Editor’s note: This is the fifth in the series “Not oversimplifying the gospel.” Read the first four articles at deseretnews.com.
Children who are isolated in the protective cocoon of a shielding family and taught an oversimplified version of the gospel may feel disillusioned and unsure of their testimonies as they grow up and are exposed to more of the world.
Some kids, as they get out on their own, become concerned with what they see as the injustice and random unfairness of life — some people born to privilege, opportunity and health and others to poverty, deprivation and sickness. As our children are exposed to people of other beliefs, they may be troubled by incorrect assumptions that a person born into the church is somehow favored over the vast majority of God’s other children and that those born in a culture where Christ is unknown may be damned due to their un-chosen ignorance.
Indeed, to our limited and veiled mortal vision, life may look arbitrary and unfair. The obvious inequality of birth and opportunity sometimes seems to suggest uncaring randomness or even cruelty. Why are some born poor in a war-ravaged land and others to comfort and privilege?
To deal with questions like these, our children need to expand and modify their vision with the belief in a pre-existence and in a loving and personal Heavenly Father, and a faith that from his perspective what may seem random to us is purposeful. Apparent tragic circumstances may be unique chances for growth and for opportunities, which are precisely what certain people need in the context of eternity.
And faith in an "equalizing" spirit world yet to come, where missed opportunities are made up, completes the logic of faith in a God who is ultimately fair, who loves each of his children and who stands ready to help us in our needs but stops short of manipulating our lives without our request, thus preserving the agency which is essential to mortality's purpose.
God does not create fairness by forcing our lives to be equal or predictable or well-managed. Rather, he ensures fairness by providing everyone, either on earth or in the spirit world, with an equal opportunity to accept him and his gospel.
To someone who walks into a track stadium and witnesses a race already in progress, the race may appear unfair. Some runners are ahead of others. The observer must see both the start and the finish of the race — and perhaps even the training that preceded it — before he will understand the cause-and-effect circumstances and realize that the race is fair.
The story is told of an Australian aborigine who "went walk-about" for more than a year. During his absence, medical missionaries came to his tribe. By coincidence, on the very day he returned, his wife was undergoing an emergency appendectomy. He arrived just in time to see a man cutting his wife open with a knife. To the aborigine, three conclusions were inescapable:
- The man was trying to kill his wife.
- It was being done against her will.
- There was no chance of good coming of it.
Once, during a vacation, we met an interesting couple who had left Christianity and embraced Hinduism. This seemed so rare and unlikely to us that we were bold enough to ask why. They told us that they just felt the need for belief in gods who were just. As traditional Christians, they had no explanation for the random unfairness and inequality of human life. In Hinduism they found the concept of reincarnation, which provided justice because, over the course of many lives, our opportunities and blessings as well as our trials and sufferings will equal out.
We asked them if they were aware that there was a Christian church that also believed in a life before as well as a life after, and in the eternal, ongoing nature of each human spirit, moving not through different identities but through different realms which created over eternity a cumulative equality.
The restored gospel provides us with the only rational Christian explanation of the fairness and universal equality of God’s love. And we should be sure our children understand it.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."