Tragedies abound. The inhumanity of men and women is broadcast continuously on the television, radio, and internet. Wars and rumors of wars (Mormon 8:30-31; D&C 45:26-27) are heard. Torture. Brutality. Violence. Horror. Pestilence. Famine. Sickness. Death. Where in all this unspeakable suffering is the presence of God? Where is any semblance of fair play and justice? This question is, of course, not of recent invention, but is as old as mankind. How can a benevolent all powerful God co-exist in the same universe as evil?
The tragedy and inequity of the human condition is no where more evident than on a cross, in a paltry Roman backwater province, on a small hill named after a skull (John 19:17). Yet it is precisely this moment of inhumanity when divinity in an incarnate form manifest itself to the world, to all the creations of a loving (Jer 31:3; 2 Cor 13:11), omniscient (Moses 1:6), and omnipotent (Gen 17:1, Rev 19:6, Alma 26:35, D&C 61:1) God. A God who respects the personal will, the moral agency, of those very same creations (2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23; Hel 14:30-31; D&C 93:31; Moses 7:32).
“The end rule is “according to [our] desires … shall it be done unto [us]” (D&C 11:17), “for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts” (D&C 137:9; see also Alma 41:5;D&C 6:20, 27). One’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it nor overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want!” (Neil A Maxwell. “Swallowed up in the Will of the Father.” General Conference, Oct 1995.)
In this life the inhumanity of man is only ours to abolish, God will not do it for us. That task and responsibility lies squarely on our shoulders (Ex 23:2-6; Psalms 34:14; Isaiah 35:3-4; Mat 7:12; Luke 6:27-36; James 4:17; Mosiah 2:17; 4:16; 8:18; 18:8; D&C 24:7; 81:5; 108:7; Article of Faith 13).
It is that same personal will, agency to act, which we have been asked to offer up on the alter of consecration, saying, “Thy will Father be done, on earth as it is in heaven, not mine.” (3 Nephi 13:10; D&C 109:44)
This is the offering of a broken heart, a contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17; 3 Nephi 9:20; D&C 59:8), and some will not offer it up until nudged or compelled to do so by tragedy. Many will not offer up their heart broken or their spirit contrite because of the inhumanity of men and woman ever on public display. They see the tiny sparrow fall (Mat 10:29), but they do not see the All Seeing Eye (Prov 15:3; D&C 38:1-2; 121:24) watching over its fall from heaven, from the soaring heights of the heavens above, to the hard unyielding terra firma below.
That will, our agency to choose for ourselves, is the only thing we have to offer God, and is the only thing which makes sense of the human condition, the bungled mess of mortality we find ourselves in. The bungling is not God’s but ours.
“The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” (Neil A Maxwell. “Swallowed up in the Will of the Father.” General Conference, Oct 1995.)
As we fall like the sparrow, will we offer up to God our will, because or in spite of the fall, or will we hold it back, precisely because or in spite of the fall? This is the great question we are all here to answer and find out for ourselves, and discovering that answer is not likely to be pleasant. President John Taylor taught:
“I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’… It is the crowns, principalities, the power, the thrones, the dominion, and the associations with the Gods that we are after, and we are here to prepare ourselves for these things. We are after eternal exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” (Deseret News [Weekly], 29 Aug. 1883, pg. 498).
President Hugh B. Brown said God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Madsen, Truman G., The Highest in Us. 1978. pg. 49). Like Abraham, there is something we need to find out about ourselves.
God already knows how we will turn out; He is omniscient after all (Moses 1:6). We, on the other hand, do not and are not. We are, at this very moment, taking the Test of Mortality, round two in the Quest for Exaltation, for our benefit, not His. (Spoiler alert, none of us are making it out of here alive.) That benefit is the learning and growth process the testing itself entails (D&C 136:31). We need to find out for ourselves who we really are so we can say the Lord’s judgments are just (Mosiah 16:1; Alma 12:15).
“‘Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.’ But the sparrow still falls.” (Russel, Mary Doria. The Sparrow: A Novel. 1997, pg. 401)