“It is by the Wicked That the Wicked Are Punished”

Bryan Richards

The atheist often bemoans the brutality of a vengeful God. First, he allows mortals to do such horrendous things to each other, then, he finally gets mad and kills them all (e.g. The Flood). It is more logical, the atheist argues, to deny such a Being. Yet, the vast majority of the time, the wicked suffer at the hands of the wicked, not at the hands of God. Brigham Young stated:

“Of one thing I am sure, God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or of war; they are the results of the acts of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policy of men; but they do not come because God desires they should come. If the people, generally, would turn to the Lord, there would never be any war. Let men turn from their iniquities and sins, and instead of being covetous and wicked, turn to God and seek to promote peace and happiness throughout the land, and wars would cease. We expect to see the day when swords shall be turned into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, and when men shall learn war no more. This is what we want. We are for peace, plenty and happiness to all the human family.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 366-367.)

But again, we must recognize the parallel for our day. The Nephite civilization was destroyed by wars in which the wicked killed the wicked. A similar destruction has been decreed for the dispensation of the fulness of times. The Lord has decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them (DC 63:33)…thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn…until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations (DC 87:6).

“’Often, very often, we are punished as much by our sins as we are for our sins,’ Elder Boyd K. Packer has written (Teach Ye Diligently, p. 262). As was the case with the Nephites, so often is it the case that God does not have to personally curse, condemn, or punish the wicked; their actions and associations produce natural consequences that in and of themselves become severe punishments. Many of the destructions, plagues, and atrocities that come upon the world are a direct result of the wickedness of man. C. S. Lewis insightfully observed: ’The possibility of pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet. When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the suffering of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.’ (The Problem of Pain, p. 89.)” (McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 228)