In a new book that explores the paradoxical nature of central gospel themes, it seems appropriate that author James L. Ferrell would offer his own apparent contradiction in the first chapter: “I believe that you will find this to be both an easy and a challenging book.”
True, Ferrell’s new book, “Falling to Heaven” (Deseret Book, $24.99), is easy to follow and full of interesting, thought-provoking material. At the same time, the ideas expressed can be difficult to comprehend and put into practice.
Even so, what at first may seem challenging can eventually transform into a deeper, more profound understanding of the scriptures. That’s how it unfolded for Ferrell.
“I start from this premise that things make sense. And if something isn’t making sense to me yet, then I’m the one with the problem, not the scriptures, so I’ve got to keep working on it,” Ferrell said. “I will push and ponder and keep after that until things start fitting into place, like a puzzle.”
The idea behind “Falling to Heaven,” Ferrell said, came over years of observing a cultural trend that extended into religious settings.
“I hear a lot of talk about whether we love ourselves — whether we feel good about ourselves or accept ourselves,” Ferrell wrote. “I have wondered whether it is wise and helpful for those who are commanded to follow Jesus in all things to expend our energies trying to secure a self-regard and self-worth that the Lord appears never to have valued.”
“When someone is struggling and feeling down, our natural inclination is we want them to be happy so we want to lift them, ‘you are great, you are wonderful.’ I understand those sentiments, and it’s good to be positive,” Ferrell said. ”But the central thing for us is we need to be repenting more. We don’t want to relieve anyone of that. Paradoxically, the help we give people to help them be happy is the wrong kind of help to help them be happy.”
To explain this concept, Ferrell turned to the scriptures and the “doctrine of divine paradox.”
- God became man.
- Mankind fell so that they might become exalted.
- Jesus died so that we might live.
- Our “garments are made white in his blood” (1 Nephi 12:10).
- “And with his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
“Think about what that means,” Ferrell said. “When we are feeling burdened, weighed down and heavy, Jesus is telling us that relief comes only as we do what all of our intuitions tell us is the last thing we should do — take upon ourselves an additional burden.”
Ferrell continued: “Until we penetrate the divine paradox, we will reflexively resist it. That means that in order to put off the unhappiness of the natural man, we must first do what feels unnatural to the natural man. And that requires that we submit to, rather than resist, the paradox.”
The more you search, the more you will find the doctrine of divine paradox, the author said.
“It’s everywhere,” Ferrell said. “You’ve got this knee-bending paradox at heart of all things. The only way we are lifted is if we fall before Christ. The only way up is through down before him.”
As incredible as that sounds, “Falling to Heaven” describes how understanding Christ’s Atonement and applying the paradoxical elements of the gospel can change minds and transform hearts.
“I hope readers will be drawn closer to Christ and find hope where they didn’t think they had any,” he said. “Hope exists in a place we’re not currently looking, I hope the book awakens us to that.”
“Falling to Heaven” can be found wherever LDS books are sold.
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