Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Question

Anon asked the following question:
my question is this. do mormons believe that prior to passing through the veil you have agreed to live through the experiences so that you can enter back into the celestial kingdom? i guess i would really want to know that my child who has been abused didnt agree to be abused prior to becoming my child in the womb... horrific things happen by monsters i find it hard to believe that our father in heaven would ALLOW such things to happen.



Dear Anon,  
I don't know of any "official" doctrine of how much we knew of and agreed to of our trials in this life. As you point out, there is always free agency to consider. However, I do believe that our Father in Heaven knows ALL things. And he does allow horrific things to happen. I mean because they do happen all around us! I believe God is all powerful and that He COULD -- it is in His power to stop evil from happening and save any life or any child from harm. But He ALLOWS people to make horrific choices, and he ALLOWS natural disasters to take place, and he allows accidents to occur.  

So if we (and I) believe this -- that he ALLOWS these things -- the real question here should be WHY?? HOW can He - a loving Father -- allow these things to happen? That is the question I would answer for you - the WHY. 

In the Book of Mormon there is a story of a prophet named Alma and his friend and companion Amulek. These two go into a wicked city and begin to preach the gospel. They find much opposition and after they preach they are thrown in prison. However some were converted in during their preaching. The people were so wicked that they gathered all the men, women and children who believed the words of Alma and Amulek. Then they brought Alma and Amulek out of prison and made them watch while they cast all the believers - men women and children - into a fire to kill them. I would call this pretty horrific.  

So while they are watching, "when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pined; 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." This verse indicates that God has the power to save them from this.  

Let's continue in verse 11 of Alma chapter 14 "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 doeth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto the, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgements 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." 

From this verse we see that as a perfectly JUST God, our Heavenly Father must allow people to act according to their own free agency so that their judgements will be JUST at the last day. He Knows before they do the evil act that they will do it because He knows each of us perfectly. But He cannot punish us for something we didn't do. So by allowing the evil doer to do evil, God is just in giving them the punishment they deserve. 

That sounds great but what about the victim right? Especially when they aren't immediately received in the arms of their Heavenly Father but rather have to LIVE with the horror of the crime. Well, that is where the atonement and the grace of the Savior come into play. We believe that Jesus Christ was perfect and without sin, yet he was the ultimate "victim." He suffered the pains, agonies, and hurt of every one of us for everything we have ever done wrong and every thing that has ever been done or just been allowed to happen to us. In doing so, He is able to take our broken hearts and make of them a heart more like His own.  

I am not saying this is an easy road. I am not saying I fully understand how this works. But I can stand as a witness before you that Christ's atonement can heal up broken hearts and make them better than they were before. I am a living example of that. I am a richer, more empathetic, more Christlike person for having suffered the tragic loss of my daughter.  

Would I have chosen this road? Not as a mortal. But before this life? Not knowing what real pain felt like and knowing that the outcome would be to be more like my Savior? I don't know. Maybe? The whole goal here is to become like Him right? That is the reason I am here in this life is to become more like Christ so who knows.
I am so sorry about the abuse of your child. Really, I can't think of many worse things. I pray that this horrific trial will turn to become in some ways a blessing to you and your child as you seek the Lord's healing. And please know that because of Christ's sacrifice and knowing just how hard it is to be the victim, He can extend his mercy and grace to make up for the wrongs done to us in that great last day.

19 comments:

Gwenevere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You did a great job answering Stephanie. I was abused as a child. And while it was the hardest thing to overcome growing up (I was 6) and throughout my life I've had to "reroute" a few things that wouldn't have been difficult for others, I am now 30 and am a mom (and I hope this doesn't sound awful), but I wouldn't change it now. I think there was a time in my life when I would have, now that I can see a bigger picture and I see the person I have become because of it, I wouldn't change it. Like Stephanie said, I have empathy that is stronger, I am a stronger person having survived it. The other thing you have to recognize is that its not always Heavenly Father you have to look at for allowing her to choose to endure this trial, but by allowing us all to have free agency (the ability to choose right from wrong ourselves), this abuser chose to hurt another. He can't take his agency which makes it possible for him to abuse. HE did it.

