The Omniscience of an Omnipotent and Omniloving God
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 6-27)
Few doctrines, save those pertaining to the reality of the existence of God, are more basic than the truth that God is omniscient. "O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it." (2 Nephi. 9:20.) Unfortunately, this truth is sometimes only passively assented to by individuals who avoid exploring it and coming to understand its implications. Later on, such believers sometimes have difficulty with the implications of this core doctrine-which connects with other powerful doctrines such as the foreknowledge of God, foreordination, and foreassignment. The all-loving God who shapes our individual growing and sanctifying experiences--and then sees us through them--could not do so if He were not omniscient.
The word omniscient has, at times, been used carelessly, unnecessarily blurring our understanding of this very fundamental attribute of God. We read in the Prophet Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith that God is perfect in the attributes of divinity, and one of these is knowledge: ". . . seeing that without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him." (Lecture 4, paragraph 11.)
Joseph Smith also declared, "God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient." (Lecture 2, paragraph 2.)
God, who knows the beginning from the end, knows, therefore, all that is in between. He could not safely see us through our individual allotments of "all these things" that shall give us experience if He did not first know "all things."
Below the scripture that declares that God knows "all things" there is no footnote reading "except that God is a little weak in geophysics"! We do not worship a God who simply forecasts a generally greater frequency of earthquakes in the last days before the second coming of His Son; He knows precisely when and where all these will occur. God has even prophesied that the Mount of Olives will cleave in twain at a precise latter-day time as Israel is besieged. (Zechariah 14:4.)
There are no qualifiers, only flat and absolute assertions of the omniscience of God such as these: "The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all." (1 Chronicles 28:9.) The psalmist said that the Lord's "understanding is infinite." (Psalm 147:5.) "Now we are sure that thou knowest all things." (John 16:30.) "The Lord knoweth all things which are to come." (Words of Mormon 1:7.)
The Lord could not know all things that are to come if He did not know all things that are past as well as all things that are present. Alma described God's "foreknowledge" of all things and said also that God "comprehendeth all things." (Alma 13:3; 26:35.) Indicating that omniscience is a hallmark of divinity, Helaman wrote, "Except he was a God he could not know of all things." (Helaman 9:41.)
The Lord Himself said that He "knoweth all things, for all things are present" before Him. (D&C 38:2.) We read, too, that "all things are present with me, for I know them all." (Moses 1:6.) Therefore, God's omniscience is not solely a function of prolonged and discerning familiarity with us-but of the stunning reality that the past and present and future are part of an "eternal now" with God! (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:597.)
Most, if not all of us, have been momentarily wrenched by the sound of a train whistle spilling into the night air-and we have been inexplicably subdued by the mix of memories and feelings it evokes. Perhaps, too, we have been beckoned by a lighted cottage across a snow-covered meadow at dusk. Or we have heard the distant but drawing soft laughter of children at play. Or we have been tugged at by the strains of singing from a nearby church. In such moments we have felt a deep yearning, as if we were outside something to which we belonged and of which we so much wanted again to be a part. The impact has been brief, to be sure-but real!
There are spiritual equivalents of these moments. They seem to occur most often when time touches eternity. In these moments, we feel a longing closeness-but we are still separate. And the partition that produces this paradox is something we call the veil.
We define the veil as the border between mortality and eternity; it is also a film of forgetting that covers the memories of earlier experiences. This forgetfulness will be lifted one day, and on that day we will see forever, rather than "through a glass, darkly." (1 Corinthians 13:12.)
However, there are poignant reminders of the veil even now, adding to our sense of being close but still outside. In our deepest prayers, when the agency of man encounters the omniscience of God, we sometimes sense how provincial our petitions really are. We perceive that there are more good answers than we have good questions, and that we have been taught more than we can tell, for the language used is not that which tongue can transmit.
We experience this same close separateness when a baby is born, and also as we wait with those who are dying-for then we brush against the veil, as goodbyes and greetings are said almost within earshot of each other. In such moments, this resonance with realities on the other side of the veil is so real that it can be explained in only one way.
