Throughout mankind’s existence, and especially during times of crisis, conflict, and confusion such as we see now with COVID and the war in Ukraine, one universal question seems to echo the loudest across time and space: “If there is a loving God, why is there so much suffering?!” This question is often wrought from the individual human breast amid soul-wrenching, personal anguish.

According to the ancient prophet Lehi, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). As a child, I would cling to this verse and the idea that my life was meant to be enjoyable—good-naturedly assuming God wanted me to be constantly happy. It seemed straightforward and logical enough, especially when combined with my fervent belief that I was a daughter of God; that God was, unquestionably, my Heavenly Father. Having been blessed with a loving and attentive earthly father, it seemed obvious that the God I knew would follow the pattern of paternal love and devotion as I understood and perceived it: Of course, He wanted me to be happy! With this simplistic understanding of the verse as my guide, when I was hurt or scared or upset, my distress was compounded by my increasing confusion: “Why are bad things happening to me even when I am trying so hard to be good?”

While our Heavenly Father certainly does want us to have joy, He will never insincerely or disingenuously promote cheap or fleeting pleasure as the source of ultimate satisfaction. The kind of joy He wants us to have is the kind of joy He experiences Himself. In the same way, He wants us to ultimately enjoy the kind of life He enjoys: a sanctified and eternal one with the ability to continue progressing. [1] But understanding this and the nuances within Lehi’s deceptively simple proclamation takes time and maturity.

My younger self had fallen prey to a fragmentary theology, a kind of understanding or application of the gospel which Sister Francine R. Bennion warned about in her 1986 Brigham Young University Women’s Conference address:

“We are accustomed to talking of fragments of theology—a topic here, an assumption or tradition there, often out of context of the whole. We are a people accustomed also to fragments of scripture—a phrase here, a verse there, words that say something appropriate to the matter at hand, and ring with clarity and conviction. We have to do it; we haven’t the time or ability to say everything at once. Sometimes, however, the clarity becomes blurred and the conviction open to question when a person puts some fragments with others.” [2]

Just as Paul, “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a [woman], I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The initial, childlike faith in God’s love and desire for me to be happy was foundational to the development of my testimony and understanding. However, as the years went by, I needed to deepen my knowledge and stretch myself to properly cope with the realities of a painful, mortal existence. The prophet Joseph Smith taught us:

“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.” [3]

It was clear that my childlike understanding was no longer enough; I needed to “contemplate … the broad expanse of eternity” and “commune with God,” as Joseph had instructed. Over time I began to more fully appreciate how earlier, in the same chapter as the “men are” proclamation, Lehi reminds us “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Without suffering, we could not experience, let alone understand or appreciate, joy. [4]

Before one truly grasps the necessity of opposition, and in particular the necessity of suffering to have joy, the two concepts may appear to be both contradictory and incompatible. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides us with answers and solutions to many of life’s trickier conceptual aspects. Quoting from Sister Bennion again:

“One function of theology is to provide a comprehensive framework that gives meaning to the fragments and the seeming contradictions or paradoxes which they suggest. Theology provides a framework that binds diversity and complexity into a more simple net with which we can make some sense even of things we don’t fully understand.” [5]

Since Sister Bennion had stated the purpose of her address was not “to give a careful definition of the term suffering or to distinguish between various kinds of suffering,” I would like to respectfully add my voice and humbly submit my contribution to continuing this conversation to its natural conclusion. [6] Or, perhaps more accurately, to its natural beginning of a deeper, more personal study into how we define and categorize suffering during our mortal existence.

During a recent discussion with a “Come Follow Me” study group, a dear friend of mine astutely pointed out, “I’m not saying I like it but … there is something sanctifying about suffering.” [7] With that in mind, I wholeheartedly believe a careful discussion about and creation of a conceptual framework for how we view suffering within the theology of the restored gospel is an invaluably worthwhile endeavor.