I'm so sorry for what happened to her. My heart aches knowing the fire she'll have to pass through. I don't understand someone who has the capacity to hurt a child. I really don't. I can get over a lot of things in this world, stealing, lying, cheating, whatever....I can't understand someone who could hurt a child in this way and my only comfort is knowing that somehow he will "get his." Somehow it'll be made right. Having been there, I can't imagine anything worse than being abused....except for being her mother and feeling that kind of pain. I look at my little girls and I ache for my mom and what she had to endure. I'd endure what I had to a million times over before I'd switch places with her. I will pray that He'll send you comfort. If I have learned anything in this life its that He won't always take the trial away, bgut He will always comfort you.

Sometimes he lets it rain,
He lets the fierce winds blow
Sometimes it takes a storm
to lead a heart where it can grow
He can move mountains of grief
And oceans of pain,
But sometimes he lets it rain

Sincerely
Utah Mom

Sharon said...

What a great post! I love those verses in Alma for exactly what you said. What a great explanation of why we have do endure some of our trials. Thank you!

cynphil6 said...

Agency

Posted: 25 May 2010 12:00 AM PDT

“Agency—our power to choose—is fundamental to the gospel plan that brings us to earth. God does not intervene to forestall the consequences of some persons’ choices in order to protect the well-being of other persons—even when they kill, injure, or oppress one another—for this would destroy His plan for our eternal progress (compare Alma 42:8). He will bless us to endure the consequences of others’ choices, but He will not prevent those choices (compare Mosiah 24:14–15).”
Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and Law,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 27–28

Topics: Agency

Anonymous said...

thank you stephanie... i have seen the grace of god work through my child. to see my child full of depression, self doubt, attempts of suicide, self medicating to take the pain away, failing school. to becoming a confident, empowering individual who has a new found love for life. who has decided that his/her calling in life is to help other children through the trials of abuse.. i know that my child has been blessed and so has the rest of our family.

i know that we must have trials in order to see our blessings more clearly. the rawness of it all is a bit overwhelming at times. i think i remember you writting at one time, that the pain isnt as fresh as it once was but that the scar is still there and every now and again you bump it or brush across it and you still know its there.

one more question that i have been rolling over and over in my heart. ive been told many times that it is my responsiblity to teach my child that he/she must forgive. i know now after a couple of years we must forgive but that does not mean to forget?

again thank you stephanie

Anonymous said...

Great explanation. I personally believe we did not know all of the particulars. We just knew it would be HARD, and we came anyway.

Anon - Regarding forgiveness, I just taught a lesson on this Sunday. To truly forgive we must 1. Overcome our angry feelings. 2. Not judge or criticize others. 3. Forget about what was done.

Now, it seems all together impossible to forget something so horrible as abuse. I actually think it goes in a different category. In this talk by a church leader, it says, "To be counseled to just forget abuse is not helpful." It goes on to give some other good advice.

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=844194bf3938b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

Allison
Riverside, CA

Anonymous said...

allison,
its funny you would write about anger... your right, i tell my child all the time that its ok to be angry but that growth both spritually and emotionally will stop if he/she cannot channel that anger into something good. after stating it over a 100 times lol i have started seeing the bitterness and anger disappear. my child has truly started focusing on helping others and being a mentor.

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon,

Yes the scars still burn when they are bumped.

Forgiving helps the victim more than the perp. So yes, it is essential to teach our children to forgive and for us to forgive and let go of the power that such hate and anger holds over us. I could write more on this and maybe will when I have more time.

Forgetting -- I think we need to understand that when the Lord says to "forgive and forget" that doesn't mean we don't remember. Some things we can't forget. But here FORGETTING means that we don't bring it up anymore to remind the person of their wrong doing and how they still ought to be suffering because of it. We can still talk about it because in BIG hurts that is part of healing, but we don't keep throwing it in the wrong doers face saying "oh yea and then you hurt me in this way remember?" every time we see them or when we are hurting.

does that make sense? sorry rushed for time here.
stephanie

Rachel said...

That is kind of a difficult question to answer since we don't know much of what we did or agreed to before passing through the veil.

I know we all live through different trials. I was abused when I was a child and it took me a while to come to terms with it and something that my mother in law said to me helped me out a lot...
She basically said that while we do have trials to go through and grow and learn from in this life. Sometimes, people just make bad decisions.

I don't think Heavenly Father wanted that to happen to me, but I also need to remember that a part of this life is our agency and what we do with it.

Karen UK said...