No wonder the Savior said that His doctrines would be recognized by His sheep, that we would know His voice, that we would follow Him. (John 10:14.) We do not, therefore, follow strangers. Deep within us, His doctrines do strike the promised chord of familiarity and underscore our true identity. Our sense of belonging grows in spite of our sense of separateness, for His teachings stir our souls, awakening feelings within us that have somehow survived underneath the encrusting experiences of mortality.
This inner serenity that the believer knows as he brushes against the veil is cousin to certitude. The peace it brings surpasses our understanding and certainly our capacity to explain. It is a serenity that stands in stark contrast to the restlessness of the world in which, said Isaiah, the wicked are like the pounding and troubled sea, which cannot rest. (Isaiah 57:20.)
But mercifully the veil is there! It is fixed by the wisdom of God for our good. It is no use our being irritated with the Lord over that reality, for it is clearly a condition to which we agreed so long ago. Even when the veil is parted briefly, it will be on His terms, not ours. Such partings of the veil happen, of course, but in private settings and often with instructions or needed reassurances to expedite God's work and always to reward faith-not to moot faith.
Without the veil, for instance, we would lose that precious insulation which keeps us from a profound and disabling homesickness that would interfere with our mortal probation and maturation. Without the veil, our brief, mortal walk in a darkening world would lose its meaning, for one would scarcely carry the flashlight of faith at noonday and in the presence of the Light of the world!
Without the veil, we could not experience the gospel of work and the sweat of our brow. If we had the security of having already entered into God's rest, certain things would be unneeded; Adam and Eve did not carry social security cards in the Garden of Eden!
And how could we learn about obedience if we were shielded from the consequences of our disobedience?
Nor could we choose for ourselves in His holy presence among alternatives that do not there exist, for God's court is filled with those who have both chosen and overcome-whose company we do not yet deserve.
Fortunately, the veil keeps the first, second, and third estates separate, hence our sense of separateness. The veil insures the avoidance of having things "compound in one"-to our everlasting detriment. (2 Nephi 2:11.) We are cocooned, as it were, in order that we might truly choose. Once, long ago, we chose to come to this very setting where we could choose. It was an irrevocable choice! And the veil is the guarantor that that choice will be honored.
Eventually, the veil that now encloses us will be no more. Neither will time. (D&C 84:100.) Time is clearly not our natural dimension. Thus it is that we are never really at home in time. Alternately, we find ourselves wishing to hasten the passage of time or to hold back the dawn. We can do neither, of course, but whereas the fish is at home in water, we are clearly not at home in time-because we belong to eternity. Time, as much as any one thing, whispers to us that we are strangers here.
Thus the veil stands-not forever to shut us out, but as a mark of God's tutoring love for us. Any brush against it produces a feeling of "not yet," but also faint whispers of anticipation when these words will be heard by the faithful: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
The veil (which is both the film of forgetting and the border between mortality and eternity) will, one day, be shown to have been a succoring screen for us earthlings. Were it possible to breach it on the wrong terms, we would see and experience, before we are ready, things that would moot much of the value in this mortal experience. Remember, we are being proven as to our faith and fitted for strenuous chores to be done elsewhere. To change the nature of this necessary experience by premature commingling would mean that we would not be suitable company for those we yearn to be with, nor would we be ready to go where they are ready to go, nor to do the things that they have painstakingly learned to do. There is no other way!
Since-unlike for us enclosed by the veil-things are, for God, one "eternal now," it is to be remembered that for God to foresee is not to cause or even to desire a particular occurrence-but it is to take that occurrence into account beforehand, so that divine reckoning folds it into the unfolding purposes of God. Thus, for those with faith it can be said as by Paul, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28.)
The actual determinations, however, are made by us mortals using our agency as to this or that course of action. For these determinations and decisions we are accountable. The essence of agency will have been present (and later at the judgment will be shown to have been provably present); otherwise the justice of our omniscient Father in heaven (another perfected attribute) would not have obtained. (Alma 12:15.)