A Framework for Understanding Suffering

In her spring 2010 essay “Polygamy” for SquareTwo, V. H. Cassler outlined four types of sacrifices we experience during our mortal sojourn:

“A first type of sacrifice represents our choice to sacrifice to obtain a desired goal…The sacrifice is by our choice, and the goal is one we desire to see realized… A second type of sacrifice might better be understood as accepting persecution as a reaction by the unrighteous to our decision to follow God… A third type of sacrifice appears from our mortal perspective not to involve our agency, though perhaps from an eternal perspective agency did indeed play a role at a prior point. These are sacrifices of adversity… But the [fourth and] heaviest sacrifice a person can ever be called upon to make—the Abrahamic sacrifice—is slightly different from these other three types. In the Abrahamic sacrifice, we are asked by God to make a conscious choice in a situation in which what he requires of us cannot be regarded as a desired goal from all that we know about God’s laws… It is a test of faith—indeed, the ultimate test of faith.” [8] (bold and italics added for emphasis)

I believe the term “suffering” is interchangeable with the word “sacrifice” in each of Cassler’s definitions. After all, is a sacrifice really a sacrifice if it does not hurt? A true sacrifice naturally includes some level of pain. In addition, I think for understanding mortal suffering, we must add a fifth category, which I would classify as purposeless suffering. The four types of sacrifices as outlined by Cassler all stem from an understanding that the pain and struggle associated with their existence will ultimately lead to something better, deeper, or more profound in terms of our spiritual development or capacity for Christ-like characteristics. Therefore, those sacrifices, or those types of suffering, serve a purpose in our lives, even if we may not fully recognize the purpose during our mortal existence. This new category I am recommending contains a concept that is perhaps as sad as it is true: There are times when we—as imperfect, and sometimes irrational, creatures—torment ourselves in ways that are neither beneficial nor necessary.

Therefore, the categories of suffering, as I view/define them, are as follows:

  1. Purposeless Suffering
  2. Dutiful Suffering
  3. Persecutory Suffering
  4. Natural Suffering
  5. Sacred (or Abrahamic) Suffering

These categories of suffering can serve as a conceptual framework for helping us cope with life’s difficulties. During a painful experience, the ability to step back and better understand the source or purpose of our pain can help us evaluate how we move forward and properly handle our current situation.

Purposeless Suffering

The concept of purposeless suffering must be handled delicately and with the utmost compassion, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and heartbreaking circumstances of mortality. It includes, among other elements, symptoms of and responses to the disease of depression or an individual’s intimate struggles with self-loathing. I believe that depression, in all its forms and variations, is most accurately categorized as “natural suffering” (discussed more fully further below), a type of suffering that comes because we are experiencing mortality in a fallen, imperfect world. It is a type of suffering caused by a combination of chemical, biological, genetic, and/or social factors we still do not fully comprehend. [9]

However, some of the responses to depression, such as self-harm or self-mutilation appear to me to provide no recognizable benefit to the sufferer. This is why I wish to gently, but firmly, suggest this type of suffering is purposeless; purposeless in that it does not align with God’s will for any of us. I have also seen loved ones torment themselves in terrifyingly dispassionate demonstrations of self-hatred. They sincerely believe they are unworthy of compassion or mercy. They believe they are a failure and a burden and therefore deserve to be punished. And the self-inflicted punishment can be absolutely horrendous in its intensity, whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual in nature. But what purpose does this self-imposed pain serve? It may temporarily relieve the sufferer of some level of guilt associated with their incorrect perceptions of their self-worth, but then if the cycle remains unbroken the sufferer continues to punish themselves needlessly.

I believe this kind of suffering is the kind that causes our Father to weep the hardest. The God who wept in front of Enoch and the explanation He gives for His weeping reaffirms my conviction on this front:

“And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? … The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands … but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood … and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:28–29, 32-33, 37).

While the Lord does speak of mankind’s sins and Satan’s influence over the children of men (not included in the selections used above), Terryl and Fiona Givens emphasize “it is not their wickedness, but their ‘misery,’ not their disobedience, but their ‘suffering,’ that elicits the God of Heaven’s tears.” [10] He cries for us and He cries with us. He weeps as our loving and devoted Father, especially when the pain we are experiencing could have been avoided or was unnecessary for our growth or development.

