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Dead kids in Africa can’t follow “God’s plan”

February 8, 2011

Ethan has been assigned to give a talk in a couple weeks on the topic, “I will follow God’s plan.”

The LDS website has an attractive page dedicated to explain “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan,” with an image of a happy white family holding hands and frolicking on the beach.

Under the subtitle “We came to earth to progress,” the site reads, “So, as part of the plan He prepared for us, He sent us to earth to experience the joy—as well as the pain—of mortal life. When we were born, our spirits received mortal bodies, giving us the opportunity to have families and to develop mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

But not everyone has the privilege of taking this perspective. Consider these numbers from the book God’s Problem.

  • A child dies of hunger every 5 seconds.
  • Every 20 seconds, someone dies from malaria, and most of them are children in Africa.
  • Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans.

The faithful might reply something about, “Our ways are not God’s ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Or they might say something about the suffering being the result of the poor exercise of human agency, forgetting that millions are killed by natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, title waves, tornados, or hurricanes, which usually have nothing to do with human agency.

The only way to assert that God has a plan for us, involving a body that grows and develops so that we can have families, is to turn a blind eye to the reality that millions of humans suffer miserably and die prematurely for no apparent purpose.

Claiming that God has a plan of happiness for all of us is dismissive of real human suffering and devalues human life. It serves as an excuse to be complacent about human suffering. To explain such suffering in light of a divine plan requires too many unsatisfactory justifications and excuses in God’s behalf.

Here’s a slightly different take on “God’s plan” from a rational perspective, which doesn’t address the particular LDS view of God’s plan, but still makes some important points.

The most elegant answer to the apparent lack of a plan for millions of earth’s inhabitants is that there is no god, and there is no grand plan.

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  1. Carrie permalink

    I had this problem when my Mom died. People would tell me “It was part of God’s plan”, but in reviewing my Mom’s life she had enough struggles. She had a severe stutter that prevented her from getting a good job and lowered her self-esteem. She was in a loveless marriage. She developed Type II Diabetes in her forties and all of a sudden at age 57 she develops cancer and then dies a year and a half later. I struggled with why my Mom needed an extra struggle in her life in order to make her righteous. Finally I came to a solution which I even voiced in Institute class. Maybe she died because of cancer! Maybe there was no reason at all!

    I like to read survivor accounts of Holocaust survivors or Russian Gulag survivors (“Man is Wolf to Man” is the best one I’ve read) or of political prisoners in countries such as North Korea (“Aquariums of Pyongyang”). You read their accounts and you realize that other people are dealt an inordintate amount of suffering. They need that suffering to be more righteous? That doesn’t make sense and in fact it goes back to racism saying that because I was born white I was more valiant in the pre-existence so therefore I get to have a better life. In reading these survivor accounts I don’t think at all that I am innately more righteous. I think I just was born where I was born and got a relatively good set of DNA.

    • Carrie permalink

      Just to clarify – when I’m talking about my DNA I’m saying that I’m free of horrible genetic diseases. I’m not talking about my race!

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