In 2014, a year after Disney’s Frozen hit theaters, around 1,131 new babies became walking reminders of magical snow queen, Elsa, giving the name a noticeable boost for the first time in forever. My sister and I went to see it mostly because of the vocal talent (how could you not love Idina Menzel when you grew up listening to her sing “Defying Gravity” as Elphaba?), and we were not as bedazzled by the film as everyone else seemed to be. Sure, there were a few beautiful scenes and some catchy songs, but overall, we were disenchanted with the storyline and all its plot holes and wished everyone would just "let it go."
As we’ve watched it again over the years, however, I’ve come to appreciate some of the profound and positive messages the film shares—messages that resonate with gospel truths and that clearly struck a chord in the hearts of thousands of expectant parents who now have little Elsas and Annas. Here are a few that I have identified:
1. Fear and Love
One of the driving forces behind this film’s storyline is Elsa’s intense fear. She is afraid of showing people who she is, she is afraid of her power, afraid of her sister, and afraid to rule a kingdom. For most of the movie, her decisions are made based on her fears, driving everyone away and hurting the people she loves. Ultimately, Elsa’s fear of others and herself drive her to isolation and a belief that she can’t help her destructive personality and is better off without anyone—a belief that is proven fundamentally false by the end of the movie.
This lesson on fear reminds me a lot of what we learn in the gospel. Elder Kevin W. Pearson taught in his April 2009 general conference talk that, "Faith and fearcannot coexist," and we have also been taught that fear will always isolate us and drive us away from those who want to help. Whether it’s a fear of repenting, a fear of falling short, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being unloved, or a fear of something else, everyone faces fears, and that is one of Satan’s great isolating tools. If he can get us to be afraid of repenting, we withdraw from the Lord and those we love in an attempt to hide from anticipated embarrassment, shame, or misunderstanding, just like Elsa ran away to the mountainside. If we are afraid of making a mistake, we might isolate ourselves so that everyone only sees the good things we do instead of building genuine relationships full of imperfections, just like Elsa did when she always wore her gloves and stayed away from everyone, including her sister. If we are afraid of being unloved, sometimes we might be tempted to change ourselves to fit someone else’s desires and isolate our true selves, just as Elsa tried to do by hiding her powers on the day of her coronation.
Ultimately, Elsa discovers that love—for herself, for her sister, and for her kingdom—is what allows her to use her powers. This is, in fact, just what we believe as Latter-day Saints. In his April 2017 conference talk, “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” Elder Uchtdorf talk about this concept and quotes this scripture in 2 Timothy: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). He also adds, “My beloved friends, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we ever find ourselves living in fear or anxiety, or if we ever find that our own words, attitudes, or actions are causing fear in others, I pray with all the strength of my soul that we may become liberated from this fear by the divinely appointed antidote to fear: the pure love of Christ, for “perfect love casteth out fear.”
2. Burying Our Talents
One gospel story that Elsa makes me think of is the parable of the talents. You remember the story—a man leaves on a journey and gives each of his servants one, two, and five talents respectively. The servants with five and two talents go out and earn more talents while their master is gone, but the servant with one talent hides the coin in the ground. When the man returns and asks the servants to account for what they did with their talents, he is displeased with the third servant for not using and improving the talent he was given and gives the third servant’s talent to the first (Matthew 25).
In many ways, Elsa started the movie as the epitome of the servant who was given one talent. Told that her powers could be dangerous, Elsa began to fear and hide her “gift,” treating it as a curse and focusing on the danger rather than the beauty, just like the servant given one talent did. Both ended up miserable and fearful (“And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth”). However, as Elsa came to appreciate her powers as a gift and learned how to use them for good, she was richly rewarded. Likewise, if we learn to recognize our gifts and special abilities and use them for good, our lives and the lives of those around us can be blessed. As Sister Michelle Craig said in her October 2018 conference talk, “Divine Discontent,” “Have you ever felt your talents and gifts were too small for the task ahead? I have. But you and I can give what we have to Christ, and He will multiply our efforts. What you have to offer is more than enough—even with your human frailties and weaknesses—if you rely on the grace of God.”
3. Making Weak Things Become Strong
When we first meet Elsa, she is using her magical powers to create an evening of fun for Anna. However, an almost tragic accident because of it seems to lead to her losing control of her icy magic and the removal of all magical memories from Anna. It becomes a weakness for Elsa—something that no one except her parents know about and that she tries to hide, but that flares into danger when she is experiencing extreme emotion. For instance, when Anna snatches her glove and provokes her into fear and anger at the coronation celebration and when soldiers from the kingdom attack her in her ice castle, a scary barricade of icicles escapes her fingers and turns her into a “monster.”
How often does this happen to us? Maybe we have a gift such as leadership that turns into unrighteous dominion when we are feeling insecure or pressured. Or maybe we have a weakness that we want to overcome but just keep falling prey to. It isn’t until Elsa strives to understand her “weakness” and accepts the help and love of her sister that she is able to not only better use her powers but also use her powers to make her kingdom better and bring joy to others. We are taught the same concept in the gospel. InEther 12:27, it says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” When we strive to acknowledge our weaknesses and accept Heavenly Father’s help to change, those things we struggled with can become our greatest learning tools and strengths.
