said, do not define other people’s trials, especially if you’ve never experienced what they are going through. So true. So wise. I think even if we think we have suffered the same thing they have, we still can’t define it for them. Their suffering is still unique to them. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    2. What a tremendous perspective from one who has hurt and knows pain. Everything does happen for a reason, it’s just God’s way of allowing us the opportunity to learn, to love, and to teach others the same.

  6. I love this lens of viewing how God works in our lives. Although I don’t think there is a specific reason linked to everything that happens in our life, I do think that in a round about way there is a reason for everything bad that happens in life. In a way God has willed and wants trials in our lives. His plan included a fallen world/state, and agency for all people. This is how we’d learn and grow and we’d need to rely on Christ to make it through. When God created this plan, He decided we all needed to struggle…He willed it upon his children, in a way, but with perfect love offered a Saviour. So everything happens because of the fallen state we live in that God saw through His love we needed. Unfortunately he doesn’t control everything that happens (because of agency) and so by random chance, some people suffer more than other, undeservedly. This doesn’t seem fair, but all things will be made fair through Jesus Christ. But there is a reason for what happens in our lives. And that reason comes from a fallen state, which is essential to God’s perfect plan that He crafted.

    1. One thing to keep in mind is that God knows the beginning and the end when it comes to our mortal probation. And while we have agency we will have trials as the other entity in this equation is Satan. I agree that there is reason and it comes from a fallen state. God is not a bystander….He is the reason we are all here. He gave us the choice and those who are here chose to come and accept whatever comes our way in order to return to Him. It definitely is at times a difficult life to understand…..But that is when faith becomes so important. Reasons, tests, trials, choice, ……. Never fully understood but someday it will all make sense. 😊

  7. Beautiful. Thanks for saying this…it always grates me when I hear it too. As a parent who watched her young daughter be killed, a senseless death dumped to other’s greed and incompetence, I totally “get” this. I was an agnostic my entire life to that point but found God and His sustaining love in the ashes and rubble of my life, Yes, we can learn through out suffering and trials. It doesn’t”happen for a reason (unless you count the natural laws of earthly life, our mortal, fragile, and disease-prone bodies, and choices we and other’s make -THOSE are the reasons. We can choose to learn, grow and trust from them and allow God to work all things (even bad things) together for good (Romans 8:28). Thanks again for writing this…it needs to be said often.

    1. Jan, I am so sorry to hear about your young daughter. Your response is so wise and helpful coming from such a terrible tragedy. Thank you for expressing your thoughts so eloquently. Please share my post and your ideas because I agree and your unique suffering gives you authority and a platform where others will listen. I agree with you. This message needs to be said often. Everyone like you, who belongs to what I call the “society of sufferers,” seems to agree. Jan, thank you, thank you, thank you. You might like my new article, “Does God Really Care About the Details of Our Lives?” You can read it here: Blessings and love to you,


      1. While Jan’s suffering is unimaginable, and I am so sorry for it, as well as her need for her perspective of the article, I fear that many people are missing a point- and not necessarily THE point.

        God did not kill Jan’s daughter, so don’t blame God. God also did not “cause” others to kill Jan’s daughter, so don’t blame God. Stop blaming God for “everything having a reason.” God isn’t reason, God is God.

        Everything does have a reason, good, or bad, based on the individual filter that we place on our individual view. Everything does have a reason, though we may just choose to view or interpret things in the wrong way BECAUSE we are human…and we aren’t God, nor do we always see what He sees. Now we’re back to a discussion of the “gift” of agency. The way we view things is a product of how we “choose” to use our agency. Maybe an article about how we use our agency is what is necessary.

        1. Also, as long as one chases reason for the sake of reason, in an effort to understand the things of God, that individual may likely never find God. God bless them to use their agency to believe in a God of love…and reason, simply because He is God.

    1. Christ suffered more than any mortal, more than we can even slightly comprehend, yet he was sinless. We suffer simply because that is part of life. Through suffering, we learn to be compassionate. We learn to forget ourselves and help others. And Dan, that’s how we teach; not by word, but by action.

      It does not bother me at all when people offer platitudes; it’s simply their way of attempting to comfort me through my own crises. They are trying to be nice. I accept their offering, whether I agree or not.

      1. Thank you! I’ve been reading these comments, waiting for this one! Why get up tight at someone’s inability to articulate compassion in the exact way you want to hear it ! Just accept their thoughts and love and friendship. That action in itself shows more ” thinking less of self than of others”.

  8. This is the first time someone has voiced the way I feel about this topic. I also cringe when I hear the same phrases. When I have voiced that I don’t believe everything happens for a reason people look at my like I must not have faith or real belief. But I have a very strong belief and faith in God and His plan for us – I just don’t believe He chooses to inflict harm on His children and I don’t like blaming things on Him. This is not a perfect world, with perfect people and immortal bodies. We will and do experience pain & suffering as well as joy and happiness too. My belief lies in having faith to turn to God for His help, guidance and comfort. Thank you for your message.

    1. Kimberly, thank you. I have had the same experience. In fact, I am having it now. People are so quick to brand you as a heretic or apostate just because you challenge the extreme viewpoint that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, which isn’t doctrinal or supported by scripture and yet seems to be what a lot of people believe. If you don’t mind taking the heat, please share my post and help me get the message out there. I think the world needs to hear it. You might like my new article, “Does God Really Care About the Details of Our Lives?” You can read it here: Blessings and love to you,


  9. Not to be too contrariarn but the fundamental problem here is if we believe in an all-powerful God it makes your position fall apart. Because now instead of an all-wise loving God who has a plan for everyone that yes, involves trials and suffering, you’ve given us an all-powerful God who refuses to lift a finger to prevent suffering in the name of respecting agency. That seems equally as cruel. In my mind I don’t know which is worse: a God who includes suffering as part of your life plan, or a God who has the power to prevent your suffering, but simply doesn’t because, you know, agency.

    1. Thanks for your comment but I have to respectfully disagree. My logic doesn’t fall apart. Your argument means you simply don’t understand God, which is fine, because it’s rife with assumptions about how God SHOULD act, according to your wisdom. None of us fully understand God. So don’t take that as a criticism. It’s something all of us are plagued with. I don’t fully understand him. That’s ok. He told us that would be the case. Are you a parent? Do you let your kids play sports, knowing full well that it will cause them heartache and pain? Do you intervene at every opportunity to spare them from pain simply because you have the power to do so? Does that make you a bad parent or a good parent? How would your kids turn out if you intervened whenever they were placed in a situation where you knew they would suffer pain? You can believe in whatever God you want. I’m just sharing with the world the God that has helped me through three years of being without food.

      1. I must agree with Dan on this one although God is technically “all powereful” He willingly limits His powers for our sake. Agency is the most profound and empowering gift God has given us and has promised never to take it away. The main purpose we are on Earth is to learn how to properly use and manage our agency. And that is all part of God’s great plan for us to become like Him. You can’t become like God without learning to control and manage your own thoughts words and deeds. And that all comes back to agency. Bad things do happen to innocent people. Christ is a pretty good example of that. In spite of His perfecting people still used their agency to belittle and rideable and hurt Him. Christ never sinned but still suffered pain all so He could empathize, sympathize, and succor (teach) His people. He obviously learned from those experiences but learned for the sake of teaching not for the sake of overcoming sin or weakness. Just because some can use their agency for bad doesn’t mean no one should be able to use their agency at all. That was Lucifer’s plan if you remember correctly. God is no respector of persons therefore He can’t give agency to some while restricting the agency of others no matter what they might use their agency for. The plan is for us to learn how to use our agency perfectly to follow God’s will not just avoid the responsibility of having to overcome our improper use of agency by thinking “God wouldn’t let us use it improperly, therefore we don’t have to work on it or worry about it”.

    2. What you state may be true, and I respect it…from your perspective. May I suggest that you come to know God. God IS all-powerful, does have a plan, respects agency, but at the same time, is not the one that “allows” or “causes” suffering to happen. Satan and the 3rd that followed him, are also a part of that “plan.” Suffering often happens beyond our control. Sometimes it may be beyond God’s control, in a way, for He is not a God of control. Sometimes We “choose” our suffering, and consequences like with all laws of nature, naturally follow. Now, does that mean that God is not natural? No. But it also suggests that he isn’t natural…from our human perspective. Please try not to make the mistake of blaming God for problems that he didn’t create.

  10. This is wonderfully enlightening into a different perspective.
    I have gone through some long-enduring pain, and I still believe that a lot of things happen for a reason. I do not believe that God gives us these trials, but that he allows us to face these trials, because WE chose.
    Our choice in the pre-existence to come to Earth was not a blind choice. There is a reason 1/3 of the hosts of heaven chose not to receive mortal bodies. I believe we knew the pains and sufferings we could possibly face and that we were also given a clear knowledge of the greatness of the reward for faithfully enduring.
    Having been given that understanding, we found it was still worth facing whatever this fallen world and Satan and his minions could throw at us, just so we could have a chance at Eternal Life in the Father’s presence.
    Things happen for this reason, because WE CHOSE to take a test of incomparable difficulty, for a reward of incomprehensible glory and joy.

    1. This is an interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing. Could you use the analogy of a game? It might be a bit imperfect but I think what you are saying is that we chose to play the “game” if you will and step on to the playing field of life, knowing that once we stepped onto the field all sorts of crazy things could happen. People could break the rules of the game and injure us. The field conditions might change and become difficult or challenging. Some people would get hurt while others wouldn’t, etc. God is on the sidelines cheering for us. He even intervenes and calls a time out here and there to step on the field and re-orient us or help an injured player. But, in large part, the game and how it turns out is up to us. Is that sort of what you are saying? Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you,


      1. i suppose you could use that as an analogy.
        We have many examples of Spirits being prepared in the pre-existence for certain roles they would need to take here on Earth.
        Likewise, we were prepared for the things we would face in life. Yes, some of the preparation was speculation, “IF you encounter this in your journey.” However, some of the preparation we did in the pre-existence was for exact sitatuion we KNEW we would encounter.
        I was told that my departure from the pre-existence was one of great joy and that I had a CLEAR understanding of the challenges I would face in MY life, but I also had a CLEAR understanding of the positive things that would occur.
        We were given our agency in the pre-existence and we did choose to pass through harships and trials, much of which we knew would be caused by others misuse of their agency and the rest by imperfect bodies susceptible to illness and emotions.
        But still we chose! As beings of light and knowledge, having been prepared and given an understanding of what the mortal sojuroun would hold, we rejoiced in the chance to come, because we also knew the true magnitutde of the reward, something I think we will never be able to fully grasp in this mortal frame.

        1. I refer to our trials as “spiritual weight lifting”: you don’t get strong muscles without having opposing forces, right? Same with our spirits: we must take these opposing forces and use them.

      2. I came up with my own “game analogy” The Parable of the Single Sister
        By Michelle Llewellyn

        The teams were formed. Each side paired up, male brothers with female sisters. Finally it was time to play; time for the game to begin.

        Off to the sidelines, others stood silently, watching the game. These others had not been chosen to play on a team. One among them was a certain single sister. She was not paired with a male brother, as the rules required. She wasn’t picked last for she was never even chosen to play on a team at all. Now, standing alone on the sidelines she must watch as, one by one, all her friends went out to participate in the biggest, most highly anticipated game of their lives.

        Blinking back tears of rejection she turned to the Coach. Oh, how she longed to participate in this game! She could do so much good out there, if He’d only let her play too. She’d show Him! She’d show all of them! She could play just as well as the others, given the chance to go out there and prove it.

        She’d fasted and prayed. Now she begged and pleaded for an opportunity to be paired up and sent in. Finally, Coach acknowledged her, He spoke, and these were his instructions to the single sister, “Many will be coming out of the game exhausted and very weary. Take this water jug and go serve them.”

        Aggravated, the single sister buried her face in her hands and sobbed in furious frustration. She kicked the water jug and murmured over the task she’d been assigned. She wouldn’t do it. She wanted to play, to be included; she wanted the honor of filling the measure of her creation, not the lowly task of water carrier!

        Finally, the single sister’s tears slowed. Her attention turned to her fellow brothers and sisters stumbling past her off the playing field. She noticed how exhausted and physically spent they were from the game. She felt her anger dissipate and her heart softened. Seeing one sister, now without a male partner, collapse on the ground in front of her, she picked up her water jug and ran to serve her.

        The weary sister cried tears of gratitude as she drank from the jug the single sister offered her. Upon request, she shared her story of the playing field experience. The male brother who partnered her had been injured and pulled out of this game. Now Coach wanted her go back in, alone. She wasn’t sure she could do it. The single sister found herself offering words of encouragement. She watched the sister get up and rejoin the game with new courage and a resolve to succeed until the end was called. This in turn inspired the single sister to take up her water jug and continue in the task she’d been given.

        A brother was next and the single sister knelt and offered him her jug. He drank and complained to the single sister how hard it was out there. The coach expected too much from him and he was tired of playing the game. In the distance the single sister could see his female sister partner. She recognized this sister who had been her friend from the beginning. She could see her waiting anxiously for her partner’s return to the game. The single sister told this brother about all the good qualities she knew this sister possessed and reminded him of his responsibilities as a team player and how desperately good male players like him were needed in this game. She watched as this brother returned to the side of his partner refreshed by both the single sister’s water, and her words. Together they scored another point for their team and the single sister cheered.

        As more and more brothers and sisters needing water were found, the single sister realized everyone had a different story to tell about the game. Many were glad they had been given this opportunity to play and participate in the game. They resolved to work on their skills and follow Coach’s instructions. Their words encouraged the single sister to continue serving in her own area.

        Others were angry over Coach’s calling them out of the game due to the mistakes they’d made. Some realized they’d rushed into the game too early and wished they’d waited before accepting the offer to play. Others hadn’t even waited to be chosen, they’d joined the game on their own, without Coach’s consent. Offended by His disciplinary actions, they expressed their anger to the single sister. Many even refused to drink from her jug because she was an inexperienced sister who didn’t know what it was really like out there, playing the game.

