As Disney fans around the world prepare for The Lion King to hit theaters, we wanted to share some of the gospel lessons that make this story great.
The Lion King is a story of repentance, of assuming responsibility, of changing ourselves so that we might reach the divine potential lying dormant within us all.
Simba’s story of repentance isn’t a Saul/Paul type of conversion. He doesn’t face serious sins that harrow his soul, like Alma. Instead, Simba falls into the pattern of complacent omission rather than the commission of sin—a pattern many of us can relate to.
Embracing Our Divine Potential
While enjoying his care-free “Hakuna Matata” life, Simba becomes awakened to the hope, the potential, and the royal heritage that is his to claim.
"You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me,” his father, Mufasa, tells him. “Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.
This advice sounds much like the counsel we as saints have received from our loving Heavenly Father, through his chosen prophets.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:
“There is something of divinity within each of you. You have such tremendous potential with that quality as a part of your inherited nature. Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world . . .
"Some of you may feel that you are not as attractive and beautiful and glamorous as you would like to be. Rise above any such feelings, cultivate the light you have within you, and it will shine through as a radiant expression that will be seen by others.
"You need never feel inferior. You need never feel that you were born without talents or without opportunities to give them expression. Cultivate whatever talents you have, and they will grow and refine and become an expression of your true self appreciated by others.
"In summary, try a little harder to measure up to the divine within each of you.”
Repentance as Change
The only way Simba comes to access his princely potential is by learning from the past, putting others before himself, and changing his nature, just as we, too, can only reach our divine potential by changing our hearts and desires through the Savior’s Atonement. Though this change is often daunting and painful, as Rafiki so wisely observes, “Ah, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it."
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.
As President Russell M. Nelson taught during the priesthood session of April 2019 general conference:
"The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means 'change.' The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean 'mind,' 'knowledge,' 'spirit,' and 'breath.'
"Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to 'repent,' He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
"Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
Let us all learn from our past mistakes and have the humility to embrace Christ’s Atonement a little more fully so that we too may “cultivate the light” within us.
► You'll also like: FHE—Lessons from The Lion King
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.