This has been really helpful to me. My husband was abused as a child over a number of years and remembers being taught in a sunday school lesson that we agreed to our trials before we came here. He was really disgusted and upset by this and felt like he must be some kind of pervert to have agreed to it before coming to earth. We talked about how in the pre-earth life we didn't know what it would be like to have a body or to feel pain or be abused so although we agreed to be tried, even if our trials were explained to us we wouldn't fully understand what it meant. A priesthood holder also told my husband that as some of the abuse happened after he was 8 years old that he was accountable for that which is obviously wrong information but it really hurt my husband at the time. We have to remember that people can make mistakes or insensitive comments without realising the hurt they may be causing someone.
Heavenly Father gave us all our agency to choose how we act. Some people make bad choices and that is part of life we have to believe that they will be accountable for what they do, as will we. We have been in the situation where we have forgiven the abuser but can't forget because that would put our children in danger so although there isn't that bitterness there is still caution. I hope this makes sense-I've jumped about a bit I know.

Anonymous said...

stephanie, i understand the whole not bringing it throwing it in the abusers face. ive tried to teach my child that the abuse or the abuser shouldnt be at the forefront of his/her mind 24/7... my problem is this, i battle it often and pray for guidance day and night with it. the abuser used his agency to do what he did, my family is dealing with the aftermath of it all, we have been blessed i know this, i know it could have gone in so many directions but i humbled myself and i listened to the wispering of the spirit to guide me in the direction i needed to take my child, that is why my child is where he/she is today. i during this period of healing was not carrying (walking) myself, i was being carried the whole time there is no doubt in my mind of that. my problem is this, is there a moral obligation i have to keep those in danger aware? im not sure if there are scriptures that can reference this question or not.

Stephanie said...

Dear Anon,

I don't know of any scriptures that specifically point to this either. However I am sure you can get your own answer as you pray and read the scriptures and listen to your heart. Study it out in your mind and make a decision. Then pray about your decision and sit on it for a little while. See how it "feels" to you. If you feel peaceful about it. Move forward with the decision. If things are still nagging at you and you don't feel peace about the decision, go back to the drawing board and study things out again. Make a different decision and pray about that. Try that one on and see how it fits with your soul.

In the case of abuse -- the act of the perp. is illegal. I think there is a moral obligation to press charges and witness against the perp. to prevent future wrongs. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would go to the Lord with the decision to let everyone who may be in danger know of the danger. That would be my first decision to "try on" with the Lord. Most of the time I don't think it is right to go telling everyone that someone hurt you but in the case of abuse -- well I think people have a right to know someone's past history of that because it has such a high incidence of reoccuring.

But I am sure you will find your own peace from the Lord if you seek it about whatever answer is right for you.

Anonymous said...

thank you stephanie, i have prayed on a daily basis, hundreds of times. im grateful for having the ability to converse with my heavenly father.

the law as most of us know isnt there to protect victims. sexual abuse is a crime that is very difficult to prove. i guess this would lead into the next question.. can the abuser ask for forgivness from his father in heaven without asking the victim for forgivness and actually be forgiven? confusing, sorry.

i feel peace stephanie, i have been blessed, my child has grown in so many ways. im so proud of my baby.

i so appreciate your reference to scripture and your sound advise. and you sharing your process of healing. thank you

Stephanie said...

Anon,

The abuser can ask. One of the steps in the repentance process is "restitution," which is to ask forgiveness of the injured party and try to make it up to him or her. So theoretically, to really repent a person would have to ask the victim for forgiveness.

The victim doesn't need to forgive the perp for him to be forgiven. But he does need to apologize and try to make it better as part of his repentance process.

Ultimately Jesus Christ will be our judge so I will leave the final say up to Him. He is the one who KNOWS if our repentance is honest no matter what we say.

stephanie

No Name said...

Anon-

I have a couple dear friends who were abused as children as well as am friends with a couple who are the parents of a child who was abused. I am so sorry for the pain and suffering this abuse has caused your child and you, as that child's parent.

Like Stephanie said, I know that through prayer, you will know what to do. One thought I had while reading your comments was that an additional option would be to educate everyone you know on how to prevent/avoid abuse (e.g., never leave your child alone with a man, without other adults present, etc.). From what you said, it sounds like maybe your child is already doing this, but it could be something that you mention to all your friends. That would be one way of protecting them from your child's abuser.

Anyway, just thought I would throw that out there. Maybe you have already considered this or are already doing it. All in all, the Lord knows best and He will direct you to the best choice. You sound like a wonderful and strong mother who has had the love necessary to help her child through this most difficult of trials. I really admire you for that!