We cannot end a discussion regarding any kind of suffering, especially one deemed as “purposeless,” without proclaiming loudly one of the most beautiful, soul-expanding truths contained in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will not only heal all of our pain, but He will also turn even our seemingly purposeless suffering to our benefit if we let Him. Jesus Christ is both the Master Healer and the Master Craftsman. He will wipe away our tears, heal our wounds, and cure our ailments. He will also take our suffering and shape it into something beautiful. He has promised that “... all things wherewith [we] have been afflicted shall work together for [our] good, and to [His] name’s glory” if we commit ourselves to Him as His disciples in word, deed, and thought (D&C 98:3). What may have been unnecessary before His intervention will be transformed so completely that it draws us closer to Him and enables us to become more like Him. No suffering must remain forever designated as purposeless. Through Christ’s transformative power, all can and will eventually be made right and whole.

Dutiful Suffering

Many, if not all, of our righteous desires will require some level of sacrifice and discomfort on our part as we strive to reach our goals and achieve our desires. But we know what we want and we have chosen to pay the price for it. Oftentimes, the work is hard, involving enough pain to be considered a type of suffering, although it may not be in a strictly physical sense. Our suffering could include things such as the pain of discarding a bad (but perhaps beloved) habit [11] or the expending of intense emotional and mental effort in a spiritual wrestle. [12]

Early into my full-time missionary service, I witnessed our mission begin to slowly recognize the need for a subtle but important mindset shift. This shift included moving us out of our current comfort zone through potentially uncomfortable adjustments. These adjustments, however, would help us to become full-purpose, well-rounded, and more effective ministers of Jesus Christ. For context, the mission had experienced a miraculously rapid increase in baptisms the year or so before I entered the field. Prior to this, missionaries sent there were told to work hard and be obedient, but also not to expect to baptize anyone while they were there. Through inspired leadership adjustments and the renewed and reenergized faith of the missionaries, baptism rates skyrocketed. When I arrived on the scene, the expectation was that most missionary companionships could average two or three baptisms a month. The success was nearly intoxicating and it continued through the early months of my time there. But in many areas, we were struggling to retain members or minister to those who no longer worshipped with us. Missionaries began to rely on continued successes in finding, teaching, and baptizing new members to address local leadership’s concerns regarding dwindling attendance records. As a mission, we were more comfortable staying with what we knew had been working for us rather than looking for ways to increase success in other areas of concern.

Around this time, our mission president sent out a study guide in preparation for an upcoming conference and asked all of us to prayerfully complete it before our gathering. As I dutifully worked my way through the activities and exercises, I was stopped short by one of the assigned verses:

“And he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4).

Baffled by this short and seemingly unrelated verse, I turned to my mission trainer who had merely shrugged and suggested it was probably a typo. However, our mission president had a reputation for constantly challenging missionaries to see things from a new perspective, oftentimes pulling fast ones on us to expose our incorrect, preconceived notions. I decided to treat it as a puzzle and attempt to beat him at his own game. I spent hours studying it out, trying to find the connection to our missionary service. The following week, I crafted a very detailed and thorough response in my weekly email.

“Christ was currently in Judaea and needed to go to Galilee. The most direct path was through Samaria. However, if I remember correctly, the Jews did not like the Samaritans, so this course of travel may have seemed inconvenient, even uncomfortable. However, Christ goes through. And not only does he travel through, but He stops along the way. He takes time to teach a group of them, starting with the woman at the well. Afterward, in Galilee, we see many mighty miracles from Christ (healings, feeding the five thousand, walking on water, etc.). In order to get there, Christ had to go through Samaria.
I feel that maybe "finding-teaching-baptizing" is Judaea. If we only find-teach-baptize, we are stuck in Judaea and unable to go see the miracles in Galilee. In order to get to Galilee (perhaps a representation of a stronger branch/ward where miracles are more easily produced and seen), we must go through Samaria ... the place where we are more hesitant to go. We need to make sure we are “retaining-activating” as well! So in this case, retaining-activating is our Samaria.”

