Why A Punishment Is Necessary

Reading: 2 Nephi 2:11-13, 2 Nephi 

One question that some people have is that if God loves us, and wants us to be happy, then why doesn’t he just make us happy?  Or, why, specifically, does he have to punish us for doing wrong?  (There’s also the question of why there is pain at all, since some things just happen no matter what we do, but for today I’m just going to focus on why there has to be a punishment for things done wrong.)

The answer is that in order for us to enjoy the happiness that comes from doing good things, we also have to have a punishment for doing wrong.  In 2 Nephi 2:11-13 it says:

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

The misconception is that if there was no punishment for sin, then we would all just be happy.  What Lehi is saying is that if there was no punishment for sin then we would not be happy or sad, we just wouldn’t even be.  Without the ability to choose right or wrong, and then reap the consequences, we would be mindless automatons without any life at all.  He says that happiness does not come from the mere absence of sin or punishment, but from choosing the right when we have the opporunity to choose wrong.  In order for all of this to work then punishment must come to those who choose wrong.

In my life I feel the most happiness and self-fulfillment when I am reaping the consequences of some right action.  That might be in my family when I choose to love and sacrifice for them, or in my career when I work hard to excel, or in my personal life when I work to achieve a goal.  The things that do not require me to choose, or to work, do not bring me much happiness.

It looks like this concept is discussed quite a bit more in 2 Nephi 2, so you can look forward to future posts on this topic.

Today my baby is sick and I have been running around a lot and feeling rather overwhelmed.  For the rest of the day today, though, I am going to remember that I am free to choose actions that will make me happy (such as taking a little bit of time to relax and being happy doing what I can) or things that will make me unhappy (such as worrying about the baby and wasting time doing nothing or fluttering about trying to do too much), and then choose to do things that will make me happy.

What in your life has brought you the most happiness? How would you choose differently if you never had to face a bad consequence for a bad choice?

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