Monday, November 10, 2014

Fact Check: Republican Party Platform and LDS Teachings

Mark Paredes's attack on the Democratic party has been widely criticized, primarily because he uses his position as a Bishop to imply that Mormons who belong to the Democrat party are not temple worthy, by beginning with the temple recommend question that asks whether the church member belongs to any organization that contradicts Church teachings.

Mark points out that the Democrat platform is opposed to the Church on abortion and same-sex marriage. He then writes, "While the 2012 Republican platform is almost unreadable, at least it does not contain statements that directly contradict LDS teachings." My purpose here is to show that his statement is factually incorrect: the Republican party platform has plenty of statements that contradict the Church's teachings.

The easiest example is immigration. Page 25 of the 2012 Republican Party Platform opposes any amnesty for illegal immigrants, and page 26 calls for "tough penalties," implicitly emphasizing deportation, where the Church statement says, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God. The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship."

Another example, ironically, is abortion. Page 33 of the Republican Party Platform states simply, "We stand firmly against it." The platform makes no distinction between abortions after rape or incest, abortions when the child is unlikely to survive, and abortions when the mother is unlikely to survive. Yet The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cites all of these cases as possible examples where abortion may be acceptable. Even Mitt Romney, the Republicans' 2012 presidential nominee and a Latter-day Saint, did not support his own party's platform on the issue.

While not a direct contradiction, it is also worth noting that the Republicans' anti-discrimination statement on page 9 omits any mention of sexual orientation, where the Church has come out in support of sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws for employment and housing. Once again, the Church is more moderate--and more focused on pertinent issues--that the Republican party. In fact, this is one of the Democrats' most poignant criticisms of Republicans: that they fight for traditional marriage, but not for anti-discrimination laws in other areas of life.

Another direct contradiction is the Republicans' declaration, "We are the party of peace through strength" (pg. 39). This is followed by several pages of reasoning for expanding our military capabilities; the party platform, along with most Republicans' personal statements, is filled with the rhetoric of military power and conquering our enemies. But in 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball said:

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)
First Presidency Message, June 1976

The Church does not support disbanding our military or any such extreme measure. Instead, they unequivocally oppose the sort of military devotion that Republicans proudly espouse. President Kimball went so far as to call it idolatry.

So, yes, the Democrats have issues where the oppose the Church, but so do Republicans. If we were to apply Mark Paredes's final judgment of Harry Reid to staunch Latter-day Saint Republicans, we would conclude that they cannot be men or women of "serious religious faith," that they are an "embarrassment." However, I try to follow Cariadoc's Law: "Do not ascribe to malice that which can be explained by ignorance or error."

If you believe that your political party is entirely in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ, or if you believe that your political leaders are more enlightened than the seers who stand at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then I believe you are simply mistaken. I invite you to exercise your faith, continue to learn through prayer and study, and become someone better.

NOTE: This is not intended to be an in-depth analysis of the entire Republican Platform, which has many other good and bad ideas in it, and I do not claim that one party is more or less in line with LDS teachings than the other. There are scholars who have studied this in much more depth than I have. As for myself, I am a moderate conservative and a registered Republican, so in my last temple recommend interview, I freely admitted that I belonged to an organization that contradicts Church teachings. My fairly liberal bishop agreed with me, but he still gave me a temple recommend.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Economic Class and the American Dream

Upper Class: Lives on the work of others, through investments, ownership of land and corporations, or even slavery.

Upper-Middle Class: Controls their own means of production (like an author, or a small business owner), with enough extra money for savings, education, and charitable donations.

Middle Class: Able to survive without help through their own work, with enough extra money for investments, savings, education, entrepreneurship, and charitable donations.

Lower-Middle Class: Able to survive without help through their own work, but unable to save up or invest in entrepreneurship or education; unable to give to charity.

Lower Class: Unable to survive without help.

Slave Class: Treated as property.

