As a child it always bugged me that God cared enough about Daniel to deliver him from the Lion’s Den, that He loved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego enough to keep them from burning in a fiery furnace, but that mothers, daughters, and young boys weren't so lucky:
And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day. – Alma 14: 10-11
When I asked my eight-year-old daughter what she thought about the story, she didn’t seem at all phased. It made perfect sense to her that God would tell his prophets to let innocent people burn to death in order to heap condemnation on the wicked. At first I assumed she hadn’t processed the implications of the story, but when I found her sobbing in the dark at 9:15 PM, curled into a fetal position with a sketchpad in her arms, I began to wonder.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“They’re dead,” she cried, hugging me tight.
I led her back to bed, found some colored markers on her sheets, gathered them up and tucked a comforter around her. “Just go to sleep,” I said. “Hopefully you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“But they were alive and now . . . they’re gone,” she sobbed.
I crawled into bed beside her and smoothed back her hair as she pushed the notebook into my hands. She’d drawn big fat teardrops, rocks and tombstones—three tombstones with R.I.P written above them. My poor, sweet, tender-hearted girl!
“There are three reasons I’m upset,” she stammered. “The first is because they’re dead. The second is because I’m scared of death, and the third is that I cared about them and now they’ll never be alive again!”
“Who are we talking about?” I asked.
“The slugs,” she said in a gravely voice. “There were five, and I tried to save them by picking them up and putting them in the grass. But Calvin put salt on three of them. I yelled at him to stop and he did it anyway. I even tried to get the salt off, but then it was too late. And I would have done anything, anything to save them.”
“You really loved those slugs, didn’t you?” I asked. It was such a simple thing. Simple and profound.
“Yes, I really did,” she said.
“Do you think God loved the women and children in The Book of Mormon as much as you loved those slugs?”
“I think he loved them more.”