Samaria represented a highly uncomfortable path, but also the most direct route to some of the most memorable miracles of Christ’s mortal ministry. I adopted John 4:4 as my mission scripture. Whenever I found myself having to do something I didn’t particularly enjoy but was necessary, I would whisper to myself, “I must needs go through Samaria.” I would remind myself that I was working towards something greater. I would remind myself of my purpose and remind myself that fulfilling it was worth any cost in terms of discomfort. And not only that but there would be opportunities to bless others along the way, in the midst of my struggling forward if I kept my eyes open and my head up to see them.

Blurred Lines Between Purposeless and Dutiful Suffering?

The Turning: The Sisters Who Left is a fascinating podcast about Mother Teresa’s Catholic order, known as the Missionaries of Charity. The series explores many personal experiences and relationships, as well as perceived lessons and themes from within the organization as explained by several women who had eventually defected. In one episode, they described in graphic detail how professed sisters performed self-flagellation nightly as part of their religious duties. Referred to as “The Discipline,” this practice involved beating oneself with a sheath of knotted chords, striking the bear skin on areas such as the thighs or back. Along with this, sisters were expected to make conscientious sacrifices throughout each day, consistently and constantly demonstrating their willingness to suffer as Jesus did during His mortal life. Daily sacrifices could include purposefully sitting in the hottest or coldest part of a room or choosing not to season food if it would make it more pleasurable.

All of this intentional suffering was meant to more fully align the sisters with their spiritual spouse. Mother Teresa reportedly emphasized the Christ they were married to and served with undivided devotion was the Christ on the cross, the crucified Christ, the suffering Christ. In fact, the phrase “crucified spouse” was part of the vows women took upon themselves when they officially entered the order as professed sisters. As described by the former sisters, the Missionaries of Charity sought to share in Christ’s suffering, believing that in doing so they were actively participating in the saving of souls. [13]

While this concept of full partnership with Christ in the saving of souls through physical suffering is not consistent with the theology of the restored gospel, it is important to note elements of “corporal mortification” can be found within The Church of Jesus Christ (COJC) practices such as fasting, abstaining from alcohol, or kneeling to pray. The idea of purification through self-denial, especially in regards to bodily senses or cravings, is a common theme among many Christian denominations. If exercised correctly, it is believed such practices “can elevate and purify a human being, both in body and soul.” [14]

The Missionaries of Charity sincerely believe their practices are rendering a great service to others. So, even if COJC theology does not agree that self-flagellation can bring salvation to others around us, can we claim their suffering is purposeless? The host of the podcast noted her discomfort talking about The Discipline. Throughout the interviews, it was clear the practice was a deeply personal experience for some of the sisters and the host wanted to be respectful of that. [15]

I will not pretend to have any definitive answer to my own query. But I pose the question as a demonstration of how we can begin to engage and wrestle with our perceptions of suffering through applying these various categories and the conceptual framework to real life examples. As we apply these categorizations to our pain, perhaps subsequently prompted internal discussions can help us evaluate where we can make appropriate adjustments or seek the necessary help to move forward.

In the end, I raise my eyes and hands to heaven in praise of God. I thank Him that He is our ultimate judge. I leave it to Him and our Savior, Jesus Christ, to make such determinations. For a proper, just, and merciful determination will only be possible when the sufferer’s heart, personal understanding, and life experience is seen holistically through divine perception.