4. Self-Worth, Divine Potential, and Freedom
When Elsa ran from her identity as queen of Arendelle, she thought she was allowing herself to be free and express who she really was. “No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free” as she sings in her beautiful, lonely ice castle in the tops of the snow-covered mountains. However, the “freedom” she gained from walking away from her insecurities, her attempts to control her powers, and her responsibility as a queen and a sister nearly killed the person she loved most, ultimately making her a fugitive and eventually a captive in chains. It wasn’t until she embraced herself for who she was—magical powers and all—and accepted her role as a leader that she found true joy and freedom and gained control of her powers. This is the same with us. When we try to hide from our identity as sons and daughters of God, thinking we’ve found freedom by not living the commandments or by truly doing what we want to do, we find ourselves in greater bondage and with bigger burdens. As the scriptures warn us, “And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever” (2 Nephi 26:22, emphasis added). We find true freedom in keeping the commandments and recognizing our responsibilities and privileges as children of God. Keeping the commandments is what gives us access to our own “powers” of faith and the Spirit. As we embrace ourselves and all the gifts or flaws we have been given, acknowledging our Father in Heaven, we have greater self-control, confidence, knowledge, and sometimes even power. After all, Jesus Christ has told us, “for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).
5. The Power of Family Relationships
While many of these gospel lessons have been shown by Elsa, there is a powerful gospel message that Anna illustrates very well.
Anna and Elsa have an inseparable sisterly bond at the beginning of the movie, but after the accident, Anna’s memory of Elsa’s powers is erased and Elsa withdraws in fear, and guilt, leaving the two estranged for most of the movie. But even when Elsa is pushing her away and Anna can’t remember why, she never forgets that sisterly bond. She does everything she can to connect with Elsa. She sees the good in her, is not afraid of Elsa’s powers, and once she understands why Elsa has been hiding for so many years, Anna even braves a snowy climb just to let Elsa know that she isn’t alone in her trial. In the end, Anna forgives and loves her sister, sacrificing her life to save Elsa despite all of the things Elsa has done to push her away.
While we may not have to sacrifice our lives or even risk emotional danger for others, Anna’s example is, in a way, a reminder of our own mandate as ministering brothers and sisters and as human beings to love one another as we are loved by our Savior. Sister Jean B. Bingham reminded us in the April 2018 general conference, “After all is said and done, true ministering is accomplished one by one with love as the motivation. The value and merit and wonder of sincere ministering is that it truly changes lives! When our hearts are open and willing to love and include, encourage and comfort, the power of our ministering will be irresistible” ("Ministering as the Savior Does," April 2018 general conference).
Whether members of the Church or not, we are each heavenly brothers and sisters, and we can each follow the example of Anna, in our own families, in our neighborhoods, and in our ministering. We can gently, persistently, and genuinely love those who are struggling. We can let them know that we are there for them. Again and again and again. And we can forgive them and welcome them when they are ready to reach out to us. Anna, though a little impulsive at times, is a wonderful example of “be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Her love for her sister was ceaseless, and in the end, she sacrificed herself to save her sister—an action that could also, in a way, remind us of our Savior’s unceasing love and sacrifice for us, His brothers and sisters.
6. Love Is [Not] an Open Door
This was perhaps one of my favorite lessons of Frozen: that love at first sight is not as easy or happy as it has always appeared to be in the movies. Unlike Anna and Hans romantically sing to each other, love is not necessarily an open door of bliss and carefree living. While love may open doors to new growth, learning, and happiness, we know that love and marriage take work and involves honest communication and commitment from both people. Love is a process, not an event. As Elder Lynn G. Robbins explained in an October 2000 Ensign article “Agency and Love in Marriage,” “Too many believe that love is a condition, a feeling that involves 100 percent of the heart, something that happens to you. They disassociate love from the mind and, therefore, from agency. In commanding us to love, the Lord refers to something much deeper than romance—a love that is the most profound form of loyalty. He is teaching us that love is something more than feelings of the heart; it is also a covenant we keep with soul and mind.” Anna learns this lesson the hard way after her failed “true love’s kiss” with Hans leads her to recognize the love that has been growing between her and Christoff and that he has shown through his selfless actions throughout their journey. Like Anna, we may still run into a few Hans-like people in our lives, but the Lord has promised greater happiness if both partners take time to build and work on their marriage and dating relationships.
Whether you’re seeing Frozen 2 this weekend or not, I hope you now have a few new positive perspectives on this popular film. For more gospel messages from Disney films, check out “Profound Gospel Lessons from The Lion King,” “4 Disney Movies That Teach Powerful Gospel Lessons,” or “10 Life-Changing Gospel Lessons from Winnie the Pooh.”