A while back I wrote a post called, “The Core of My Planet” which emphasized the doctrines of our eternal destiny to become like God (capital G) by becoming a god (small g) ourselves. At the very end I made this powerful statement, “Astonishingly, yet terrifying, if we cannot wrap our hearts and minds around this, we shall forever be a slave to our prisons. There is no temple without knowing our destiny. Likewise, there is no destiny becoming like God if we do not understand who God is.”
From there I had planned to write a series of posts exploring the character of God to help us better persist in our PrisonTemples. I feel so inspired to fulfill that intention on this Easter Sabbath. I’ll be honest though, I don’t really know what will happen. So I implore the Holy Spirit to guide me as I write this post. It is just that my heart today, especially today, is in earnest pondering upon these things. I pray that I can eloquently broadcast my inner soul’s sudden apprehension of grand truths on this solemn holiday.
First, turn with me to the Scriptures. On a foundational level, the best way to understand the character of God is to find out what His purpose is – His goals, if you will. We all know this Scripture:
39 For behold, this is my [God’s] work and my [God’s] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39 emphasis added)
Simply put – the reason God even exists is to make sure that we will have eternal life. Let me throw another cog into the contraption. What is eternal life, and how is it that we can make sure we have it? Turn to the 17th chapter of John in the New Testament. The third verse tells us exactly what eternal life is. Out of Jesus Christ’s own mouth, He says, “And this is eternal life, that they might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3, emphasis added)
If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of being He is, if he will search diligently his own heart – if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle. (History of the church. 6:303)
So now these are my own personal thoughts regarding all of this: It is God’s job is to make sure that we have eternal life, and eternal life is and can only come my knowing God, and the Scriptures are basically saying that God’s work and glory is to make sure that you know who He is. Which I humbly testify to you that He does.
He lets you come to know who He is in so many different and diverse ways. I mean, the whole universe is filled with His character. Everything eludes to whom He is. But like it says in John 17:3, eternal life is also to KNOW Jesus Christ, who God has sent. Which is why this is so heavy on my heart today of all days. I personally believe the best, easiest, fastest and most correct way to comprehend the character of God is to come to know His Only Begotten son, Jesus Christ
Today is Easter and we celebrate all that our Savior has done for us, especially His Atonement and Resurrection, but also His earthly ministry. If you know me at all, then you know one of my biggest pet peeves is not celebrating a holiday for the sole reason it was a holiday to begin with. Like what the heck does a giant bunny rabbit that hides painted eggs filled with chocolate have to do with Jesus Christ? Don’t get me started. Because today I am focused in a day full of prayer, fasting, and grateful worship to my Savior. Thus, in my delicate reflection upon this holy being, I have been made aware of a facet of truth that plays the biggest role in coming to know Him. I had not recognized it in full force before, but now that I know it is there, I can’t help but see its influence in everything and everywhere.
I am speaking of paradoxes. Jesus Christ’s entire life is full of them, thus this whole universe is also. I know that my whole life is full of them, and I know that yours is too. I declare that we come to know God through the law of paradox, since all truth is filtered through this principle. Therefore, it is why today, this Easter Sabbath Sunday I am celebrating it by rejoicing in this law of paradox and trying to better understand it. I invite you to do the same.
I’ve been learning this principle from an amazing book entitled, “Understanding the Divine: Seven Laws to Improve Your Relationship with God,” by Karen T Prier. She writes so extensively and beautifully but I will try to quickly summarize.
So first, what is a paradox?
“Originally a paradox was merely a view which contradicted accepted opinion. Around about the middle of the 16th century the word had acquired the now commonly accepted meaning: apparently self-contradictory (even absurd) statement which, on closer inspection, is found to contain a truth reconciling the conflicting opposites…” (J.A. Cudden, A Dictionary of Literary Terms, third edition Blackwell, 1991)
And like I said, the Savior’s life is full of paradox. His life is a paradox. For example, he was born in a manger, yet he was a king. He was sinless, yet suffered for all the sins of the world. He was immortal, yet died. The list goes on and on.
