On God’s Will and On Death’s Timing
By Ken K. Gourdin
To someone at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion who questioned whether God ever causes anyone’s death (another poster wrote, “Ask Onan” (see Genesis 38:8-10)), I responded:
I don’t understand the interplay between what God causes, what He allows, what He intervenes to prevent (or not), and so on. If God were to intervene in every circumstance we might wish Him to do so, however, I do believe that that would take away agency, and agency, in large part, is what Christ died for. (Yes, we could get back into the whole debate I prompted a few months ago when I posited that Christ died for agency and Five Solas/Erik posted, “But I thought the LDS believe Christ died for sins,” and so on: But to me, that’s rather a “Po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh, to-may-toh, to-mah-toh” question. )
There is a multitude of reasons why anything bad, including death and especially a death which is considered untimely, might happen. Such reasons may include (but are not necessarily limited to) the following:
- Man’s inhumanity to man
- Living in a fallen world with mortal bodies which are subject to such things as pneumonia and (in my sister-in-law’s case) cancer and so on;
- “Hap crappening,” and so on.
The only thing of which I am relatively certain (as certain of as any mortal, with limited powers of perception, cognition, reasoning, and so on, can be) is that whether a death is “timely” or not (is there such a thing? no matter how long we/they live, it’s still not easy to part with loved ones), a la Romans 8:28, no earthly condition or decision, no matter how bad the consequences resulting from anyone’s particular use of agency might be, ever will frustrate the Lord’s ultimate purposes.
When another poster replied that God never intervenes in the timing of anyone’s death, I responded:
I respect your opinion to the contrary, but I think it would be more accurate to say, perhaps, that God doesn’t necessarily intervene in the timing of everyone’s death. The Lord, after reassuring Joseph Smith that He was intimately aware of Joseph’s trials, told Joseph Smith that the bounds of his enemies “[were] set. They [could not] pass,” going on to tell him, “Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever” (Doctrine & Covenants 122:9).
When another poster posited that God grant the request of someone with a terminal illness to be released from mortality, I responded:
That’s exactly what happened to my sister-in-law: Once it became clear that there was no hope she would be cured, the family prayed for her release from mortality. While I admit that I have no reason, other than the fact that her release was granted, for believing that those prayers were answered, I am completely certain that, with Paul, she “fought the good fight, finished her course, and kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
For more on my sister-in-law’s passing see here: