There are few things Mormons love more than a Disney movie. But these family-friendly classics don’t just have to entertain. Many of these Disney movies also come packed with powerful messages that can give us insight into the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are a few Disney connections to ponder and point out to your children.
Beauty and the Beast: Overcoming the Natural Man
In addition to being an all-time favorite, this “tale as old as time” can give us incredible insight into the Atonement, the love of Christ, and overcoming the natural man.
After the prince turns away a powerful sorceress disguised as an old woman, he is turned into a terrible beast. In a sense, the prince’s transformation into a beast can symbolize the natural man or woman inside each of us. The natural man, which includes the tendency to be selfish, prideful, and self-centered, is an aspect of human nature that we must learn to overcome. It is a part of our mortal state that can bury our true identities as royal children of God.
For the beast, the only way the curse can be broken is through love. The same is true for us. For us to overcome the natural man, we must “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” and be “full of love” (Mosiah 3:19). As Elder Carl B. Cook said in a recent BYU devotional, “We are dependent on God and Jesus Christ to help us change our nature.” It is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ—the ultimate act of love—that we can truly change.
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Belle, the heroine of the story, can teach us of the Savior’s love. She sacrifices herself to save her father from the beast’s captivity. Her selfless choice to live in the castle provides the opportunity for the curse to be broken, just as the Savior’s choice to come to earth provides a way for us to overcome sin, death, and the natural man within each of us. Belle’s sacrifice and love not only frees the beast, but ultimately frees every other individual in the castle—Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, Lumiere, and little Chip. The Savior’s sacrifice not only provides salvation for you and me, but also for every other human to live upon the earth.
Just as the beast has to learn to love Belle in return, knowing the Savior loves us is not enough for us to reach our full potential. We must come to love Him in return too. When we truly love the Savior, we act upon that love by following Him, repenting, and keeping His commandments. As we do this, our very natures are changed. Because of the Savior’s love given in His atoning sacrifice, we can be transformed into the sons and daughters of God we were born to be.
The Lion King: Repentance and Our Divine Identity
The Lion King is a Disney classic that teaches a powerful message about remembering who we are and learning from the past.
Young Simba is deceived into blaming himself for his father’s death and runs away. He then meets some new friends who convince him to adopt a “Hakuna Matata” attitude in attempt to bury his feelings of guilt, hoping to find relief from his past by hiding it. However, true healing only comes when Simba remembers his royal identity and responsibilities as a leader and moves forward.
Like Simba, we all make mistakes that bring feelings of shame and guilt. While our first instinct may be to hide or run from our problems, true healing only comes in and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. By confessing and forsaking our sins (see D&C 58:43), we can find forgiveness, relief, and strength to move forward. As Rafiki wisely says, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
Forgetting our divine identity may hinder us from turning to Christ and fully reaching our potential as divine heirs. We may feel unworthy to pray or feel that our Heavenly Father will never love us again because of what we’ve done. In times like this, Mufasa’s stirring words to his son can be helpful for all of us to remember:
“You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. . . . You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are.”
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As we remember that we are truly sons and daughters of God, who will always love us, we can find the courage to face our past and experience real change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Gospel Topics Essay “Becoming Like God” teaches this concept beautifully:
“Each [person] has an eternal core and is ‘a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents’ (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Each possesses seeds of divinity and must choose whether to live in harmony or tension with that divinity. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may ‘progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.’ . . . [We] believe that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can have a sure hope of eternal glory and that the power of His Atonement is fully accessed only by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the instruction and example of Christ (2 Nephi 31:20).”
By acknowledging who we are, repenting, and following the example of the Savior, we can rise above our past and reach our full potential in the kingdom of God, just as Simba took his place in the Circle of Life.
Cinderella: The Principle of Compensation
Cinderella is a timeless classic. But perhaps there is something more to this fairytale that rings eternally true to our hearts.
If anyone has an unfair life, it’s Cinderella. She is kind, patient, loving, humble, hard-working, and longsuffering. And yet, she is left alone to be bossed about by her evil stepmother and two awful stepsisters. It seems to be the last thing she deserves.
Yet every single one of us can relate to Cinderella’s predicament. Not because we all have an evil stepmother, but because we have all experienced a time when life is simply not fair. No matter how benevolent, kind, or patient we may be, life will never be perfect for us. People will always do and say things that hurt us. We live in a fallen, and sometimes very cruel world.
But the story of Cinderella can teach us something about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
On the evening of the ball, when Cinderella feels that all hope is lost, her fairy godmother appears. She makes things right, restoring Cinderella’s hope and making her dreams possible. Everything is made perfect—from Cinderella’s sparkling gown to her dainty glass slippers.
This analogy, of course, must be made very carefully. I am not suggesting that the Savior is a fairy godmother that comes to solve all of our problems with the wave of a wand. But I do believe that the restoring and perfecting of Cinderella’s hopes and dreams is very symbolic of what the Savior can do for us. As we endure to the end and obey the commandments He has so lovingly given us, He will bless us.
