We had Stake Conference this weekend, which is basically when a large group of LDS churches in the area who share a leader come together and hear the leaders speak. This conference, we were reorganized and got a new leader, so there were General Authorities (leaders over the whole church) who came down to do interviews before they decided who the new leaders would be.
Anyway, one of the General Authorities (Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the Seventies, I believe) was speaking about the tests and trials that we go through, and it got me to thinking about something in particular. Think about Abraham being required to sacrifice his son Isaac and what a terrible requirement that would be. Why would God require that? I think that question can elicit some important thoughts about the way God works.
Abraham had very nearly been sacrificed to an idol by his own father and was saved by Jehovah on the altar. He must have had some serious concerns about human sacrifice. Still, his faith was such that when God required, he did as he was asked. We know God spared Isaac and did not require his death, instead providing a ram. If He wasn't going to require Isaac's death, why would he require Abraham to do that?
One answer is this: God needed to know that Abraham would do it. That's possible, but I think God already knew. He knows the intents of our hearts. He knew that if He asked it, Abraham would obey. So why would He ask it?
Another answer that satisfied me until recently was this: God wanted Abraham to know it. This is probably true. God knew that Abraham would obey, even sacrificing the cherished son he had waited all his life to have if God asked it of him. Abraham, though, needed to know that he would obey God in all things, even the hard things; especially the hard things. That's a good answer, and I think a true answer, but I think not the whole answer.
Yesterday at conference, my thoughts were directed to the passage in Alma in which the wicked are casting the wives and children of the believers into a fire:
10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; 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.
11 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 doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments 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.
Alma and Amulek had the power of God, and God could have stopped this tragedy, but He did not. Again, many ask why God allows such wickedness to occur. I know it pains God to watch His children suffer and to watch his children cause suffering. Sometimes, though, God allows the wicked to perform wickedness so that they may be held accountable for their crimes.
Similarly, I think God must allow people to overcome great trials and show great faith. In his willingness to sacrifice his greatest treasure to the Lord, Abraham shows his faith in the Lord. Just like the wicked who burned the women and children will be punished, Abraham now has the opportunity to be blessed. He will be rewarded for his faith and obedience.
All of us have trials and tests that we must overcome in our lives. Few of us will be asked to sacrifice our children, but our tests will be personal and difficult. Instead of asking how God could allow this to happen, remember that there are great rewards in store for us when we overcome. Follow the example of Job, never giving in and cursing God in his great trials. Once he made it through to the other side of his test, the Lord blessed him more than he was able to imagine.