Persecutory Suffering

As countless named and unnamed individuals and groups throughout history and contemporary times can attest to, our religious devotion can become a source of contention with and abuse from those around us. It is unnecessary for our purposes here to list out examples of persecution, but it is important to recognize the reality of this type of suffering. [16] As Cassler described in her previously referenced article, “We might be ostracized or even oppressed because of our beliefs and behavior by those who believe and behave otherwise… Our choice to pursue a desired goal leads to choices by the unrighteous, which we cannot control, to inflict suffering upon us.” [17]

It may be tempting to combine dutiful suffering with persecutory suffering, to see persecutory suffering as merely a sub-category of dutiful suffering. However, persecutory suffering is presented as a separate and distinct category because it is, by definition, wholly dependent on a religious or spiritual component. Dutiful suffering, while it can be and often is applied with spiritual or eternal goals in mind, is not limited to the religious sphere. Dutiful suffering can be experienced as one is striving to achieve goals or progress in what many would consider purely secular matters. Of course, within the theology of the COJC, it has been revealed “that all things unto [the Lord] are spiritual” and there is no such thing as a purely secular matter (D&C 29:34). Every choice we make, every experience we have has a spiritual component. The world, despite its fallen state, is a sphere where the spiritual and physical and everything in between are so tightly interwoven and interconnected, it is impossible to completely separate any one component from another. However, our mortal and finite minds are often unable to comprehend such interconnection. During our earthly life, conceptual frameworks that describe distinctions and mark out separations can help us as we continue to grow and learn “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10). While such frameworks may not be perfectly reflective of the complex reality of spiritual beings having a mortal experience, they are nevertheless a useful tool for our progression and development.

Natural Suffering

“Adam fell that man might be” (2 Nephi 2:25). The Fall of Adam and Eve set the stage for the difficult conditions of mortal existence. Moments before their expulsion from the garden, the Lord proclaimed the ground would be cursed, bringing forth thorns and thistles, and they would experience sorrow and pain and hard labor (see Genesis 3:16–19). Of interest though, is the phrase “for thy sake” found in the middle of this proclamation. “... cursed is the ground for thy sake,” says the Lord (Genesis 3:17). What initially seems like a sweeping, vengeful punishment for disobedience suddenly takes on a different tone. Lehi, as discussed previously, began to unravel this mystery as he explained the necessity of opposition to The Plan of Salvation (see 2 Nephi 2). The Fall was a fall forward because our eternal progression depended on our ability to leave God’s presence and be tested and tried in conditions appropriate for shaping us into God’s image. [18]

Eugene England attempted to explain further:

“The weeping God of Mormon finitism whom I am trying to describe creates a world for soul-building, which can only succeed if it includes exposure of our souls to the effects of natural law, as well as maximum latitude for us to exercise our agency as we learn how the universe works. Evil is a natural condition of such a world, not because God creates evil for soul-building, but because evil inevitably results from agency freed to grapple with natural law in this mortal world.” [19]

For us to be proven, “to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]”, the Lord sends us to a testing ground filled within opposition according to these natural laws (Abraham 3:25). The fallen world exposes us to pain, disease, natural disasters, consequences of our and others’ actions, etc. And through these experiences, we can learn. We can grow. We can become stronger. We can deepen our understanding of God’s plan and His love. We can, but we might not. It all depends on how we use our agency and choose to respond to our conditions, circumstances, and surroundings. And while all of these natural conditions serve the grand purpose of soul-building, the fifth and final type of suffering moves us from the development stage into the sanctification process.

Sacred (or Abrahamic) Suffering

This type of suffering is the pinnacle of our framework. Let us review Cassler’s description of an Abrahamic sacrifice (reminding ourselves we previously established we can substitute the word “suffering” for “sacrifice” as we are contemplating our framework):

“… the test of the Abrahamic sacrifice is not a test of reason. It is a test of faith--indeed, it is the ultimate test of faith. Remember for a moment what an Abrahamic sacrifice represents. An Abrahamic sacrifice involves at least three elements found in the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac: 1) God makes plain to Abraham a law (“thou shalt not kill” [D&C 132:36]); 2) God then requires Abraham, an innocent and righteous man, to depart from that law (“sacrifice Isaac”), and the choice to depart therefrom would seem to erase the joy that naturally follows from the law; and 3) God provides a means of escape from the departure from the law (the angel sent to stay his hand and the ram in the thicket; Genesis 22:11–13), which allows renewed joy from being able to live under the law once more.” [20]

This is the suffering of sanctification. Joseph Smith taught “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” [21] Therefore, I believe each of us will be asked to participate in our own personal Abrahamic suffering at some point during our journey of discipleship. The Lord will have a tested, tried, and proven people.

