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We are taught that we left our Heavenly Parents and came into this life so we could learn from our experiences here. From LDS retellings of the Fall, we learn that human beings needed to be separated from God—needed, even, to transgress God's commandments—in order to know good and evil, to progress, and to experience joy (2 Ne. 2:22-25; Moses 5:11).

This teaching invites us to explore and take risks, to learn from mistakes instead of fearing them. It emboldens us to live independently, taking our own experience as our guide. We are cautioned, though, that we will reap the consequences of our choices, for good or for ill. We live in a dangerous world, not in Eden. God teaches principles to steer us away from danger; but because God leaves us to govern ourselves, our learning may come by painful trial and error.

Many Latter-day Saints, among them Joseph Smith, have found comfort in the concept that we learn and grow from adversity (D&C 122:5-7). Not all suffering, though, can be credibly explained as a learning experience. Pointless or horrific suffering is an evil we confront as a result of living in a fallen world, an evil that God desires to overcome. Where we are helpless to relieve suffering, Christ challenges us to follow his example of sheer, perfect empathy by opening ourselves to share others' pains and griefs (Alma 7:11-12; Mosiah 18:8-9).

Related Topics:
The Fall    

B. H. Roberts: Mere innocence . . . is but a negative sort of virtue. A virtue that is colorless, never quite sure of itself, always more or less uncertain, because untried. Such a virtue—if mere absence of vice may be called virtue—would be unproductive of that "joy" the attainment of which is set forth in the Book of Mormon as the purpose of man's existence. . . . The "joy" contemplated in the Book of Mormon passage is to arise out of man's rough and thorough knowledge of evil, of sin; through knowing misery, sorrow, pain and suffering; through seeing good and evil locked in awful conflict; through a consciousness of having chosen in that conflict the better part, the good; and not only in having chosen it, but in having wedded it by eternal compact . . . The strength that comes from experience; from having sounded the depths of the soul; from experiencing all the emotions of which mind is susceptible; from testing all the qualities and strength of the intellect.
Seventy's Course in Theology (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907-1912), 2:50-51

Harold B. Lee: The decision as to whether or not a thing is right or wrong must be left to the judgment of your own conscience, plus an understanding that comes with learning and experience. At best in all such matters the Church can teach you correct principles and you must learn to govern yourselves.

Decisions for Successful Living (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973), 151-52

Neal A. Maxwell: Surely it was not only Jesus who needed to know "according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12). All the rest of us are expected to succor others at our lower level. But can we have real empathy without experiencing some adversity? Can we expect to be total strangers to suffering if we expect to be fully understanding friends to others in their affliction?

That Ye May Believe (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1992), 107

Dallin H. Oaks: Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don’t receive it.

“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, October 1994, 11

Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen: Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we may learn from our experience without being condemned by our experience.

The Belonging Heart (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 77

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.