I lost my testimony at Utah State Prison—no, I wasn’t an inmate. I taught at USP for five memorable years and met too many guys like Vince—a depressed, suicidal 24-year-old when I began working with him in one of the maximum security units. As a first grader, Vince had been introduced to drugs by his dealer brother. By 4th grade, Vince was a habitual user. Naturally, he resorted to theft to pay for his habit and was in and out of detention through his teens and in prison once he turned 18.
In prison Vince got off drugs, but upon release had no place to go except to a dealer friend’s house. Vince saw old school friends with jobs, cars, wives, kids, houses—while he had nothing. Even a chimpanzee could have predicted Vince would soon be back on drugs and in prison.
Where was Vince’s agency in all this? He didn’t ask to be born into a family where he’d be introduced to drugs before he lost his baby teeth. The deck was stacked against him before he was even born. Where was the God who notices even the passing of a sparrow when Vince needed him?
The idea that Heavenly Father sends us to earth to be tested with exams rigged against many examinees defies reason. And an atonement which forgives those getting the short end of the stick for failing is neither merciful nor just.