For each of us, our particular test—this ultimate, sacred suffering—will be individualized and personalized to our needs. The Lord knows us. He knows what we need to do, what we need to give up, what we need to change to become like Him. His knowledge of us is of an intimate level of understanding which is beyond mortal comprehension. And we will find that if we are to be heirs with Christ, if we are to receive all the Father has … we will be asked to pay a significant price (see D&C 76:51–60).

Perhaps our suffering will involve the death of a beloved companion well before we felt we were ready or capable of handling such a loss. Maybe our ultimate suffering will be living the gospel despite such a lifestyle preventing us from pursuing what we feel may be more aligned with who we believe we are or what we believe we most want to do. For some of us, the Abrahamic sacrifice may take the form of the unrealized, righteous yearnings of our souls.

During an intimately small Q&A session held in conjunction with the release of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s 2012 book entitled For Times of Trouble, a woman in the audience expressed her utter anguish as she pressed Elder Holland to tell her why she seemed to be denied the righteous blessings she was seeking after. She was a faithful, diligent, and devoted disciple of Christ. She did all that was asked of her and yet like so many righteous, Biblical women before her, she was not being blessed with the children she so deeply desired. Elder Holland compassionately but firmly responded:

“You’re falling into a trap that I want everybody … to avoid. And that is ‘God must not love me if I suffer. I must be being penalized if I suffer. I must be doing something wrong … because it is just one trial after another.’ Can you see the danger of thinking that way? [holds up scriptures] Every person I know in this book suffers. [This may] not be the most encouraging thought you’ve ever had in your life … the more righteous you are, the more suffering there is… What we cannot say is that when we suffer God does not love us. We have to say, ‘Thy will be done’ … Who suffered more than anyone in time or eternity that we know of, whatever the plan was? Who suffers more than is speakable, than is expressable, than is comprehendible, than is absorbable, than is graspable? The Living Son of the Living God, the only perfect child who ever lived. Don’t EVER, please, please, do not fall victim to the temptation to say, ‘Well, I guess God doesn’t love me.’ Because what on earth would that say about His love for His Only Begotten Son?” [22]

As Elder Holland explained, even God’s beloved Son did not escape suffering. In fact, He came to earth precisely to suffer, to pay the price for our sins. In our striving to be like Him, we must recognize that we also came to earth to suffer, though obviously not on the same plane as our Savior. We came to Earth to be refined through the refiner’s fire. [23] While we do not suffer to save others from their sins, we can take heart from the fact that as we courageously and faithfully face our suffering, we are demonstrating Christlike behavior.

Therefore, What?

The rest is up to you, dear reader. My purpose was to lay out a possible framework for understanding suffering during our mortal journey. Now it is up to you to decide if this framework can work for you. You can take it or leave it. You are welcome to adjust, rearrange, or reformulate it; you can change out definitions or examples or add in your own experiences and insights; in short, you can do anything you want to make it your own. As much work as goes into the compilation and creation of a framework, it is meant to be a starting point rather than a conclusion. I wanted to synthesize a variety of loosely connected ideas, thoughts, and examples I had collected over the years associated with the concept of suffering. And now that I have … the real work begins. The work of finding out how to apply these ideas in my daily life in a way that brings me closer to God and helps me to successfully navigate an increasingly difficult and sorrow-filled world.

