Paradoxical Statements in the Book of Mormon

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Robert Fry
Book of Mormon as Sacred Literature
Professor Swift
11/14/2011
“He who hath ears to hear, let him hear”
Paradoxes in the Book of Mormon

As with all great literary works, more content is often present than first meets the eye. The Book of Mormon is no exception. One such way that the Book of Mormon proves its literary worth is through the use of paradox. In fact, the Book of Mormon uses paradox strategically to help the reader further ponder the meaning of the scriptures in his or her life, and thus discover statements of deeper doctrine. In our theological dive into paradoxes found within the Book of Mormon, it is first important to understand what a paradox is and in what contexts it is used. The word itself can be derived from its Greek roots, para and doxa, meaning “beyond belief” (Parsenios). According to K. S. Kantzer in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, a paradox is “(1) an assertion which is self-contradictory, or (2) two or more assertions which are mutually contradictory, or (3) an assertion which contradicts some very commonly held position on the matter in question.” (Kantzer) Most experts choose to break paradoxes into rhetorical paradoxes and logical paradoxes—the former being the juxtaposition of two seemingly incompatible ideas for the sake of striking an unconventional insight, and the latter “arises from the attempt by the human mind to unify or to coordinate the multiple facets of experience.” (Kantzer) It is this attempt mentioned by Kantzer, which allows the Holy Ghost to speak to our heart so we can gain a deeper understanding of the truths taught in the Book of Mormon. Paradoxes can help to bring out a point by addressing it from a unique point of view or perspective, often catching the eye of the reader from sheer shock value. For example, in Shakespeare’s famous play Julius Caesar, Caesar tells his wife the famous paradoxical statement, “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death...
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