Sometimes people talk about the "American Dream" being someone from the lower classes who rises to the upper class. That's not my dream. My dream is for every American to be in the middle class, and to have the opportunity to rise to the upper-middle class, if that's what they want to do. I think the upper class, lower-middle class, lower class, and slave class will not exist in Zion.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chastity Does Not Equal Consent

Dear Matt Walsh,

On June 11th, you made a big mistake: you claimed that we can only end rape culture through chastity.

That is horrifying.

Don't get me wrong; I am a huge fan of chastity. Sex is precious, and sacred, and holy, which is why I waited until marriage to have sex, and why I hope others will do the same. Your blog has many uplifting insights into chastity and marriage.

So why am I horrified, you ask? Because chastity is always a choice of two people. It is consensual. Rape, by contrast, is always a choice of one person. There is an inherent contradiction in equating the two.

There is an inevitable implication when you make this logical error. It is that the girl--the victim of rape, the one who usually feels most responsible for sexual sin--will blame herself for being raped. She will think that she needs to dress more modestly to fix rape culture, when modest clothes are not necessarily safer. (I'm told that the safest clothes are the hardest ones to get off the girl's body, regardless of how provocative they are. Tight-fitting short shorts are much safer than sweat pants.)

Obviously, this wasn't your intent. Your intent was to promote chastity--a noble goal, as I've acknowledged.

But it's time for all of us to cease equating chastity with consent, sexual sanctity with sexual agency. They are related but separate issues, and we must teach both to our children. Otherwise, we risk blaming the victims of sexual abuse.

Let me be clear. I understand that you were not trying to blame the victims of rape. You said that rape is a problem, and that chastity is the only solution. Keep in mind that victims of rape are prone to blame themselves already, hence my reaction. If you do not purge this implication completely from your logic, you have not purged rape culture completely from yourself.

Thank you for listening, and may your blog inspire.
Michael Reed Davison

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Egalitarian Feminism

I've seen so many people, both men and women, say that they aren't feminists: they're equalists, or egalitarians, or humanists. They usually describe feminists as angry. Sometimes, they accuse feminists of being unwilling to discuss men's rights, or exaggerating problems that come from sexism, or imagining offenses against women where none exist.

A good example is the debate about equal pay. Feminists fight for equal pay for equal work. Their opponents say that we already have equal pay for equal work, but that women choose to do less paid work, or choose lower-paying careers, or don't ask for promotions. Both sides agree that we need equal pay for equal work, but they have a different belief about whether women's rights need an advocate right now.

A quick Google search gives a nice definition of feminism:
The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

A feminist advocates for women, specifically, because they see problems with the way women are treated. They call these problems "patriarchy," and there's an enormous amount of scholarship on how sexism and patriarchy affect everyday life. As a psychology student, I saw a lot of evidence of negative stereotypes towards women, so I became a feminist. I believe that God speaks to us every day through men, women, and children, but that almost all of us listen better when a man is speaking. Hence, men control most of the world's governments, churches, and businesses. Even in family life, many women do not have an equal voice in family decisions as the scriptures direct for all Priesthood councils.

So, I'm a feminist.

"But," someone says, "Feminists are so angry at men! Men have issues, too. Who's looking out for men who are abused, or mocked, or hurt?"

This is why egalitarianism is important. Obviously, everyone deserves to be treated like a human being. An egalitarian is open to discussing the needs of anyone and everyone who needs help, regardless of whether they're more disadvantaged than the person standing next to them. If I understand this verse right, the scriptures openly endorse egalitarianism:

[God] denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

Since I believe that women's issues are in need of special advocacy, and I am also open to discussing men's issues, I am an egalitarian feminist.

I propose the following three principles for egalitarian feminism:

1. Standing up for women's rights in every sphere of life.
2. Openness to discussing men's issues, as well as all other social issues.
3. Fighting against blanket statements and stereotypes about either gender.

I propose that egalitarian feminism can advocate for women without being angry at men in general, acknowledging that patriarchy is sustained by both men and women. Egalitarian feminism blames individuals for their crimes, not the victim or the criminal's demographic group. It calls on everyone to consider whether they are treating women respectfully, and it is bold in pointing out real problems in the education and treatment of both men and women. Egalitarian feminism holds that men are human beings, capable of making their own choices, and argues that feminism is liberating to both genders.

