Sunday, April 6, 2014

Heavenly Paradoxes

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"Yogi Bhajan was a great master, and like all great masters, he contradicted himself."  I heard someone say this at a teacher training. It is true, if you read enough of his lectures, he did contradict himself. On the one hand, he had said that there was no such thing as soul mates, and on the other hand he gave the shabd (mantra) to call the soul mate.
One the on hand he had said don't do xyz, and on the other, he said that doing xyz can be extremely beneficial. There are plenty of examples, but I won't go into them.

I just keep thinking about whether or not it is true: Do all great masters contradict themselves? Or seem to?

God has said himself that He is unchanging. He has to be, or else he would cease to be God. And yet, he seems to change sometimes.

A friend and I have been discussing heavenly paradoxes. Here is the dictionary definition of paradox:

  • something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible 
  • someone who does two things that seem to be opposite to each other or who has qualities that are opposite
  • one (as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases

Here are a few of the heavenly paradoxes we have discussed:

  • Hunger and thirst after righteousness /Feast upon my words
  • God is no respecter of persons, He loves all the same /The concept of the elect
  • Be anxiously engaged in a good cause / Patiently wait on the Lord 
  • I am a vengeful God / I am a merciful God
  • Lose your life/ Find it
  • We are responsible for our own salvation / Eternal marriage is necessary for exaltation 
  • Exercise faith to be healed / Everything is as it should be. Accept the will of the Lord
  • Give everything away in order to get everything
  • The Gospel is simple. The simpleness of the way/ The mysteries of God can't be comprehended 
  • We are spiritual beings/ We are carnal beings
  • Zion is a physical place/ Zion is in our hearts
  • Travel without purse or script. God provides/ God cares for those who care for themselves
There are many more once you start looking. 

You have already figured out some of these paradoxes and how they in fact both can be true and work together wonderfully. And there are others that still don't make sense. I have been talking with Kylie about why these exist and what they do for us. She pointed out that many people don't notice the paradox and just grab on to one side or the other, which-ever fits in with their belief system at the time. This can create situations where two people, unaware that both are right, oppose each other. Has that ever happened to you?

So why do these paradoxes exist and what purpose do they serve? I don't have all the answers, and guess what, no one really does. Only God has all the answers and some have suggested that this is the purpose for Heavenly Paradoxes--to force us to go to God to understand. This is a good and kind of brilliant reason in my opinion. Only God can give us an experiential understanding of how these paradoxes work and what they mean to us. 

I think they also serve another purpose.... but I will have to share it in a separate blog post later this week. It goes into some really cool stuff from my forthcoming book. So you might get a sneak peak. Wait for it... 

In the mean time, feel free to share heavenly paradoxes or spiritual contradictions you have found or are dealing with now. 


  1. I've been dealing with depression lately and have found it interesting that joy comes from family, etc. but everyone seems to agree that being a young mom is really really hard. How to find the joy? Supposedly to be happy in the mess and the late nights and the dirty clothes (yours) and having "mom hair" or all of the other little "joys" that come with motherhood. I am definitely having trouble seeing the forest through the trees on this one. Another thought though was that this would explain why there are so many churches. They each gravitate towards one school of thought.

  2. If you exercise your faith by choosing righteousness you'll be blessed / Bad things happen to good people, God allows us to have trials to strengthen us and our faith
    The righteous will prosper in the land / Joseph Smith lived in poverty all of his life.
    Those who were protected like Daniel vs those we ultimately died like Abinadi.

    I'm excited to see you explore this further. This dichotomy has left me pondering a time or two.

  3. Since I'm also LDS, I will say Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit is a paradox. Heavenly Father commanded Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit, but also commanded them to procreate. After they partook of it, Heavenly Father said it was part of his will and sent them to learn to live like Jesus Christ.

    I love that you're LDS and you believe it's righteous to practice meditation. That might also be a paradox. I don't see you as worshiping another God or religion. Unfortunately, some people (a smaller number of Mormons) believe it is worshiping another God or religion. And some Christians also believe certain types of meditation summon demon possession. I don't that happens the majority of the time. What you say to people that want to believe that?

  4. This is something I have thought about several times over the years, and I love your list of examples. Every time I have thought about heavenly paradoxes, I felt like my mind was going to explode and I couldn't come up with any answers so I stopped thinking about it so I wouldn't begin to doubt my faith. I look forward to seeing your 2nd post on this topic!

  5. We discussed paradoxes in our Peer to Peer class last week. We talked about using the word "and." My life is chaotic and I am at peace.

  6. Had hands-on learning experiences about the salvation/exaltation paradox the last little while.
    The fullness of the priesthood comes only to married couples --- but what if your spouse drops his end of the deal? Anyone else notice how very much of a woman's temple experience is tied to the marriage contract?

    Most of God's "dichotomies" require an eternal perspective - which is something I believe He very much wants for His children.

  7. These paradoxes are puzzles I've considered before, though I haven't given as much in-depth thought to them as you describe here.

    I have a few additional paradoxes as well as some interesting issues to consider related to paradoxes in general:

    1) Nephi going and doing as the Lord commanded to get the brass plates / Just a few chapters later, the Spirit compels him to break the commandments by killing Laban in order to get the plates

    2) If you are not one, you are not mine / ye are the salt of the earth (this is similar to the marriage for exaltation / responsible for own salvation paradox, or any society/self conflict more broadly)

    3) Referencing Mrs. Smith's comment about needing an eternal perspective to comprehend these paradoxes -- I agree. Specifically, I believe the solution to many of these may be related to progression / development; in other words, when we are just learning one maxim applies, but as we mature the other maxim does. Take the blessings for obedience / good people suffer paradox, for example: blessings come to us as we obey early on, so that we can develop an experiential understanding of the goodness of obedience; yet, once we have a level of knowledge, we no longer need these immediate rewards and through our suffering with everyone else is how we are to draw closer to God. Does this resonate with anyone else?

    4) I believe there are many layers of the gospel that are really bringing together seemingly incompatible things. The Atonement (at-one-ment) itself seeks to reconcile God and humankind. Temple ordinances are designed to bring the whole human family sealed together to present to Heavenly Father (an at-one-ment of many individuals into a single entity). Restoration is a kind of at-one-ment, making old things new. Remembrance (a key word in the scriptures) is the restoration, or reconciliation of our memories/though processes, in other words at-one-ment. I would venture to say that understanding these seemingly incompatible tenets of the gospel presented in these paradoxes requires and act of--you guessed it--at-one-ment.

  8. Found an interesting quote related to this: "if a concept is paradoxical, that itself should suggest that it smacks of integrity, that it gives off the ring if truth. Conversely if a concept is not in the least paradoxical you should be suspicious of it and suspect that it has failed to integrate some part of the whole. Scott Peck 1988, 238. I guess like the concept of yin/ yang.