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In Preach My Gospel, we learn that “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” This, of course, does not mean that we will get everything we want. It does not mean that everything will be made right today, or even tomorrow or next week. But it does mean that someday, because of His infinite Atoning sacrifice, all of the pain and unfairness we experience as mortals will be made up.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin called this concept the principle of compensation. As he explained in his final conference talk, "Come What May and Love It,"
“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”
Truly, it is the Savior that makes all “happily ever afters” possible.
Coco: Family History
When Disney’s Coco came out in November 2017, it was impossible for Latter-day Saints to watch it without thinking of their responsibility to seek out their ancestors. Amidst its bright colors and inspiring music, Coco teaches us that families through the generations truly are forever.
In order for the deceased characters in the movie to visit the Land of the Living on the Day of the Dead, their living descendants must remember them and place a photo of them on their family’s ofrenda. If their descendants forget them altogether, they disappear into nothingness, never to be seen again.
Just as the deceased characters in the movie rely on their descendants to remember them, our ancestors are counting on us to remember them too. When we research the lives of our ancestors, we are able to perform saving ordinances by proxy for them in the temple, allowing them to choose to accept or reject these ordinances. Ultimately, this allows them to be sealed to us as an eternal family linked together through the generations.
At the 2018 RootsTech conference, Elder Bradley D. Foster said,
“When we know who we are in relationship to God and to one another in family connections, we act differently, we think differently, and we treat others differently. And the movie Coco was a beautiful illustration of that. When Miguel discovered who he really was, not who he thought he was, and the connection he had, then he acted differently, and it healed wounds that were deep.”
The connections Miguel makes with his ancestors not only bless them in the afterlife, they also bless Miguel’s relationship with his family back in mortality. Hearts are mended, the past is more clearly understood, and Miguel’s parents are able to support his passion for music in a way they were never able to before.
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In his conference talk, “Family History Work: Sealing and Healing," Elder Dale G. Renlund lists several powerful blessings promised to those who engage in family history work:
“. . . Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be;
“Increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone;
“Increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others;
“. . . Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole.”
As we remember our ancestors, we strengthen and bless all of our family relationships—past, present, and future.
Hercules: The Plan of Salvation
Disney’s Hercules leaves us with a plethora of gospel connections to make. As the son of the thunder god, Zeus, Hercules comes to Earth without a memory of his birth and origin. He is raised by mortal peasants who teach him of his godly identity. When he reaches his teenage years, he embarks on a journey to prove that he can “go the distance” and return to his home on Mount Olympus.
Sound familiar? The story of Hercules reflects the journey each of us makes in the plan of salvation. Like Hercules, who had parents who were gods, we are all children of Heavenly Parents—Gods. We lived with them before coming to Earth, though we do not remember our premortal experience. Here in mortality, as we discover who we truly are, we too have the opportunity to be tested and tried. Eventually, because of the Savior, we can return to live with God and become as He is.
Though it is up to Hercules to prove himself, he is not left without help. Zeus gives Hercules a gift to help him fight his battles: Pegasus. Pegasus becomes not only a gift but a companion and friend to Hercules, giving him power to fly and face his enemies with greater skill and ability.
We have similarly been given a gift here in mortality. After we are baptized, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is meant to be our companion and friend, helping us to avoid temptation and fight our daily battles against sin. As we have the Spirit with us, our skills, gifts, and abilities are enhanced. Without the Spirit, we are weaker and more vulnerable to Satan’s tactics.
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One final gospel parallel that can be drawn in this film is with Phil, a hero-training satyr. Phil has more experience and can warn Hercules of things that are coming. He wants Hercules to succeed. It is only after Hades convinces Hercules that he doesn’t need Phil that Hercules becomes weaker and falls for Hades’ trap.
Similar to Phil, we have living prophets and apostles to guide us and prepare us for the battles ahead—leaders who want us to succeed. Satan will try to convince us that we know better, that we don’t need the guidance of Church leaders. But as Sister Carol F. McConkie wisely stated,
“We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.”
As we humbly trust and obey the words of the Lord’s servants, we will be able to make it back to our heavenly home.
Alice in Wonderland: Agency
We are all familiar with the whimsical adventure that Alice experiences in Wonderland. One scene from the movie in particular teaches us a powerful lesson about agency and our responsibility to choose.
President Thomas S. Monson related this part of the story in his closing remarks of the April 2016 General Conference:
“You will remember that [Alice] comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. As she contemplates which way to turn, she is confronted by the Cheshire Cat, of whom Alice asks, ‘Which path shall I follow?’
“The cat answers, ‘That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.’
“Unlike Alice, we know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life leads to our destination in the next life.
“May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary—a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals.”
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Like Wonderland, the mortal world we find ourselves in is sometimes a crazy, overwhelming place to be. But we don’t have to wander through this world without any guidance or direction. God has given us His gospel, the commandments, and direction from living prophets to help us know which path to take. As we focus on the plan of salvation and our ultimate goal of returning to live in Heavenly Father’s presence, we will be empowered to make righteous choices in our day to day lives.
Ultimately, it is up to us to choose where we will go and who we will be. May we remember President Monson’s counsel, “As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.”