Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness (Hardcover)

by James L. Ferrell


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"When we are struggling, where is happiness actually to be found? What I have learned in response to this question has been one of the biggest surprises of my life." — James L. Ferrell

As incredible as it may sound, much of the sadness and frustration we feel in mortality is actually created by our well-meaning efforts to find happiness. Relief from this predicament can be found through a divine gospel paradox that rescues us from failed roads and puts us on the surprising path to happiness.

Through engaging stories and fresh, invigorating gospel insights, James Ferrell has written a book that challenges our unquestioned and perhaps mistaken assumptions about many of life's fundamental concerns. For example, what if happiness depends less on forgiving ourselves than on giving up that quest? What if repentance is even sweeter than forgiveness? What if neither happiness nor heaven can be reached by climbing?

Falling to Heaven is an account of a gospel that's specifically designed to change our minds and transform our hearts. It is an account of the truths of Christ that really do set us free.

Product Details

  • Size:  6 x 8
  • Pages:  192
  • Released:  02/2012
  • Book on CD:  Unabridged
  • Number of Discs:  4
  • Running Time:  Approx. 4 hrs.

About the Author

James L. Ferrell was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Yale Law School and is a founding partner of the Arbinger Institute. He has authored several bestselling books, including The Peacegiver, The Holy Secret, and The Hidden Christ. and Jim and his wife, Jackie, are the parents of five children.

Chapter 3

The Divine Paradox

In his remarkable vision,25 the prophet Lehi describes five groups of people. Each successive group differs from the one before in a single way, and these single distinctions add up to the difference between personal stagnation and overflowing joy.

On one side of a river there rose a “great and spacious building,” filled to the brim with those Lehi is careful to tell us were “both old and young, both male and female.”26 Clearly no people in any category were immune from putting themselves in this building. And what were they doing? They were mocking those who desired to partake of the fruit of the tree.27

These multitudes in the building28 were divided from the rest by a “great and terrible gulf,” which represented the “justice of the Eternal God.”29 A river ran along this gulf from the tree out to the river’s head, beyond which was a “large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.”30 In this field we encounter the second group of people—“numberless concourses.” Unlike those in the first group, these people were not in an attitude of mocking righteousness. As a result, they were not (at least not yet) divided from the righteous by the great gulf of justice.

We are then told of a third group—a subset of those in the field. “Many” of these people in the field, Lehi tells us, were “pressing forward that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree” of life.31 They distinguished themselves from the second group by setting out after righteousness. They wanted to partake of the fruit of the tree. However, these people lost their way and wandered off the path when the way became obscured by “an exceedingly great mist of darkness,”32 which represented the “temptations of the devil.”33

A fourth group made it through the mist of darkness all the way to the tree. What was different about this group? In addition to setting out on the path, they “caught hold of” and “clung to” the rod of iron that paralleled it. This clinging to the rod (or word of God34) allowed them to press forward through those mists “even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.”35 They made it! But, as you may know, they didn’t stay. The scripture says that after they had partaken of the fruit “they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.”36 They were ashamed, we are told, “because of those that were scoffing at them” from the great and spacious building across the gulf. They slunk away and fell into “forbidden paths and were lost.”37

The question is, why? I believe that the answer to this question reveals the key to happiness itself—the key that unlocks the paradox of the fifth and final group:

To be short in writing, Lehi saw other multitudes [like group 2] pressing forward [like group 3]; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron [like group 4]; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron [again, like group 4], until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.38

Unlike group 4, this group stayed at the tree once they had obtained it. They were able to receive the happiness and joy that Lehi said resulted from the tree’s fruit. The question is, how? What single thing did this group do that the prior group did not? If you read the above passage again, you may notice something odd near the end—something that doesn’t make sense: a paradox. Think about trees, and fruit, and harvesting, and then read the passage again. Look for what doesn’t make sense. Find the paradox.

Do you see it? Does the passage accurately describe how we normally harvest from trees? Don’t we normally reach up to pick fruit? Then what are we to make of this group falling down to partake of the fruit, and of the fact that their falling down was the only thing that distinguished them from the group that fell away? As I’ve thought about those who fell away after reaching up for the fruit, it has occurred to me that their reaching up perhaps implies a level of pride that left them susceptible to the criticism and pride of the world. By contrast, the humility of those who found happiness by falling down rendered the pride of the world powerless.

So at the heart of the gospel we encounter a world-shifting, direction-obliterating paradox. In the gospel, it appears that up isn’t up and down isn’t down. After all, those who reached up fell, while those who fell were lifted. And the great and spacious building that was so “up” it “stood as it were in the air, high above the earth,”39 ended up falling, “and the fall thereof,” the scriptures emphasize, “was exceedingly great.”40

Regarding happiness and joy, then, it appears that up may not be up and down may not be down. Rather, we begin to see the surprising outlines of a divine paradox. As nonsensical as it may at first sound, in the gospel, and regarding happiness, up appears to be down and down appears to be up.

And that, it seems to me, is a paradox worth pondering.


^25. See 1 Nephi 8. See also 1 Nephi 11<–15.

^26. See <1 Nephi 8:26–27.

^27. See <1 Nephi 8:27.

^28. See 1 Nephi 11:34–35.

^29. See 1 Nephi 12:18.

^30. See 1 Nephi 8:20–21.

^31. See 1 Nephi 8:21.

^32. See 1 Nephi 8:23.

^33. See 1 Nephi 12:17.

