All-knowing.?

Tonight I attended a really enjoyable fireside. Rarely, very rarely in fact, do I enjoy something related to church this much. Part of it was that the woman doing the fireside (who is in my ward, btw) used to be Cosette from Les Mis on Broadway, and she sang a couple Broadway hits, including “For Good” from Wicked, which is one of my very favorite songs. The other reason I enjoyed it is that her topic was how life does not turn out the way you plan. She talked about going through infertility for years. They tried various medications and surgeries, but nothing worked. Finally they tried in vitro. Her husband had given her a priesthood blessing, as they were waiting for an In Vitro procedure, telling her that she would have a baby in 9 months. She said they had complete faith. She got pregnant but two weeks later miscarried. Her husband and her were devastated and confused. She said they were confused but not angry at God. They decided to give up on conceiving and adopt, but they knew it would most likely take years to get a baby. It ended up happening quickly. Well, it turned out that the day they adopted the baby was exactly 9 months from when she had that priesthood blessing. Miracle right? But then five weeks later they lost the baby when the birth mother decided she wanted her child. She said as they were driving to the mother’s house she felt like Abraham. She said they were placing their faith in God and she was hoping that God would reward that faith, like he did with Abraham, by not making them give their child up. But that’s not what happened.

There are a few reasons why I sat there mesmerized the whole time she was talking. One reason is that she was talking about a pain–infertility–which I am vaguely familiar with (though she went through much more in a lot of ways). The second is that she experienced a type of pain I am familiar with, the pain of feeling God promised you something and then having life turn out the opposite. She had a tremendous amount of faith in God, felt like God told her they were going to have a baby in 9 months, had miracles happen to get the baby, and then had that baby taken away. I had faith in God, lived my life “worthily,” got married in the temple just as I had been told in my patriarchal blessing I should (and as I felt over and over I should), then my husband left Mormonism all together and became Agnostic. That was extremely confusing to me.

Finally, she talked about how her and her husband were not mad at God; they didn’t understand, but they put their faith in God and moved forward. Shortly after this experience she went in to try fertility treatments again and found out she was already pregnant. They now have four children. She said she felt like their reward of being blessed with children came after the trial of their faith.

I suppose this made me wonder, once again, if I am just failing a trial of my faith. Ricardo leaving the Mormon church made no sense to me. It shook my faith in God. Even if I do somehow find a way to preserve my belief in God this experience still leaves me with questions like, How much does God actually know about what is going to happen in life? If he knew this woman was going to miscarry and then have her child taken from her, why would he tell her she was going to have a baby in 9 months? If he knew my husband was going to become Agnostic, why would he give me so many experiences that led me to feel the single most important thing I could do is marry a priesthood holder in the temple, and then tell me Ricardo was a good choice (I felt very clearly that God approved of my decision to marry Ricardo)? Does it even make sense that God would go around giving false promises, half truths at best, to his children just to see if they can still believe in him when they find out he lied? Maybe that sounds harsh, but that is one way of saying it. Growing up I always found the story of Abraham interesting, a little morbid, but still inspiring. That idea of being tested with something so difficult, like Abraham was tested by being asked to sacrifice his son, and then being rewarded if we hold strong–it always seemed like an amazing idea to me before. And I wanted to make sure I passed that test when it came. But it’s not that simple–I am legitimately confused, and God, if there is a God, must know that too.

So, if there is a God, does he know what is going to happen in life? I used to think he did. I used to think that he already knew the choices we would make, but that he allowed us to make our choices anyway and he just tried to help us the best he could. But there are some serious holes in this logic. If he knows what we are going to chose, and some people are going to make wrong choices that are going to prevent them from returning to him–their father–then why wouldn’t he interfere and send an angel like he did with Paul? Why would he let some children fail and make tragic mistakes and yet intervene with others? Why would God create a plan like this at all–where we come to earth and a bunch of us don’t get to make it back. How could that make God happy? How could that be the best plan? Maybe I sound like Satan here, but think about it.

Then if you decide that maybe God does not know what will happen in the future of our lives, then we cannot possibly rely on revelation as truth, since that truth would be dependent upon the choices of all of us. Maybe this scenario could explain some of the “false revelations”, as you could call them, that have occurred (ex, Saints will build Zion in Jackson county. Ex, people being told the second coming will be in their lifetime). But if revelations are often false, since they would be dependent upon people’s choices in this scenario, then it would be pointless to have revelation at all since it is basically guess work. Right? Or is God’s best guess good enough that we just go with it?

