Alma 14 takes us to the situation faced by Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah – they are bound as those that believe in Jesus Christ are gathered and executed by the wicked leaders of the community. Amulek asks Alma if they should use their priesthood power and stop this assault, “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” (Alma 14:10).
Alma’s response tells us something of how the Lord deals with the problem of evil:
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 14:11).
It seems that Alma sees that there are times when the Lord allows evil to succeed for a period of time so that the wicked will truly be accountable for their misdeeds. If God always stopped evil, agency would be impacted. Yet there are times when God intervenes! Indeed, when we eventually see the history of the world from the Lord’s perspective, I propose that we will see that the Lord intervened much more than we suppose.
It is good to address the problem of evil head on. When teenagers head off to college, their faith will be challenged by many in the university system. I find it useful to address this and help young people see that the scriptures do give us some insights as to why the problem of evil exists, and poses questions that force us to think of ways this problem applies to us in our second estate.
“The problem of evil is considered by many to be the ultimate test of any theological system”. 1
All of the standard works, The Old Testament, New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, as well as the Pearl of Great Price have situations where evil seems to triumph. In the Pearl of Great Price we read of the daughters of Onitah who are slain for their testimony. We read of Job in the book named after him in the Old Testament. We have the ultimate example of the problem of evil in the crucifixion of the Savior of the World as recorded in the New Testament. For this reason I find it essential that this be discussed as it naturally comes up in the Standard Works.
I find it noteworthy that there are many times in the scriptures that the evil is challenged. Rarely does it go unchecked. It is as if the Lord is asking us to stand up and be counted, for us to step to the plate and be the good that we seek in the world. In the case of Alma 14, let us not forget Zeezrom, as well as Alma and Amulek taking a stand for truth. It is a good exercise to ask students to think of times when evil seems to be victorious and ask the question, “Can you think of people in these situations that stood up for what was right?”
It is also worth mentioning that although it appears as if the evil powers will win in Alma 14, the good does prevail. Alma and Amulek are freed by the miraculous power of the Lord, and they continue to teach and impact many lives in positive ways.
For a discussion on a great way to take this subject on, read my article entitled “Job: Addressing the problem of evil and suffering.“
1. Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, 6.