Summary: As we look at the news, everywhere in the world we see evil growing and spreading in multiple ways. It seems as though the world has been turned upside down and inside out, and everything is backwards. Therefore, it’s easy to become dismayed and distressed and wonder where is God and why does he allows so much wickedness to exist? This article examines how God can use the destructive power of evil to bring about his divine purposes.
The apostle Paul told the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). However, sometimes we may question that statement.
For example, as we look at the news, everywhere in the world we see evil growing and spreading in multiple ways. Abortion is being championed as being preferable to having children. Homosexual marriage is being praised as being better than heterosexual marriage, and those who support traditional marriage being between a man and a woman, are accused of being homophobic.
The idea that a person’s gender is determined by how a person feels about themselves has turned millennial-old scientific reasoning upside down with no evidence to support it. Criminals are being allowed to go free while law-abiding citizens who defend themselves are being put in jail.
The most perverse forms of immorality, including sexual promiscuity, pornography, pedophilia, homosexuality, and other similar kinds of behavior are being taught as being normal and acceptable, while those who stand for traditional values of morality are labeled as being old-fashioned and accused of wanting to force their values onto others.
Those who do not believe in God are spewing forth hate towards those who don’t agree with their ideas while claiming that it is the God-fearing people who are the haters. These are the people who say we should tolerate those who are different from us, while at the same time demanding that we should not tolerate and silence anyone who disagrees with their philosophies.
Senseless violence is becoming more and more prevalent in our society and those who don’t believe in God make excuses for this kind of behavior, while accusing believers in God of inciting violence for speaking out against violence.
It seems as though the world has been turned upside down and inside out, and everything is backwards. What used to be considered right is now said to be wrong and everything that used to be wrong is now said to be right. Isaiah warned, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
A study by the Pew Research Center has found that in 2020 the number of Americans who identify with being a Christian has dropped to 64% from 90% in 1970. According to their analysis, if this trend continues, by 2070 that number will drop to 46%. When a belief in God declines, so does the belief in morals. As President George Washington said in his farewell address to Congress in 1796, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”
As we see these things happening all around us at an alarming rate and becoming more prevalent, it’s easy to become dismayed and distressed and wonder what can we do? The scriptures tell us “that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, [should] be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 1-2). But how can we pray for people who are corrupt politicians, or those whose desire is to promote wickedness, or those who seek to persecute believers in God?
More than this, when we do pray for peace, instead of things getting better, they seem only to get worse. As Christians who believe in the power of prayer, when we see evil growing and people being prosperous in their wickedness, we can be tempted to wonder where is God? Does he know what’s happening in the world? Doesn’t he care that people are becoming more unrighteous and that the righteous are suffering? And if he does care, then why isn’t he doing something to stop all of this evil?
As contradictory as it may sound, the reason why God allows evil to flourish is because he uses it to bring about his divine purposes. Stated differently, evil can have a beneficial effect in bringing about righteousness. That doesn’t mean evil is essential to bring about good, but God has the ability to use evil when it’s to his advantage.
This is like when an engineer uses dynamite to blow a hole in a mountain. In the beginning, this creates a lot of destruction, but the end result is they can build a tunnel that will allow people to drive a shorter, easier route through the mountain instead of going around or over it. In the same way, God uses the destructive power of evil to bring about something grand and wonderful.
To gain a better understanding of how God does this, let’s look at some examples.
Approximately 600 B.C., the Lord showed Nephi a vision where he saw that his posterity would be completely destroyed nearly a thousand years in the future. Later, the Lord came to Nephi and commanded him to make two records. One record would be for “an account of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of [his] people” while the other record would contain “the more part of the ministry” among his people.
In commenting on this commandment, Nephi explained, “Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:4-6).
Nephi didn’t know why God wanted him to make these two different records, but what he did know was that God was preparing “a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men.” Nephi didn’t know what that work was going to be, but it didn’t matter All that mattered to him was that God knew what he was doing.
Somewhere around 325 A.D. a man named Mormon was commanded by God to go through all the records that Nephi had begun and that had been added to throughout the centuries and make an abridgement of them. Had Nephi not started those records, or if succeeding generations had not kept up those records, Mormon would not have had anything from which to make his abridgement.
During the time Mormon was making his own record, his nation was in the throes of being annihilated through war, and by the time of the final battle, only eight people remained alive, and in time only one would survive. His name was Moroni, the son of Mormon.
Moroni knew that his father’s record was sacred, and that God was going to bring it forth sometime in the future with the intent of helping the seed of Israel come to believe in Jesus Christ (see Mormon 7:5-10). However, being the only surviving Nephite, and knowing that if the Lamanites found his father’s record, they would melt the gold plates and make it into jewelry, Moroni was left with no alternative than to bury his father’s book.
In 700 B.C., Isaiah saw the coming forth of this book, which means God knew more than a hundred years before he commanded Nephi to keep these two records that he was going to use them to bring his people back to a true knowledge of God. Therefore, the destruction of the Nephite nation because of their wickedness was absolutely necessary. Had they not been destroyed, there would have been no reason for Moroni to bury his father’s record, and had that not happened, there would have been no restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the early 1800s.
Around 1620 there was a Protestant group in England who called themselves Separatists, because they wanted to separate themselves from the Church of England. The reason why was because they felt the church was not teaching the pure doctrines of Christ as found in the Bible. For this reason, they were mockingly referred to as purists or Puritans.