        But the worst ones, the single sister realized, were the brothers and sisters who pointed and jeered at her with her jug. Some gave her grief, pushing her jug away, calling her “unwanted”. Others told her how lucky she was not having the responsibilities of being a team player and how much they envied her, her freedom. The rest did drink and cried tears of remorse over their experiences learned from the game. The sight of so many female sisters stumbling off the playing field, weakened by their own and their partners’ choices was discouraging to the single sister. She ran to their sides and offered water and refreshment to all who would accept.

        She was offended when she’d offer her jug to male brothers who would drink, then, realizing she was a single sister, offer to be her partner in the game. Never mind the sister they’d already chosen still in the game awaiting their return, no one would have to know, they insisted. Clutching her jug against her chest the single sister flatly refused these offers, reminding them it was against Coach’s advice to pair up like that.

        Then the single sister saw her Dad stumbling away from playing field. Filled with foreboding, she ran to his side and offered him her water jug. He took a few small sips and told his story. He’d grown so weary of his responsibilities in the game; he’d left his partner, the mother of this single sister, and found other willing sisters to partner with him going against Coach’s advice, until he’d been caught. Now he was no longer a team player. Though considerably weaker as an independent player he could return to the game, but, as he insisted to the single sister, he was happier now because of it.

        “It’s too hard and it’s not fair, having to pick our partners at the beginning of this game when we didn’t know what kind of player they’d make. We should be allowed to pick and choose after the game has already started. Coach just doesn’t understand. But I admire you, daughter, for following His advice.”

        Tears fell as the single sister watched her Dad return to the playing field. She was hurt and angry but she understood now. The way her Dad had chosen to play the game, like so many others, was not beneficial to the entire team. She’d seen so much damage already from the actions of these good brothers and sisters. The victims of so many bad choices made by them during the game tore at her heart. Did Coach feel the same way? Did the sight of so much rule breaking pain Him as well?

        Discouraging thoughts began to creep into the single sister’s mind. What good was she doing here? Did anyone really need her water? Maybe everyone was right. Maybe it really WAS better to be “unwanted” and unable to play and participate in the game. With this last destructive thought, the single sister fell to the ground in tears. She felt her heart, already broken by the sight of so much sin, shatter into a million tiny pieces.

        Suddenly the voice of another sister was calling out her name. The single sister sat up to see a small, dark haired sister in a white dress smiling down at her. She helped the single sister up and wiped her tears telling her not to cry. She had done well as a water jug carrier but now Coach was getting ready to call an end, to assemble new teams for a new game and it was time for the single sister to serve elsewhere. This sister told her those who hadn’t been picked for the last game would get their chance to play in this one. All those who wanted to continue to play in the new game would be allowed to do so if it was the desire of their hearts. She told the single sister that those who were fresh and untouched from this game, like this single sister, were especially needed for this final, most important game of all.

        Filled with hope, the single sister asked the small, dark haired sister where she’d heard such news.
        “From Father,”
        “Father? What’s a father?” the single sister asked.
        The small, dark haired sister in the white dress gave a merry laugh, “Come and see!”

      3. …and ALL of us “win” the game when we learn to love and to teach what we have learned through “playing the game.”

  11. I struggle when people say I need to learn something from these trials? To learn means to figure something out. I can’t seem to figure out anything let alone what I’m supposed to learn. I like the term growth or maybe what you said that in going through these trials we become the teachers. Enjoying those precious moments and living day by day with no regrets. Hopefully a more kind, hopeful, compassionate, loving person. I can’t understand a God that keeps adding to the pile that is becoming a mountain. That makes each day more challenging than the last. The overwhelming desire to control the outcome or figure out what we should learn. I’m not being good enough or righteous enough has been shamed into me from childhood. Throughout religious organizations it’s taught over and over again. I hope for a just God to find guidance and be carried but with the mountain rising I seem to be lost. I hope through his Grace that someday when my time comes and this earthly life is over that I can stand with my imperfections doubt and suffering, and He will know my heart was pure💞 Thank you for your perspective

  12. Good thoughts. I see both sides and believe I understand what you are trying to express although, in the context of the Atonement, I believe you are arguing semantics. The point I think you are trying to make is a good one even if imperfectly expressed. There is nothing beyond the power of our Savior to heal, no pain, no suffering from which we cannot be made whole. We do suffer but the negative effects need not be eternally lasting and can be healed completely to the extent which we personally allow. I love the story of Enos. It is not an easy thing to sacrifice self-sufficient pride. The Atonement is not limited to merely healing self infliction. God’s promises are not empty. God does have a plan in place for His children. Weakness is not sin (Ether 12:27). The miracle of healing is real (John 3:16).

  13. Thanks for this, I have believed exactly this for long time (but you said it better!) I will share this with everyone I know! To me I’ve always looked at the Garden of Eden as a good example of how God works. He never forced Adam or Eve to take the apple, or listen to Satan. But he stepped away and let all 3 make their choices. Satan chose to deceive and Eve listened, and then Adam listened to her. God stepped back in, and helped them to get back up. It is and always will be Satan who tries to destroy us and tries to put as many horrible things in this life as possible (on top of mortal crap happening), NOT GOD.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this. You perfectly put into words something I’ve been struggling to understand my whole life.

  15. Then explain to me why Christ said, “Thy will be done” if His WILL plays no part in our lives??? I guess it depends on how much you believe in giving your will to the Father and how much you trust Him to guide your life. Our will is truly the only thing we can give to our Father. So you are telling me he only cares to stop things from happening in only some peoples’ lives and not others?? Only the important people get to have miracles and not others?? Because He can step in to change the situations of our lives, and He FREQUENTLY does. Miracles happen on a daily basis. Why then not for everyone??? It is because of a couple reasons. 1) an individual is not living a life that allows the Lord to bless them. “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” or 2) there IS A REASON WE NEED TO GO THROUGH THE TRIAL. I believe just opposite of you. I Believe God can do ALL things. However, he doesn’t do all things because we need to learn and grow OR THOSE AROUND US NEED TO LEARN AND GROW FROM OUR EXPERIENCES. You are talking about all of the things you can teach from your experience. Don’t you believe that is a REASON God allowed you to go through that experience??? You are basically saying God is not almighty and All Powerful. He picks and chooses who to perform miracles for and who not to based on a whim. i am sorry you believe that way. To me, you are not believing in a God of miracles and yours is a false God.

    1. Sharon, before you complete your judgment upon me and pass a sentence I would invite you to read my latest article, “Does God Really Care About the Details of Our Lives.” You can access it here: It fleshes out some of the ideas from the post you responded to and may or may not change some of your negative opinions of me. I can tell that I provoked you to anger, which was not my intention, or perhaps it caused you extreme discomfort with what you view as an incorrect viewpoint.

      My only intention was to help other people who are suffering deal with the hurtful comments they hear like “everything happens for a reason” and to persuade people to forget about the “why” and just love others as they should. Part of that requires that you abandon the desire to understand “why” and simply accomplish God’s will, which is to love.

      Jesus taught the first great commandment was to love God. He taught the second great commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two laws hang everything else–all the law, all the prophets. Everything else is subsumed within those two mandates. That’s what God wills in every situation, right there, including responding to a disabled person’s blog post.

      God IS a God of miracles. He is loving. He is kind and gracious. He is intimately aware of me. He has strengthened me and comforted me through lung disease, a paralyzed digestive system, nerve damage, chronic pain, and the hell of living without food among a mountain of other health problems. Through all of that he has let me know that he is there, that he loves me, that he is strengthening me, that he mourns with me, that he feels horrible that my body has done what it has done and that he, and only he, knows exactly how it feels. He has wept with me and cried with me. I don’t think you believe THAT God is false.

      But I didn’t choose these health problems. I didn’t want them. God didn’t want them, either. I know that. It just happened. He told me so in very personal ways. Suffering is merely part of mortality. You cannot define another person’s suffering. You cannot say that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, which is the only proposition I was attacking. It’s a rather extreme (and very false) proposition.

      I want you to think that logic through. Say your daughter gets raped and sexually abused. Did God custom-design this trial? If so, then the rapist did not commit sin. He merely carried out God’s will. If he carried out God’s will in committing rape then is there really any law against rape? Is God really a God of laws … a God who obeys his own laws and that we can trust? Is God really “love” as the scriptures say? And let me ask you this: why does God need to be in control of everything to find meaning in suffering? Does it merely feed your need for being in control? Does it give you a false sense or the illusion of control? Why does it matter if God is in control of your trials? Why does it matter that there is meaning in your suffering? There is meaning in living … for everyone, suffering or not. God has already told you what your purpose is in everything, whether you’re perfectly healthy or completely broken and handicapped. We ALL have the same purpose … to become like him, to become love, just as God is love. So I would invite you to let go of trying to find meaning or “the reason” behind your suffering (or anyone else’s for that matter) and just get on with loving and then soon you will discover that you don’t even care about the “purpose” of your suffering or “why” things happen to you or if it was in “your plan” because you are living your true purpose, which is to love. If you can learn how to love as you ought, isn’t that a miracle? If God can help you with that (rather than cure your lungs, or fix your digestive system) isn’t that miracle enough for you? Does anything else really matter in the grand scheme of things than to love?

      It’s easy to label me a heretic and discard what I’m saying because it makes you uncomfortable but please don’t. Don’t discard what I am saying or prejudge it just yet. Ponder it. Discuss it with others. Keep an open mind. I was attacking an extreme viewpoint that is very hurtful for people who are suffering to hear. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Blessings and love to you,


    2. Sharon Dale, given that I’m responding to your comment weeks after you posted, I think it is highly unlikely you will ever read my response. But tired as I am at this late hour, I feel I need to get this out of my system. There is so much that I found wrong with your looking through-a-keyhole argument and the soapbox way you delivered it. As I read it through and then afterwards, Dan’ gracious response, I couldn’t help but feel reminded of what can happen when a religious mindset is channel locked by an inordinate opinion of itself. It also reminds me that I have a scary long way to go before I can stop responding the way I do and be closer to that peaceful-wisdom life stage that Dan seems to be at.
      Maybe I just don’t want to get there too soon.

  16. Thanks for this wonderful article. I am suffering and in pain just now but have learnt from your writing how I can teach others. I pray always that I can endure to the end . I pray for strength , for faith, for courage as I go through my trials.

    1. Susanne, pain is a cruel tormentor. I am so sorry. You don’t deserve this. But know that your comment to me today, lifted my spirits and gave me strength. Thank you for being the wounded healer that God wants all of us to be. Your little note of kindness mediated the presence of God for me today.

  17. Having a son who has been in chronic pain as well as extreme fatigue, many allergies, memory issues for 13+yrs., this has been a very helpful article for me to read–and will be for him when I share it with him. I have been guilty of the “everything happens for a reason” comment, but the reason you give–learning to love others as well as his body, even though he feels it has failed him miserably in spite of our and his doing EVERYTHING possible for him to have good health, is key. Thank you so much for teaching us a new way of looking at this. I also love the kind and loving way you answer comments, even those that are critical.
    You are doing a great service. I will read your blog about God being in the details of our lives. I KNOW he is constantly mindful of each of his children.

    1. Blessed are the caregivers. Wow. What an incredible journey you have been on. God is so involved in the details at times, isn’t he? And then sometimes you’re like, “Where’d you go today?” Thank you for sharing part of your journey with me. Your faith and courage and endurance strengthen me. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Thank you, again, for sharing part of your journey. Some day we’ll figure it all out but, for now, I hope we can all learn to love each other through!!! Peace and love to you,


  18. Beautifully written! I appreciate your thoughts! it is funny to me that when I say “everything happens for a reason”, that what you say is exactly what I mean! It isn’t meant to be hurtful. There is purpose in all that we experience. God has to allow agency. He can’t fix all or cure all, or heal all… but He is all-knowing, all loving, all powerful and can help us to find meaning and purpose in everything we experience. When I say, or hear, “everything happens for a reason” it means that you are not singled out for any wrong-doing or that you are worth less than someone more fortunate- it means God loves you SO much. You are priceless. And when hard times come, He will help you. I don’t believe He just gives you trials you can handle. He allows trials that you can’t handle, and promises to help you through them. I never knew it was offensive to some to say everything happens for a reason… I truly believe they do.

    1. I like that–“I don’t believe He just gives you trials you can handle. He allows trials that you can’t handle, and promises to help you through them.” Thank you for the kind words.

      1. Another great insight which I very much agree with, Dan. In being taught that God will not give us a trial we can’t handle, it seems that a lot of people assume that is true of all trials. But unless you believe that ALL trials are custom designed/tailored for the individual or group, then that idea cannot hold true.

        Depending are how you define a trial and how you define ‘handling it’, the argument can easily be made that every day we see examples of people being tried well beyond their limits. The trials that God custom designs for our growth, yes I can’t see him not giving us more than we could bear but I believe there are many ‘trials’ that are outside of that group and that are simply part of the God given law of chaos or common reality that is a key part of our mortal journey here on earth. There might even be another great article here.

  19. Dan,
    I have to say well said! I have often felt this when I hear that statement that “Everything happens for a reason.” In my early twenties, I worked at a treatment center for abuse victims, addicts, eating disorders and other troubled adolescent girls, and I wrestled with this sentiment. I had a hard time reconciling the thought that these victims suffering happened for a reason, why would God allow that to happen. I came to the personal understanding that many things do not happen for a reason, but that we can find reason in what happens to us, and become teachers as you say. We can use our experiences to help understand and alleviate the suffering of others. Thank you for your sentiments. I appreciate what you said.

    1. Thank you, Chyelin! Can I use this one sometime: “many things do not happen for a reason, but … we can find reason in what happens to us,” I like that one a lot. Well said. Peace and blessings to you,


    2. Chyelin, You have stated exactly how I feel about this topic: “we can find reason in what happens to us.” God allows us to experience pain, heartache, and sorrow. We can use those experiences to grow, learn, and eventually share with others so they might be edified. Each challenge we endure adds to our life experience. We have the agency to utilize our hardships and use them as growth experiences. I think it’s the process, the process of discovering reasons for our trials, that molds us into more compassionate beings. I do not believe that God always personalizes our trials. He allows life to happen to us. It’s up to us to turn to Christ and use the Atonement to get through each experience with our faith intact. Joseph Smith equated this process to ” . . . a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else . . . all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty . . . .”

