I apologize for the length of this question, but it requires establishing some premises that refute the most common response, being that the purpose of suffering is for us to learn and grow, and be tested.
Abraham 3:25 - And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;.
I've been thinking about this a long time and have been unable to find satisfactory answers. Please point out any flaws in my logic or research.
According to the LDS Institute Doctrines of the Gospel manual:
Earth life, though brief, is crucial to us in our quest for eternal life. Here we receive bodies of flesh and bones and are tested in all things. Those who learn obedience and gain self-mastery will return to live with God the Eternal Father.
In the 1977 April Ensign, Elder Bruce R. McConkie teaches that children who die before the age of accountability will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom:
Are all little children saved automatically in the celestial kingdom?
To this question the answer is a thunderous yes, which echoes and re-echoes from one end of heaven to the other.... They are saved through the atonement and because they are free from sin. They come from God in purity; no sin or taint attaches to them in this life; and they return in purity to their Maker.
This leads to another question then, which McConkie answers also. Will they be saved into the highest possible Celestial Kingdom (in other words they are not worse off in any way for dying young)?
"Will they have eternal life?"
Eternal life is life in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is exaltation; it is the name of the kind of life God lives.... In the providences of Him who is infinitely wise, the answer is in the affirmative. Salvation means eternal life; the two terms are synonymous; they mean exactly the same thing.
Further down in the same page, the question of "Will children ever be tested?" is answered:
Absolutely not! Any idea that they will be tested in paradise or during the millennium or after the millennium is pure fantasy.
At this point, it seems logical to wonder, given the immense amount of suffering that people face in this world, would you not be better off to die young? McConkie seems to anticipate this logical progression:
Are those who die better off than those who remain in mortality?
We may rest assured that all things are controlled and governed by Him whose spirit children we are. He knows the end from the beginning, and he provides for each of us the testings and trials which he knows we need. President Joseph Fielding Smith once told me that we must assume that the Lord knows and arranges beforehand who shall be taken in infancy and who shall remain on earth to undergo whatever tests are needed in their cases. This accords with Joseph Smith’s statement: “The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth.” (Teachings, pp. 196–97.) It is implicit in the whole scheme of things that those of us who have arrived at the years of accountability need the tests and trials to which we are subject and that our problem is to overcome the world and attain that spotless and pure state which little children already possess.
All of this seems to suggest that:
- It is possible to reach the highest levels of Salvation/Exaltation without going through mortal life and all the suffering it entails.
- God can know our hearts and our purity without testing us in mortality (otherwise he could not know that those who die before the age of accountability are worthy of exaltation)
- The test (and growth) in mortality is therefore unnecessary, which means that mortal life is unnecessary.
- If mortal life is unnecessary than so is all of the suffering in the world.
So my question is, what is the purpose of suffering? It is not a requirement for us to learn and grow and be tested, otherwise kids who die before the age of accountability could not be saved (yet they are).
Why would an all-loving (omni-benevolent) Heavenly Father subject us to unnecessary torture (in many cases)?
Logically, it also seems that one of the best things a parent could do for their children would be to hope they die prior to reaching the age of accountability. This is obviously a disturbing thing to say and will no doubt create an emotional reaction (it's difficult to even type for me), but it does seem logical. By having your children grow, you are risking their exaltation and rolling the dice (they might grow up and reject the faith). If you love them enough to let them die, they could be guaranteed eternal exaltation. If that is not correct, where is the flaw in the logic?