Anonymous said...

thank you stephanie for your responses and to the other posters as well. you have truly brought clarity to some of my concerns.

i have felt the spirit work through me and ive seen the blessings that my child has rec'vd. i know that my heavenly father loves me and he loves my children. i believe that my child knows through faith everything is possible. even recovering from such a horrible abuse.

thank you again stephanie

munyer jerk chicken said...

In regards to the "forgetting"... I don't believe that the physiological way our brains work allow us to do this. We can however, REMEMBER WITH PEACE. When we've truly forgiven, ugly and vengeful feelings should not re-surface when our brains remember. These negative feelings can be replaced with peace... and like so many of you have written, it's because of Jesus' Atonement. What a blessing.

Olsens R Us said...

I have had such a range of emotions while reading these comments. I too was abused as a child. While I was going through the experience, I didn't even understand the full ramifications that it would have on my life. It wasn't until I left my childhood home that I realized the scars it had left on me. I sought help through counselling with my Bishop, professional therapy services and self helf books. But I will tell you that while all of those things were helpful, the only true healing that I found was in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Hope, peace and forgiveness couldn't grow again in my heart until I internalized what His sacrifice meant to me personally. I am now a mother of eight beautiful children. I admit, I will sometimes have a twinge of pain when I realize what my childhood could have been like without this trial. But I also honestly think that I would not be the person I am today without having had this experience. I don't know if I would have the understanding of Christ's atonement that I have been blessed with if I had not had to seek it out so desperately and depend on it so fully. I guess what I am saying is, that in time, if your heart is turned to the Savior, every trial becomes worth it.

You also asked an important question about forgiveness. While I advocate forgiveness, I do not ever encourage anyone to put their child or other children in harms way by allowing someone with the capacity to harm a child to stay in a position to do so. While the atonement may cover the abuser's sins as well, in this mortal life I cannot judge his repentance and so I must always err on the side of caution in protecting my children and others. We are allowed to judge actions in this life to be legally right or wrong. Forgiveness does not mean not pursuing legal action. To me it means coming to a place where I can judge the abuser's actions but realize that one day the Savior will judge his heart. When I realize that the atonement is all encompassing, I need to realize that abusers can take the steps of repentance and can be forgiven. This realization also allows me to know more fully that my pain and my sins can also be lifted from me.
Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to rethink about these things that I know to be true. I hope and pray that one day your daughter will be able to work through the grief and turmoil and emerge a stronger person with an unshaken testimony of Jesus Christ. My heart goes out to you at what I know is a tragic time for you and your family. There is hope, and there is healing in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that you will continue to seek and find it.

Love,
Heather

Anonymous said...

I know some Mormons who believe that before they were born, there was God with His clipboard and checklist, and He was like "Okay, so this is going to happen to you, and this, and this, and this. You still wanna go down there? Ya? You REALLY sure? Okay then, so I don't wanna hear any complaining! Because you AGREED to it!" Usually this is expressed in regards to having some illness or bad thing happen. They say "Well, I agreed to this, so it must be part of the plan!" I guess it makes them feel better thinking they actively 'chose' it.

I also know Mormons who believe they choose which family they wanted to be born in. Usually this is expressed in their testimony "I have the best family ever and I know I choose them in the pre-existence!". This works until someone has a terrible family. And then they sit in the chapel and furrow their brow and wonder "why the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did I chose MY family and not theirs?!?!" :P

Unfortunately, these beliefs are, I believe, false and contrary to our gospel. But like Stephanie said, there's no black and white clear cut statement about it. So people are pretty much free to believe what they will about it.

Why I don't believe that it happened that way is because I don't think God is some voodoo fortune teller. I believe He "knows" all things, because He knows us so well. I don't think He can see into the future though. I don't think He has a minute micro-managed plan where He makes things happen or not happen (ie, sending an creep into your daughter's life to abuse her). I believe His plan was for us to get a body, have a family and to have the gospel. The rest is up to agency, biology, and nature. I believe He does watch over us, but He doesn't change the course of time and history. He doesn't send hurricanes. He doesn't send diseases. He doesn't strike people down.

A lot of Mormons would disagree with me. But a lot of Mormons haven't been through something so horrific that it makes you stop and think twice. Losing my son made me realize that its just not as easy as some Mormons would like to make it. It sure is a lot easier to attribute every little thing that happens in our lives to God, if its good, its because you're good! If its bad, it was 'supposed' to happen. But I don't think it works quite that way. I could be wrong. But to me life is full of gray, hard to explain things.