The story of Job is unlike any other story in scripture. God and Satan seem to be making a deal, having a contest, playing with the soul of Job as if it were a common wager. Some shortsighted individuals have been bothered by the gamesmanship. What are we to make of the chastening of Job? It was suggested by Satan, allowed by the Lord, and all the time Job suffers terrible consequences? Shouldn’t the Lord protect us from Satan’s power when we are righteous? How was this whole plan fair to Job? These are some of the questions that are inevitable.
To understand the Book of Job properly, we must understand that certain events are scripted by God. The word scripted is used intentionally—a playwright setting up the characters and plot according to plan, certain events foreshadowing the ending from the beginning. What else has been scripted by God? The atonement is the most obvious. Certainly, the mission of the Savior was foreordained from before the foundation of the world. But think about how many things had to be set up by the Lord. In order for Christ to perform his mission, he had to provide indisputable proof that he was the Son of God and yet still be killed. How was this scripted?
The Son of God had to be sent to a wicked people, a people so wicked that it is said, “there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God” (2 Ne. 10:3). The Son of God had to be born in humble circumstances, coming from the least of all places—Nazareth. He had to be born through the royal lineage of David to fulfill scripture, but that lineage had to be hid from the people. They knew him as a common man, with a common name, and ostensibly the son of a common carpenter (Matt. 13:55). He had to be born into a society of twisted religion and paranoid authority. Then after all of this—after all these conditions were met—Satan had to tempt Judas, he had to tempt the scribes, Pharisees, and Sanhedrin. Pilate had to be prepared in just the right political climate to send an innocent Man to his death. The whole thing was scripted.
What else has been scripted? Where else has Satan played such an important role in moving the Lord’s plan in the foreordained direction? The Garden of Eden comes to mind. Were it not for Satan would Adam ever have fallen? Were it not for certain foreordained circumstances and the temptation of Eve, wouldn’t we still all be in the pre-mortal sphere waiting for a chance at mortality?
Consider the plagues of Egypt. Here we have a situation where the Lord’s foreshadowing hand is evident. No pharaoh or king in his right mind would put up with so many plagues. On average, a leader would be convinced after 2 or 3 plagues and beg the people to leave. What happened, however, was scripted. In order to foreshadow the destruction of Babylon at the Second Coming of Christ, it was important for Pharaoh to harden his heart. How else would all 10 plagues be doled out on Egypt? Who else would put up with so much misery before giving Moses what he wanted. The Joseph Smith Translation notwithstanding, the Lord had to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 10:1) to make a name for Himself among the nations, to foreshadow Second Coming destructions, and to bring Israel out “with a mighty hand” (Ex. 32:11).
Why would Job’s mission be so important to the Lord, that he would allow Satan such power over him? How does Job’s suffering fit into the Plan of Salvation? Why was Job’s mission foreordained? The answer comes in part from D&C 121 when the Prophet Joseph Smith was suffering in Liberty Jail. The Lord reminded him that at least he still had good friends, “Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not content against thee” (D&C 121:10). What is the principle here? The point is that Joseph Smith didn’t have it as bad as Job. In fact, no mortal has ever had such an unfair hand dealt to him. No one has had it as bad as Job except for the Son of Man who “descended below them all” (D&C 122:8).
The wicked “curse God and die” (D&C 45:32; Job 2:9) but the righteous won’t do it. The righteous are to follow Job’s example in that he did not charge God foolishly (Job 1:22) nor did he sin in spite of all that he suffered. Was he treated unfairly? Yes! Was he justified in blaming the Lord? No! Why not? Because the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (Job 1:21). All we have and enjoy are the Lord’s to begin with. He is in charge. He gets to do what He wants. Our job is to have gratitude in our hearts and be like Job.
Neal A. Maxwell made a profound statement when he said, “None of us can tell Christ anything about depression!” (Ensign, Apr. 1997, 10) Indeed, none of us can tell Christ anything about pain. None of us can tell Christ anything about injustice. None of us can tell Christ anything about being misunderstood or misrepresented. He suffered more than any that he might “know how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12) Why is this so important? Is it just so that Christ can empathize? Is there more to the story?
Now we finally get to the point. Christ suffered all things so that no one could say to him at the judgment bar, “you don’t know what it was like for me.” He knows what it was like. He went through it. The wisdom and justice of Elohim will not allow any soul to preach to Him at the judgment bar. Instead, all will acknowledge that he has been just; all “people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just” (Mosiah 16:1). What does this have to do with Job? Well, just imagine the self-justifiers at the last day. Can you hear them saying to God, “sure Christ suffered more than any mortal, but he was the Son of God with divine characteristics. Of course he could suffer in righteousness, he was perfect. Where is the mortal that had to suffer such unfair treatment?”