Men, we need to stop using "girly," "sissy," or "gay" as an insult. We need to admire sensitivity and empathy in everyone, as God does. We need to respond to statistics about male violence with solutions, not defensiveness.

Women, we need you in politics. We need you in academia. We need you in our personal lives.

Egalitarian feminism does not argue that men and women are the same (that's equality feminism). It does not argue for abolishing gender entirely. Instead, it argues that men and women, together, can choose to treat women better than they are being treated right now.

As a final note, my lovely Latter-day Saint audience, please note that "patriarchy" and our scriptures' "patriarchal order" are not the same thing. The patriarchal order states that women and men lead their families together, as equals, with somewhat different roles; in patriarchy, the man is in charge, with freedom to command and abuse however he likes. Patriarchy and the patriarchal order are exact opposites, despite their similar names. For more on this, as well as what it means to "preside," go study D&C sections 107 and 121. Even the Prophet is required to make decisions in unity with his counselors.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Praying for Ourselves and Others

We often talk about how we pray for our own talks to be inspired, or how we should pray for ourselves to learn something in a Church meeting, or from the scriptures. But sometimes we forget that praying for others is just as important. The prophets, in days of old, became prophets by pouring out their tears and prayers on behalf of their people:

Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.
And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much.
1 Nephi 1:5-6

God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
1 Samuel 12:23

Likewise, we as the Lord's covenant people are commanded to sustain the prophets through our prayers:

And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith.
D&C 43:12

Sometimes we talk about this entirely of terms of duty, but it is more than that. It is a principle of power by which the Lord decides what revelation to give the Church:

Unto them [the church]is his [the Prophet's] calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will, according to their faith.

Without our prayers and faith, the Prophet could know all the mysteries of eternity, and he would never be inspired to reveal them to us. And without his prayers for us, the Prophet would not be the Prophet. That is the pattern in the scriptures: the prophets pray for the people, and the people pray for the prophets, as well as for themselves.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

3 Ways to Listen to General Conference

I have tried using three different approaches to listening to my church leaders. I'd like to share what each one was like for me, and what the prophets and scriptures have said about that sort of approach. I have found that the third approach brings me closest to God.

Preparing to Obey

When I was a teenager, I took pages and pages of notes every LDS General Conference. Whenever I listened to a priesthood blessing or a general authority, my mental effort involved paying attention, comparing my own behavior to what the church leader said, and remembering as much as possible.

The nice thing about this approach is that it's spiritually safe. Doing whatever someone says in General Conference will never get you thrown into hell. It doesn't take a whole lot of critical thinking, but that doesn't mean it's easy: it means trying to balance hundreds of ideas and commandments and apply them to your life. This is an honorable, challenging, and very common way to listen to General Conference.

Unfortunately, Brigham Young didn't like it very much. Apparently, being so dependent on others for your spirituality can never lead to eternal life:
"Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and rinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to do in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the Celestial Kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, through all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.”
President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 1, p. 312

As if that weren't enough, General Conference itself says that not all church leaders' statements are doctrine! Elder Christofferson explained,
It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.” President Clark, quoted earlier, observed:
“To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk. …
“… The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.”

Elder Neil A. Anderson also pointed out that this method--complete acceptance--can lead to confusion when a church leader makes a mistake:
A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.
The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”
Joseph Smith said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations.” The miracle of God’s hand in the history and destiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is understood only through the lens of spiritual inquiry.

This approach's focus is on obedience to prophetic authority, which is a good principle, but the three quotes above show that this approach is limited.

Sifting for Truth

Recognizing that prophets make mistakes, I have also tried approaching General Conference critically, trying to sort out what is doctrine and what is a particular speaker's opinion. The mental effort here involves comparing them with other talks, with the scriptures, and with logic.

This approach is intellectually healthy (it's very similar to how academics approach each other's scholarship), but it also has some problems. When I first tried using it, I found that General Conference wasn't much of a spiritual experience for me, leaving me feeling empty and a little sad.

