Latter-day Saint Life

5 songs from ‘Encanto’ that echo important gospel principles

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Songs from ‘Encanto’ stuck in your head? See how the lyrics might help us better understand perfectionism and grief

I’m a mother to a toddler, so naturally the movie Encanto has been viewed approximately 75 times in our house since Christmas. And if the movie isn’t on, the music is likely being played on our smart speaker in the kitchen. The characters, the colors, the animation, and the music are all so captivating that I haven’t complained about watching and listening so many times.

Throughout countless hours of hearing the music, I’ve found myself drawing gospel connections to the songs’ lyrics. Here are just five of the songs from the movie that I am grateful my son is listening to on repeat and (hopefully) learning from:

“Waiting on a Miracle”

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The film starts out with Mirabel explaining to her neighbors all the incredible, magical gifts her family members have. When it is revealed that Mirabel does not have a gift, she brushes it off as no big deal. But just a few minutes later, we hear Mirabel’s true feelings when she sings a powerful anthem about her longing to feel like a contributing member of her family by having a magical gift of her own.

I’ve found there to be two important lessons in this song.

First, sometimes it’s OK to put on a brave face, but powerful emotions like depression and anxiety or other mental health challenges should not be neglected, ignored, or hidden from others. In her October 2019 general conference address, Sister Reyna I. Aburto said, “Sadly, many who suffer from severe depression distance themselves from their fellow Saints because they feel they do not fit some imaginary mold. We can help them know and feel that they do indeed belong with us. It is important to recognize that depression is not the result of weakness, nor is it usually the result of sin. It ‘thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy’ [Jane Clayson Johnson, Silent Souls Weeping]. Together, we can break through the clouds of isolation and stigma so the burden of shame is lifted and miracles of healing can occur.”

The second thing we can learn from this song is that it's totally reasonable that after being “patient and steadfast and steady,” as Mirabel sings, we might expect a miracle from heaven. We might expect our lives to look differently or for our sorrows and pains to be immediately dissolved. It's hard when that doesn’t happen, but we know that God is always there and will make up for all the injustice or unfairness we may experience in this life.

In one of his last general conference talks, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin shared, “Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.”

“Surface Pressure”

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One of my personal favorites from the film is the song “Surface Pressure.” Here we listen to super-strong Luisa Madrigal sharing all the pressures she’s feeling from her family’s expectations. With gargantuan comparisons to Hercules and the Titanic, it becomes clear that Luisa is feeling more than overwhelmed. Then in a lighthearted tempo change, Luisa sings, “If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations would that free some room up for joy? / Or relaxation? Or simple pleasure?”

As my husband’s oldest sister and I have jokingly remarked, this song has become somewhat of an “oldest child anthem” as Luisa tries to “handle every family burden.” But the message can ring true for anyone. In today’s busy world, we often take on more responsibilities than we can handle, or we internally exaggerate the expectations put upon us by others. We sometimes forget to take a moment to step back, appreciate what we’ve been given, or soak up the most important, fleeting moments in our lives.

When President Thomas S. Monson gave his beloved general conference talk “Finding Joy in the Journey” in 2008, he addressed the importance of relishing life as we live it and sharing our love with friends and family. He concluded his message with these words: “My sincere prayer is that we may adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and thus find joy in the journey.

▶You may also like: From FOMO to JOMO: What prophets have been teaching us all along

“We Don't Talk About Bruno”

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If you’re not aware of this song by now, I’m not sure where you’ve been hiding. It just became the highest-charting Disney animated hit in 26 years, passing 2013’s massive sensation “Let It Go” from Frozen. And for good reason—it is catchy.

Bruno Madrigal is introduced as the mysterious uncle who vanished after supposedly causing nothing but trouble with his gift of premonition. The Madrigal family members and their neighbors all insist that they don’t talk about Bruno (and then ironically go on to spend the next three and a half minutes singing about Bruno), but I think it also proves a great point as we consider the difficult or tricky pieces of our own history as Latter-day Saints.

There are events in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that don’t make sense to us today, and so we sometimes try to avoid them by not bringing them up. But that approach may be more harmful than helpful. Former member of the Relief Society general presidency Sheri Dew shared at a BYU–Idaho devotional in 2016, “Questions are good. Questions are good if they are inspired questions, asked in faith, and asked of credible sources where the Spirit will direct and confirm the answer.”

The Church has also been striving for more transparency and insights into hard topics and difficult-to-explain issues with projects like the Saints series, Gospel Topics Essays, General Handbook revisions, and more.

“What Else Can I Do?”

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Since receiving her gift of creating beautiful, spontaneous flora as a child, Isabella Madrigal has spent her life making “perfect, practiced poses,” but when in a moment of frustration she produces a cactus, this gem of a song emerges.

Isabella sings triumphantly, “What could I do if I just grew what I was feeling in the moment? / What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect?” Much like Luisa’s fears of failure, Isabella’s sense of perfectionism is unhelpful. Likewise, a misunderstanding of “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48) can take a toll on our mental health and overall progression.

In the October 2021 general conference, Brother Brad Wilcox, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, said, “God’s message is that worthiness is not flawlessness. Worthiness is being honest and trying.”

We as members of the Church often also strive for perfection, but we should also appreciate and understand that our abilities to serve, to parent, to teach, to lead, and to love may not be perfect, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or important.

“Two Oruguitas”

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This darling song—sung beautifully in Spanish in the movie and in English during the end credits—is featured as Abuela Madrigal recalls her love story and the loss of her husband at a young age and at a pivotal time in their family’s history.

The story told in this beautiful Oscar-nominated song is a very sad one: two oruguitas (caterpillars) love and grow together, but when it comes time to build their own cocoons, they have to separate. They feel nervous about leaving one another and anxious about what their future holds. Much like when we are physically separated from our loved ones after death, we feel sorrow in their parting. But for the caterpillars in the song—and for us—the line “Wonders await you just on the other side” is a touching reminder of the truth that we as Latter-day Saints know: that we can be reunited with our loved ones even after death.

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