      Dan, thanks for sharing your insights with us.

      1. Avalon Vic, very beautifully stated. I am learning so much as I go through these comments and participate in this discussion. Many thanks.


      2. Avalon Vic,
        Sorry for chiming in late.
        I appreciate your positive message, most of which I heartily agree with but I do have a concern with how the statement “we can find reason in what happens to us” might be interpreted and/or applied. We can look for the providential reason and sometimes we might find it or feel we’ve found it but I think we need to be careful not to assume that it is always there to be found. Sometimes the stone just rolls down the mountain and shatters into jagged pieces.

        If we look too hard for ‘reason(s)’, there is always the possibility that some of us might create our own narrative for our own or someone else’s adversity, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but a narrative that is not a reflection of the reality can also potentially be harmful. As you said, “God (does not) always personalize our trials”. Otherwise, there is always a reason of course, if you accept chaos/randomness as a subset of God’s overall plan, I think it’s largely a matter of perspective.
        As Dan, so insightfuly said, “Accepting the randomness and injustice of life is part of accepting God”

  20. Thank you! Thank you for writing this! A little more than 6 months ago my daughter died. She had battled cancer at the ages of 4,8 and 22. Even though the battle at the age of 22 cost her the ability to walk and her left leg and half of her pelvis and part of her spine, she persisted in becoming a paratriathlete and a graduate student.
    Hearing the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and “it’s meant to be” was at first maddening, and then later, they became phrases that we laughed at (privately).
    My daughter and our whole family find strength in the idea of the randomness of life. We also are comforted by the belief and personal experiences that teach us that our Heavenly Father is mindful of our hard and painful challenges. We are thankful for the comfort that He sends. Again, thank you for your beautiful and enlightened words!

    1. Elizabeth’s mom, I am so sorry you lost your beautiful daughter … and after such a long fight, too. You have been a caregiver for more than two decades! How have you done that. I, too, find strength in the randomness of life. That’s really hard for some people to understand, though, as I’m finding out more and more as my message reaches more and more people around the world. I wished I could reach through cyberspace and just give you the biggest hug. God bless you. Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story. If I ever meet you, you have to promise me a great big hug because you are one of my heroes! God bless you. Love to you,


  21. Interesting perspective, But by becoming a teacher you still have to learn something first before you can teach others what you know and what you have learned in essence you do learn something, from those hardships and trials. This life is a test and I only know a handful of people that actually enjoy tests, most of us struggle through the tests but learned something in the process. My patriarchal blessing says there are no accidents in the Lord’s plan. Eve told us that it is better that we pass through sorrow so that we may know the good from the evil. I have never thought that God made it happen he only allows agency to take place and sometime the agency of others helps us learn and teach others. By saying that everything happens for a reason in no way implies that God made it happen it implies that this life is full if tests that will help us learn and your examples are evidence of that in the very nature of telling someone that they can be happy during a rough or really rough time. You first had to learn that before you can teach it. I appreciate your perspective, but I respectfully disagree. I have experienced many trials and have learned something from everyone of them and I didn’t enjoy them when I was experiencing them, but knew the Atonement helped me through.

    1. Hmmm, did I really say you don’t learn anything from your trials? You might want to go back and re-read. I respect your perspective. Your blessing sounds very unique and tailored to you; not sure it’s a universal truth. Do you really believe EVERYTHING happens for a reason? To say that everything happens for a reason suggests that there is reason (or volition or purpose) behind everything that happens–that it happens because it was meant or willed to happen … or purposed to happen. Do you believe children are sexually abused for a reason? Help me understand that one and maybe I’ll come around to your way of thinking …. I can accept that we can find our true purpose in suffering … our purpose to love, which is really the only purpose God intends for us because he intends that we become like him and he IS love. But saying you can find purpose in suffering, which is my thesis, is way different than saying EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Do you see the difference? Blessings and love,


  22. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I just lost our baby at the eighth week in pregnancy. They could not find our baby’s heartbeat, & the baby had been growing up to that point. They concluded it was a silent or missed miscarriage since I never had any symptoms to warrant trouble with our baby. There’s not a single explanation that my heart will accept as to why our baby was taken away from us. We are filled with so much sadness and grief. To us, there’s no “just” reason why crackheads and undeserving individuals are blessed with children, but good people like us had our baby ripped away from us. This article puts things in a much better perspective. Thank you so much. I will write and use my other gifts to help others in this horrible situation.

    1. Oh my goodness, this breaks my heart. We went through a similar experience when we lost our Eva Lily on February 1, 2007, after six hours of labor. It was so hard for us to accept. We had similar thoughts about the randomness of it all. Like you said, babies went to abusive homes but why not ours? It wasn’t rational. How could a just God allow that to happen? So to hear that it happened for a reason was just pouring salt on our wounds. It didn’t help my concept of a loving God any. If anything, it alienated me from him. I am glad you are going to reach out and help others. Your grief is uniquely yours but you will have an empathy and level of compassion that is special to those in similar situations and you will be blessed to know how to help them. It is a horrible situation. I’m sorry you have had to go through it. I am sure that God mourns your loss, too. Your little angel will be there for you in your time of need. I’m confident of that. I know that’s cliche and cold comfort right now (you’d rather have a child to hold and love) but you’ll experience that miracle in time. I am glad you are going to write and use your gifts to reach out and love others in a similar situation. I think it will be therapeutic for you. God bless you in your efforts and thank you for taking the time to share your kind words and your personal loss. Love to you,


  23. I have long said “Sometimes our trials are other people’s tests.” I won’t go into the details of how I finally came to that conclusion, but thank you for your eloquent explanation.

    1. Okay, so it took you one sentence to encapsulate what it takes me 10-12 paragraphs to explain. That is very profound and very wise. Since you did not leave your last name I will feel no shame or guilt in plagiarizing you in the future. Love to you,


  24. I lovingly have to inform you, put simply, that you are teaching false doctrine, Dan McDonald.

    “When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation.” Prophets and False Teachers M. Russell Ballard Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 1999

    “False prophets and false teachers are those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines.” Ibid

    “Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets.” Ibid

    The scriptures state:

    John Chapter 15: 20, 21 – “20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

    21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

    Alma Chapter 14: 10, 11 – “10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

    11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold 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, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

    Alma Chapter 60 verse 13: ” For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.”

    “If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea; … if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; … if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

    The Lord Himself said that all these things shall give thee experience and be for thy good.

    8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

    9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122: 5, 7, 8,9)

    President Spencer W. Kimball (who himself knew a lot about suffering) stated: “If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.

    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 exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

    If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

    If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but 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.”

    “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, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.

    In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory.”
    Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), 11–21

    “Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce.” Prophets and False Teachers M. Russell Ballard Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 1999

    You do not want to be that person my friend.

    1. Darwin, I appreciate your concern for doctrinal purity but I would invite you to explain precisely what I have taught that you think is false doctrine? “All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it. Whether you wear a green T-shirt or a blue one makes no difference in the long run.”

      If you really believe that everything happens for a reason then you would refute this teaching and this teacher–something I don’t think you would dare to do. You would believe that you were “meant” to wear a green T-shirt, for example. Darwin, there are people who really believe this. And they become paralyzed with indecision and, ultimately, despair, frustration and hopelessness. It detracts them from discovering their true purpose, which is to get outside themselves, stop worrying about “why” this or that is happening to them and get on with their purpose, which is to love. Isn’t love the first and second great commandment? Isn’t that your purpose? IF that’s your purpose then why do you need to find some other purpose in your suffering?

      I think you have not correctly understood the message, which is that “why” things happen to us doesn’t matter near as much as choosing to love in spite of everything that happens to us. Worrying about why things happen and what the purpose of suffering is are largely irrelevant because those who are true disciples of Christ know their purpose–to love. Do you really believe God wants children raped and sexually abused because that is part “their” plan or because that is what they are “supposed” to learn? Are you confusing the truth that we can always learn from suffering, which I have never disputed, with the falsehood that everything that happens to us happens because it was willed by God? That extreme viewpoint is false doctrine and it is very hurtful to people who are undergoing extreme distress and suffering.

      The fact that we can learn from suffering doesn’t mean that God willed it or wanted it. Otherwise, where would God’s mercy be? He couldn’t ever feel sorrow for us because whatever happened to us was supposed to happen to us. Before you judge me too harshly I would invite you to learn more about me, about my writings, about my journey, and about my faith. You really don’t know me. IF you did, I think you’d retract your post. So blessings and love to you. Stop judging, brother; start loving. What you believe matters so much less than who you love.

      1. One would need to stretch farther than a disjointed yoga master in order to use President Monson’s the The Three “R”s of Choice to back up your claim that everything does not happen for a reason.

        In the context of your article, the issue is varying degrees and modes of suffering….which always have a reason, as declared by the scriptures and quotes by the prophets I have provided.

        Because “If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but 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.”

        We have “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 exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?”

        So those are reasons.

        Nothing to do with shirts.

        But speaking of clothing…

        Once while preparing for Church, I was told by Heavenly Father to wear a Spiderman tie in place of the plain one I had chosen. I got to Church and was almost immediately approached by a non-member who loved Spiderman and comics in general. He sat with me in the chapel, because he felt comfortable. Because I was obedient.

        “Obedience [is not] a mindless shifting of our personal responsibility,” Elder Maxwell declared. “Instead, it is tying ourselves to a living God who will introduce us—as soon as we are ready—to new and heavier responsibilities involving situations of high adventure. Obedience, therefore, is not evasion; it is an invasion—one that takes us deep into the realm of our possibilities.”

        You ALSO do not understand the issue of judging.

        Elder Lynn G. Robbins at October’s General Conference – Quote: “In His mortal life, Jesus Christ was a loving judge, uncommonly wise and patient. He is known in the scriptures as “the righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8; Moses 6:57), and His counsel to us is to also “judge righteous judgment” (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:1–2 [in Matthew 7:1, footnote a]) and to “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good … [and] to judge righteously” (D&C 11:12). This counsel to the Nephite Twelve will help us judge as the Lord does: “Ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27; emphasis added). We sometimes forget that when He gave the counsel to be as He is, it was in the context of how to judge righteously.”

        You went against scripture and prophetic counsel which state there are reasons for suffering.

        “I remind us all that while reaching out to and helping bring back a lamb who has strayed, we also have a profound responsibility to the 99 who didn’t stray and to the wishes and will of the Shepherd. There is a sheepfold, and we are all supposed to be in it, to say nothing of the safety and blessings that come to us for being there…..Our compassion and our love—fundamental characteristics and requirements of our Christianity—must never be interpreted as compromising the commandments. As the marvelous George MacDonald once said, in such situations “we are not bound to say all we [believe], but we are bound not even to look [like] what we do not [believe].” – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

        1. Hey Darwin, if you want to contend or argue, you’ll need to go somewhere else to do that. This blog post is meant for respectful discussion about suffering and how learning how to love helps us through. It is not a forum for trolling, condemning, attacking, or judging other people, including myself. You have very strong beliefs. You are very zealous. You wield words like a sword. Good for you. I hope that works well for you. I hope you find peace and happiness through your beliefs and the way that you express them. I hope that God blesses you with wisdom and understanding and much happiness in your life. All the best to you,


          1. Elder Russell M. Nelson stated that “real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.”

            It does take “judging” to determine that. Which is why we are commanded to judge.

            That’s what I do.

            Being obedient.

            But that does not make me a troll.

          2. Darwin — troll or not, you are a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing jerk. People like you give religion a bad name. That is my judgement of you. 😉

        2. Gosh, I know I’ve seen this pattern before somewhere…let’s see: 1) I’m motivated by love; 2) That love compels me to tell you that you’re going to hell (in essence); 3) I have appointed myself as the guardian of orthodoxy, and since my interpretation of the gospel is flawless, any that appears to contradict mine must necessarily be wrong; 4) I’m going to tell you how you’re wrong in a way that makes plain that I am motivated not by love but by self-righteous pride. Oh yeah, that’s it: evangelical fundamentalist anti-Mormon literature!

          1. *laughing*

            You DO realize that for your so-called pattern to be valid then Dan McDonald would have to be either your God or your prophet and this blog…your Church?

            Because MY supplied proofs/evidence/precedents are all quotes from LDS Church leaders and LDS scriptures which refute Dan McDonald’s false doctrine.

            So right now, you’re more like the guy with the finger thimbles and shaved head.

            And you’re trying to make me feel bad for pointing out the error of your ways?

            Not happening.

            “…Peer pressure tries to change a person’s attitudes, if not behavior, by making one feel guilty for giving offense. We seek respectful coexistence with those who point fingers, but when this fear of men tempts us to condone sin, it becomes a “snare” according to the book of Proverbs 29:25 The snare may be cleverly baited to appeal to our compassionate side to tolerate or even approve of something that has been condemned by God.” [ Which Way Do You Face? by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy, Oct. 2014 General Conference]

            The real problem here is that neither you or Dan seem to be bale to withstand chastening.

            I always like to think of the example of the Brother of Jared. He was chastised by the Lord for three solid hours. By the Lord himself. Three hours. And yet, later on the Lord stated of Jared: “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith” Ether 3:9. The chastening came before the commendation. One can argue that the commendation would not have come without the chastening. When I combine this with the fact that the Lord chastens those He loves then I remember that chastening is not only a good thing, but a great thing. And necessary. Course corrections continue to be vital for us all, and will be for our entire lives here.

            Kind if egotistical for you to think that you and Dan are exempt.

          2. I said nothing about whether or not I agree with Dan. Even if I were in complete disagreement with him I STILL could have made the same comment about your posts. I can take chastening from you just fine, because coming from you it’s meaningless. The devil can quote scripture too, but the way you use it as a weapon to ridicule others and exalt yourself, you just keep on making my point. After what you’ve said and how you’ve said it, I’d love to be a fly on the wall and watch you try to endure chastening face-to-face from someone in authority over you. That would take a level of humility and charity that is beyond you right now, as you’ve demonstrated with your own words (not those of the scriptures and prophets you’ve quoted). And without charity you are nothing, as you well know from the scriptures.

