1. Characters within Harry Potter

    While some people may get offended if I called the Harry Potter series “fine literature,” I do find a lot of merit in its complexity. There are motifs carried out in the series, one of which is choice. We see similar characters, who had the opportunity to follow similar paths, but through their choices they proved themselves to be greater than the sum of their parts.

    "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities," -Albus Dumbledore

    Harry and Neville

    Lets start at the basics with one easily found foil of characters. Rowling herself makes this connection apparent in the later books. Both Harry and Neville were orphaned early in life. Both were born around the same time, and the prophecy could have applied to them. But look at how differently their paths began during their first couple of years at Hogwarts: Harry makes friends easily, has headstrong opinions and is devoted to doing what’s right. Neville on the other hand, is almost a comic relief with his bumbling behavior and forgetfulness.

    But what happens next? We watch each character grow and develop. They make choices and become better people, and grow closer together by the end of the series. During the battle of Hogwarts I would argue is Neville’s turning point, when we as readers see the final product and realize how far Neville has come. Did Neville bemoan his horrible luck and accept his fate as the butt of every joke? Of course not.

    "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," (Ether 12:27)

    Harry and Voldemort

    Here is another blatant foil that Rowling herself addresses for our benefit. Harry grapples with the idea that he and Voldemort have a lot in common. The fifth book explores this connection with startling insights. But what drives Harry to become the hero of the series instead of an antihero? The answer is simply love.

    Dumbledore is quick to point out that Harry know love, which makes him infinitely more powerful than Voldemort. Why do you think that is? What about love can grant the hero power beyond the villain?

    "There are many attributes which are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience, selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness. In all our associations, these and other such attributes will help make evident the love in our hearts,” (President Monson, Love—the Essence of the Gospel)

    Love is the motivating power in priesthood service. Without love for others, there would be no priesthood blessings. Without love for God there would be no faith to sponsor these acts.

    And on a more superficial level, love changes people. Your relationships that you form with others have the ability to transcend time. Look at the influence that Christ’s love has had on man kind. Or the love of Martin Luther King. Or Ghandi. Infamy may live on in textbooks, but love lives in the human heart and extends beyond your lifetime.

    Voldemort and Snape

    This foil jumped out at me while reading The Half-Blood Prince. Both characters come from mixed parentage, with a witch and Muggle for parents. Both struggle make friends at Hogwarts (Tom Riddle acquires followers, there’s a difference). Both are fascinated with the Dark Arts. And yet they end up as entirely different people, Snape is even willing to lay down his life for those he loves, an act abhorred by Voldemort.

    Once again the answer seems to be love. Severus loved Lily, so much that it drove him to become a double agent and fool such a blood thirsty individual like Voldemort. But digging deeper, what truly motivated Snape to become who he was? I personally have trouble accepting Snape’s redemption story; it feels too forced for Rowling to take a character so disgusting (reread the first few books to understand my distaste for Severus) and make his acts justifiable. Rather I propose that the real variable that changed Snape was Godly sorrow.

    "And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

    Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

    And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

    And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:17-20)

    Godly sorrow is more than just feeling guilt. It is an exquisite remorse, “the pains of a damned soul,” as Alma the younger describes it. This power changed the vilest of sinners into one of the greatest prophets in The Book of Mormon. And I think it was the same influence that changed Snape into the man he became.

    Agency, humility, love, and repentance are lessons we can learn from the characters in the Potter Universe. Lessons that can and will change our lives for the better.

     

  2. "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
    — Luke 24:36-39
     
  3. "I See the Son of Man Standing on the Right Hand of God," Walter Rane

     

  4. "We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift his children"
    — Elder Ronald A. Rasband
     

  5. How do prophets help me?

    We all ask soul searching questions in our quest for truth. These questions of the soul can be answered with a study of The Book of Mormon. When asking “How do prophets help me?” reference these scriptures:

    "And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year," (Helaman 11:23)

     

  6. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
    — Matthew 28:19-20
     
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  8. What does the temple mean to you?

     
     

  9. Choose to love, or your love will die

    I recently read a line the other day that bothered me profusely: “love isn’t a choice.” If love isn’t a choice what is it? An unknowable mysterious energy that overrules our agency? I argue that a laissez-faire approach to an emotion like love will only lead to heart ache and sorrow.

    Imagine a situation where a man leaves his wife and children to pursue a younger, sexier woman. Would you really tell this distraught woman, “You know, it isn’t your husbands fault. He couldn’t choose who he fell in love with. It just happens. No one is to blame for this atrocity because its just the way he is.” I certainly hope you would have more tact than to say that.

    Infatuation

    In order to stem the tide of hate-mail already en route to my inbox, let me make a clear distinction: while sometimes used interchangeably, love and infatuation are not the same thing. Infatuation is the chemical response we feel, usually unwarranted, about others. Twitterpated would be a synonym for this attraction.

    While obviously part of our nature, this passion often needs to be bridled and contained. It is healthy to feel attractions, but they are never to be an excuse to break the law of Chasity.

    "Falling" in love

    Now that you’re infatuated with someone, and have a crush, what happens next? The common term is “falling” in love, which connotes a passive action. Like I cannot control the act of love any more than I can control the act of falling out of a window.

    But this verbiage us incorrect. If you like someone, you spend time with them, you flirt with them, you date and court them. Never is your agency overruled by a mystical force, forcing you to develop a relationship. You choose to show your attraction, which builds your love for that individual.

    “[Marriage] requires a very substantial measure of self-discipline. Marriage is not all romance. Marriage is work. Marriage is effort. You have to accommodate one another. You have to look after one another. Another thing is to do everything you can to develop the talents, the resources, the opportunities of your companion,” (President Hinckley, emphasis mine)

    "…there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing," (President Kimball).

    Relationships built upon love

    And this is my main point: when you are in a serious relationship, it takes work. Marriage is work. You have to choose each day to express your love to your spouse. You have to choose to perform acts of kindness, and strengthen your feelings. When your spouse offends you, you have to choose to forgive and recover.

    Divorce sometimes happens because of apathy within the relationship. The couple become lax and lazy, and then before you know it the spark is gone and the chemistry fades. If you want your marriage to last, you need to choose each day to love your spouse. And not just that, but choose to love them more now, than you loved them in the past.

    I may not have a lot of experience in this (only been married two years), but I know it works. I have a testimony of the power of agency. It is the principle that the war in heaven was fought over. Anyone who belittles your ability to choose, is promoting Satan’s plan.

    "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself," (2 Nephi 2:27)

    If left to apathy, our love and relationships will wither and die.

     

  10. "If people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much. Comfortable gods, smooth gods, who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it. Gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man making God in his own image"
    — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
     

  11. A very good read, if you’ve got the time

     
  12. "Christ Walking on the Water," Robert T. Barrett

     

  13. "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
    — Matthew 22:36-39
     
  14. staff:

    Today’s the day. The day you help save the internet from being ruined.

    Ready? 

    Yes, you are, and we’re ready to help you.

    (Long story short: The FCC is about to make a critical decision as to whether or not internet service providers have to treat all traffic equally. If they choose wrong, then the internet where anyone can start a website for any reason at all, the internet that’s been so momentous, funny, weird, and surprising—that internet could cease to exist. Here’s your chance to preserve a beautiful thing.)

     
     

  15. How can I find happiness for me and my family?

    We all ask soul searching questions in our quest for truth. These questions of the soul can be answered with a study of The Book of Mormon. When asking “How can I find happiness for me and my family?” reference these scriptures:

     ”And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

    And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true,” (Mosiah 4:11-12)

    1 Nephi 8