No matter how much God loves us, and no matter how often He forgives us, He cannot always spare us from the natural consequences of our actions (see Alma 42).
In other words, our sins bear fruit.
In fact, sins have a way of sprouting legs and getting around, causing unintended consequences.
And when, after having sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, we are left holding the bitterness of our own choices, we turn to God as if he were the cause of our pain and cry out, "Why?"
Well, sometimes our weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are not a reaction to God punishing us, but the remorse of self-inflicted wounds.
Other times, our weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are caused by the actions of other people, or the cruel hand of nature.
But whether at our own hand, our neighbor's, or as a consequence of the laws of cause-and-effect . . .
. . . God is not the source of suffering.
Who's Accusing Who?
So, if God is not keeping score, who is?
Who are our accusers?
1. Introducing Accuser #1 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation . . . [how will salvation be defined here?] for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
Who's the "accuser of our brethren" that accuses them all the time before God?
That's right: Satan!
Salvation "is come" when the accuser is cast down.
Why is that?
2. Introducing Accuser #2
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Jesus a woman taken in adultery . . . tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
But Jesus . . . said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. . . .
And . . . when Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Who are the people who accuse the Lord and the woman taken in adultry?
That's right:Other people!
3. Introducing Accuser #3
The worst accuser of them all is . . . ourselves!
Joseph Smith said:
“A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner . . . ."
Let that sink in. God is not a Jesuit priest keeping score as we hang on the rack. We torture ourselves.
"Hence the saying, 'They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.' The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.”
(Teachings of the President of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), p. 224).
Guess Who is NOT an Accuser?
Isn't it ironic that the ONE PERSON who is not our accuser is God.
So why do we sometimes paint him as a father taking a belt to his disobedient children?
I guess when there is so much pain and suffering in this world it is natural to apportion some of the blame to God, the way a student might blame a teacher for a poor mark.
It hurts to show up for our final exam after having ignored what the teacher taught all year, skipping class to sip root beer floats down at the corner drugstore with our beau, and now taking a timed-test and realizing we are woefully unprepared, holding our No. 2 pencil in abject misery, knowing we have squandered a semester of learning and now we're going to fail and flunk out of college and when Mom and Dad find out, who paid our tuition and gave us pocket money for all those root beer floats . . .
. . . there's going to be hell to pay.
All About Accusers
Like choosing a favorite ice cream, it is difficult choosing which of Joseph Smith's teachings is my favorite.
But this one makes the Top Ten List:
"If you have no accuser you will enter heaven."
That's . . . simple. So where does God fit into all of this, Joseph?
"If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you."
Okay. So you're saying if Billy doesn't run to God and complain that Bobby gave him a wedgie, then . . .
"If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you."
But if I am justified in accusing someone who has injured me, why would I choose not to?
"If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins."
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:445, 7 November 1841.)
Where I Kick a Mailman
If I assault my mailman, who is the victim?
There are always at least two: the man I injured AND the Lord who suffered the injury for the mailman.
In addition to these two direct victims, there may also be other indirect victims, such as the mailman's wife who has suffered the loss of consortium with her husband as a consequence of me kicking him in the groin.
Anyway, let's say I feel remorse afterwards and want to repent for assaulting the poor mailman (even if he does always deliver my mail to the neighbor).
I go to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. We know the Lord is quick to forgive. And he says:
First be reconciled to thy brother [the mailman] and then come [back].
Well, I wasn't expecting that! But, I go to the Post Office and search for the mailman.
I tearfully apologize for beating him up and ask him to forgive me, and offer to pay all his medical expenses, plus a little extra, and to name my firstborn son after the Post Master General.
And the mailman, who is the victim in all this, is justifiably angry with me.
His eyes burn hot. "Forget it," he says. "I hope you rot in hell: it's what you deserve."
Well. That didn't go as planned.
I go back to the Lord. "Sorry Lord, I gave it the old college try. He won't forgive me."
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
What the mailman did not recognize when he sent me away was that he was consigning us both to hell.