(WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR FAVORITE POLY PRINCESS)*
*But let’s be honest, if you haven’t seen this movie by now… YOU CRAZY.
I have a confession to make. Moana had me in tears multiple times. And by “multiple times,” I mean I was blubbering like a baby for a good portion of the movie. But this wasn’t the same kind of ugly crying that is basically a package deal with any Nicholas Sparks movie.
No, no. These are the tears shed whilst being inspired, the ones that stream down your cheeks as you live vicariously through the protagonist in their moments of self-realization, growth and ultimate triumph. Being someone who gets wayyyy too emotionally invested in movies, books or shows—which explains my frequent Netflix binges—I’m a regular at this vicariously-living-through-fictional-characters-lives thing.
Bearing that in mind, and with the reminder that I’m an overly sentimental, cheesy RM, I invite you to join me in re-living Moana’s journey with these LDS gospel-related gems.
1. “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn”
Moana’s Wayfinding Ancestors
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).
First of all, we need to establish that Moana’s ancestors are straight up bosses. They’re sailing around, finding and inhabiting island after island by using their expert knowledge of the wind, skies, sea and stars. What do you do?
All joking aside, it’s a cool thing to watch Moana turn her heart to her fathers. When she does, the understanding of where she came from and who her ancestors were becomes just the push she needs to embark upon an adventure that (spoiler alert) changes her life and saves her island. I won’t act like I do Family History nearly as much as I should, but I can honestly say that having a connection with my ancestors often gives me strength to overcome my own challenges and trials in life.
Moana’s grandmother, Tala, is one of my favorite characters of the movie. Not only is she hilarious, but as the village “crazy lady” she also seems to know things everyone else misses. Tala’s belief in Moana as the one “chosen” by the ocean to restore the heart of Te Fiti and save humanity is what inspires her granddaughter to follow the call, and fulfill her destiny.
Even after her death, she is seen in manta ray form (btw, so glad she chose the right tattoo) throughout Moana’s journey across the sea. In a moment of harrowing self-doubt, Tala appears to her. She asks Moana “Do you know who you are?”. This was a beautiful reminder to me that our family members who have passed on are not far at all. Even though we can’t see them, they are right by our sides, cheering us on and helping us along.
2. Beware of Pride
When Moana meets Maui, shapeshifter, demigod of the wind and sea, AND hero of men (and women), it is immediately evident that not only does he have a big bod, but also a big head. A thousand years earlier, before he became hook-less and stuck on a deserted island, his enormous ego was fueled by the praise of humans, who adored him for all he did for them.
However, unbeknownst to him, Maui gained quite the fearsome rep after stealing the heart of Te Fiti. Even if it was intended as a gift for the humans, his pride had led him to a life-consuming search for the approval and love of the world. Ezra Taft Benson said it best: “When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment.”
3. The Dangers of Materialism
Tamatoa is as strange a character as he is greedy. I remember watching him strutting his stuff on three legs while flaunting his glimmering shell and thinking “What the freak am I watching…?”. But over time, Tamatoa’s crabbish charm grew on me and I now shamelessly jam to “Shiny” on a regular basis.
As fabulous as the giant crab is, he’s a pretty compelling example of what not to be, self-absorbed and captivated by his worldly wealth. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob counsels “before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God” (Jacob 2:3). This is pretty sound advice, considering these days it’s a complete travesty if you don’t have the latest shiny iPhone 7, or the trendiest Anthropologie clothes, or the most likes on your most recent selfie on Insta. #relatable
4. Finding happiness where you are
Right from the opening scene, baby Moana has an innate pull towards the ocean. Before we move on, can we just talk about how freaking adorable baby Moana is??? Like, all I want is Polynesian babies. Is that too much to ask? IS IT??? <—(Shameless plug for recruiting potential Polynesian suitors? Maybe.)
Anyway, each time she tries to venture out into the water, her father stops her and insists that her place is right there with her people. Now, I’m not saying Moana should have stayed on that island, because she obviously had some important stuff to do, but I do think that her dad was absolutely right when he said/sang, “Happiness is right where you are.”
In General Conference a few years ago, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf eloquently reminded us how crucial this is. “Brothers and sisters,” he said, “no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.” It’s there! It’s all around us! And although there is a world of possibilities and opportunities out there, we can find the good and choose to find happiness right where we are in life, wherever it may be.
5. Discovering our Divine Nature and Purpose
Moana Discovers Her Purpose
Towards the end of the movie, Moana has her crowning moment of self-discovery. She sings:
“And the call isn’t out there at all/It’s inside me… come what may, I know the way,/I am Moana!”
At this point I was already a wreck because her dead grandma had appeared to her in manta ray form, but when Moana has that incredible, empowering moment of recognition of her divine nature and purpose, I lost it. And although our journey in this life may have nothing to do with being chosen by the ocean to restore a stone to a goddess while accompanied by a prideful but powerful demigod and a brainless chicken, we too are meant for greatness.
So much greatness, in fact, that sometimes it blows my mind if I think too hard and too long about it. I mean, our purpose is “to gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life” (A Proclamation to the World: The Family). Just take a minute to let that soak in and let me know when your mind is sufficiently blown.
Te Fiti/Te Ka
Yet, remembering that is sometimes a real struggle. When Moana attempts to restore the heart of Te Fiti, she realizes that Te Fiti is no longer the life-giving goddess she was before, but has actually become the hot-headed (get it? lolz) lava demon Te Ka, because of her stolen heart. Moana, after discovering this, sings to Te Ka/Te Fiti, “They may have stolen the heart from inside you/But this does not define you/This is not who you are/You know who you are”.
Besides the pure epicness of Moana’s beautifully animated hair dramatically blowing in the wind as Te Ka terrifyingly scrambles towards her, those lyrics make this scene particularly powerful. How often do you feel that all the crap you go through in life and everything else bad about you is what defines you? You can’t see me right now but I’m zealously raising both hands.
But just as Moana tells Te Fiti/Te Ka, that is not who we are! Despite the hard times in life and all of our rough edges, we are and always will be children of God. And for that sole reason, we have more worth, value and potential than we could ever imagine.
What did you think of Disney’s Moana? Did you find any inspiration or find any hidden gospel themes? Let us know in the comments below!