Opposition in All Things
"I am not complaining," my father wrote to my mother from war-ravaged Europe during the closing days of World War 2, when he finally reached the safety of American lines after three years as a POW. "I would not appreciate comfort if there were no hardship. We cannot appreciate joy without sorrow, health if we have never felt pain, or peace until after a war. All things must have their opposites, and we can learn from both."My father was well-versed with Christian teaching, but as far as I know never read extensively of Buddhist thought, or classical Chinese or Greek philosophy, all of which address the idea of the essential conflict of opposites as do many other cultures. In Latter-day Saint scripture - which I am confident my father never encountered - it's expressed this way: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so ... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad..." (2 Ne. 2: 11). Should God have intervened to stop World War II? Then what about smaller wars? Regional conflicts, perhaps? How about family strife in which a mother or children might be abused? What evil is too big, and which is too small, to warrant divine intervention? What about disease and natural disasters? Should God have made a world without opposites, a world in which there is no striving, no suffering, therefore no overcoming, no learning, and no growth? Should he intervene in arguments, eliminate the common cold or even stop someone falling off a ladder? Are we wise enough to attempt to draw that line? A world without hardship is thus a world in which there is no choice, where everyone is forced to do good. Yet inseparable from the idea of opposites is the principle of moral agency. Men and women will be judged for their choices between good and evil. They will also be judged when they curtail someone else's agency. Mormon doctrine teaches that men and women came to this earth endowed with that agency, knowing while still in pre-embodied spirit form that the world in which they would be tested would be at once beautiful and horrifying. We still chose to come. Go to Newsweek.WashingtonPost.com to read the full story.