The Gospel's dance with dichotomy

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

Dichotomy: “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.”, “Being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses”, “a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities”

Dichotomy is the tendency to divide the world into two opposing factions, or to think and speak in otherwise polarising ways. The church and the Gospel do an interesting tango-dance with dichotomy. Some messages from the top are highly polarising, while others are more unifying (among the other many types of messages).

Examples of dichotomous thinking in Gospel doctrine and preaching

This list is certainly not exhaustive, there are many other examples of highly polarising or dichotomous statements. But the aim of this list is to merely demonstrate the abundance of such statements in “the Gospel”.

  1. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Jesus, Matthew 12:30)
  2. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
  3. “Jesus Christ is the Way. He is Light and Life, Bread and Water, the Beginning and the End, the Resurrection and the Life, the Savior of the world, the Truth, and the Way. There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment. He is the Way. Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness. He offers a well of living water. Either we drink and never thirst more, or we don’t and foolishly remain thirsty still. He is the Bread of Life. Either we eat and hunger no more, or we don’t and foolishly remain weak and hungry still. He is the Light of the World. Either we follow Him and see clearly, or we don’t and foolishly remain blind and in darkness still.” The way, a talk given by Lawrence E. Corbridge in 2008, is a fantastic example of this type of thinking and positioning.
  4. “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” 1 Nephi 14:10
  5. “That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens. The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith, Gordon Hinckley

Examples of unifying thinking in Gospel doctrine and preaching

Unifying statements and thinking sit in contrast to dichotomous ones. Naturally, in order to not appear dichotomous myself, it would be good to state that -obviously- the “Gospel” is not divided only into unifying and dichotomous statements, but features both in the overall landscape of … (memes 🙂 ).

  1. “We may on occasion find ourselves in uncomfortable situations where we differ in doctrine with our acquaintances, friends, and family members. But the doctrine can never be used to justify treating others with anything less than respect and dignity. We can stand firm in our beliefs and have a loving relationship with those who hold differing opinions. It is never an either-or choice. We love and live our doctrine, and we love those who do not live it. We need not create false dichotomies. The late Elder Marvin J. Ashton shared this insight from an inspired leader: “The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people.”” Dale G Renlund
  2. “As followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based.” Dallin Oaks

I’m sure there are more, I just haven’t dug so much. It’s easier to find the dichotomous stuff 🙂 (it’s more polarising and stands out more). Feel free to add some in the comments and I’ll put them in.


The structure and beliefs in the Gospel involve dichotomous thinking, primarily accessible through the scriptures, but also in general conference talks.

But I see hope as we adopt a more unifying worldview and stop splitting the world into “us and them”. But as long as the doctrine of Satan vs. God exists I don’t see this changing soon, as it is inherently polarising.

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