            Show me how wrong I am and how humble and charitable you are by letting me have the last word. Not because I want it (in fact this is the last thing I’m going to say in this thread), but because I don’t believe you can do it. Mind you, I’m not actually going to read what you write, because again, any scripture or prophetic teaching filtered through someone as proud and self-righteous as yourself loses its meaning in that context. So I’d suggest that when you respond–and I know you will, and everyone who reads this will see that you did–don’t waste too much time or energy; I’m only going to check occasionally over the next week or so to see if you were able to resist replying with more sarcasm and condemnation (nestled in between scriptures and high-profile quotes, of course).

            So ok, I guess I’ll have to read a LITTLE bit to get the tone of it. Since I won’t be replying, I will just say now: let the readers of this blog judge whether or not you make my point. (You said you’re ok with judging, right?)

            PS If you try to wiggle out of this by seeking me out personally so that you can “chastise” me without anyone seeing, that will REALLY tell me what a piece of work you are. And in that case I will make an exception and publish whatever you say on this thread. I’m not angry with you at all, by the way–I’m just getting my popcorn ready.

          3. PAUL PISANO – HERE’S YOUR REPSONSE (I knew you were peeking)

            Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

            I will not remain silent.

            Satan always seeks to silence truth. Not the role model you want to follow, Paul.

            You accused me of exalting myself. To refresh your awareness, I am not the one with a blog hawking a book for profit. That would be Dan.

            Are you getting a cut of the profits? Maybe a high rank in his new Church?

            Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. And false doctrine creates many victims.

            Plus, there is the fact that as priesthood holders, we have a sacred duty to always stand for truth and right. We live in a world where many see evil as good and good as evil, and we must take a stand for good.

            The Savior said that if we are “lukewarm,” he “will spew [us] out of [his] mouth” (Rev. 3:16).

            You would perhaps rather that I were…what? Moderate? Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment.

            That is not moderation, but indifference.

            I am not indifferent.

            That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity” (D&C 68:31), and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79).

            In Elder Russell M. Nelson’s statement that “real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” the key word is “Confrontation”.

            Very few confront. Which is a sin of omission.

            Confrontation means “the act of confronting”.

            Confront means:

            : to oppose or challenge (someone) especially in a direct and forceful way

            : to directly question the action or authority of (someone)

            : to deal with (something, such as a problem or danger); especially

            : to deal with (something) in an honest and direct way

            Elder Russell M. Nelson’s statement made in General Conference is scripture.

            So no. I will not stop doing that.

            1 Kings 18 27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

            The prophet Elijah also mocked those who proclaimed false doctrine.

            He’s one of my role models.

            My main role model, Jesus Himself, used a whip.

  25. I am sad for your struggles, and in awe of your strength. I have no concept of what you experience daily. God bless you. I can say that through widowhood, an abusive marriage, a high-conflict divorce, and a husband now ill with MS, I have found that peace that surpasses understanding, and in a personal and quietly profound process of personal revelation, I have come to understand that the opposition in all things we all clearly experience gives us opportunities to learn and to teach. It is difficult to comprehend the suffering of mankind. It is even harder for me to comprehend the expansiveness of God’s love, including that love expressed through Jesus Christ and His Atonement. I don’t know the answers, but I do know the pathway to peace with God’s plan is through the Atonement, and forgiveness that is gifted to us to pass on to others, including ourselves. I don’t know how many details we planned out before we came, nor how many moments of each life are decided in advance and those that are not, but I do know that God is a God of love and order. I do know that we have been invited to consider the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field, and to consider that if Heavenly Father consciously provides for them, He does so even more for us. I know he attends to the details of our lives, and that He does not sit in raw shock and horror at the suffering. There is majestic purpose beyond our understanding, there is order, even in suffering. I do know that He gives to us weaknesses that they might become strengths. He gives us weaknesses (and all that these weaknesses include – even abusive people) for a reason. If the totality of human suffering could be assigned a reason, perhaps it is because He loves us enough to humble us to discerning compassion and love for each other, which surpasses mere judgement in ultimate importance. I tend to not agree with much of your premise, but I can respect your thoughts and conclusions on love (charity), for without it, we are nothing. For me that is the most important part of your message, and I am glad on that point we can fully agree. I love you, brother, and pray you are strengthened as you spread the Gospel of Love.

    1. Very well spoken, Alisa!

      I recently re-read a quote by Joseph Smith:“The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever ‘the morning stars sang together’ for joy; the past, the present, and the future were and are, with him, one eternal ‘now’.”

      So that means that “He sees, rather than foresees,” as Elder Neil A. Maxwell has said, because all things past, present, and future are continually before Him.

      He knows what bad things are going to happen. And in light of that…

      “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”

      Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1917–2008), “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 28.

      This was Elder Wirthlin’s last General Conference talk. The important last thing he had to say to us all before he passed beyond the veil.

      And that statement adds profound power to these ones:

      “Faith to Forgive Grievous Harms: Accepting the Atonement as Restitution.” by James R. Rasband – who was dean of the BYU Law School when this devotional address was given on 23 October 2012.

      “Forgiveness requires us to consider the other side of the Atonement—a side that we don’t think about as often but that is equally critical. That side is the Atonement’s power to satisfy our demands of justice against others, to fulfill our rights to restitution and being made whole. We often don’t quite see how the Atonement satisfies our own demands for justice. Yet it does so. It heals us not only from the guilt we suffer when we sin, but it also heals us from the sins and hurts of others.

      It is critical to understand that forgiving others is not just a practical virtue. It is a profound act of faith in the Atonement and the promise that the Savior’s sacrifice repays not just our debts to others but also the debts of others to us.

      In our live-and-let-live society, we may believe that being forgiving is just etiquette and good manners. It is not. We may think that forgiveness requires us to let mercy rob justice. It does not. Forgiveness does not require us to give up our right to restitution. It simply requires that we look to a different source. The non-judgmental worldly phrases “don’t worry about it” and “it’s no big deal” are not illustrations of the doctrine of forgiveness. On the contrary, when a person sins against us, it can be a very big deal.10The point is that the Atonement is very big compensation that can take care of very big harms. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing the sin; it means maximizing our faith in the Atonement.

      My greatest concern is that if we wrongly believe forgiveness requires us to minimize the harms we suffer, this mistaken belief will be a barrier to developing a forgiving heart. It is okay to recognize how grave a sin is and to demand our right to justice—if our recognition triggers gratitude for the Atonement. Indeed, the greater the sin against us—the greater the harm we suffer—the more we should value the Atonement.”

      1. Darwin, if you are correct, I am going to stay an Agnostic. If Mr. McDonald is right, there is a chance I will regain my faith.

        1. So God only exists if He does what you want? That will make for a cold and lonely eternity.

          God is not a waiter to cater to your whims, nor is the gospel some salad bar that you can pick and choose what you feel comfortable with.

          Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

          The reason I am correct is because I find out where God stands on a subject and then I stand with Him.

          God makes demands on US. We have to qualify.

          Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated that Christ’s love is not described as unconditional love in the scriptures, “because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional.” He continued: God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love … To receive His grace, we must have faith in Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, including repenting of our sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, receiving the Holy Ghost, and continuing in the path of obedience.

          You do that by searching the scriptures and the words of the prophets and apostles.

          Simply put, Brigham Young once said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation” (JD8:150).

          NOT random. NOT left to “chance” or “luck”. Life is not the roulette wheel Dan thinks it is.

          That is false doctrine.

          You staying an agnostic unless the Church adopts false doctrine will not change God’s ways. And it will hurt you.

          It’s all about being humble, and teachable and lovingly obedient…regardless.

          If people don’t learn to do that, then they don’t qualify for all God has.

          And for somebody to shoot themselves in the foot in protest, is fundamentally not very bright.

          And bad for their foot..

  26. Love this post.

    Drives me nuts when people say that God “gives” trials to people. I teach Relief Society and I hear that comment in one form or another during almost every lesson I teach. In addition, “everything happens for a reason” seems to pop up in my social media feed almost daily. Ugh.

    It’s too big a can of worms to open up during RS, but in other contexts (usually one-on-one, face-to-face conversations) I’ve openly shared my belief that God does NOT “give” us trials and that everything does NOT “happen for a reason.” I explain that I believe that God is not a puppet master, but that opposition, hardships, conflict – all are just part of being on Earth and everyone having the gift of free agency. Certainly we DO learn, grow and change from trials, regardless of their origins, and hopefully (as you expressed so well) we can use what we learn from our trials to teach others, by example and/or directly.

    One of my very favorite quotes on this topic comes from a CES Address given by President Boyd K Packer in May 1995, “The Play and the Plan.” I often refer others, if they are LDS, to President Packer’s talk if we have had a discussion on the topic. Below, is the part of that talk that I appreciate the most. The very first sentence and the last two sentences, beginning with “Do not suppose ..” are KEY, in my opinion):

    “We progress or we are held back in life within the limits imposed by spiritual and natural law which govern all the universe. We sometimes wonder, if the plan really is the great plan of happiness, why must we struggle to find fulness of it in mortal life?

    If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during Act II, you surely will be frustrated. You will understand little of what is going on and why it is permitted to be as they are.

    Remember this! The line “And they all lived happily ever after” is never written into the second act. That Line belongs in the third act when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right. The Apostle was right when he said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19.)

    Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much, some in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering, premature death even of innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We’ve seen a lot of that recently.

    Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven.”

    Thank you again for this post. It’s a keeper!

    – Sarah

  27. As someone who could not have children due to physical issues, I was told by two insensitive individuals that I must not be keeping the commandments because of D&C 130:21, which states, “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” I wracked my brain trying to figure out which of the commandments I was not keeping well enough to be denied the blessing of parenthood. By not being able to even get pregnant after all the tests and procedures I endured for 10 years of trying, I was further breaking the commandment of multiplying and replenishing the earth, a commandment that was completely out of my control to keep! I, frankly, do not believe that scripture I quoted. I believe that God allows bad things to happen, due to our poor choices, another’s poor choices, our mortal bodies and the earth’s natural disasters. I could not pray to a loving God if I believed He was the one who inflicted this trial of denying motherhood to me. He has comforted me and understands me, although He did not take this trial away from me. Have I learned from it? Yes! I never say, “I know how you feel” because we never know how another feels. Instead I say, “I can’t imagine, or understand, how difficult this is for you.” People don’t need a lecture or flippant, hurtful remarks when they are going through a trial; they need compassion, understanding and a hug. As a married woman of 60, the pain of this trial has not lessened over the years. I endure it, seldom talk about it, but my heart aches nonetheless. My faith is that, in the eternities, all of our infirmaries will be no more and all of our righteous desires will be realized. Thank you for this article and for your compassion.

    1. Amen! And in response to that scripture, while it does say that blessings are predicated upon law, it does not say the opposite, that denial of blessings is a result of disobedience. I am with you. I do not subscribe to the theory that everything happens for a reason. However, I do believe that Christ can take all if our heartaches & infirmities & help us create something beautiful in their place. The void where my children should be will never be filled and my heart will ache for them forever, but in the meantime, I will trust in Him alone.

  28. I agree. We suffer for many reasons, none of which is thrust on us by God. We have bodies that break down. We are surrounded by people who use their agency for good or bad, and it affects us, sometimes excruciatingly so. God does not tell one person to hurt another just so they can learn patience, forgiveness, resilience, or whatever. That is not the God I know and trust in. We all suffer. I absolutely believe there is meaning and learning for me in my personal suffering. We came here to choose and one of those choices is how we will act when bad things happen to us or those we love. I love the idea in this article that we use these experiences to teach, but to teach we must first learn. I choose to learn, sometimes through kicking and screaming, how to deal with life’s challenges by turning to God who loves and knows me and gave me a Savior to walk with me. No suffering is pointless if we learn to love others more, become less judgmental, understand ourselves better and become closer to Him. Thank you for this article.

  29. There is a joke quote that say ‘everything happens for a reason, and sometimes the reason is because you’re stupid’. In a way, that’s true. In fact it is more true than this article. Everything does happen for a reason, but that reason is not necessarily that God ordained it. He does not go around causing random suffering, but He does allow it, because no matter how terrible any situation is, there is something to be learned from it. And yes, I do actually know what I am talking about.
    I am the mother of 9 children, the 7th of whom has Down syndrome and was born without an anus. She had surgery for a colostomy almost immediately after birth. But her first night out of icu, the nurses on the ward, apparently, had more important things to do than check on why she was crying so hard for so long. When they did their reports to the new shift in the morning, they found that all of her iv s had shut down, and she was dehydrated, septic, and had 5 inches of her intestines prolapsed through the colostomy incision, out onto her abdomen. That was the beginning of 13 or 14 years of mind numbing, all consuming, emotionally debilitating trials, hardships, and afflictions for our family. As an indirect result of this daughter ‘s health issues, my husband lost his business, we lost our house, our older children developed mental and emotional issues, and we eventually ended up homeless after 26 years of marriage, 9 kids, and 5 grandchildren, with our 6 children who were not yet old enough to leave ‘home’. We were homeless for a total of 8 months. After 6 months, we moved hundreds of miles into my parents, but having a roof over one’s head is not the same as having a home, so I still count that as part of our homelessness.
    There were many (hundreds, probably) times over those 13/14 years, when I asked “why is this happening? What have we done to deserve this?” Your article suggests that there is or was no definable reason, or answer. But there is. It took me years to recognize it, then another couple of years to understand it, but there most definitely has been a reason for all that we have gone through. I always felt like I had faith –that God exists, that He loves us, cares about us, and wants what is best for us –but now I feel like I KNOW.
    So what are the reasons we went through all of these things, plus all of the smaller incidental difficulties that came with, these few of the major ones I have mentioned? Sometimes, it was human error, human weakness, and sometimes it was because there were things we needed to learn. Sometimes, others needed to learn things, sometimes it was to test us, or to prove us, like job. So why did God allow for there to eventually be 16 inches of our daughter’s intestines hanging out of her incision, before her colostomy was finally closed, after surgical construction of an anus for her? Why did it take 3 more years for her intestines to actually function properly on their own, after that?
    The answer is something that parents always know. After the second surgery where the drs gave our daughter an anus, I had to prevent that incision from actually healing, or the surgery would have been pointless. It needed to remain open, her skin needed to be healed, but with the necessary opening. In order to accomplish that I was to stretch the incision with successively larger in diameter, specially shaped metal rods twice a day for 8 months. The first rod was about 1/8 inch in diameter, and was to be used for two weeks. Then the next one was 1/16 of an inch thicker, and it was used for two weeks. Then the next one for two weeks, all the way up until 3/4 of an inch.
    It was absolutely horrendous. Tremendously awful, grotesque, nauseating, every single day, twice a day, for 240 days. And how did our daughter feel about it? Did she just lie calmly on the change table and allow me to perform that medical procedure every morning and evening? No, it was extremely painful and unpleasant for her, and she would fight and kick and try her hardest to escape, and scream and scream every single time, twice a day, every single day for 240 days. But, by the time her damaged intestines finally kicked in and began to function, so that she could pass stools normally, she had a fully functioning anus, through which to do so. She had hated it and fought bitterly against it, even though, she couldn’t walk, or even crawl, at that stage of her development (and it always made me almost faint, every single time). But I did it for HER OWN GOOD, even when I sometimes felt that it would eventually kill us both.
    Ask a parent of a child who has been badly burned, or injured in an accident and requires intense, excruciating therapy why they either do it for the child, or allow the professionals to give their child that therapy. Ask a physiotherapist why they impose such torture on their patients, when they know how desperately painful those procedures are, and they will tell you, it is so that person will eventually have movement or full mobility, and be pain free, or benefit from greatly reduced pain.
    That, I am convinced, through my own personal experiences, is why we go through so many of the painful, unpleasant, depressing, and torturous trials, hardships, and afflictions that we experience in mortality. Also, from my experience as the torturor, I seriously doubt that God enjoys it any more than I did, but He has the knowledge and the wisdom to not give up until we have accomplished the spiritual refining process necessary to form us into what He knows we can become.

