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Why Does God Allow Trials?

Trials Are Necessary for Progress

Joseph Smith Liberty Jail Mormon
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are very familiar with trials and opposition, having endured hardship and persecution as did the ancient followers of Christ. Latter-day Saints understand suffering to be a refining experience in life, and they try to keep an eternal perspective—knowing this life is temporary and that all suffering is compensated for and can be ultimately relieved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They've learned that they can receive comfort from the Holy Ghost. They also understand that what they endure here—particularly well—will eventually be for their benefit.

John Taylor, one of the earlier presidents of the Church said, “I do not desire trials. I do not desire affliction . . . but if . . . the spirit of evil is permitted to rage, and an evil influence is brought to bear on the saints, and my life with theirs is put to test, let it come, for we are the saints of the most High God, and all is well, all is peace, all is right, and will be, both in time and in eternity. . . . I used to think, if I were the Lord, I would not suffer people to be tried as they are. But I have changed my mind on that subject. Now I think I would . . . because it purges out the meanness and corruption that stick around the saints, like flies around molasses.”[1] Realizing that the saints of God receive an extra share of Satan's attention, Taylor appreciated the refining effect of trials. Without them, he figured, Latter-day Saints would have difficulty becoming what they should become.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ believe that God “has designed that we shall struggle; that we should exercise faith; that we shall contend with the temptations of the adversary; that we shall overcome evil; and by a continued exercise of faith progress in the course that he has assigned to us. It is absolutely necessary that we be tempted and tried in order that we should receive the glory that he has in store for us.[2]. Latter-day Saints think that trials are like exercise. Without exercise, they believe they can never become strong. They would never be able to be as wise, strong, and resourceful as their Father in Heaven if they hadn't learned by hard experience, just as He did. "What would our salvation amount to if we had never been tried, if we were to be placed in heaven without trial, without effort, without exertion upon our part to overcome evil and to contend with those influences that abound in this mortal state of existence. . . . For let me say to you, my brethren and sisters, God designs that his children shall attain unto the Godhead—that is, if they will obey the laws necessary to bring them up to that exaltation, [so] . . . they must pass through just such scenes of trial and tribulation and affliction as we are subjected to in this mortal condition of existence.”[3]

Trials Test the Elect

Trials are the birthright of man, but particularly of the Saints. Bruce R. McConkie said in Mormon Doctrine that “Man has been placed on earth in a mortal body for the express purpose of undergoing trials, including hardship, suffering, and temptation. (Abra. 3:25–26) This is particularly true of the saints, those who espouse the cause of truth and go forth on God's errand . . . he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom' (Doctrine & Covenants 136:31)” (p. 808). “Sometimes the tests and trials of those who received the gospel far exceed any imposed upon worldly people. . . . Saints in all ages have been commanded to lay all that they have upon the altar, sometimes even their very lives.”[4] Latter-day Saints believe, "To whom much is given, much is required." They know that no one coasts to heaven. They expect it to be difficult.

Part of the reason for experiencing such difficult trials, the Saints have learned, is that they are already greatly blessed spiritually. Brigham Young explained this to the Saints by saying that “God never bestows upon his people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual, or that people, to see whether they will keep their covenants with him, and keep in remembrance what he has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy. So when individuals are blessed with visions, revelations, and great manifestations, look out, then the devil is nigh you, and you will be tempted in proportion to the visions, revelation, or manifestations you received.”[5] These trials humble the Saints and help them remember to be grateful when times are easier. They take fewer blessings for granted.

Wilford Woodruff, a great latter-day prophet, said that, nevertheless, the Saints sometimes “complain because [they] meet with oppression, persecution, and affliction . . . these things are the heritage of the Saints of God . . . I have never read of the people of God in any dispensation passing through life . . . Without opposition of any kind . . . [They] have been called to pass through trials many times, and I do not think [they] should complain, because if [they] had no trials [they] should hardly feel at home in the other world in the company of the prophets and apostles who were sawn asunder, crucified, etc. for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”[6] Latter-day Saints are reminded that they can't expect to associate with others who have suffered extreme hardships and afflictions unless they have proved themselves worthy of their company. They are mindful also that they would be ashamed to be in their presence and expect a reward as great as theirs.

Some Latter-day Saints compare themselves with other Saints who they think are more virtuous or stronger. Aware of their own weakness but unaware of others', they wonder if—or even believe that—others handle their problems better than they do. But the prophet Heber C. Kimball said that all “The saints will be put to tests that will try the integrity of the best of them. The pressure will become so great that the more righteous among them will cry unto the Lord day and night until deliverance comes.”[7] Given severe enough trials, all people feel pain, distress, and personal weakness. Latter-day Saints handle the challenges throughout their lives by seeking understanding, help, and the strength to endure. Because their own suffering gives them compassion, they've also come to understand the value of helping others in their trials and distress.
  1. Journal of Discourses 5:114–115.
  2. George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, 26:189-190.
  3. Cannon, Journal of Discourses 26:189-190.
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 106.
  5. Journal of Discourses 3:205-206.
  6. Journal of Discourses 23:328.
  7. Quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1978, p. 32.