One spiritual danger of this approach is explained by Jacob:
O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

This approach can be sincere as long as you accept truth, as long as you listen to whatever is really from God. However, there is still a better way to listen. For me, at least, there are more important things to think about during General Conference than whether or not the speaker's words are technically in line with doctrine.

Listening with Faith

This is by far the most powerful approach I have tried. Instead of just remembering whatever they say, or critiquing their talks, I pray to hear what God wants me to learn. The mental effort here includes praying for yourself and your leaders to have the Spirit of the Lord.

Once, Nikki and I went to the bishop for some help resolving a disagreement. I prayed about the interview ahead of time, and I felt impressed that there was something I needed to learn from him. The bishop spent a long time giving us well-intentioned advice about how men and women think about emotions differently and have different expectations, and how we need to try to understand each other's perspective. And then, without seeming to realize that he was changing the topic, he looked at me and said, "You will need to make a sacrifice that feels unfair to you, for this situation to feel fair to your wife." The Holy Ghost burned within me, and I knew that this was what God wanted me to learn.

The bishop went back to his differences-between-men-and-women-and-let's-try-to-understand-each-other speech, which was somewhat helpful. But 95% of the benefits of that conversation came from that one moment, when he looked at me and spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost, in answer to my prayers. Elder David A. Bednar described this as a kind of spiritual discernment:
The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears and feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine.

As I follow the Holy Ghost, I feel prompted to focus on talks and passages that are particularly appropriate to my family, which answer my prayers, or that get me thinking about topics I hadn't fully understood before. I have found that, like how Elder Oaks describes the Book of Mormon, General Conference can be a Urim and Thummim for personal revelation: a tool, a starting ground, for inspiration.

This principle--reading and listening as a staging ground for revelation--was essential to Joseph Smith. His First Vision came because the Spirit touched his heart as he read James 1:5-6, and many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants (including sections 37, 45, 73, 76, 77, 86, 91, and 132) were received because the Spirit spoke to him as he read the Bible.

I have found that listening with faith is both spiritually safe and intellectually healthy. This approach acknowledges that Church leaders may make mistakes, but it focuses on learning what God wants you to learn, praying for the Spirit, and praying for your leaders. And this is the approach I plan to use this weekend.

In response to my post, my aunt shared a quote from J. Reuben Clark: ""We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’" (J. Reuben Clark). I believe that, if we don't get the Holy Ghost through prayer, sincerity, faith, and real intent, no method for listening to conference will benefit us.

As I listen to the April 2014 General Conference, I just heard Elder Neil A. Andersen say that it is good to take anything the Prophet says as from the mouth of God himself. I agree with that, as a general principle. In the story Elder Christofferson told two years ago, when the Prophet made a mistake, it was the Prophet himself who corrected it. And I think that's a good, general pattern for how the Lord tends to work through the head of the Church.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Anna from Disney's "Frozen" as a Type of Christ

I believe that the story of Anna and Elsa symbolizes Jesus Christ's sacrifice as well as any parable in scripture. In literary terms, Frozen is the most obvious retelling of the Messiah story since The Lion King or I, Robot.

Leaving the Ninety-Nine for the One

Anna loved and gave freely, focusing on those who needed it the most. She left her people at home and went to search for the one who was lost, no matter how difficult the journey. She even left her handsome prince at home, instead of asking him to come along, so that someone could take care of Arendell.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
Matthew 18:12

Even when Elsa froze Anna's heart, she kept on pleading: I am here; let me help you!

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20

Redemptive Sacrifice

Elsa hurt all of Arendell. Many people suffered because her powers got out of control, but the person who suffered most was Anna.

Weak and dying from the ice in her heart, Anna has one last hope: if she and Kristoff share a kiss of true love, then she will be saved. She sets out across the frozen fjord, hoping to find him. The storm clears, and she sees him, just a few dozen yards away. They run towards each other, but then something more important than her own life attracts Anna's attention.

Elsa is in danger.