Enter Job stage right. It is no coincidence that Job’s story was preserved. He said, “O that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!” (Job 19:23-24) It is crucial to the Lord’s plan of justice that Job’s story is told. His words were “printed in a book.” His story has been engraven in the rock forever. The Lord saw to it. He called Job from before the foundation of the world to suffer more than any other mortal would suffer save Christ. His mission was to be treated completely unfairly and not blame God. He performed his mission perfectly. Now, none of us, no matter what we have suffered, can justifiably blame God. None of us can say God has treated us unfairly. None of us can say that God is unjust. None of us have had it as bad as Job. Even Joseph Smith, with all that he suffered was “not yet as Job.” None of us, with all that we suffer, have suffered “as Job.” None of us, with all the injustices of mortality, can complain to the Lord that He has treated us unfairly. None of us.
This is why the story of Job was scripted.
Neal A. Maxwell
The judgment day is one of the things that really will be. The “future shock” of that judgment and the events to precede it will be without parallel. The dramatic day described so powerfully by Alma will be a highly compressed and collective moment of truth. This will be the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus is the Christ. (Philippians 2:10-11.) No mortals will be standing that day. Those who were cruelly used by the adversary will see that awful reality. Nephi said the unrepentant guilty would “remember [their] awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.” (2 Nephi 9:46.) Jesus, who purchased us and who owns us, will require this owning up. They who transgressed divine law will openly admit that their transgressions are their own and cannot be laid at someone else's door. (Things As They Really Will Be, p. 111)
Job 1:1 Job was perfect and upright, and one that feared God
We like to say, “Nobody’s perfect.” That is true in one sense. In another sense, it is possible to be perfect in our devotion to God. Job, Seth, and Noah were three such individuals (Gen. 6:9; D&C 107:43)
Russell M. Nelson
In this life, certain actions can be perfected. A baseball pitcher can throw a no-hit, no-run ball game. A surgeon can perform an operation without an error. A musician can render a selection without a mistake. One can likewise achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction. More importantly, spiritual attainments in mortality accompany us into eternity.
James gave a practical standard by which mortal perfection could be measured. He said, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.”
Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that “there were many, exceedingly great many,” who were pure before the Lord.
This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”
Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts. (“Perfection Pending,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 86)
Eldred G. Smith
If we are to attain a degree of perfection, we too must come to that stage where, if the Lord desired, he could loose Satan on us with his full power, except not to destroy the soul. If we withstand that, then we will have attained a stage of perfection, even exaltation. (“Decisions,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 45)
Job 1:12 He… is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand
Eldred G. Smith
Do you think a just God would permit Satan to try us beyond our power to resist? Then the Lord will always give us power to resist if we will remain true and faithful to the end and seek the Lord and his guidance in all the trials and difficulties, even though we may think they are unjust. Nearly all of us go through some experience in this life of sickness, disease, trouble, financial difficulties, many even born with difficulties and handicaps—not because of any cause on their part as we see it, but because that is the part that the Lord wants us to go through as a trial and temptation to see if we will prove faithful to the end, in spite of these conditions, which are as far as we are concerned without cause.
Why, then, did the Lord first say to Satan "only upon himself put not forth thine hand." The Lord knew the strength of Job, so step by step Job was strengthened and given more power. Had the Lord said in the beginning, "All right, Lucifer, you may have full power over Job, you may do anything you wish with him, except you cannot take his life." I doubt if Job would have had the strength to resist all he went through and still remain faithful. But in the wisdom of the Lord he was just given part of it at a time. By so doing he was strengthened, in the first step sufficiently to take the next step. And then having proved faithful to the end the Lord restored to him his blessings many-fold, thus having become in that degree perfect. (Conference Report, October 1962, Afternoon Meeting 62)
Job 1:21 the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away
Thomas S. Monson
Between the safety of home and the promise of Zion stood the angry and treacherous waters of the mighty Atlantic. Who can recount the fear that gripped the human heart during those perilous crossings? Prompted by the silent whisperings of the Spirit, sustained by a simple yet abiding faith, they trusted in God and set sail on their journey. Europe was behind, America ahead.
On board one of those overcrowded and creaking vessels of yesteryear were my great-grandparents, their tiny family, and a few meager possessions. The waves were high, the voyage long, the quarters cramped. Tiny Mary had always been frail, but now with the passage of each day, her anxious mother saw the little one becoming weaker. She had a serious illness. There was no neighborhood drugstore, no doctor’s prescription, no modern hospital—just the steady roll of the tired old ship. Day after day worried parents watched for land, but there was none. Soon, Mary could not stand. Lips that were too weak to speak trembled with silent but eloquently expressed wonderment and fear. The end drew near. Little Mary peacefully passed beyond this vale of tears.
