I just finished the Book of Mormon for the 4th year in a row. (As per my commitment to read "every day no matter what") I always have a difficult time at the end when the Nephite civilization falls apart and evil overtakes everyone. "...for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin. And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives....for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land." Mormon 2:13-15
This is hard to read. The battles are brutal and depressing. The struggle seems so senseless as war always is. Why did Mormon leave this stuff in the Book of Mormon? Marilyn Faulkner wrote an article on Meridian Magazine recently that helped me understand we can learn from the written word of others so we don't need to experience evil in person.
Under what circumstances should we tolerate the treatment of evil in literature? This is an important question, not easily answered. We are commanded to seek after things that are “lovely, virtuous and of good report and praiseworthy.” Yet Jesus also warned that to successfully navigate the choppy waters of mortality we would need to be “wise as serpents yet harmless as doves.” Literature can offer us a way to develop a moral intelligence. The Bible sets the pattern, as life stories are presented and the results of choices can be observed from a safe distance, as it were. If we object to literature that depicts evil in any form, we would have to abandon most of the great classics, including the Bible! It is by experiencing evil and its consequences through fiction that we can gain wisdom without suffering pain ourselves. (Marilyn Faulkner, Meridian Magazine)