The head of the Church of England was also the King or Queen of England, and they used the full power of the government to stamp out any dissent. As a result, the Puritans faced severe persecution. If caught practicing their religious beliefs, the adults would be thrown into prison and their children would be taken from them and placed in homes where they would be properly taught to follow the rules of the Church of England.
As this persecution intensified, some of the Puritans felt it was necessary to leave England and move to another country, and it was during this process that a few of them traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to a barren wilderness which would later become known as Massachusetts in the United States of America.
It was because of the religious beliefs of these people that help set the standard of religious freedom in this new world, and it was that freedom that allowed for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be established and to flourish.
As unrighteous as the persecution of the Puritans was, if it had not happened, the Puritans wouldn’t have felt the need to leave England, and if that didn’t happen then the Church of England would have become the official religious belief of Americans, enforced by the power of the English government. If that had happened, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would have been started in violation of the law, which would be against one of its own basic beliefs of sustaining and obeying the laws of the land.
Even so, the latter-day saints still faced tremendous persecution. They had their property destroyed, and in a number of instances their homes were burned to the ground. They were physically attacked, some of their women were sexually violated, their children were terrorized, some were murdered, and their lands were illegally confiscated.
They were treated like animals, being subjected to horrific treatment at the hands of their enemies and being forced to flee for their lives numerous times under very difficult circumstances and inhumane conditions, causing many of them to die of starvation, hunger, cold, and sickness. And this is what happened to them while living in a land where religious freedom was a guaranteed right. We can only imagine how worse the persecution would have been if the state controlled the church.
These were God’s people, who were striving as best they could, to live the commandments God had given them through revelation. They were being led by a true prophet of God and were destined to take the restored gospel of Christ to all nations to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. Then why did God allow such evil to come upon his chosen people?
There are several reasons why this was necessary, but we’ll look at just two.
The first is that Joseph Smith had to seal his testimony with his blood, and for that to happen, his life had to be taken from him in such a way that his blood was shed. In other words, he had to give his life for staying true to what he believed. If he had died from falling off a horse and broke his neck, that wouldn’t have made him a martyr, and that’s what he had to be in order to seal his testimony.
But how would he die a martyr’s death if there was no persecution? It was the continued hatred that certain people had for Joseph and his beliefs that kept building until it reached a crescendo. The more people tried to get rid of Joseph and failed, the more determined they became and the more extreme measures they took.
God could have, and did, protect Joseph’s life, but when it became time for him to die, God removed that protection so the wicked could succeed in committing their heinous crime of murder. Therefore, the persecution was a necessary and essential part of God’s purpose for Joseph to seal his testimony in blood.
Another reason for the persecution was that the church was never destined to have its headquarters in New York state or even the Midwest. God’s plan all along was to establish the headquarters of his church in the tops of the mountains. Why? Only God knows the answer to that question.
But, since the church started in New York state, how was God going to get the saints to move to the Rocky Mountains? If it hadn’t been for the constant scourge of persecution and lack of legal protection from the American law system, there would have been no reason for the saints to leave the United States and go live in a mountain wilderness where there was no civilization. The reason they moved to that location was for the exact same reason the Puritans left their home country of England, which was because of persecution, that came from evil in the hearts of wicked men.
This was the same attitude that motivated the Pharisees to put Jesus to death. He was a threat to the power and prestige that the ruling class of Jews enjoyed, and the more they tried to silence Jesus, and the more they failed in that effort, the more determined they became to get rid of him. Finally, as a desperate measure, they arrested him and held an illegal court in the dead of night, in violation of both the law of Moses and Roman law, where they falsely accused him of a crime worthy of death, and then did all they could to make sure he was crucified.
Yet, this had to happen in order for Christ’s atonement to be effective. If Jesus had died of old age, or died from a sickness, that wouldn’t have satisfied the demands of justice. Jesus had to die a horribly painful death where a large quantity of his blood was shed, and the only way that could happen is if someone with evil intent deliberately murdered him in the most horrible way imaginable.
What this shows is that God uses evil to bring about his divine purposes. It’s a tool he uses to form and fashion events to advance his grand plan for the salvation of mankind. The problem is that when we see evil happening in our day and don’t understand what God is doing, we tend to complain, fret, become anxious, and maybe even doubt God or lose our trust in him.
We’re living in the last days, and we’ve been warned that “in the last days, perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1). “There shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3). “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2,4).
During tumultuous times, we need to remember the words of the apostle Peter when he wrote, “be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14), and what Jesus told his disciples when he said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). “And [when] ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass” (Matthew 24:6, italics added). That means all of this evil is necessary to God’s plan.
In our day, the Lord’s prophet has said, “Now, my brothers and sisters, as you read of troubles in so many parts of the world, remember that the Lord knew these problems would come… Be of good cheer, for the Lord is guiding His church…. I marvel at how He can work to bring to pass His purposes by using us in our weaknesses… Trust the Lord and His unfolding purposes even when His purposes are not always completely clear to us at the moment.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, 1982 April General Conference)
When we see so much evil in the world, instead of being worried, anxious, fearful, angry, or confused, we need to understand that what we are seeing isn’t so much the work of the devil as it is the work of God preparing us for something grand and wonderful. As Paul said, all things work together for good according to God’s purpose.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of God