    1. Wonderfully and clearly explained N mcconnell!

      And here’s some more backup for your position:

      Brigham Young once said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation” (JD8:150).

      (That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?)


      Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works. [Jacob 4:10]

      1. Any child suffering starvation, neglect, abuse or pain of any type as a result of another’s misuse of agency or any circumstances beyond their control is absolutely NOT necessary for that child’s salvation.

  30. Hi Dan. I wanted to thank you for this article. I feel like there is a lot of truth in this article, but I just wanted to share a slightly different opinion on the thought that “everything does not happen for a reason”. Put simply, yes I agree with the idea that “God doesn’t give us the horrible trials in our lives and is definitely not the cause of the horrific trials as expressed in your article that some people suffer through in this life,” but I do feel that God does allow these trials to happen to us in our lives for a reason and a purpose. God being an all knowing God, knows what will happen to us and knows of the trials that we will endure in our lives. Although we may not have a specific lesson to be learned at first glance, our experience in our suffering enables us to know and understand how others feel, which is a lesson in itself. Therefore, we are able to help others when they go through similar struggles that went through. We then are able to become the promised angles to be on their left and on their right to bear them up. They no longer have to endure their trials alone. We then can become a mentor to them, to be on their side, to teach them, and encourage them to endure to the end. Often times I have come to the point where I could not tell why I was going through so many difficult trials in my life or why those close to me have gone through such horrible and unthinkable trials in their lives, and I have come to the conclusion that because we have endured such things with the help of the Lord, we are enabled to serve and love others in many new ways. I have learned that ultimately, only by going through these trials and relying on the Lord, we are able to become like Christ and come to know Him. Just as He has suffered the Atonement and is able to comfort and guide us as we endure our trials, we become His hand in helping those who are struggling. Therefore, considering this that suffering, enduring, and learning to joyfully live by faith enables us to become like Christ, the entire purpose of the plan of salvation is indeed satisfied. Therefore, knowing that my purpose in coming to this earth is to endure suffering, learn from suffering, and serve others because of what we learn through our suffering is the knowledge that gives me hope. Without having that knowledge that there is a reason for the trials in our lives takes that hope away. So in my opinion, yes there is a reason for the trials and suffering that we go through, yes the Lord seeks to bless us by teaching us and helping us endure our trials, and yes we can fulfill the Lord’s specific purpose in sending us to this earth by enduring through the “refiner’s fire” to shape us and mold us into who He wants us to become. I hope you can see where I am coming from. These thoughts may have already crossed your mind and seems partly to be the main point of your article, but for those who may get discouraged from this article in the line that says, “everything doesn’t happen for a reason,” as it may make them think that God is not in the details of their lives, He does not know all things, and that His lack of control over our lives inhibits from ever intervening to help us along the way. As I had read this article off of, the article was shortened, and these were some of the feelings that I was having as I read this. As I read through the rest of the article, I have realized that many of my concerns were were resolved and I hope that others read through the rest of the article as well if they feel as I did. I am positive that this was not your intention to make anyone feel this way and I hope you know I mean well and I am not trying to argue or lessen the general message of hope and faith you are trying to convey, but I just thought it would be good to give a slightly different perspective to yours as it seems that the general principles that we are trying to convey are the same. There is much more I’d like to say on this topic, but I unfortunately am lacking the time to share. Thank you for your care and consideration for others. It is truly an inspiration to me to share what you’ve learned with others. I hope all the best for you and your goals in helping others with your writing. Also, please forgive the obvious grammatical errors that are in this response, I have yet to learn the proper use of a coma. 😀

  31. This is perfect. My thoughts and feelings exactly, but much better than I could articulate. I am going to share this with family members who are going through difficult things, I know it will be a comfort to them. Thank for writing.

  32. Thanks for these pearls of wisdom; fraught succinctly, and simply, from suffering. Being ‘still’ and ‘knowing’ God (in EVERY moment – ‘good’, OR ‘bad’), is Celestial nobleness. Grace, personified.

  33. Dear Dan,

    Thank you so much you really touched me with your thoughtful post. I totally agree with you and I’ve always felt that way. You made my day!

    Kind regards

  34. I love this. I struggled with other people’s comments of “everything happens for a reason” when my older brother (21 years at the time, and a young father) was killed in an industrial accident. I also heard it when the dear missionary who baptized me was killed when the piece of construction equipment he was driving was hit by a train. Multiple other times in my life (I’m 60 now) I’ve heard this….and it always felt wrong to me. It did not coincide with my inner feeling of who my Heavenly Father is and how much He loves his children. Thanks for writing and sharing this.

  35. I politely disagree. As God sees everything there is a judgment made on his part to either intervene or let it happen. If it happens then it is for a reason every time that he does not intervene. God is near he sees all things present and past. If it is not to be it will not happen.

    1. I’m wondering if you’re saying that you believe innocent children suffering & dying due to earthly circumstances beyond their control, or suffering due to someone’s misuse of agency, neglect, abuse, killing or pain of any type meant to be with God behind it?

      1. I’m wondering if you’re saying that you believe innocent children suffering & dying due to earthly circumstances beyond their control, or suffering due to someone’s misuse of agency, neglect, abuse, killing or pain of any type is meant to be with God behind it?

  36. Things may not happen for a reason but there is a reason behind everything. I believe you’re confusing reason with blame.

  37. Thank you for this. To say “everything happens for a reason” implies that God willed it to happen, which seems rather wicked to me. Many people don’t seem to deserve the suffering they experience, and many others seem to deserve much more than they get. However, there may be a purpose to suffering in general, and that may be to teach us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) and to “mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort…” (Mos. 18:9)

  38. One of the hardest truths of life is that sometimes things happen because we are mortal beings. It is no one’s fault, it is not because of a lack of willpower. Tiny Tim in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite philosophers, “He hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember on Christmas day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” (3:56)

  39. It is interesting how different meanings can be derived from the same phrasing. Things happening for a reason is not the same as things happening due to God’s will. God allowing a bad thing to happen is not the same as God wanting the bad thing to happen. Many times, the bad that happens in our lives is an opportunity for the good to be manifest. Had your stomach not been paralyzed, the opportunity for nurses, doctors, friends, neighbors, etc to manifest their charity and subsequently make progress in becoming more like the Savior would not be manifest. When the bomb went off in the Belgium airport we focused on the tragedy of the situation, but simultaneously, their were people rushing to get help, rendering aid or comfort and doing any number of countless charitable acts in that moment. If life were devoid of bad things, life would similarly be devoid of opportunity to become more like Heavenly Father and have eternal progression. Not because the bad is what God wants, but because it is an opportunity allowed for His children to become more perfect. $.02

  40. We live in a fallen and mortal world where errors in genetics, free agency, environmental hazards, and limited human judgement abound and some would say “rules”. Some are born only to die almost immediately. Others of us live lives of chronic emotional or physical pain. What fascinates me is that we knew intellectually what we were getting into when we agreed to become mortal. We also knew that we could suffer incredibly painful lives and deaths. Yet here we are. If we only knew what we knew before we were born. God did know what was in store for us and He did prepare a way for us escape. He has not left us alone.
    I have just witnessed the passing of a good friend who had suffered the consequences of head injuries from playing football as a young man. His family and friends suffered greatly while we watched helplessly his deterioration in these last five years. Did God will that this would be? No, it was just part of being mortal. Do we learn from these experiences? I hope that we learn that we can chose to support each other in our trials as God would have us. None of will escape mortal life’s pains, sorrows and death. Our challenge is to bare one another’s burdens, that they may be light as Dan has so eloquently shared. Can we say that we have suffered what He suffered that we might not? We are not alone in our suffering, I have felt God’s presence in my trials and chronic pains. God is as close as a whispered prayer. He will support you ever. He knows your name and He hears your cries even when you are bitterly alone. For He was once where you are. God bless you all with His peace.

  41. No, God does not do us any bad. All the wrong things on earth came from the original sin of Adam and Eve, so God merely allows some things to happen and help us cope and endure them in order for us to overcome these sins and become saints, so we can be ready to meet Him one day. I still believe that everything happens for a reason, but not always because God wills(sometimes yes, by His will). Just cause He respects so much our free will. Itś us to be blamed for all the badness through the world. Mind you though, I have mentioned to you many times that God sees on suffering something very effective about redemption. I can remind you that when the Blessed Virgin appeared in Fatima, Jacinta was told by Her after some apparitions that she was ready to go to heaven if she wanted in that moment but the Blessed Virgin had a proposal for Her that if she wanted to stay some longer and suffer some more in order to save more souls(she and the other little pastors had seen hell). So you could ask why? Why the best mother of all and most loving would do something so cruel? The answer is easy: it was to sanctify them. After seeing the horrors of hell, they strived more and more to go to heaven. The Blessed Virgin is the best educator and She would not do that if from it would not come any greater good.
    Oh, by the way, Jacinta accepted the challenge
    God sent His Son for us to suffer , be crucified and died, for all our sins… so yes, suffering must be some sort of a key to receive the kingdom of heaven

  42. Because free will is so important, could it be that in pre-mortality we knew exactly where we were spiritually and exactly where we wanted to end up and in order to get there what it would take? I wonder if we ourselves selected some of our trials based on that knowledge.

    1. You are absolutely right, Michele. Look at Esther. She was definitely born for her mission and purpose. And obviously Eve. And Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

      Specific purposes and missions with specific preparations in the preexistence and in this life.

      Likewise, every prophet and apostle.

      “May I say that there is no chance in the call of these brethren to direct the Lord’s work on earth. His hand is in it. He knows the end from the beginning. He ordained and established the plan of salvation and decreed that his everlasting gospel should be revealed to man in a series of dispensations commencing with Adam and continuing to Joseph Smith. And he—the Almighty—chooses the prophets and apostles who minister in his name and present his message to the world in every age and dispensation. He selects and foreordains his ministers; he sends them to earth at the times before appointed; he guides and directs their continuing mortal preparations; and he then calls them to those positions they were foreordained to receive from before the foundations of the earth.”
      [God Foreordains His Prophets and His People – April 1974 General Conference Elder Bruce R. McConkie]

      I love that his talk was entitled “God Foreordains His Prophets AND His People” (emphasis mine.)

      And did you also note that he states that the Almighty “guides and directs their continuing mortal preparations”. No chance. No luck. No random.

      “Joseph Smith said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the grand council of heaven before this world was.” Then the Prophet said of himself, “I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that grand council.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365.)” Ibid

      “Abraham, our father, who also was present in this council, was privileged to see in vision the hosts of preexistent spirits. “Among all these,” he said, “… were many of the noble and great ones,” whom he described as being “good.” (Abr. 3:22.) Abraham saw that God the Eternal Father “stood in the midst” of those mighty ones and said, “These I will make my rulers; … and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” (Abr. 3:23.)

      And as with Abraham, so with all the prophets, and for that matter so, to one degree or another, with the whole house of Israel and with all the members of the Lord’s earthly church—all are participants in the blessings of foreordination.” Ibid

      All of us, foreordained and prepared with continued guiding and and directing our continuing mortal preparations.

      “Our revelations, ancient and modern, abound in pronouncements relative to the law of foreordination, both as it applies to specific individuals called according to the foreknowledge of God to special labors in mortality and as it applies to the blessings promised that host of valiant souls who are born in the lineage of Israel and who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and come into his sheepfold on earth.” Ibid

      All of us, foreordained and prepared with continued guiding and and directing our continuing mortal preparations. Nothing by chance. Nothing by luck. Nothing random.

  43. Thank you for this article. Those sayings have never sat right with me either and now I have a clearer perspective and will share this message with others.

  44. Dear Dan;

    First, let me say, thank you for your intelligent and thought provoking article which attracted many intelligent commentators. I’m very appreciative to see someone take the time to challenge those beliefs that suggest that that ‘everything happens for a (God orchestrated) reason’. Coming from someone like yourself who is familiar with what it’s like to go without something as basic as eating a tasty meal, while living off a feeding tube for 3 years, gives your writing on this subject added authenticity. I myself, am a bit of a food addict, so I can’t imagine what it must be like but it’s stories like yours can humble me quick and remind me that I/we take much for granted.