Giving up any hope of surviving, enduring the pain Elsa has caused her, Anna runs to her sister's side and saves her life. As she does so, her own time runs out, and she becomes frozen solid. Her sacrifice shatters the sword that had been raised to kill Elsa--just as Elsa gave up all hope of forgiveness.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Conquering Death

But, like Jesus' sacrifice for us, Anna's sacrifice went beyond saving her sister. Her act of true love literally brought her back to life, much like the Father gave power to the Son to live again.

And Anna's sacrifice had one final gift: when Elsa saw that Anna's love could thaw the ice inside her, Elsa was inspired to be more, to gain control over her own powers. I believe that Jesus Christ, likewise, lives to this day, praying for us and inspiring us to be more than we could ever be without his death and resurrection.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Romans 8:11

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Christian, Latter-day Saint Reading of Frozen

Several authors have done interpretations of Disney's Frozen. Kathryn Skaggs did a critical queer reading of the show, which has many critiques, including an excellent satire by Julie of Huopo. In the comments of Skaggs's blog, Jeffrey Thayne did a fascinating comparison of Frozen to Carl Roger's humanism, which is a major theory in psychology.

My purpose here is not to critique any of them, but to talk about the many different messages of the movie Frozen in light of the word of God, using the Bible, the Book of Mormon, my own experiences, and other Christian and Latter-day Saint sources. In doing so, I hope to build on the work of Whitney of Mercy River, who was inspired by Frozen's message that love can thaw a frozen heart. I also hope to inspire conversations in other Christian families about what we can learn from this movie.

Overall, I find this movie inspiring, and I see several scriptural principles in it.

Love Thaws, Fear Freezes

John and Mormon both wrote that "perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18, Moroni 8:16). The scriptures are filled with the instruction to overcome our fears--angels tend to say, "Fear not!" before they even introduce themselves, and God gave Joshua some beautiful encouragement when he become the leader of Israel:

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Joshua 1:6-9

Elsa is taught that as her powers grow stronger, fear will make it harder to control them. Grandfather Troll says, "Fear will be your enemy." The reprise of For the First Time in Forever is devoted to contrasting Elsa's fear and with Anna's love:

You don't have to protect me I'm not afraid
Please don't shut me out again,
Please don't slam the door
You don't have to keep your distance anymore

'Cause for the first time in forever, 
I finally understand
For the first time in forever, 
We can fix this hand in hand

We can head down this mountain together
You don't have live in fear
Cause for the first time in forever,
I will be right here


Anna: You don’t have to be afraid
Elsa: No escape from the storm inside of me!

Anna: We can work this out together
Elsa: I can’t control the curse!

Anna: We’ll reverse the storm you’ve made
Elsa: Anna, please, you’ll only make it worse!

Anna: Don’t panic
Elsa: There’s so much fear!

Anna: We’ll make the sun shine bright
Elsa: You’re not safe here!

Anna: We can face this thing together
Elsa: No!

Anna: We can change this winter weather
Elsa: AHHHHH...

Anna: And everything will be all right...
Elsa: I CAN’T!

In the end, Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa, in a beautiful type of the Atonement of Christ, and the act of true love saves Anna's life and gives Elsa inspiration--love thaws! By focusing on her own feelings of love, she's able to overcome her fear and control her powers.

Conceal, Don't Feel... Let It Go!

Throughout the movie, Elsa struggles with how to control her immense power. And who hasn't felt a strong passion--a consuming desire for accomplishment, for closeness, for rest, for beauty? For the first part of the movie, Elsa stifles her power completely, burying it, hiding it. This doesn't make her happy, but at least she doesn't hurt anyone--until she explodes. So, she sings Let It Go and unleashes her power completely, giving her a beautiful moment of creativity and release.

But then she finds out that she is hurting other people, and she doesn't know how to undo her explosion of power.

As mentioned above, Anna's sacrifice inspires Elsa with the answer: love! Using love to control her power lets her use it safely, without hurting anyone else or stifling herself.