His teachings are just as paradoxical.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (Matthew 20:26-27)
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:16)
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
Paradoxes are everywhere and is the only way in which chaos can be made calm. It is like how Karen T Prier puts it, “Paradox is how all truth is circumscribed into one great whole. (Understanding the Divine, 75). This is why paradox is so essential to our eternal destiny.
Specifically, though, I want to focus on one aspect of paradox that is very poignant to me right now. I call it the “merciful sifting effect.” Avraham Gileadi described it this way in his book, “Isaiah Decoded”:
“Enormous paradoxes face the seeker of truth in both science and theology. But paradoxes aren’t contradictions. Because one thing appears to contradict another doesn’t mean that such is the case. Instead, we often learn more from resolving paradoxes – from sorting out seeming contradictions – then we can in any other way. Determining the nature of God has been a problem with God’s people since the Israelites worshiped the Golden calf.
Because the closer we get to God the more marked the paradoxes, it sometimes seems God includes enough ambiguity in His revealed word to provide an “out” to those who resist his invitation to seek the truth. At virtually every level, in effect, God has built into the Scriptures two ways we can interpret them: one for those who want to fall back on established views, right or wrong, that may have some element of truth, but not the whole truth; the other for those who want to search out all God has revealed, no matter how great the paradoxes. God makes that a test for us – a “snare” for the self-righteous, but a path into His presence for His “disciples.” (Isaiah Decoded, Page 268-9)
You see, life is full of paradox. I know mine is. For example, the rest of my life I will have titles placed upon me for having come to prison that will make life very difficult for me, yet I feel like I am a good person and am continuously (and graciously) learning the mysteries of God. The paradox is that it is because of my difficulties that I am influenced to be a good person and thus learn the mysteries of God. I would not have received them had it not been for prison.
Paradox is the whole premise of this blog. We go through trials, and in so doing, we become our best selves. Hence PrisonTemple – a giant paradox in which your truth can be recognized and established. Therefore, paradoxes are everywhere in your life as well as mine, and everyone else’s.
Evidently you are going to come up against a plethora of paradoxes in your journey to understand who God is. Therefore, I emphasize a warning that we must not place our beliefs into comfortable little boxes.
Ultimately, things can’t always be understood at first glance:
8 ¶ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
This is why it is so dangerous to lean on our own understanding.
5 ¶ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The mysteries of God and His character are designed to be searched. Knowledge like this just won’t fall into our laps. Because if it did, we wouldn’t be able to comprehend it. This is why I rejoice in paradox! I believe Karen T Pryor said it the best:
“How beautiful that God placed in the gospel the very hang-ups we would need in order to re-attain the trusting nature of a child. He made sure that at some point in our progression our experiences wouldn’t make sense, and therefore would require us to become as little children again – knowing we don’t know. Paradox is another witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, not something to fear. It is just like the chick emerging from the egg; it must peck its own way out in order to have the strength to survive the outside world. If someone comes in and breaks the egg, it won’t have made the required effort to come into the world, and it will die. We must be willing to make the effort of understanding the paradoxes of the gospel, so we have the strength to become what we learn.” (ibid, pg. 75)
So maybe I proved myself wrong – eggs do have something to do with Easter after all. But isn’t it all so AMAZING!? I just think it’s so wonderful! I am humbled to the core at the omnipotence of our Heavenly Father. His design, His eternal Plan of Salvation is so flawless. He has made a way for us to qualify for eternal life. He does this by teaching us who He is, through the life of His Son Jesus Christ, which is full of paradoxes.
It is with his law of paradox that if we are humble, willing and trusting that we can come into the presence of God, and learn of Him. In a powerful discourse Joseph Smith explained that “… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask, so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us.”(History of the church, 308)
In closing, I wish you a very happy Easter Sabbath Sunday in your PrisonTemple. May it be full of paradoxical deliciousness! And please, please be ready to “come to Him.” To learn of Him – our God, and our Savior, that we may have eternal life, and glorify them for evermore. Never forget what our Master and Redeemer has done for us.
22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! (D&C 76:22)