Elder Orson F. Whitney said: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, … knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 304).
The above quotes are the doctrinal portion of this Mormon Monday post. What follows is going to be me sharing thoughts based on my understanding of my limited knowledge, so it really should not be taken as church doctrine. Now that we are all clear on that, let us continue . . .
On a serious note, I have always struggled with the story of Job. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that the Lord would throw a guy under the bus just to prove a point . . .
Indeed, why would He do that? And the back and forth banter between Satan and the Lord just seems . . . not terribly consistent with my understanding of the two. So I’ll tell you how I make sense of it all. Please remember I am not claiming in any way to be some Biblical scholar, and can only share with you what I understand based on the limited knowledge I have. So, here goes:
As a literary work, the Book of Job is considered by many to be one of the greatest dramatic poems, which has caused some to think it is purely fiction; but Ezekiel 14:14, 20 seems to refute that, so I am going based on the belief that Job was, indeed, a real person and not just some mythological literary device.
In the March 1982 Ensign, L. La Mar Adams wrote:
Although we accept the idea that Job was an actual ancient prophet, that does not answer the authorship question. Did Job write the book himself in third person point of view, as John did in the New Testament, or did a later prophet or scribe abridge his works?
The book’s date of origin could give clues about its authorship, but scholars don’t agree on the dating either. Some scholars believe that the events come from the patriarchal age. Others date the book as late as the fourth and third century b.c. Others date Job in Solomon’s era. 5
If the Elihu referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 84:9 [D&C 84:9] is the same Elihu in Job 32, the date for the book of Job would be approximately the second century prior to Moses (about 1600 b.c.). If this assumption and date are accurate, it is possible that the book was a record Moses brought from Midian, the homeland of his father-in-law Jethro.
Ancient Jewish tradition claims that the book of Job was written by Moses. The Talmud Sota V. 8 and Baba Bathra 14b and 15a say he wrote it before writing the Pentateuch (five books of Moses). 6 When the Talmud states that a given man “wrote” a certain book, however, it could just as likely mean that he merely copied or abridged it. For example, Baba Bathra 15a states, “Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.” Wrote is used in the sense of edited or compiled. Thus, the Talmud postulates, Moses may have copied or abridged the writings of Job.
Some writers have suggested that Job was a contemporary of Amram and Jochebed, parents of Moses. Eusebius, one of the most learned fathers of the early church, about a.d. 300, believed that Job lived about 1800 b.c. If these dates for Job and Elihu are correct (and we can’t be certain they are), they would suggest that the book of Job originated one or more centuries prior to the time of Moses, or in other words some time during the four generations between the days of Abraham and the days of Moses.
Stay with me, because I’m afraid my thoughts are a little jumbled, but I’ll pull it all together in a minute. I hope.
In my life I have heard so many people give Satan so much, perhaps too much, credit. “We were going to the temple and the radiator hose blew, ( or a tire blew, or pick your automotive calamity ) and I just know it was Satan trying to keep us from getting there,” or “I was supposed to give this lesson and I got the worst cold and didn’t think I would make it here to give the lesson, and I just know it was Satan’s way of trying to stop me from serving the Lord . . .” You get the picture, I hope. Personally, I do not believe Satan spends much, if any time, going around cutting radiator hoses, puncturing tires, or spreading the rhinovirus.
But if people today are willing to give Satan that kind of credit, is it not possible that the author of Job, even if it was Job himself, was willing to do the same (especially given the idea that a widespread belief of the time said all suffering proceeds from sin, and Satan, of course, is behind all sin)? Add that to the fact that I suspect the Lord has better things to do than play a game of one-upmanship with he who has already been cast out, and the fact that the Book of Job is a great literary work, not just some randomly jotted account of one man’s travails, and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody took a little poetic license with the details in order to get a message across.
That, however, does not change either the message or the value of the Book of Job.
Again from L. La Mar Adams:
The controversy surrounding the theme is not about what question the book of Job poses, but what the answer to that question is. Nearly all biblical scholars agree that the book was written to address a problem that has perplexed mankind from the beginning: “Why do the righteous suffer, and how can their suffering be reconciled with an all-powerful and infinitely holy God?” 7
Although they agree on the question, biblical scholars have a heyday postulating what the answer could be. Some claim that it is portrayed in the explicit faith that one should have in God as expressed in Job 13:15—“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Others state that the book presents the patience one should possess in suffering when the reason is not always evident. One biblical scholar has stated that the main aim of the book of Job is to “controvert the dominant theory that all suffering proceeds from sin.” 8 All of these are important principles to be gained from the book of Job.
I don’t believe God sits in his Heaven causing bad things to happen to people. I do, however, believe he allows them to happen, often as a result of natural consequences to our choices and actions but not always, because it is through our trials that we stretch and grow. The Book of Job helps us keep things in perspective. It helps us realize things could always be worse, and that with divine help we can endure it all anyway. It shows us that we are not to blame for all the bad that befalls us. It gives us a goal to shoot for in terms of faith and patience. It reminds us that after the rain the sun will shine again, we will be blessed for enduring our trials well. It also reminds us that God is mindful of us always. Just because He is not stopping the difficulties from happening does not mean he has forgotten us, or doesn’t care about us. These are all valuable lessons from Job, and I’m sure there are more.
Now, I’m sure there are those of you out there who are more knowledgeable than I on this subject, and I would love to hear your insight and ideas, so please feel free to share in the comments section.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the New hopes you are not yet as Job.