^34. See 1 Nephi 11:25.

^35. See 1 Nephi 8:24.

^36. 1 Nephi 8:25.

^37. See <1 Nephi 8:28.

^38. 1 Nephi 8:30.

^39. See 1 Nephi 8:26.

^40. See 1 Nephi 11:36.

Chapter 3

The Divine Paradox In his remarkable vision,25 the...

Chapter 2

Truth in Contradiction I once saw a T-shirt with this message on the front: &ldquo;The sentence on the back of this shirt...
Life Changing

by  Courtney  -   reviewed on  October 14, 2012

Falling to Heaven is amazing. There really is no other way to describe it. It’s one of those life changing books with layers of lessons that you will discover every time you read it. You have to follow the Lord and only then will true joy find it’s way to you. You can’t force it. Only through service and humble submission to the Lord’s will will you ever find lasting happiness. I can’t tell you how much I dislike the “self-help” formula for women these days, and I have mentioned several times that for many of the world’s women, even more “me time” is not necessarily the answer to why you are discontent with your life. Only by fully embracing your role as a woman, wife and/or mother will you feel relief. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for that kind of comment because people think that I am somehow saying that we women shouldn’t ever do anything for ourselves or that we should never take a break. I’m not saying that at all ... For the rest of this review go to: http://ordinaryhappilyeverafter.com/blog/2012/07/falling-to-heaven-the-surprising-path-to-happiness/

Insightful, uplifting - a message of hope

by  Justin  -   reviewed on  May 08, 2012

Falling to Heaven is full of insights into the paradoxes of the Gospel of Christ. To find our self, we must lose our self. To be chief among (wo)men, we must be the servant of all. We are strongest when we are weak. Ferrell takes his reader on a surprising pathway to happiness. A pathway that requires us to bow ourselves down, develop humility, and fall at the feet of our Savior. I have spent the past decade of my life studying the science of happiness. None of the 'world's' strategies for happiness come close to the ideas in this book - and yet the principles in Falling to Heaven have left me feeling renewed and elevated, spiritually touched, and 'happier' than any of the typical happiness strategies offered by positive psychology. I loved this book. I couldn't stop turning the pages to learn more. I am already looking forward to re-reading it (more slowly this time) with my wife and children. This is a book that every follower of Christ should read. At least three times!

Good ideas, but can be misleading

by  Customer  -   reviewed on  March 29, 2012

This book starts with a great idea, but then spins it off in what might for some be a discouraging direction. Some of the expressions and phrases the author uses directly conflict with what I've read in talks by apostles and Preach My Gospel. I don't think he intends to be discouraging at all, but it can easily be read this way. If you're interested in this book, I'd recommend trying to read it with the Spirit, so you know which ideas are right for you to apply, and which are inappropriate for your circumstance.

An Eye Opening Book

by  Logan  -   reviewed on  March 05, 2012

Even after reading the first 50-75 pages of this book I really started to reconsider what I've been doing to be happy in my life. It's encouraged me to look at my relationship with Christ from a more hopeful perspective. I've really benefited from the chapter where the author discusses the trend of comparing ourselves to friends, family, neighbors, etc. His analogies are clear, insightful and most importantly they have motivated me to make positive changes in the ways I look for happiness. I even used some of the analogies in my Sunday School class yesterday!

Spiritually Heart Changing

by  Kandee  -   reviewed on  February 26, 2012

I was able to read an advance copy of this remarkable book. As Eleanor Roosevelt suggested "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" This book elevated my mind to spiritual/intellectual/CHRIST centered ideas which are truly matters of my HEART. Many of the ideas shared in this book were butter to my soul. The honesty of the author's perspective invites a level of humility that I desperately welcome. Thank you James Ferrell. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!

Major paradigm shift between book bindings

by  Tiffany  -   reviewed on  April 14, 2012

I can't begin to describe how important this book is to me. I've already given 4 copies away as gifts because I want to share this with everyone! I agree with James Ferrell, that most of us are slavishly laboring in an effort to find happiness, but our efforts are often the very thing keeping us from that result! His language is plain, direct, humble and laden with the Spirit. I believe that he has captured the essence of our true mission on Earth and cut past our usual to-do lists, even those good and better lists, to go straight for the best. At the same time, his approach is empathetic of our fallen nature and our human foibles and does not leave the reader feeling shamed or condemned. Just as if blinders have been taken off our eyes and a wonderful tool given by a loving friend to draw closer to Heavenly Father and to true joy. This book could remake the modern world, if enough eyes and hearts took it in.

Gaining a deeper understanding of Christ's love.

by  Jill  -   reviewed on  May 19, 2014

Falling to Heaven is one of those books that you will want to pick up again and read a couple more times. This book has become a new favorite of mine that I can recommend to any friend or stranger. I personally learned more than I ever thought I could by reading this. James L. Ferrell really knows how to connect the reader with what is being written. He talks about the many paradoxes that are in our lives and how we can learn from them by applying them to our lives. I enjoyed reading every single page and could not wait to read what Ferrell was going to write next. He uses personal stories that clearly and simply model the topic that he is writing about and through these stories I am able to relate myself and my life to this book. Ferrell also uses many analogies that portray exactly what he wants you to see and understand. This book will be cherished in my home for a long time and I cannot wait to read it again. My testimony of the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown immensely by reading this book. I have a fuller understanding of the atonement and who I am as a child of God. Read this book; you will not regret it. You will learn a lot and enjoy every page.

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