Yin and Yang are powerful concepts stemming from Chinese philosophy, and religiously from Taoism. I was recently reading a book that leveraged the concepts of Yin and Yang to explain why liberals and conservatives (in America) are both needed. The point is brought out that opposites are interconnected, interdependent, and their harmonization is critical to success in our world.

This got me thinking about what our Mormon Yin Yang might consist of. So I thought I’d come up with just a few ideas and then leave it to you, dear readers, to elaborate on the Yin Yang in your own life and how they interconnect to make your life better.

  • Mormon exclusivity and ordinances by proxy (perhaps not quite yin yang-esque but complementary nevertheless). You’ve got to be Mormon to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. Fortunately, we provide the means for that to happen and our theology grants a person plenty of opportunity to accept the Gospel before Judgment.
  • Self-sufficiency and sense of community. We stress self-sufficiency first and foremost. We believe it’s how we learn and grow. But we work hard to provide for those within our group through fast offerings, Bishop’s storehouse, etc. As much as we stress being self-sufficient there’s comfort in knowing people have your back. (NOTE: I know this doesn’t always work. I have been on the receiving end of NOT getting help when I needed it most. But I know it also DOES work for many)
  • Individualism, Family, Community, Socialism. Mormonism does a pretty good job of balancing our groupishness and our individuality. We obviously stress individualism in our self-sufficiency and in gaining salvation. But we tie it STRONGLY to a sense of family first (family history, ancestry), and to our community (since church is really a large group activity). At the other end of the spectrum, Mormonism has a history of communal living particularly for addressing physical needs. Although this last bit has waned in recent years it is still in our roots – perhaps to an alarming extent to many Republican Mormons.From a metaphorical standpoint, it’s a rather beautiful concept that individually we work out our own salvation but it is interdependent on our communal worship at church. Spiritually we’re responsible for ourselves, but the mechanisms for increasing that spirituality are HIGHLY dependent on our community.
  • Female and Male. Despite the imbalance in power and stereotyping that BOTH genders experience, Mormonism teaches that a woman and man need to come together to be exalted. That relationship is the capstone of our saving ordinances and I think the interdependency between husband and wife is captured pretty well even as theologically we recognize the authority of the priesthood.
  • Grace and Works. Much has been written about the balance of grace and works in Mormonism, and I tend to agree that we fall a bit hard on the works portion often at the expense of grace. Nevertheless, in Mormon theology, I think our reliance on grace is pretty clear as we all recognize that we are nothing without the Atonement of Christ. Personally, I’m pretty happy with our balance in this area.

Over the course of my life I have become more and more comfortable embracing the paradoxical ideas that complement each other and interconnect to enrich my life by demonstrating the complexity and messiness of living on earth.

So what are your favorite yin yang concepts?