    What you do with your time and how you express yourself in the manner that I’ve seen in your writing, including how you respond so calmly to incredibly arrogant and insensitive commentators (I’m thinking of one in particular) despite these significant personal setbacks and challenges, makes you a wonderful quiet hero in my mind and I’m sure in the mind of many others.

    Among the many excellent comments, I really appreciated ‘B Law’ pointing out that in the saying, “Everything happens for a reason”, “different meanings can be derived from the same phrasing.” With the focus put on the meaning that you challenge in your article, I absolutely agree with you, in that it’s the ‘EVERYTHING’ part of that statement/idea that begs serious examination and challenging.

    Brigham Young is quoted as having said, “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation” (JD-8:150). I can only agree with that in the sense that we have to pass through mortality and the chaos that is a major part of it, on the way to salvation. But to suggest that specific trials and experiences within the realm of chaos are necessary for anyone’s salvation, for me, simply can’t be true, at least not in most cases. More to the point, I agree with your article completely and do not agree entirely with what Brigham Young seems to have said.

    Below are a just a few of the kinds of headlines/stories that one can read about almost daily, if not daily. These examples are all real-life incidents.

    — Factory worker cooked alive with five tons of tuna after he was accidentally locked in an industrial oven.

    — 10-year-old girl swallowed by crocodile as father watches

    — ‘Man, trapped in a pool of molten tar’: Rescuers describe struggle to free man ‘encased’ in scalding liquid

    — Toronto man pinned underneath streetcar (trolley) dragged for blocks before dying

    — A three-year-old boy who wandered outside (at about 4:00 AM while his grandmother was still sleeping) dressed only in boots, pull-up diaper and shirt, found hours later frozen and dead.

    People every day suffer horribly, sometimes from freak accidents. The lucky ones are when death comes quickly but many are not so fortunate, like the woman who ‘starved to death’ after being trapped for a month in an elevator in China. I could give endless examples.

    And it’s not just horrible accidents or horrible ways people die. It’s also about horrible ways people have to live and have lived (including innocent children), which can be even worse in some ways.

    For me, to believe and promote the idea that God is behind ALL that happens within reality is itself a departing from reality and reveals, at least to my way of thinking, a terrible opinion of the attributes of our Heavenly Father. Chaos is part of the mortal experience just like the deadly earth quakes and tsunamis that are part of our beautiful planet Earth.

    We can see evidence and have good reason to believe that SOME things do happen for a reason, in terms of being under Divine Providence or directed by God, when he has cause to direct or intervene in events but otherwise, the laws of chaos remain in force.

    And because God gave us chaos as a key component of the game plan of progression, in that sense all things are still under His control. To suggest however, that he controls ALL that happens WITHIN chaos itself, not only denies chaos laws but makes God seem completely indifferent to pain and suffering to a terrifying degree.

    To put is simply, I think it it’s very important to realize that what happens in this world for the most part falls directly under those laws of chaos, which laws God put into effect and oversees but generally allows to run their course so that we might all experience this common chaos/reality which is simply a necessary but sometimes very difficult and even frightening part of the plan. In reflecting on how brutally hard this mortal journey can be for some of us, I’m reminded of some words of wisdom attributed to the Greek philosopher, Socrates — “Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.”

    And finally, not to end this on a gloomy note, both our Savior, Jesus Christ and the prophet, Joseph Smith (and both acquainted with sorrow and suffering) have assured us that what awaits us in the great beyond will make this challenging mortal journey more worthwhile than we could possibly imagine.

    God Bless

    1. “False prophets,” according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “always arise to oppose the true prophets” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

      Brigham Young was a true prophet. Dan is not.

      Yet you disbelieve the true prophet, Brigham Young to give deference to the false prophet, Dan.

      You are following a false prophet.

      Chaos theory is not a gospel principle. You are espousing false doctrine.

      1. No one is calling Dan is a prophet — YOU are — we can do without the straw man arguments.

        And neither did I make any true or false declaration as to Brigham Young’s role as a prophet of God. I said I didn’t “agree entirely” with that particular statement of his (pending on how Young’s words might be interpreted) and yes, I gave deference to a view that made more sense to me.

        If you have a problem with that, then you have a problem with the modern Church which also disagrees with and even disavows some of the things that Young said in his day, including some things he taught from the pulpit. And that is NOT an attack on Brigham Young or the Church but simply historical reality.

        Neither did I claim my view of chaos/reality to be gospel principle. I simply gave my opinion as to what I believe is the most plausible explanation for why most things happen and why I believe that. If that makes me guilty of “espousing false doctrine” in your eyes, then so be it. From what I’ve read of your previous comments, thus far, I’m not the least bit concerned.

        1. Nice try.

          The modern Church DOES NOT disagree with OR disavow this particular statement of Brigham Young: “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation” (JD-8:150) The modern Church reiterates it>

          “The Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.” President James E. Faust (2006)


          Thus, you are the one with a problem with the “modern” Church.

          Which makes you wrong.

          Dan too.

          1. In general terms, I agree that there is an over-all divine purpose in adversity, I don’t think I ever contested that and don’t think Dan has contested that either.

            But I don’t think that Heavenly Father necessarily CUSTOM DESIGNS ALL individual adversities. Read some of the examples of real life horrors I gave in my first post. If you really believe that God custom tailored those specific horrific sufferings for the benefit of the individuals or their salvation, then the argument ends here.

            You need to slow down and read what other people have written more carefully before responding.

            FACT – not everything Brigham Young said has been canonized by the Church, in fact to the contrary, some things he said, the Church have moved away from. Don’t pretend you don’t know that. With regards to that particular quote that you seem to keep going back to, I’ve already given you my response.

        2. And as I’ve shown, this quote of Brigham Young is supported by modern day prophets. Many, actually. And you dismiss it at your spiritual peril. And the peril of those you influence.

          “Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

          Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).”

          “However, in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.”

          “Let us remember that it is our duty to be faithful to the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes faith—real faith, total and unreserved—to accept and strive to live prophetic counsel. Lucifer, the adversary of truth, does not want us to feel or exhibit that kind of faith. He encourages disobedience, planting defiance in the hearts of the unwary. If he is successful, they will turn away from the light into the darkness of the world. Our safety, our peace, lies in working as hard as we can to live as the Father and Son would have us live, in fleeing from false prophets and false teachers, and in being anxiously engaged in good causes.”

          1. Darwin, all you’ve shown is that your interpretation of what Brigham Young said is supported by your interpretation of what modern day prophets have said. More importantly, your continued ignoring and/or twisting of what I have ‘really’ said, makes it painfully obvious that I’m wasting my time trying to reason with you.

            I can deal with your disagreeing with and challenging Dan and those of us who support his views but I can only handle so much of the deliberate spin, self-righteous judging, sanctimonious attacks, self-appointed spokesman for God certitude and self-elevation. In other words, your sword swing quote of Joseph F. Smith, right back at you.

            You may see yourself as a defender of the faith but for me the way you come across, you do it much more harm than good. Dan’s message is about loving others and living with disagreements and differences of opinion, yours is about judging others and condemning them for thinking differently.

            Finally, in a recent address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks reminded us that contention is of the devil, and on that note, I’ll begin my repenting and encourage you to do the same.


            That’s not my “interpretation” of what modern prophets have actually said.

            That’s what modern prophets have actually said.

            Get rid of the “spin” Rui Belo.

    2. Rui Belo, your kindness is very touching to me. I am saddened by the ugliness of some of the comments in this thread and your comment is a bright ray of sunshine. Thank you for taking the time to share your wise and profound insights.

      As I view some of the comments made by others, I think of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Jesus in the temple. As you recall, the scribes and Pharisees sought to trap Jesus, reminding him that the law of Moses required the woman to be stoned. But they disingenuously asked, “what sayest thou?” (John 8:5.) Jesus replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7.)

      In other words, he didn’t necessarily deny the requirements of the law. He simply questioned who had the authority to mete it out. This response was tactical and brilliant. It juxtaposed the sin of condemning others against sexual sin. Which sin did he abhor the most? It juxtaposed the thirst to destroy flesh (through stoning) against the thirsts of the flesh. Again, which bothered him the most? Jesus was setting priorities. Jesus was teaching something very profound and important. One by one, each scribe and Pharisee left, recognizing that he wasn’t yet ready for judgment or sentencing either and, hopefully, recognizing that, in no way, could they justify their thirst to condemn another human being as being motivated by love.

      Rui Belo, if we ever meet, I owe you a huge. Love to you,


      1. Dan you are teaching false doctrine again.

        Alma 39:5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

        Sexual sin is the sin next to murder. That’s scripture.

        Not condemning others. Duh.

        The story of the woman taken in adultery has nothing to do with which sin the Lord abhorred the most.

        It has to do with the fact that Jesus Christ gave and fulfilled the Law of Moses.

        3 Nephi 15: 8 For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.

        So the stoning aspect regarding adultery and the law of Moses?


        It is also of interest to note that it was never mentioned if the HUSBAND of the woman taken in adultery ever took her back.

        Sure, she could be forgiven…but that didn’t mean that she still didn’t lose her husband and her family.

        Consequences often have layers.

      2. Dan,

        It is I who owes you a big hug.

        Your honesty, humility and compassion, plus you skillful writing in sharing some your dramatic life experiences has made me an instant fan, joining with the many others who appreciate your insights and wisdom as evidenced by the amount of overwhelmingly positive responses.
        With regards to the ‘good, bad and ugly’ in the responses you receive, it clear that you attract enough of the really good ones to offset the ‘bad and ugly’. Even Church history (the version that isn’t a bit filtered and photoshopped) things can be considered a bit messy and ugly at times — I think that’s just real life.

        With the responses, you receive, whether they be positive or negative, I don’t think I need to tell you that you could be exhausting yourself too often with so much reading and responding. So please remember your limits and get your rest. 🙂

        When it comes to reading, my eyesight isn’t the best, so even though I love to read, I can only do so much at a time. I only stumbled onto your website a couple of days ago, and even though I’ve only read some of the content, I’ve learned much from your writings, including your response to my post, which was both very insightful and moving.

        With gutsy and truly honest and insightful articles titles, like;

        ‘No, God Is Not Always There …’

        ‘Does God Really Care About the Details of Our Lives?’

        ‘No, Not Everything Happens for a Reason’

        and ‘The People List’ . . .

        I know I’ll be glued to your site for a while and keep coming back to it from time to time.
        I bought the Kindle version of ‘Built to Love’, didn’t even finish the 1st chapter and already I’m truly hooked.

        I’ll be recommending it to others and linking to your site, if you don’t mind.
        Thought I’d end this with a link to an article that I really like and thought you might appreciate as well, if you’ve haven’t already seen it or similar. It seems to be written in your compassionate, insightful and honest style.

        When Christians Love Theology More Than People

        Love to you, my friend. 🙂

        P.S., Darwin, my persistently challenging friend, if you’re reading this, I think you might enjoy the above link/article as well.

  45. This really resonates for me with something Christian singer Plumb said about one of her songs:

    “With God, nothing is wasted…”

    To me this gives God room to work in my life without taking away my ability to choose my path.

    For me it means that God can take whatever difficult things life brings – whether through the fallen nature of our world (disasters) or our bodies (disease), or through agency (ours and others) – and can use it for good (ours and others) if we let Him.

    In my life, this view helps me to frame my husband’s difficult marriage and divorce before we met.

    Do I believe that God willed or desired that they be miserable for over a decade? That misunderstanding and miscommunication and pain should become an integral part of their lives until they finally brought it to an end? That their kids should be subjected to the acrimony and emotional tug-of-war between parents?

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! God wills joy & love and peace for His children. Their personal histories, agency, and the realities of life and relationships created the situation.

    BUT- those things having happened, do I believe that He can then use them for good?

    ABSOLUTELY! As they have sought Him, opportunities for new love and new happiness have come.

    My husband and I found (& chose) each other, and he is a better husband for the lessons learned as he actively works to overcome his knee jerk reactions to the things I do that irritate or confuse him.

    His kids now have 4 parents to love and watch over them (their mom has also remarried), plus 4 sets of grandparents.

    We have all benefitted from professional counseling to learn better ways to live together.

    We continue to seek humility and patience and His peace as new challenges come our way.

    For certain, not everything happens “for a reason”, but God can and will use everything “for our good” when we turn to Him.

    Hopefully this makes sense. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight.

    God bless you

    1. Julina, this makes so much sense to me. Isn’t happiness the purpose and design of our existence? I think you nailed it. I appreciate your kindness and your wisdom. God bless,


      1. Thanks also goes to Plumb, of course… 😉

        As one who has had a soapbox on “the power of both agency and accountability” for over a decade, her words felt like a much more comfortable resolution than the “fate/destiny” theory so often bandied about (similarly, I have a soapbox on the deadly influence of “the fairy tale of ‘the one'” (notice I said my husband and I “chose” each other), but that is best saved for another time! Haha

        Meanwhile I appreciate your kindness and wisdom in return.

        Good luck on both of our journeys…

  46. Darwin;

    — doesn’t change anything that Dan or that I have said.

    NO ONE is arguing that adversity, the kind we might face at any given moment of the day, is part of the OVER-ALL PLAN and a key part of the rules of engagement that we must face as we pass through this mortal life. It is simply the reality in this material world that God provided for us. For lack of a better word, I refer to it as chaos, which for my intended meaning simply means that whatever can happen might happen as in if I run out onto the street I might get hit by a car or if the weather is extremely cold, my car might not start and I’ll be late for work. NO ONE is exempt from this REALITY and we could not gain the experience and knowledge that God intended to acquire without it.

    My argument and what I understand from Dan is that NOT EVERYTHING that happens to us is ALWAYS CUSTOM DESIGNED or custom tailored for an individual or specifically directed for a grand purpose.

    Consider carefully the horrific things that have happened to innocent children — do you really believe that God custom designed the sexual abuse for any child or that the 3-year-old that wandered out into the frigid cold night and froze to death was necessarily directed by God himself and made to happen for the benefit of the child?