Our agency is preserved, however, by the fact that as we approach a given moment we do not know what our response will be. Meanwhile, God has foreseen what we will do and has taken our decision into account (in composite with all others), so that His purposes are not frustrated.
It is unfortunate that our concerns do not center more upon the correctness of what we do in a given moment-and less upon whether or not God's having foreseen what we would do then somehow compromises our agency. It is equally regrettable that our souls should be troubled at all because we cannot figure out "how" God does it, when it has been made so abundantly clear and on so many occasions that He does do it. In any event, this great reality of omniscience will happily operate even if it is for us an unexplained reality!
In so many ways, we rely upon rather than resent the predictability of other things in this second estate. Each spring planting, each sunrise, each beat of the heart, each contraction and expansion of the lungs-to these we scarcely give a thought. These are assumed by us to be "built in" features of our lives. Think of the chaos if it were not so!
Likewise, the life spans of planets, as well as prophets, are known to God; the former pass away by his word. (Moses 1:35.) To a suffering Joseph Smith, God said, "Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less." (D&C 122:9.) Such a promise could not have been made if all other things that bore upon the life span of Joseph Smith were not also known beforehand to God-in perfectness. God can see into the hearts of the malcontent even before they form a mob, just as He saw where civil rebellion in America was to begin. (D&C 87:1; 130:12.)
Rather than questioning God's foreseeing of "all these things" in each of our lives, this perfected quality in God should fill us with wonderment and send us to our knees. Worshipful acknowledgment of an omniscient God will cause us to cooperate in the stretching of our souls.
On a much lower level of significance, it is good that Mozart's contemporaries did not restrain him from performing and composing as a lad until they could understand why he was such a prodigy.
We are blessed by unexplained mortal genius as it flowers; why not accept also that humankind is blessed in far, far greater ways by the genius of God!
There is simply no way to reconcile the doctrine of the omniscience of God with the notion of a god who is something less than that.
Unfortunately, the omniscience of God in the minds of some well-meaning Latter-day Saints has been qualified by the concept of "eternal progression." Some have wrongly assumed God's progress is related to His acquisition of additional knowledge. In fact, God's "eternal progression" (if one is nevertheless determined to apply these two words to God) is related to the successful execution, again and again, of His plan of salvation to redeem billions of His children throughout His many creations. President Brigham Young said there are "millions of earths" like this one. (JD 11:41.) Of this marvelous recurring and redemptive process that rolls forth on such a vast scale, God has said that "his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:2.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith observed that God's progression "is in building worlds and bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, . . . not his intelligence or knowledge, or virtue, or wisdom, or love, for these things are, as the scriptures teach, in a state of perfection." (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1947, 1:169.)
Since we cannot fully comprehend any one of God's perfected attributes, we surely cannot comprehend them in the aggregate. But we can have faith in Him and in His attributes as He has described these to us. This is what He asks of us. We may say that this is a lot to ask, but anything less will not do.
Those who try to qualify God's omniscience fail to understand that He has no need to avoid ennui by learning new things. Because God's love is also perfect, there is, in fact, divine delight in that "one eternal round" which, to us, seems to be all routine and repetition. God derives His great and continuing joy and glory by increasing and advancing His creations, and not from new intellectual experiences.
There is a vast difference, therefore, between an omniscient God and the false notion that God is on some sort of post-doctoral fellowship, still searching for additional key truths and vital data. Were the latter so, God might, at any moment, discover some new truth not previously known to Him that would restructure, diminish, or undercut certain truths previously known by Him. Prophecy would be mere prediction. Planning assumptions pertaining to our redemption would need to be revised. Fortunately for us, however, His plan of salvation is constantly underway-not constantly under revision.
An omniscient God foresaw the modern establishment of Israel as a separate nation-state. Historians have since acclaimed the remarkableness of how the United Nations voted to establish the state of Israel with the support of both the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a narrow political space window through which necessary events quickly passed, leading to the official establishment of Judah once again in the Holy Land. But it was a space window that was soon closed.
