A couple of decades ago, before I decided to live life without the wisdom of Oprah, she often said something that puzzled me. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Really?

Maybe they're just semantics, but to me if something “happens for a reason” it requires thought, planning and/or justification. It requires a driving force. And I could never figure out what cosmic soul decided, for example, that the holocaust was a grand idea. OK, besides Hitler. But I'm thinking that Oprah wasn't talking about him as being in charge of the “reason.”

I was reminded of this past mystification today in Relief Society. The lesson was about faith, I think. Or some gospel related topic, I'm pretty sure. Anyway, one of the women in the ward made this comment, “Whenever something happens, it's the best for everyone.” She related how her son had died some time ago. According to her understanding, his death was the best thing for him at that time. But it wasn't just the best for him, but the best for everyone. She was moved by the idea that God “sees all the intricacies of every situation and makes sure that what happens is the best for everyone, not just one person or another, but everyone. It doesn't help one person and harm another. It's always helps everyone.”

This is one of the times when my eyes begin darting around the room to see if I'm the only one squirming. I see some knowing nods, some sympathetic looks, some dabbing of tissue to the eyes, and a few people staring blankly at the board, but no one else looking confuse about what chapter in the Journal of Discourses taught this “principle.”

While hesitant to declare myself equally qualified with Oprah to proclaim universal doctrine, I can't see how this fits with the restored gospel. As far as I can tell, we simply do not believe that God micromanages the universe. We don't believe that he only allows things to happen that are “the best” for all those involved. In fact, as stinky as it might be, he allows really horrendous things to happen to even the most noble, decent, righteous, innocent people in the whole world. And he does it even when it makes everything completely wrong.

The gospel according to Alison says that lots of things happen for no reason. Lightening strikes, cars slide on the ice, diseases spread. Or at least no good reason. Mean kids pick on misfits, people cheat on their spouses, thugs murder innocent people.

Are these really the “best for everyone”? I can't bring myself to believe so. And I've yet to hear an explanation for how orchestrating the murder of six million Jews was the best thing for Hitler in the long run.

What I do believe, however, is that whatever curves are thrown at us in this life, we can choose how we respond. We can use even horrendous situations to become closer to God. We can show, whatever our situation, just how good or bad we can be. And God largely leaves that choice and even the general flow of life up to us.