Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lessons from Harry Potter

I love to read the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling and having the name Harry Potter is a big part of that connection. My given name is Harold Potter, but my nickname is Harry Potter and I enjoy going to schools for Harry Potter events and speaking to the youth about the books. But the real reason I love the Harry Potter series is there is so much that we can learn as we follow Harry through all his magical adventures and his battles with the evil Voldemort and the Death Eaters. I would like to share a few of those lessons:

1.              Everyday is filled with choices and it’s those choices that determine what we are, not our abilities.
2.              It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
3.              It takes bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
4.              We all have light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we choose to act on.
5.              The time will come when we will have to make the choice between what is right and what is easy.
6.              You cannot rise to your full potential until you know who you are.

Choices vs Abilities

By the end of the second book, Voldemort has convinced Harry that his is evil and there is nothing he can do to change that. He is talking to Dumbledore about this and Dumbledore tells Harry: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, page 333) This was an important lesson for Harry to learn. Until he did, there was no hope for him (at least that is what he thought). There is always hope, if we choose to listen the promptings of the spirit that is in each of us telling us to choose good over evil, that true freedom is in keeping the commandments. We do not have to listen to the Voldemort’s of the world that are telling us that we are bad, or we have sinned and there is not way back.

Elder Richard G. Scott made this comment about the importance of our choices:

“Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and when acted upon are confirmed.
“Your happiness on earth as well as your eternal salvation require many correct decisions, none of which is difficult to make. Together those decisions forge a character resistant to the eroding influences of sin and transgression. (“The Transforming Power of Faith and Character”, Richard G. Scott, General Conference, October 2010)

As we develop the habit of making right choices it will become easier and we are truly free. The scriptures teach, “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). We have all known someone that had great potential and yet never became the person he was destined because of poor choices. On the other side we also know individuals that seemed to have all the hard luck and yet still was successful. We all need to remember, “it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Dreams vs Living Life

At one point in the first book, Harry enters a room to escape from Filch and Snape and he finds a mirror leaning against one of the walls. As Harry looks into the mirror, instead of seeing his reflection, he sees a crowd of people standing behind him. He looks around the room and no one is there. When he looks back at the mirror, the people are still there. Harry soon realizes that it is his parents and other members of his family. Harry brings Ron to see the mirror so Ron can meet his family. But when Ron looks at the mirror all he sees is himself standing there alone; he is the Quidditch captain and Head Boy. Later Dumbledore explains that the mirror is called the “Mirror of Erised” and that it shows the person what he desires most. Erised is desire spelled backwards. There is an inscription on the mirror that says: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi". If you read it backwards it says: "I show not your face but your heart's desire". Dumbledore explains:

“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest desire of our hearts…This mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible….It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretes”, p. 213-214)

Harry desires more than anything to be part of a family, his family. Ron’s greatest desire is to step out of the shadow of his brothers and accomplish something great on his own. While both end up achieving part of what they see in the mirror, they do not realize all of it.

What would we see if we were to look into the Mirror of Erised? What is the deepest desire of our hearts? Dumbledore told Harry the happiest man on earth would see himself in the mirror. Dumbledore’s advice to not dwell on dreams and forget to live is great advice. It is important to have dreams but if we just sit around dwelling on those dreams, nothing will happen, we will not accomplish anything. We must get up each day and go do something to help our dreams become a reality. 

Stand up to our enemies and our friends

Towards the end of book one, Harry, Ron and Hermione are about to break the rules again and leave their tower after curfew and Neville was there to stop them. He knew if they were caught Gryffindor would lose points and the house cup. He was going to stop them. Neville said:

“I don’t think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!

“Yes, but not to us,” said Ron in exasperation. “Neville, you don’t know what you’re doing.”…”Go on then, try and hit me!” said Neville, raising his fists, “I’m Ready.” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, p. 272-273)

Dumbledore spoke of Neville’s courage at the end of the school year feast when he awarded the house cup:

“There are all kinds of courage”, said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends”. (“Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone”, p.306)

We all know that we must resist the evil that is around us. We must set the example of righteous choices and not give in to the temptations of the world. But what if we are with our friends and they are going to a movie we know is not appropriate will we stand and say no, lets do something else? What if they are viewing things with their computers or smart phones that that is degrading and immoral? Will we have the courage to stand up and say: “turn it off”? If they continue will we have the courage to get up and leave? When our friends on Facebook are defending immoral practices and standards, do we like their comments or will we have the courage to stand for truth and righteousness?

President Thomas S. Monson said:

“May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.” (Dare To Stand Alone”, Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, October 2011)

We are all children of God, and have the potential to become like him. To do that we must follow his plan, the plan of salvation, and experience life as it comes and choose good over evil everyday. We must be willing to stand up to evil when we are faced with it even if we have to stand alone. We must also be willing to stand up to our friends or family when what they are doing is not in accordance to the gospel standards. As we do these things we will be living life to the fullest and not dwelling on the dreams that we see in The Mirror of Erised.

Next week we will discuss the other three lessons I mentioned at the beginning.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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