The Lord foresaw the establishment two centuries ago of precious but imperative constitutional freedoms in the land of America, the host nation for His kingdom in the last days-the place where many of the events connected with the restoration could occur, and where He could establish His church without its light being snuffed out by a state religion or paganism. But a god who was not omniscient might have attempted to establish his restored church in beleaguered Lithuania.
The Lord's determination of timing is also tied to His omniscience. But even mortals can see through the glass of history "darkly." The readers, for instance, of Barbara Tuchman's highly researched book about the fourteenth century (A Distant Mirror) will note how that century included several plagues of the black death (in just one of these visitations death took one in three of all mortals living between Iceland and India); the interminable "hundred years" war; and peasant revolts that racked much of Europe. Hardly the century or the setting that the Restoration would require! It would also have been a century without printing presses-no time to bring forth the Book of Mormon!
A god who did not perfectly know his prophets-and indeed all his spirit children-might have selected a prominent nineteenth-century clergyman to receive the first vision, only to find later that the clergyman was bent on taming the truths he thus learned. In order to make these truths more acceptable to his fellow clergymen, such an individual might have excised such words as "none" and "all" from the message of that theophany in the grove in which the Lord described churches at the time of the restoration. (Joseph Smith-History 1:19.) The carefully and divinely selected receiver of that marvelous manifestation, Joseph Smith, had to suffer and die for repeating those divinely declared words. God's martyrs are not permitted great concern over public relations, for truth is a relentless taskmaster.
A god who is not omniscient would have had difficulty predicting two millennia beforehand the troubled conditions (including the ominous, multinational military convergence) that will occur in the Middle East in connection with the second coming of the Savior. (Zechariah 14:2; Revelation 11.) If He did not know all the factors and variables beforehand, those prophecies and all prophecies would come to naught. These final scenes of some of the difficulties in the last days, for all someone less than omniscient might know, could well end up being centered not in the Middle East, but on the island of Luzon.
If God did not know our predilections and our choices even before we made them, and had not planned accordingly, we might well have ended up having Joseph Smith born in Manchuria and the Book of Mormon plates buried in Belgium! A less than omniscient god would be more like the earnest but fumbling Caesars who dot the landscape of history than a living, all-knowing God.
Though His plans are known to Him, there is no premature exposure of the Lord's plans. This could bring unnecessary persecution upon an unready Lord's people. Further, a premature showing of His power and strength in support of His Saints could cut short the trial of our faith.
Where God has immersed His people for His purposes in larger events, we do not, therefore, always see secular history that confirms spiritual happenings. (See D&C 121:12.) For instance, there appears to be no conclusive secular record of Moses and the Exodus in Egyptian history. There is even some disagreement among scholars about which pharaoh was the pharaoh of the Exodus.
Human history has its limitations, but obscurity its usefulness.
Traditional discussions of omniscience ignore the fact that this attribute is much more than God's simply noticing and observing everything as it happens. It is a remarkable thing for God to notice every sparrow that falls. But God could be fully noticing and aware-and yet still be surprised, along with the rest of us. Yet the living God is aware of all things before they unfold. This supernal dimension of knowledge is a part of omniscience!
Because of His omniscience and foreknowledge, God is, therefore, able to see His plan unfold safely. If He were less than omniscient and did not, in fact, operate out of perfect foreknowledge, His plan of salvation would by now be in shambles.
The Father needed to know, for instance (and know long before assignments were given in the premortal world), that Jesus Christ would not break in Gethsemane or upon Calvary, refusing to yield up His special life. He needed to know that Joseph Smith could sustain all of the pressures that would be brought to bear upon him without coming apart. He needed to know that certain of the translations of the Book of Mormon would be lost and that substitute plates needed to be ready to fill in the gap. (Words of Mormon 1:6-7; D&C 3:10.) God even knew centuries before that the great restoring latter-day prophet would, like his father, bear the name of Joseph and not Walter. (2 Nephi 3:15.)