Maybe God is real, but simply did not know that I would marry Ricardo, and didn’t know Ricardo would end up leaving the Mormon church. Maybe he just doesn’t really know what will happen and makes a best guess based on how things are at the time.

Or, there is no God, and people are the ones making their best guesses about what will happen to us (believing all the while they are speaking for God). That could make sense.

Or maybe there is some other option…? (help me out here peeps)

One thing is for sure though. I saw a glimpse of what I would have been saying had I chosen to not walk this confusing path. I can be almost certain that I would have been giving the same advice she did: trust God, only through him and through the Atonement of Christ can you possibly hope to get through the trials and difficulties you will face. And I can’t lie, I had a really nice, peaceful feeling hearing her say that God was still trustworthy to her after going through what she went through. In fact, I had a nice, peaceful feeling–a feeling I rarely experience these days–at that fireside throughout the whole night. As I was telling the sister missionaries some of this after the fireside they said, who knows, maybe that will be you in five years. The sister from Italy even joked she would come back and hear my fireside then. And honestly…who knows? Who knows? Does God? And here my mind goes again…

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5 Responses to All-knowing.?

  1. jennifer says:

    Alicia, like you as I’ve struggled with the whole all-knowing thing. As I’ve read other ideas and realized it’s hard to have God knowing everything and us also having free will (are we really free to choose anything other than what God foreknows?), and also even ideas in the scriptures where God seems to be prepared for a number of possibilities (if they do this then this, if they do this then this), it makes sense to me that perhaps God does not know all things from beginning to end. I only recently realized there’s a name for this: open theism. In some ways he certainly is omniscient, for example having known us from the beginning he knows us better than we do, also he perceives so many things we don’t (all thoughts, intentions, things in nature etc.). He also understands human nature. I believe he wants us to solve our problems here and make the world a better place, and for his purposes he more or less lets natural law take its course. Are we really going to try and solve our problems if we see God constantly intervening/rescuing us? Are we going to develop fortitude to continue in the face of difficulty if we think there’s another choice like God coming to make everything better tomorrow? I’m sure he can predict how that human march will go without too much trouble. In the end I think we’ll be surprised by how much we were able to do as a human family when we knew we had no choice but to try and solve our problems (looking over things long term), and also how weak and in need of God we also are as we messed things up; that’s not too hard to predict. And then certainly he knows the beginning from the end because he knows what he will bring to pass, and that seems to be the message given over and over again: I plan to save you, or at least to give you the opportunity of being saved. No other message seems to be one God is willing to intervene to say and I believe he can and has kept that promise. Life is a great desire builder and I believe God knows it can work very well. I believe because he respects our desires in things so much that he changes course based on prayer and other things when it is in our best interest and within the bounds of respect for people’s free will (and maybe sometimes he gives us what we thought we wanted to teach us, but I’m not sure about that, actually I’m not sure about any of this come to think of it :-)). But I believe he intervenes generally in subtle ways. I believe our desires in this are very much relevant: The fact that you desired a temple marriage etc. is very much valuable no matter what happens. Also, God has a very long term perspective. If it is true that he inspired you in your marriage to Ricardo (I think he did) then I think perhaps the God of creating wonderful possibilities knew it was a wonderful possibility, and I’ll bet even now is grateful you are together. Revelation is an inexact science as far as I’m concerned, but it’s a good one to work at. Is it God just telling us his desires like his desire for Ninevah to repent? Does God move to plans “b, c, and d” when necessary as with this lovely woman you heard? Joseph Smith was as confused as anyone when the zion he was so sure would come to pass actually was a long way off.

    Of course it might mean there is no God and it is all human conjecture, but to me that is equally confusing because there seem to be things God tells us that we at least don’t consciously perceive: like when someone is playing with her children in a desert wash and hears a voice tell her to get out which she shakes off because it’s such a nice day and it’s a ridiculous thought but hears it again and this time thinking herself crazy gets out only minutes before a huge wall of water comes down the wash (a desert flood started by a thunder shower high up in the mountains). If you live in the desert maybe you know to avoid playing in washes, but she wasn’t thinking about that. It was a great place to find treasures with her kids. This also raises other unanswerable questions like why does God choose to intervene sometimes and not others?