This is very much like the scriptures' statements about passion and sexuality. The prophet Alma wrote,

Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.
Alma 38:12

The awesome power of Elsa's ice is foreshadowed in the opening song of Frozen:

Beautiful, powerful, dangerous, cold
Ice has a magic, can't be controlled...
There's beauty and there's danger here...
Beware the frozen heart

Although the analogy is usually fire, rather than ice, this sounds very much like the scriptural teachings about sex, especially when ancient prophets talk about chastity.

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.
Proverbs 6:27-29

I like Frozen's example of balance and love, rather than stiflement or pure passion, and I think Elsa's power could be a useful metaphor for teaching children about sex. I plan to use Frozen to teach my children about the law of chastity: sex is beautiful, powerful, and (if not an act of love in a covenant marriage) dangerous.

Love and Fixer-Uppers

When Kristoff introduces Anna to his adopted family of "love experts," they burst into song about loving someone who's a fixer-upper, how love is about loving someone in spite of their flaws. Or, in the words of Peter:

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

This song is a beautiful way to open a discussion with children about loving people who aren't perfect. In a way, the entire show is about Anna's love for her flawed sister. Although the song is about love, it adds a caveat that love doesn't necessarily change people:

We aren't saying you can change him
'Cause people don't really change
We're only saying that love's a force that's powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they're mad or scared or stressed
But throw a little love their way, and you'll bring out their best
True love brings out the best

While the line "people don't really change" contradicts the Book of Mormon promise that Christ can change our hearts, the overall message here is important. We don't love people so that they will change, we just love them, and that is likely to bring out the best in them. Again, here is a good starting point for a family conversation about how we can influence others, but we cannot truly change them.

I'd leave real change between them and God.

Let What Go?

The song Let It Go is a beautiful piece of art about letting go of something that's holding you back. This message, in itself, can either contradict or confirm the scriptures, depending on what you're letting go of. But the movie itself shows that the more extreme interpretations of the song are dangerous, and Elsa clearly accepts right and wrong and cares about the well-being of her sister and her kingdom.

Instead, when singing this song, Elsa seems to be rejecting the stifling tradition of her father. Tradition is often opposed to the Gospel:

And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
D&C 93:39

Elsa was letting go of a rule which came from an earthly father, not a Heavenly Father, a rule that was no longer working, a rule that may not have really accomplished anything to begin with. In doing so, she lost some people's respect, but she prepared herself to learn a better rule: use love to keep the ice under control. It's normal to have rules that are based more on tradition, pride, or habit than the word of God, and those are things we need to change.

Rules without love are not redemptive or healing.

Whitney of Mercy River wrote, "Ultimately, Frozen teaches us to be more worried about the condition of our hearts than our pride or our need to be right. These things will freeze our ability to progress, our happiness, our peace, and our character. A frozen heart will most certainly distance us– not only from our siblings, our parents, our neighbors, and our friends– but also from God."

Friday, January 31, 2014

In the Hollow of thy Hand - Lyrics for Sister Missionaries

This is an adaptation of Janice Kapp Perry's "In the Hollow of thy Hand," to celebrate how many wonderful sister missionaries we have now. Most of the song is the same, but a few lines were rewritten because "woman" and "daughter" have more syllables than "man" and "son". :)

Dear Lord who blesses us with love
Please send this day thy spirit from above
As this thy daughter hears a call from thee
Help her we pray to learn humility

Direct her footsteps every day
And keep her ever walking in thy ways
Protect her as in holiness she stands
Lord, hold her in the hollow of thy hand

In the hollow of thy hand, as our Zion she expands
Help her understanding deepen and increase
In the hollow of thy hand, as our Zion she expands
Let her know the special blessing of thy peace

Dear Lord, who hears and answers prayers
Please keep thy servant always in thy care
As she prepares to teach her fellow men
Oh keep her safe and bring her home again

Protect her from all worldly ways
And always send thy spirit when she prays
From girl to woman as she serves that land
Just hold her in the hollow of thy hand

In the hollow of thy hand, as our Zion she expands
Help her understanding deepen and increase
In the hollow of thy hand, as our Zion she expands
Let her know the special blessing of thy peace

As she faces life's demands
May she take a valiant stand
Give her shelter in the hollow of thy hand