One of the most prickly problems theists face is the problem of evil and developing a theodicy in response. If there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Creator how can evil exist? If he is all good and all powerful and all knowing there should be no excuse. In response to the problem a number of responses exist from classic monotheists including the free will defense or arguing that from God’s perspective all really is well. In the face of true evil however, these responses often feel thin. Knowing that God, if he wanted to, have intervened in the Holocaust and prevented children from getting gassed, wouldn’t we expect a good God to do that, free will be damned? What kind of God allows for the unbearable torture of the innocent? These thoughts have in part led to the creation of new types of theologies, namely, process theology. However, Mormonism also has an interesting potential angle.
One of the strengths of Mormonism, I argue, is that it has a very interesting solution to the problem. In Mormonism God is relatively, not absolutely, infinite. That is, as a mile wide piece of paper might as well be infinite to a speck of dust, God is relatively infinite in qualities to us. God has so much more power, goodness and knowledge than we possess he is in effect infinite, though not in the absolute sense of the classical monotheist. You can probably already sense where this is going, if God is not absolutely infinite, then perhaps his power is in some sense insufficient to prevent evils even if he wanted to. What’s more, Mormonism provides a further avenue of thought on the matter by arguing that God became God by following pre-existing rules of the cosmos that just happened to be there, that he is in effect bound to them and to break them would cause him to cease being God. We are, of course, also bound by these same laws. God wants to illumine these laws to us for our good and further our happiness. He provides us succor and guidance as we learn, but cannot alter these laws. So it is, that through the unavoidable operation of these laws people get hurt. God can do much to alleviate suffering, but it is inevitable that suffering will occur and he cannot help that. God in this theology remains truly good, without significant problem.
This is truly a great strength of Mormon theology and I hope it is not overlooked by the Mormon population. The problem of evil is a disturbing one and the ability to salvage God’s character through the Mormon solution is not a trivial thing.