One might multiply examples of this foreknowledge which grows out of God's omniscience, end upon end. Suffice it to say, we are safe in knowing that one of the perfected attributes of our Father in heaven is knowledge. No wonder the Prophet Joseph taught that if men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.
God is never surprised (fantasy stories to the contrary) by unexpected arrivals in the spirit world because of unforeseen deaths. But we must always distinguish between God's being able to foresee and His causing or desiring something to happen, a very important distinction! God foresaw the fall of His beloved David but did not cause it. (See D&C 132:39.) Sending for Bathsheba was David's decision, and even her battle-weary husband Uriah's sleeping loyally by David's door was not enough to bring a by then devious and determined David to his senses. (2 Samuel 11:9.)
By foreseeing, God can plan and His purposes can be fulfilled, but He does this in a way that does not in the least compromise our individual free agency, any more than an able meteorologist causes the weather rather than forecasts it. Part of the reason for this is our forgetfulness of our earlier experiences and the present inaccessibility of the knowledge and understanding we achieved there. The basic reason, of course, is that, as we decide and act, we do not know what God knows. Our decisions are made in our context, not His.
This mortal probation (of which the Gods said before we came here, "Let us prove them herewith") is, therefore, a perfectly arranged test. We will all end up kneeling and saying to God that He has been perfect in His justice and His mercy. In fact, we will acknowledge that we deserve the reward, or lack of it, which we one day will receive!
Perhaps it helps to emphasize-more than we sometimes do-that our first estate featured learning of a cognitive type, and it was surely a much longer span than that of our second estate, and the tutoring so much better and more direct.
The second estate, however, is one that emphasizes experiential learning through applying, proving, and testing. We learn cognitively here too, just as a good university examination also teaches even as it tests us. In any event, the books of the first estate are now closed to us, and the present test is, therefore, very real. We have moved, as it were, from first-estate theory to second-estate laboratory. It is here that our Christlike characteristics are further shaped and our spiritual skills are thus strengthened.
Such a transition in emphasis understandably produces genuine anxiety, for to be "proved herewith" suggests a stern test, a test that must roll forward to completion or else all that has been invested up to that point would be at risk.
Some find the doctrines of the omniscience and foreknowledge of God troubling because these seem, in some way, to constrict their individual agency. This concern springs out of a failure to distinguish between how it is that God knows with perfection what is to come but that we do not know, thus letting a very clear and simple doctrine get obscured by our own finite view of things.
Personality patterns, habits, strengths, and weaknesses observed by God over a long period in the premortal world would give God a perfect understanding of what we would do under a given set of circumstances-especially when He knows the circumstances to come. Just because we cannot compute all the variables, just because we cannot extrapolate does not mean that He cannot do so. Omniscience is, of course, one of the essences of Godhood; it sets Him apart in such an awesome way from all of us even though, on a smaller scale, we manage to do a little foreseeing ourselves at times with our own children even with our rather finite and imperfect minds.
Ever to be emphasized, however, is the reality that God's "seeing" is not the same thing as His "causing" something to happen.
We must not approach God as if He were somehow constrained by finite knowledge and by time. A useful and illustrative episode is the one involving the prophet Elisha and his young manservant. The prophet could see that a surrounded Israel need not fear. (2 Kings 6:15-17.) The alarmed younger man had to have his eyes opened, however, so he too could see that while the mountain was hostilely compassed about with horses and chariots of the enemy, it was also filled with horses and chariots of fire. Thus, even though the prophet said to the young man, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them," he was still puzzled and doubting. Only when his eyes were opened could he see the reassuring reality. Often, so it is with us. We see dimly, or, as Paul said, "through a glass, darkly." (1 Corinthians 13:12.) Such is the relevance of seers. Such is the role of faith.
In a very real sense, all we need to know is that God knows all!
If one searches for still other reasons as to why the doctrine of the omniscience of God is a stumbling block for some, some of these are attributable to the democratic age in which we live with its inordinate efforts at equalizing everything, rather than achieving justice. The deification of man and the subsequent deep disappointment with man have both happened within decades of each other. It has been a time of terrible wrenching for the humanist and the optimist.