On a recent podcast, Dr. Lili De Hoyos Anderson shared her thoughts on suffering:

“The sad thing is we waste our suffering. We waste our suffering. We’re going to suffer [laughter]. There’s no way out of this life without tribulation … so really juice that thing, you know? Wring it out and learn and grow because we’re gonna suffer…There is always something to learn from difficulty. That is the design of the plan, this perfect plan. There’s always something to learn. There is a way for us to grow and to become and to be refined … You know, you don’t have to grow during your trials. But the Lord loves you and He knows who you are. And if you don’t learn what you could learn in this trial this time … He’s gonna give you another chance [laughter]. Learn it the first time, so at least the next time you can go on to lesson two!” [24]

In the spirit of her insights, I humbly share this framework with you. I hope it will help us not waste our suffering any further!


[1] For a description of eternal life and additional quotes related to our future prospects of eternal joy, consider consulting the 1988 October General Conference address by Wm. Grant Bangerter entitled “The Quality of Eternal Life” which can be found online at --- [Back to manuscript].

[2] Reeder, Jennifer and Kate Holbrook (ed.), At The Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2017), 214–215. Available at --- [Back to manuscript].

[3] Words of Joseph Smith written to someone interested in the Church as quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2011), 268. [Back to manuscript].

[4] For an entire address on the subject of opposition, please see “Opposition in All Things” by Dallin H. Oaks from the April 2016 General Conference, found online at: --- [Back to manuscript].

[5] Reeder, Jennifer and Kate Holbrook (ed.), At The Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2017), 215. [Back to manuscript].

[6] Ibid. [Back to manuscript].

[7] Anonymous quote used with permission from the original speaker.
[Back to manuscript].

[8] Cassler, V.H. (2010) “Polygamy”, SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2010),, accessed 22 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[9] Harvard Health Publishing. “What causes depression?” (January 2022), online article at accessed on 24 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[10] Givens, Terryl and Fiona Givens. The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life (Melrose Park, IL: Lakebook Manufacturing, Inc., 2012), 25. [Back to manuscript].

[11] While not all bad habits constitute an addiction, I have found the COJC’s Addiction Recovery Program, in particular the 12-step regime, to be a powerful tool and study guide for overcoming anything which we feel may be holding us back from achieving our full potential. The free guidebook can be found here: --- [Back to manuscript].

[12] Dew, Sherri. “Will You Engage in the Wrestle?” (May 2016) Brigham Young University - Idaho Devotional accessed at on 24 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[13] The Turning: The Sisters Who Left from iHeartPodcasts and Rococo Punch, “Episode 2: Love, To Be Real, Has To Hurt,” (18 May 2021), accessed on 23 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[14] Giesler, (Rev.) Michael E. The Catholic Social Science Review 10 (2005): 149-172 accessed from on 24 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[15] The Turning: The Sisters Who Left from iHeartPodcasts and Rococo Punch, “Episode 2: Love, To Be Real, Has To Hurt,” (18 May 2021), accessed on 23 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[16] For some thoughts and insights into the topic of persecution, consider referring to SquareTwo’s Spring 2019 Readers’ Puzzle “Preparing for Persecution” found at
--- [Back to manuscript].

[17] Cassler, V.H. (2010) “Polygamy”, SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2010),, accessed 22 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[18] For more information on The Fall, please see “Fall of Adam and Eve” within Gospel Topics found at --- [Back to manuscript].

[19] England, Eugene. “The Weeping God of Mormonism”, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 63-80 [Back to manuscript].

[20] Cassler, V.H. (2010) “Polygamy”, SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2010),, accessed 22 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[21] “Sacrifice” in Guide to the Scriptures found at --- [Back to manuscript].

[22] Holland, Jeffrey R. For Times of Trouble (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2012), Q&A video segment found on complimentary DVD. Transcription of quote as recorded by author (A. Alley) on 22 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

[23] --- [Back to manuscript].

[24] Follow Him: A Come, Follow Me Podcast, hosted by Hank Smith and John Bytheway, “Genesis 37-41: Dr. Lili De Hoyos Anderson, Part II” (6 March 2022), accessed at on 22 March 2022. [Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: Alley, Ashley (2022) "A Framework for Suffering," SquareTwo, Vol. 15 No. 1 (Spring 2022),, accessed <give access date>.

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