    Life and eternity aren’t over yet. Time can do more than we ever think it can. If you and Ricardo wake up on the other side of mortality what changes might happen then? All of us are immature children of God in my opinion. What things will just living life to the fullest teach you both? I adore Ricardo and so I’m with what I believe is God: it’s a beautiful possibility!

    sorry this is so long!

    • crooks14 says:

      Hi Jenny, I actually remember talking to you about this right after Ricardo left the church. That was the first time that I considered that there maybe could be a God that didn’t actually know every detail of what was going to come to pass. I think it is an interesting possibility, and when I do believe in God I think I am leaning that way maybe.

      I posted my questions about God on a facebook group I’m part of and the responses I got basically raised the question you mentioned briefly. Why does God help some and not others, if he, in fact, exists? Someone on one of the groups basically said that if God exists he basically doesn’t care about us since his grand plan was to send the majority of his children to extreme poverty where they would find no relief–not even by praying. He then mockingly wrote, “but at least he helps people find their keys.” I think he raises an interesting point. Is it more likely that God interferes in my daily life to help me find lost objects and grant me other menial petitions and yet allows others, who are praying for food to help their starving children, continue to suffer without relief, or is it more likely that things are all just random, and there is no God.

      What are your thoughts on this (Jenny or anyone else)?

  2. jennifer says:

    oh and I meant to add that I think prophets often receive very general visions which are later re-interpreted in light of known facts that brought them to pass.

  3. jennifer says:

    well I’m certainly not thinking I have all the answers on the difficult questions but I have thought about the problem of evil. Years ago I picked up “philosophy for dummies” which pointed out that some evil is certainly moral inasmuch as it adds to our character development: patience is a virtuous response to annoying circumstances, charity to need, courage to challenging circumstances (such as you are currently facing or perhaps from a natural dissaster), long suffering to necessary suffering (such as children being whiny; it’s a good thing God is long-suffering! Some things are virtuous only because we are immature children of God. We take things for granted. Some things we can hardly comprehend if we haven’t experienced their opposite. If we had perfect character these things would not be necessary.

    And I suppose if we could be sure that God was controlling the test, so to speak, in order to be sure that all suffering we experience is what we need to grow that would be one thing. Some people think that this is so. For example my friend lost his unborn baby because the doctors in his small town did not realize his wife had appendicitis which almost cost her life but most definitely put her into premature labor at 20 weeks. Some people tried to comfort them by telling them God’s purposes are greater than ours etc, but he had the sense that God was as sad about it as they were, and I think they’re right (not that real growth didn’t come out of it).

    Unfortunately there is much senseless suffering including from natural causes. God could make sure everything is fair, have given antibiotics from the beginning, make sure we only get the positive benefits of nature etc. But suppose God did intervene regularly to solve child hunger, war, disease etc? If we knew an all powerful being lived just down the street would we work hard as a human family to solve our problems, or would we simply get upset at God for not solving them? One thing I admire the atheists about is that they think it’s their job to solve the world’s problems, not God’s. Believers can simply give up too easily thinking things will be solved by God in the end, and if that’s what we do without perfect evidence, what would we do if we in fact did know he was right there intervening predictably? Would we take him for granted, never even appreciating how much we need him? Could that, in fact, eternally speaking, be a greater evil? What if it were simpler like anytime sincere prayer, asking for worthy things, is offered God would send relief. Would we then work as hard as we need to? I believe God is even more sad than we are about senseless suffering, but I think he is wise. Life is a great desire builder. In my opinion he just needed to do whatever it is he did to get it started and then basically send us down, let things follow their natural course here, and we’d create enough problems being by ourselves for us to fully desire good to be very teachable once we return.

    And in all my interactions with what I perceive as God I feel an immensely loving being. I believe every time any of us turn to him he will work to find subtle ways of supporting us, like helping us find our keys–subtle things available to the hungry and poor as well. I believe in a loving God.

  4. Jennifer says:

    this is kind of silly to be posting again seeing I’m like hogging your blog here. My memory is not so great so I just had to add a couple important details before they’re gone: 1.it seems to me sometimes that for God the suffering while horrible isn’t the greatest evil. The greatest evil would be never desiring or appreciating the good. What’s the saying about a good teacher creating thirst before filling it or something like that. 2. if for God’s purposes it is wise to remain a subtle influence to show us both how much we can do and how much we need him, for the Christian at least, he gave the ultimate solution for evil in the atonement, thereby showing that our suffering is indeed personal for God (even if it means for a glorious personage that he must show that through his Son). I guess that’s sort of obvious but I thought it should be said.

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