The dashed plans of mankind have led many people to a despair and disappointment with life and with themselves. Mortals then impute their deficiencies, somehow, to Divinity.
Yet was it not God who, from the beginning, reminded earthlings that the wisdom of men is foolishness? We are only discovering, afresh, what He has long told us about all man's puny efforts that do not rely upon Him. Mortals are fretting over the weakened arm of flesh, but God has told us for centuries to beware of those biceps!
This mortal shortfall not only results from the tiny databank men have accumulated-compared to God's-but it also occurs because of the quality and nature of such information as men have collected in that tiny databank. Mortals are, in fact, "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7.) So much of the secular data men have accumulated is accurate, but ultimately unimportant. Even learning useful things has often diverted mankind from learning crucial things.
Furthermore, let us not forget that great insight given us about the premortal world. The ascendancy of Jesus Christ (among all of our spirit brothers and sisters) is clearly set forth. Of Him it was said that He is "more intelligent than they all." (Abraham 3:19.) This means that Jesus knows more about astrophysics than all the humans who have ever lived, who live now, and who will yet live. Likewise, the same may be said about any other topic or subject. Moreover, what the Lord knows is, fortunately, vastly more-not just barely more-than the combination of what all mortals know.
Even with the "brightest and the best," for instance, the current scientific competency in predicting earthquakes is a very inexact science. Scientists recently predicted a major quake along Alaska's coastline. When? Sometime in the next several decades. Rather indefinite as to when.
Prophecy, happily, springs from very exact knowledge in the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Eternal Father, and it is surely very exacting in our lives as we experience its fulfillment.
God's omniscience is not stressed herein merely to put man down. We are His sons and daughters, and it is good that we seek to be like Him, including becoming perfect in knowledge. But it is the mark of an apt pupil to recognize what he does not know and from whom he can learn more. We must not let our foolish pride insulate us from the reality of God's omniscience and the implications that flow from it, touching so many facets of our daily lives.
There is little doubt, for instance, but that a goodly portion of our pride proceeds from some assumptions we make about ourselves and our lives-assumptions that are at first soothing but very wrong. We think, for instance, that we "own" ourselves. It is perfectly true that our individual identity is guaranteed, that we are agents for ourselves, and so forth-but this truth, when it is torn away from other realities, gives us a very lopsided view of things. Without the ransoming atonement of the Savior, we would be stranded souls, doomed to die with no hope of the resurrection or of individual immortality. We were literally purchased by Jesus. (Acts 20:28.) Quite true, we do not yet have to acknowledge that reality, though someday we will. Nor are we now even forced to follow the conditions that the Purchaser laid down. So, in a sense, we are quite free to do as we please, just as if we were our "own."
But it is a terrible illusion, an illusion that will be shattered by His second coming and the judgment. Meanwhile, the illusion is kept alive because some want to believe it. The resistance to feeling owned spreads to our not wanting to be reminded of how very dependent we are upon God. If we do not come to know God and to love Him, this resentment of reality can become very real.
This illusion underwrites the false assumptions that we make about our time, our talents, and our possessions that each of us sees as "mine." We may even feel noble when we give of our time and means, and we are apt to be somewhat grumpy if anyone, especially a prophet, reminds us that all that we have belongs to God anyway.
It never quite strikes home to most of us that to give two hours in church or neighborly service would not even be possible if God did not give us breath itself from moment to moment and did not keep that tiny but marvelous pump, the heart, working from second to second.
King Benjamin's sermon about how God supports us from moment to moment as well as immediately blesses us (when we keep His commandments) was not designed to be a popular sermon in self-sufficient times like ours. For us to be called "unprofitable servants" and to be reminded that even our bodies are made of the dust of the earth that also "belongeth to him"-these are hard sayings that bruise our pride. (Mosiah 2:21-25.) Unless-unless, through humility and obedience, we can transform feeling owned into a grand sense of belonging, and being purchased into gratitude for being rescued, and dependency into appreciation for being tutored by an omniscient God, which He does in order that we might become more dependable and have more independence and scope for service in the future.
