Joseph Smith taught why evil exists, Paulsen says



    “A world-view centered in the saving acts of Jesus Christ” solves the problem of an all-loving, all-powerful God allowing evil to occur in the world, BYU philosophy professor David Paulsen told students at Tuesday’s forum.

    In his talk “Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil,” Paulsen said three problems of evil — logical, soteriological (theologicla) and practical — face humans today.

    “Nothing challenges the rationality of our belief in God or tests our faith in Him more severely than human suffering and wickedness,” Paulsen said. “All of us have struggled, or likely will, in a very personal way with the problem of evil.”

    Paulsen said the logical problem of evil is the possibility that a world full of suffering and moral evil is the work of an almighty, perfectly loving creator.

    “The logical problem of evil poses a puzzle of deep complexity,” Paulsen said.

    The soteriological, or theological problem is the apparent contradiction between certain Christian concepts of salvation and an all-loving Heavenly Father, Paulsen said.

    He said the practical problem of evil is the challenge of living trustingly and faithfully in the face of what seems to be personally overwhelmingly evil.

    Paulsen said Christian theologians believe God is all-powerful and perfectly good, but they commonly affirm He created all things out of nothing and has absolute foreknowledge of all the outcomes of his creative choices.

    These ideas say that if an omnipotent, omniscient God creates all things knowing beforehand future consequences of human misdeeds, then he is ultimately responsible for every defect in the universe, Paulsen said.

    “I propose to consider the problem of evil from a broader perspective … a world-view centered in the saving acts of Jesus Christ.

    “Any Christian account of the problem of evil which fails to consider … Christ’s mission to overcome the evil we experience — will be but a pale abstraction of what it could and should be,” Paulsen said.

    Paulsen said Joseph Smith’s teachings reveal, through modern revelation, that the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ are essential in combatting the evil and suffering in the world.

    “The prophet’s world-view, I believe, dissolves the logical and soteriological problems of evil while infusing with meaning and hope our personal struggles with suffering, sin and death,” Paulsen said.

    According to Paulsen, Joseph Smith said God organized order out of disorder to create the world, and evil serves its purpose in God’s plan for the men he created.

    God is not responsible for the evil and suffering men cause, but rather he allows it as a means for humans to reach their possible eternal dwelling with Him someday.

    Joseph Smith demonstrated the growth man must undergo by enduring suffering in order to become worthy for eternal blessings, Paulsen said.

    “Confronted with what seemed overwhelming evil, Joseph Smith found meaning, maintained hope, trusted God, kept the faith. And God spoke peace,” he said.

    “Salvation comes only in and through one’s acceptance of Christ,” Paulsen said.

    Paulsen said as he studies philosophical literature on the problem of evil, notes men’s perplexities and then ponders revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith, he is amazed.

    “Joseph had no training in theology … his formal education was scanty at best,” Paulsen said. “And yet through him comes light that dissolves the profoundest paradoxes, and strengthens and edifies me in my own personal trials.”

    Stephen Preston, 23, a philosophy major from Bountiful, said he took a philosophy class from Paulsen and was impressed with the forum.

    “Although it was announced as a forum, I think I got out of this forum what I get out of devotionals,” he said. “He showed you can take a secular discipline and be spiritually uplifted.”

    Quinn Warnick, 23, from Pleasant Grove, majoring in English, said he found the perspective Paulsen used to approach evil unique.

    “I thought it was really interesting how he looked at a religious topic’s philosophical impact,” Warnick said. “It added a lot of insight to Joseph Smith and his teachings about the nature of God.”

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