    What about the factory worker cooked alive with five tons of tuna after he was accidentally locked in an industrial pressure cooker oven. Imagine the horror he must have felt (paraphrasing his daughter’s words) when he realized he was trapped in that oven and would slowly be cooked alive. Every torturous second to that poor man before death finally, mercifully ended his horrific agony would have seemed like eternity.

    What about the woman who ‘starved to death’ after being trapped for a month in an elevator in China. They said that the flesh of her finger tips had been worn almost to the bone, with the evidence showing that she had desperately tried to pry herself out.

    What about the woman doctor, who died from slow agonizing asphyxiation after she became stuck in the chimney of her boyfriend’s house, her decomposing body found three days later when someone finally noticed the smell?

    Was there some benefit to these individuals in their adversity, so much so that God saw fit to direct these events to happen?

    Or would it make more sense to see that the laws of reality/chaos that God put in place as common to us all and that in the grand scheme of things we can all benefit from? As travelers in this mortal sojourn we can generally learn and grow from all adversity and THEREIN LIES DIVINE PURPOSE but it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the mechanics of each individual adversity is custom designed by God.

    Having said this, I have NOT contested the idea that some adversities ARE custom designed for the individual or for a group or for the entire world. That is plainly shown repeatedly in the scriptures but I would cite that as the exception and not the rule.

    In any case, that is my interpretation and honest belief. Your entitled to yours of course, all I’m asking is for common courtesy

    You seem to be an intelligent fellow and for some strange reason, I even find you annoyingly likeable . . .
    if only you would ease up on the smarter and holier than thou in delivering your arguments.

    1. Rui, you make a very compelling defense of the message I was trying to convey, which is nothing more nor less than the message conveyed at this link: It says there, “As part of Heavenly Father’s plan, we must experience adversity during mortality. In some cases, adversity comes as the result of our own poor choices or the choices of others. Other trials are simply a natural part of our mortal experience. Though they are difficult, our challenges can help us grow spiritually and become more like Jesus Christ.” I think becoming more like Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of love, is what I was shooting for. You are much more eloquent and persuasive than I am. Thank you for your insights.

      I was President Hinckley’s personal lawyer for many years. I was legal counsel to the First Presidency, as well. I have personally represented Thomas S. Monson in court. I’ve met with him many times. I have a deep and abiding love and respect for these men and what they have taught me.

      One day, I was sitting outside President Monson’s office waiting for an appointment I had with him. I waited and I waited and I waited. Finally, as I recall, about 45 minutes later, he walked out of his office, apologized for holding me up and then, as I sat down across from his desk, he said that he had been on the telephone with a dear friend who had been excommunicated from the Church decades ago and had never returned. President Monson looked me in the eyes and with tears welling up in his own eyes taught me some very profound lessons that I will not share here because they are confidential, sacred and dear to me. Let’s just say this, what I learned from President Monson is that charity trumps orthodoxy every single time.

      Even apostles disagree on doctrinal matters. For example, some believe that God’s love is conditional. Others believe that God’s love is conditional.

      Elder Hales testified, “I bear my special witness of Him—that our lives can be everlasting because His love is everlasting. That we may share His eternal, unconditional love with our brothers and sisters everywhere, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (Elder Robert D. Hales, General Conference, October 2008.) Elder Maxwell marveled, “I am stunned at his perfect, unconditional love of all.” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, April, 1976.) Whereas Elder Nelson feels the concept of unconditional love is a bit heretical. “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, February 2003.)

      In contrast, President Uchtdorf espouses the theology that “He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, October 2009.)

      Elder Nelson, in contrast, seems to believe something quite different about God’s love. He has taught, “Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly ‘unconditional’ can defend us against common fallacies such as these: ‘Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …’; or ‘Since “God is love,” He will love me unconditionally, regardless …’ These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception. Divine love is perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal. The full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional—predicated upon our obedience to eternal law.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, February 2003.)

      There’s room for disagreement on theological concepts even among apostles. And, in the final analysis, how important are these things anyway when all is subsumed within the two great edicts: Love God. Love your neighbor. Truth is, I think Jesus would say that it is not always kind to be “right” but it is always right to be kind. And from his run-ins with the doctrinaire Pharisees, we learn that orthodoxy without charity is its own form of idolatry.

      I really don’t care what others think of me because it’s what I think about others that will be my final judgment. I can’t control how others feel about me but I can control how I feel about others. This is the power of being built to love. This is the power that has enabled me to endure three years without food. When you make the conscious choice to love others despite how they treat you, despite what they say about you, it brings you into communion with God, who then enables you to mediate his presence to the world.

      So I guess what I’m saying is if I ever get the chance, let’s you and I take Darwin out for a burger and fries and show him some love!!!

      1. Hey Dan,

        I think Darwin is perhaps more of a softie than he lets on and would likely happily join us for the burger and fries (just let’s not discuss doctrinal issues :).

        I’m going to try and make this one short(er) due to time constraints — I have no idea how you keep up with all the traffic and responses your articles seem to generate.

        Let me say off the top that I am flattered and humbled that someone of your talents and accomplishments would take the time to share so much with me. I’m truly learning things from your articles, your thoughtful responses and your book, which I’m really looking forward to finish reading.

        Thank you for your kind words but I know I’m nowhere near the level of writing skill that you possess. I do try hard though to sound smart simply because I know I’m dealing with very intelligent people like yourself.

        From what I’ve read so far, there is no doubt I’ll be recommending it to family and friends and other people. It’ll likely be one of the gifts I give out this year, especially at Christmas.

        I was WOWED when you stated that you were President Hinckley’s personal lawyer for many years and legal counsel to the First Presidency, as well having personally represented President Thomas S. Monson in court. I was so excited that I went to my wife and bragged that I had befriended an LDS lawyer online who had done work for these great men. I showed my wife a couple of your responses and know she was impressed. I also told about your stomach condition the feeding tube for the last 3 years and other things you’ve been through.

        I found it very interesting what you pointed out about the apostles not always agreeing on every doctrinal matter. My wife had noticed that even before she read your letter and appreciated your comments. From what I remember, some of the ancient apostles of Jesus had much more serious disputes (i.e., Peter and Paul, etc.) if I remember right. At end of the day, I guess we’re all human.

        At this point I feel I need to tell that I’ve been inactive for many years but my wife is very active and the ward Relief Society president. In the interest of full disclosure, I also want to inform you that I have been a bit outspoken at times on social media with regards to the Church’s history, transparency, policies, etc. I have made an effort though to be respectful, balanced and fair.
        I still have a good deal of respect for the brethren and an affinity for the Church. Joseph Smith fascinates me and even if somehow, I ever became totally convinced he wasn’t the prophet he claimed to be, which is very unlikely, I would still be fascinated.

        I wouldn’t describe myself as having a faith crisis as much as a truth crisis but no time now for anything more on that. (I still very much believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, listen to Conferences, the Mormon Channel, etc.)

        If you don’t mind, I have added a button link to your site to my page.
        The ‘Be Built to Love’ button is under the ‘Life & Spiritual’ tab just below the search bar.
        Sorry, I went longer than I wanted to and please excuse the typos and grammar mistakes.

        1. Rui Belo: Sure, I like burgers and fries!

          Remember when I said: “Slogging through deepening snow drifts in soggy and heavy clothes while weak and sick and unable to concentrate, I was painfully aware that I could not afford to be even a hair off course.”

          That is even MORE true when it comes to one’s spirituality.

          With the howling, biting winds anyone can go inactive, if they are not careful, Rui Belo

          President George Albert Smith cautioned:

          If you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the spirit of the Lord. [George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others: Excerpts from the Sermons of President Smith, comp. Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1948), 43.]

          We can’t really afford to be even a hair off course.

    2. You speak of horrors…

      Alma 14: 9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

      10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

      11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold 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, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

      Woman and children being burned alive by fire is pretty horrific. And pretty specifically allowed to happen by the Lord. And the Lord receiveth them up to Himself. Which is the goal for all of us.

      “It was necessary when the Savior was upon the earth, that he “should be tempted in all points like unto us,” and “be touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” [see Hebrews 4:15] to comprehend the weaknesses and strength; the perfections and imperfections of poor fallen human nature; and having accomplished the thing he came into the world to do, having had to grapple with the hypocrisy, corruption, weakness, and imbecility of man—having met with temptation and trial in all its various forms, and overcome, he has become “A faithful high priest” [see Hebrews 2:17] to intercede for us in the everlasting kingdom of his Father. He knows how to estimate, and put a proper value upon human nature, for he, having been placed in the same position as we were, knows how to bear with our weaknesses and infirmities, and can fully comprehend the depth, power, and strength of the afflictions and trials that men have to cope with in this world, and thus understandingly and by experience, he can bear with them as a father and an elder brother.” John Taylor Deseret News (Weekly), 26 Jan. 1854, 1–2.

      Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked and answered this question:

      “To whom do we look, in days of grief and disaster, for help and consolation? … They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?

      “… Is not this God’s purpose in causing his children to suffer? He wants them to become more like himself. God has suffered far more than man ever did or ever will, and is therefore the great source of sympathy and consolation.”

      Let me pick a random trial of mine. (It’s layered.) : 17 years old. I was working as a lumber jack in northern Canada. Why? Because even though I was not yet a member of the Church, God taught me standards which no one I knew of in my high school adhered to. I didn’t want my standards to erode. Plus, there was a big racism aspect because I was half Native American where everyone wanted to beat me up. Tired of fighting, I quit high school, and found gainful employment as a lumber jack in the middle of winter in a place where some people resented me because I was half-white. Go figure.

      I encountered wolves four times in that winter. Had a tree fall on me (thankfully, not when the wolves were around) Survived that. Fell through the ice in a river, extract myself then be faced with a blinding white out blizzard on a lake that I had to cross (a few miles) with a best guess as to where the town was. So it was basically a from bad to worse and downhill from there scenario. Survived that walk (stagger through rising snowbanks) with pneumonia. Survived that.

      Isolated by a raging forest fire. Survived that.

      Gang of seven guys wanting to beat me up? I scared them off.

      Was tempted by four lovely ladies asking me to go swim naked with them. Politely declined, and instead went to see three American friends who were hitchhiking and backpacking and staying in an abandoned house in town. Only two were there because one decided to sleep alone in the woods with wolves around. Other two are going to a drinking party in the city. I don’t drink. So I was asked to check on friend in woods.

      Five wolves find me. I have a thirty thirty rifle, but it is dark, wolves are moving fast. If I shoot and miss, I may hit the guy I am looking for. So choosing integrity, I set aside the temptation of the rifle…and face the wolves barehanded. The wolves attacked me repeatedly. All night long. I survive.

      The Mom of that man? Her prayers were answered. His too. (Mine as well.)

      I sometimes shudder at what would have happened had I allowed myself to be tempted by the four skinny dipping ladies. Would I have even realized that my friend was dead because it was my fault? Or if I just went to bed instead of looking for my friend?

      I rejoice that my mindset is like that quote from Marvel’s Captain America Civil War: “If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it.”

      Thus my trails are tailor made for me.

      President Kimball said “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”

      How much needless suffering occurs because people don’t act?

      Rui Bello, I don’t want to see you or Dan or anybody reading go down a destructive path.

      Call me overly cautious if you want.

      1. Darwin;

        Sounds like you’ve had an interesting and adventurous life with some close calls. Makes me feel like I’ve led a bit of dull boring one. 🙂

        It seems obvious that keeping the faith, especially in the doctrinal sense, is important to you.
        Although I can certainly appreciate the importance of authoritative and sound doctrine, I’m just not that doctrine-centric myself. I am particular and steadfast in some beliefs, but not necessarily rigid in all of them.

        You provided a number of good scriptures about God ALLOWING suffering and about how SOME suffering can serve a greater cause but the closest thing to a direct answer to the specifics of my argument was your statement, that “my trails are tailor made for me”.

        If that is to suggest that you believe that ALL things that happen, including all the suffering and torment of EVERY individual, all the horrid and ghastly ways that people have suffered and will suffer is “tailor made” specifically for that individual as directed by God, then I all I can say is that our concepts of God’s attributes are radically different.

        But if that works for you, I’m okay with that and hope you’ll grant me the same courtesy.

        In what I’ve read so far by Dan I see nothing destructive. To the contrary, in his material I sense honesty, humility and nothing but Christ like love and admonition — Is it possible you sense the same and hence the reason you are hanging around like me?

        P.S. I’ve just begun reading his book and am really looking to reading it through, very insightful.

        1. After the incident where I fell through the ice in the river, extracted myself, and then found myself at the mouth of the river where it connected to the lake and the blinding white out blizzard, weakened with illness to the point where I may not have been able to arm wrestle a lame gerbil and win…I knew I only had ONE chance to find the town.

          It’s easy to not only get lost, but to get completely turned around without realizing it…it happens so subtly…so incrementally…that some people never realize they are off in the wrong direction.

          I prayed.

          Then God reminded me of game I had often played to amuse myself on the long treks from the town to the parcel of land…the acres that I was contracted to clear the trees off of. I would target a point across the lake…then walk with my head down and see how close I came to that exact spot.

          I nailed it every time.

          I was sick and weak and soggy and FREEZING and my brain was rapidly becoming more foggy…but I had an inspired plan. It would hurt, but I could survive.

          So I prayerfully “best guessed’ my target point as to where the town across the lake was, and started off.

          Slogging through deepening snow drifts in soggy and heavy clothes while weak and sick and unable to concentrate, I was painfully aware that I could not afford to be even a hair off course.

          I still follow that to this day.

          And really, AFTER those adventures as a seventeen year old, THEN my life got exciting. And more dangerous.

          1. Darwin;

            Again, quite the adventurous life! Brings to mind a Netflix series called ‘I Shouldn’t be Alive’ – re-enactments of real life drama and survival that fascinated me every time I watched. Wish there were more episodes – your story could have been one of them!