It is very fortunate that an omniscient God is likewise perfect in His love; otherwise He might not say to us, "This is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39.) Indeed, if God were omniscient and omnipotent and not also omniloving, where would we be?
Therefore, our childish concerns over being owned and over being too dependent upon Him would merely be amusing if such attitudes did not carry within them the possibility of tragedy. The myopic pride that fails to acknowledge these overarching realities and says, "I am the Captain of my soul," fails to see that "corporal of my soul" would be at least somewhat closer to the truth.
In sum, what we know of God and His attributes we learn from Him-directly and through His prophets. It is significant that in none of His direct pronouncements has the Father declared anything that suggests He is less than omniscient. Qualifying words simply do not appear! It is mortal speculation (which wrongly emphasizes that He is like us, rather than that we are to become like Him) that is the source of erroneous expressions that God is somehow less than omniscient.
Moreover, even the speculation that God would tell us that He is less than omniscient if we could but understand is in error; it quickly dissolves in the presence of another absolute trait of God-that He cannot lie. (Titus 1:2.)
When we assert mortal qualifiers about God's omniscience, even with seemingly good motives, it is but our attempt to democratize Deity, to pull God down; fortunately, His work and glory is to lift us up, and His is the work that will finally prevail.
Therefore, in order for us to develop trust in God to see us through all these things, we must have a measure of understanding about His nature, including His omniscience. The Prophet Joseph Smith said it was the first principle of real religion to know the true nature of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345.)
Jesus Christ said in His great high priestly prayer, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3.)
The myopic and despairing soul-cry and question, "If there is a God, why does He permit suffering?" reflects a basic failure to understand the very nature of life with its components of chastening and suffering. And as for that question, it is not difficult to imagine who originated it, however understandably sincere some are who now raise it. The question strikes at the heart of Father's plan, because it comes from him who rejected that plan!
The future duties to be given to some of us in the worlds to come by an omniscient God will require of us an earned sense of esteem as well as proof of our competency. Thus the tests given to us here are given not because God is in doubt as to the outcome, but because we need to grow in order to be able to serve with full effectiveness in the eternity to come.
Further, to be untested and unproven is also to be unaware of all that we are. If we are unknowing of our possibilities, with what could we safely be entrusted? Could we in ignorance of our capacities trust ourselves? Could others then be entrusted to us?
Thus the relentless love of our Father in heaven is such that in His omniscience, He will not allow the cutting short some of the brief experiences we are having here. To do so would be to deprive us of everlasting experiences and great joy there. What else would an omniscient and loving Father do, even if we plead otherwise? He must at times say no.
Furthermore, since there was no exemption from suffering for Christ, how can there be one for us? Do we really want immunity from adversity? Especially when certain kinds of suffering can aid our growth in this life? To deprive ourselves of those experiences, much as we might momentarily like to, would be to deprive ourselves of the outcomes over which we shouted with anticipated joy when this life's experiences were explained to us so long ago, in the world before we came here.
Life is a school in which we enrolled not only voluntarily but rejoicingly; and if the school's Headmaster employs a curriculum-proven, again and again on other planets, to bring happiness to participants-and if we agreed that once we were enrolled there would be no withdrawals, and also to undergo examinations that would truly test our ability and perceptivity, what would an experienced Headmaster do if, later on, there were complaints? Especially if, in His seeming absence, many of the school children tore up their guiding notebooks and demanded that He stop the examinations since these produced some pain? There is, to use jargon from American higher education, no way to "CLEP" the examinations of the second estate; one learns by taking the full course!
Even in the context of acknowledging His omniscience, the chastening experiences of life are difficult enough for us to bear. We could not trust in the perfectness of God's judgment if we did not first know that He foresaw and carefully calibrated our chastening and learning experiences accordingly.
In order for "all these things" to make sense, we must come to understand that God has "all sense." Only then can we repose with confidence in His perfect love!