As family and friends crowded around on the open deck, the ship’s captain directed the service; and that precious, ever-so-small body, placed tenderly in a tear-stained canvas, was committed to the angry sea. Her strong father, in emotion-choked tones, comforted her grieving mother, repeating, “ ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ (Job 1:21.) We’ll see our Mary again!”
Such scenes were not uncommon. Tombstones of sage and rock marked graves the entire route from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. Such was the price some pioneers paid. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their names live on evermore.
Tired oxen lumbered, wagon wheels squeaked, brave men toiled, Indian war drums sounded, and coyotes howled. Our faith-inspired and storm-driven ancestors pressed on. They, too, had their cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, July 1988, 2, 4)
Joseph F. Smith
This shows the integrity of Job. Here is an example for you and for me. He did not curse the Sabeans for carrying off his cattle, nor the fires of heaven for consuming his flocks, nor the winds of heaven for destroying his habitation and children. He did not swear and blaspheme and deny the Lord because of this. But he said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." And further he said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
As I understand, here is exemplified the principle that should underlie all the faith, the hope, the charity, the love, the labor, the desire of all mankind—that they will serve God, no matter what may befall them. Though they suffer imprisonment, though they suffer persecution, though they suffer poverty, though God should try them to the very core, and put them to the utmost test to prove their integrity, they should say like Job, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Thus magnify God, love Him with all thy heart, might, mind and strength; then love our neighbor as ourselves; that when trials come we may endure them and not complain, but wait until God shall develop His purposes. Then we will see that there is no love like that of God for His suffering children; there is no mercy so broad, no purpose so grand, and great and noble as the purpose of God concerning His children. If we will do this, we will learn this eventually and we will bless God with all our hearts; which may God grant, in the name of Jesus. Amen. (Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, 5 vols. [Burbank, Calif., and Woodland Hills, Ut.: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992], vol. 3. Oct. 8, 1893)
Job 2:9 Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die
Thomas S. Monson
In our lives, sickness comes to loved ones, accidents leave their cruel marks of remembrance, and tiny legs that once ran are imprisoned in a wheelchair.
Mothers and fathers who anxiously await the arrival of a precious child sometimes learn that all is not well with this tiny infant. A missing limb, sightless eyes, a damaged brain, or the term “Down’s syndrome” greets the parents, leaving them baffled, filled with sorrow, and reaching out for hope.
There follows the inevitable blaming of oneself, the condemnation of a careless action, and the perennial questions: “Why such a tragedy in our family?” “Why didn’t I keep her home?” “If only he hadn’t gone to that party.” “How did this happen?” “Where was God?” “Where was a protecting angel?” If, why, where, how—those recurring words—do not bring back the lost son, the perfect body, the plans of parents, or the dreams of youth. Self-pity, personal withdrawal, or deep despair will not bring the peace, the assurance, or help which are needed. Rather, we must go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward.
It is imperative that we recognize that whatever has happened to us has happened to others. They have coped and so must we. We are not alone. Heavenly Father’s help is near.
Perhaps no other has been so afflicted as the man Job, who was described as “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1.) He prospered by every measurement. In other words, he had it all made. Then came the loss of literally everything: his wealth, his family, his health. At one time the suggestion was made that he “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9.) Job’s summation of his faith, after ordeals demanded of few others, is a testimony of truth, a proclamation of courage, and a declaration of trust:
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:23–27.)
(“Miracles—Then and Now,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 68–69)
Thomas S. Monson
Life is a school of experience, a time of probation. We learn as we bear our afflictions and live through our heartaches.
As we ponder the events that can befall all of us—even sickness, accident, death, and a host of other challenges—we can say with Job of old: “Man is born unto trouble.” Job was a “perfect and upright” man who “feared God, and eschewed evil.” Pious in his conduct, prosperous in his fortune, Job was to face a test which could have destroyed anyone. Shorn of his possessions, scorned by his friends, afflicted by his suffering, shattered by the loss of his family, he was urged to “curse God, and die.” He resisted this temptation and declared from the depths of his noble soul: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.”
“I know that my redeemer liveth.” Job kept the faith.
It may safely be assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and tribulation, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil, ruin, and misery.
When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” Self-incrimination is a common practice, even when we may have had no control over our difficulty. At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end, no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone.
To all who so despair, may I offer the assurance found in the psalm “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome.
There seems to be an unending supply of trouble for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required. (“Look to God and Live,” Ensign, May 1998, 52)