            I hear your concerns about how easily one can veer or drift off course “without realizing it” and you’ll get no argument from me there. Obviously, you’re alluding to the ‘narrow and straight’ (or ‘strait’ depending on which version you feel is correct) doctrinal path for which you’ve repeatedly demonstrated great zeal and concern. And while those concerns can have some real justification, I think we need to remember that there are other ways to veer off the narrow path and miss the narrow gate as shown by some of the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees and Sadducees during Christ’s time on earth.

            Although I very much believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, I’m not an active Mormon and I have a problem with religion in general when it comes to theological and doctrinal skirmishes and battles and what is too often lost in those. Not taking anything away from the importance of authoritive and sound doctrine, I think too often we lose sight of the things that really matter the most (being one with Christ and loving others as he did).

            In that light, I am drawn to insightful writings and more people focused perspectives as shown in Dan’s inspiring and thought provoking work. And no, writings such as his do NOT take precedence over the scriptures but can help some of us find our focus.

            If you haven’t yet read the article below, I strongly recommend it, it’s one of my favorites.

            When Christians Love Theology More Than People


          2. Preaching to the choir on that one.

            You do realize of course that I have shown a great love of people by risking my life and sacrificing my rifle to save someone I had just met BECAUSE of my theological beliefs.

            Theology in action.

            I didn’t just sit back and say, “Let me know if I can help.” I just helped.

            The wolves initially attacked me, I beat them back, they ran off, I breathed a sigh of relief…then ten – fifteen minutes later…they came back.

            After about the tenth time of this, I said “OH COME ON!”

            I felt that I had already proven my commitment to my principles and proven my integrity by setting aside the temptation of the rifle…which WOULD save me, but endanger my friend. With my theology firmly in mind and heart, I sacrificed.

            For another person.

            I realized that if the wolves were busy with me ALL night, then they had no time to go place my friend and his sleeping bag in their collective digestive tracts.

            So I endured.

            After the sun came up, the wolves gathered and ran off.

            I made my way to the abandoned house my friends were staying and waited to see if the one in the woods truly escaped unscathed.

            He showed up at 9:30 in the morning, saying that he had a big “I told you so!” he was excited to unleash on the other two. They had worried and warned him about the wolves for nothing! The wolves didn’t bother him all night!

            I smiled.

            “Would you like to know why?”

          3. Darwin,

            I don’t doubt you have a good heart and a brave one at that, as demonstrated by your story and I apologize if I insinuated otherwise in the broader sense. I didn’t mean to. What I was really trying to say and perhaps failed to is that I find your zealous concern for doctrinal orthodoxy is so hugely over powering that for ME it’s toxic. Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to judge you just by the comments you’ve posted but I find your hell fire and brimstone approach seriously overshadows any respect and general love you might otherwise have for people.

            Frankly, I think you owe Dan an apology for some of the unwarranted attacks (accusing him of promoting false doctrine, referring to him a false prophet, etc., when all he was doing was expressing his honest thoughts and feelings (opinions) and love for the Lord.

            I’ve appreciated your arguments and scripture quotes, most of them very good. It made things more interesting and I’m glad didn’t block you but unfortunately you’ve demonstrated that zealous faith mixed with pride can sometime result in a ruinous concoction.

            Be advised that I have already spent far too much time with these exchanges and need to get back to work. You can have the last word (or rant) — I don’t want to argue with you anymore.


          4. Rui Belo, quoting you: “I find your zealous concern for doctrinal orthodoxy is so hugely over powering that for ME it’s toxic.”

            Nephi’s erring brothers felt the same way about Nephi. Likewise how the Zoramites on their Rameumtum felt about Alma.

            Like them, it just means that you recoil because you don’t want to hear it.

            And just like Nephi and Alma, I was not being “toxic” as you so sweetly describe: I was sharing truth.

            Another truth: While slogging through…sick and lost…I was never dumb enough to tell God “Sorry! I think I know more than you about of this. So I’ll go my own way.”

            To bad you can’t say the same.

  47. Hi Dan;

    I posted links on Facebook to your article, ‘No, Not Everything Happens for a reason’ and thought I’d share on of the responses;

    Russ Pirie 6:31pm Mar 12
    Wow. This is expressed better than I ever could, yet explains how I have thought for years. Thanks for sharing.

  48. When I was called upon to fight the wolves, I had zero experience in fighting wolves bare handed. What I did have experience with was exercise. Push-ups, pull ups, weight training, a passion for running…so excellent cadio strength, and martial arts knowledge. I just never considered applying those things to fighting wolves. Turns out I was uniquely qualified, with those qualities enhanced by Heavenly Father. Because I was willing.

    Sometimes we fear we are not qualified at all. But we still need to be willing.

    “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, … but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

    “And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? …

    “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Ex. 4:10–12).

    Moses was willing.

    There is another important element that you are failing to consider, Dan. A very important element.

    “Let us here observe that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. For from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It is through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life. And it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” Lectures on Faith

    Elder Bednar stated: “Sacrifice motivated by faith and hope produces increased commitment and a desire to obey. If we sincerely love God and are willing to make every sacrifice He commands, then we can have an assurance that our service is acceptable to Him.”

    “Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.

    “For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit” (D&C 97:8–9).

    A willingness to be obedient and sacrifice.

  49. I have been troubled by the comment people make to one who is struggling with deep challenges. They will often earnestly ask, “What are you supposed to learn from this trial?” This question, to those in the trenches of adversity, implies it is our fault because, after all, if we didn’t lack some knowledge or faith or understanding the abuse or disease or divorce or wayward children or death of a loved one or . . . would not have happened. I love your reframing the question to “What can i teach?” I have often reframed it as “What have I learned? What have I gained?” Believing that God allows challenges and then sends succor helps me continue to see him as a kind Heavenly Father who always has his hand stretched out to us, even, especially, in our trials.

    1. Thank you Eliza. We learn so much through suffering and grief. No doubt about it. Thanks for taking the time to weigh in. I appreciate your insights. Love and blessings,


  50. Hi Eliza;

    I couldn’t help notice what you said about being troubled by the question that some might ask “to those in the trenches of adversity” and your concern as to what the implications of that question might be (perhaps insinuating a fault in some way). I hope you don’t mind if I butt-in with a story that I hope might help such people begin to realize that sometimes terrible things just happen (for no grand or divine reason) and that it might easily have nothing to do with what the person suffering did or didn’t do or needed to learn.

    Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who was mauled nearly to death by a friend’s 200-lb. pet chimpanzee in 2009, has been through a nightmarish hell that most people couldn’t even begin to imagine. The gruesome mauling, left Charla with her nose, ears, and both hands completely severed and with severe lacerations to her face. She has gone through numerous surgeries, including a face transplant that was followed 5 years later with another hospitalization, this time for facial transplant rejection. I apologize for being so graphic but of course the reality of the full story is much worse. For those not familiar with the story but curious, a web search will provide more complete information and some disturbing pictures and videos.

    What did Charla learn from this tragedy? I don’t know but what I can say is that on the day that she was attacked, she was responding to her friend’s (the chimp owner) request for some help with the chimp, which chimp, Charla had interacted with on previous occasions, without incident.

    Bottom line; — are their lessons to be learned from this very sad, tragic and seemingly senseless story? Of course, there are many. Are there good things that would come out of it, yes, without a doubt and for a great many people. But, was there some divine lesson in the waiting that could not be taught as effectively and as widely in some other, less horrifically brutal way, and is this ultimately why God might have allowed it? . . . I highly doubt it.

    But what I do know, echoes Dan’s words; I cringe at the thought of someone saying to Charla Nash. “God gives us trials so that we can learn from them” — with any kind of implication that this trial was somehow custom made for her.

    I do believe God can and does give us trials but in the same breath I must also say that I believe ONLY He knows which of the many trials we experience are directly attributable to Him. Ours, as Dan might say, is not to judge or speculate the reason behind the suffering but simply to love them who suffer.

    Charla Nash is quoted as saying, “I believe in the power of prayer and appreciate everyone who is praying for me”. To me that is remarkable humility and faith.

  51. In my Charla Nash story above, I failed to mention, she was left totally blind. Her eyes had to be removed because she contracted a disease from the animal.

    Thank you for the link above (Live your life on purpose!) interesting read.

  52. D&C 98:3 Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.

    1. That scripture can be interpreted a number of different ways and raises several questions;

      Who is the Lord talking to?

      Is the statement intended only for that specific group at that specific time under those particular circumstances or is it always applicable to ALL groups under ALL circumstances?

      Is it applicable to ALL individuals at ALL time under ALL circumstances?

      What can we infer from this scripture about adversity? Is it random or is it custom designed or predetermined?

      Are ALL experiences to be had for our good? What about the man who was accidently cooked alive in an industrial oven, the woman who trapped in an elevator for a month and starved death, the man dragged under a streetcar for a few blocks before he died, a mangled bloody mess?

      Reminds me of the Beatles song, titled ‘All You Need is Love’, with the line; ‘There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be’ — should one interpret that literally or can we derive some other meaning?

    2. PERFECT JAY!!!!! In His own words He replies to all of our doubts and concerns. All I know is that God loves us more than we will ever comprehend in this mortal physical body! And Jesus Christ, I’m left speechless and with lack of words to express His infinite love for us….

      1. “God loves us more than we will ever comprehend in this mortal physical body!” while certainly very comforting and reassuring (and I say that sincerely and humbly), may not necessarily always provide the answers yearned for with “all…doubts and concerns” born of serious hardship, pain and suffering. And even if our faith in God’s love is ultimately the only real answer any of us can have, some, such as myself, by their nature will continue to contemplate and ask probing questions as reflected in this discussion.

    1. I suspect we’ll have a lot of “Oh … that’s what was going on” moments, Susan, ha ha. Thanks for taking the time to write. Blessing and love to you.


  53. Hey Dan thank your for letting people know through your article what life is all about and what part does suffering play in it.Now this makes more sense…just learning from suffering ain’t worth it…but it allows us to prepare ways for people who are suffering to happily endure and see purpose in it.It’s a great way to look at life and go forward though its hard.

    1. Thanks Keerthi!!! To “see purpose” in suffering, like you said, empowers us to forget about ourselves and move forward. It has certainly helped fuel me through my suffering. I hope it has helped you in some way. Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

  54. I have enjoyed both articles and the divergence of opinions that followed. All these things stretch our minds and help make us thoughtful and flexible in our search for the pillars that will hold up our roof. I wrote a lengthy response about my brush with these same things and promptly deleted it. The tone was off and the events were too personal for such an open forum. That said, I should like to offer that I think you have captured the essence of our relationship with the divine but not in it’s entirety. I serve as my stake’s patriarch and while I can speak from only my own experience, I can tell you that beyond the “prime objectives” of love of God and neighbors, there are revelatory nuggets that have significant importance in our life’s journey. The author of those pronouncements, that find their way into these blessings, cares very much that they serve as markers along life’s road. No, they are not whether our future finds us at MIT or Montana State and it isn’t whether we are to be a tinker or a tailor. I know how little He is concerned over such matters. It is less about which keys on the keyboard we are residing upon and more about the type of melody that we compose, wherever we find ourselves. Nevertheless, there is much that lies in our futurity that is dependent on us being aware of the master coach’s game plan. When we go into the game we are not left in the dark as to whether we are to play the 5 spot or be the 1 guard. He has His way of setting the defense as well and we’d best have a heads up before we report in at the scorer’s table. (I’ve played basketball all of my life and I apologize for waxing a bit rhapsodic in the metaphor- but it is March after all.)
    Enough said… I agree with your premise but would ask that you give place for at least a guiding hand along the way. I could fill a book with the experiences that validate it as so and I can tell you with certainty that though our voices can become confusing, the personal visions of eternity are not easily dismissed. On a broader scale, are not the revelations of the D & C evidence that while Heaven may remain silent in the minutiae, it is never mute or disengaged. Perhaps the synthesis of these realities lies in the possibility that the restoration of the gospel, collectively and personally, is ever a work in progress, line upon line and precept upon precept. (And perhaps eventually unto a fullness…)

    1. Beautifully stated Ian Miller. I find it interesting that when you attack a polemical viewpoint–like EVERYTHING happens for a reason–people seem to assume that you espouse the other pole (that NOTHING happens under the guidance of Providence). I have had too many experiences with divine intervention to deny that and I write about them in my books. In fact, I write about one experience where I was told what flavor of ice cream to purchase for a man that was struggling with his faith in our congregation. I showed up on his doorstep with the ice cream to find that his wife had just left on an ice cream run to get that very flavor of ice cream. So, yes, God intervenes. I don’t doubt that. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and eloquent viewpoint and God bless you in your sacred work of ministering to souls.

    2. Ian Miller, I really appreciated your opening remark about “things (that) stretch our minds and help make us thoughtful and flexible…”. I really enjoyed reading all your comment and like Dan, you seem to have masterful way of expressing yourself.

      I think it would have been very interesting to read your “brush with these same things” but can appreciate your reasons for changing your mind and deleting that part.

      Agree with pretty much all you said but from my reading of Dan’s material, his articles, his commentary responses and a small portion of his two books, ‘Built to Love’ and ‘Gethsemamnesia’, it’s my view that, as a whole, his body of work not only gives testament to God’s guiding hand along life’s challenging path but is itself a collection of significant “revelatory nuggets” that he has received and shares. I find these very relevant and applicable in my life.

      You both seem to be very intelligent and insightful men of God and there is one aspect of divine guidance and intervention that I would love to get both your thoughts on but time does not permit me to pursue that at this time.

  55. My mother often spoke of her viewpoint of those who suffer in this life as being the brave and loving souls that have volunteered to be “sacrificial lambs” for those of us that need to learn service to others in this life. She felt that if all things here were harmonious and comfortable we would not have the opportunity to learn to love and serve others.

  56. Sorry but on this one I completely disagree. Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING has a purpose, even the seemingly trivial circumstances and events each day. Whether it’s a little drop of oil in our spiritual lamps (a single grain of rice tips the scale) or lots of little tests of integrity and character, everything has a purpose. Read Visions of Glory if you want to know what I’m talking about. It has some good examples. While I agree that God does not directly MAKE every little thing, good or bad, happen. Everything that DOES happen is either because he makes it happen or lets it happen as a means to further His plan. Nothing He does or allows is purposeless.

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