Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Reluctant Dragon: Discussion Guide for Parents

Walt Disney Pictures, 1941

All information below is general suggestions and ideas. 
Always adapt to your family’s situation and beliefs and the needs of individual children. 

Content Warnings:
  • Guns - Man pretends to hunt plastic ducks.
  • Tobacco - smoking, cigarettes and cigarette butts
  • Alcohol - momentary exposure at a celebration

Discussion Questions
  • Mr. Benchley learns about making movies at the Walt Disney Studios. Why is it important for us to learn new things? 
  • When making movies, there are teams for everything - a team for music, a team for words, a team for drawing characters, a team for drawing the background, and more. Why is it important to work in teams to complete big projects? How is this like the Body of Christ? (Think about how each of us has a different role to play, and each part is important to the whole of God’s plan!) What is a job that you do in the Body of Christ? 
  • Mr. Benchley sees the storyboard for a new film, “Baby Weems.” Why is it important to have a plan when beginning a project? What do we do when things don’t go according to plan? 
  • In the short, “The Reluctant Dragon,” the boy, his father, Sir Giles, and the whole village expect that the dragon is the kind that attacks villagers, devours flocks, and kidnaps damsels. The dragon turns out to be a poet who does not want to fight. What is the danger of assuming things about others before we get to know them? 
  • God created everything. We are God’s children and are made the image of God. This means that we can be like God. When people create things, they are becoming like God, who made everything. What do you like to create? What are other ways that we become more like God? 

Scripture Connections
  • Learning. Prov 1:5; Dan 1:17; Luke 2:52; 1 Nephi 1:1; 2 Nephi 9:29; D&C 88:118, 90:15; 93:36, 93:53, 130:18
  • Body of Christ. Rom 12:4-21; 1 Cor 10:17, 12:13-31; D&C 107:99
  • Children of God, Image of God. Gen 1:26-27; Deut 14:1; Ps 82:6; Acts 17:29; Rom 8:16; 1 Nephi 17:36; Mosiah 7:27; Ether 3:15; D&C 20:18, 76:24; Moses 1:13, 2:26-27, 3:5, 6:9, 6:68; Abraham 4:26-27

Ideas for Further Study

  • Learn to draw a favorite character from a book or youtube tutorial. 
  • In the film, artists learn to draw by having a live elephant or baby in their studio. Learn about the research that was done to make one of your favorite movies - did they look at animals, too? Did they research another country’s music or clothing? 
  • In the film we see a team creating the sound effects for a movie. Try making your own devices for sound effects. 
  • This film starts off in black and white but switches to color. Research the invention and use of Technicolor. 
  • Learn more about the multi-plane camera. Who created it, and when? How does it work? 
  • In the “Rainbow Room,” paint is mixed into all different colors. Do some art and experiment mixing different colors. 
  • How has the process of making movies changed from this movie to now? 
  • This film shows us all the things that go into making a movie - animation, music, voice, sound effects, operating the multi-plane camera and more. Try incorporating all these elements and making your own movie!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Saludos Amigos: Discussion Guide for Parents

Walt Disney Pictures, 1943


All information below is general suggestions and ideas. 
Always adapt to your family’s situation and beliefs and the needs of individual children. 

Content Warnings:
  • Some middle scary scenes - thunder/snow storm. 
  • Tobacco - cigars

Before Beginning:
Be wary of outdated cultural presentations, like the description of music as “strange and exotic.” Discuss with children that other cultures are not objects to be observed, but real people just like us. 

Discussion Questions
  • In this film we see portrayals of other cultures. Why is it important to learn about other cultures? How can we be careful to avoid stereotypes? 
  • The little airplane Pedro took his first journey to deliver mail over the Andes mountains. How did he feel before, during, and after his journey? What difficulties did he encounter? How did his parents feel? What was a time you had to do something new? How did you feel? What difficulties did you encounter? How do you think God felt when we do something new? 
  • Donald Duck met a new friend, Jose Carioca, who lives in a different place, speaks a different language, listens to different music, and eats different food. Tell about a time you met a new friend who was different from you. 

Scripture Connections
  • Diversity. Gen 11:1-9; Ezek 47:22; 1 Cor 14:26; Eph 4:6; Col 1:16-17; Rev 7:9-10; 2 Nephi 31:3

Ideas for Further Study
  • Research one of the places mentioned in the movie, like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Chile, Bolivia, or Peru. Is there someone in your neighborhood whose family history is from Central or South America? Talk to them to learn what it is like to live there.
  • Research the ancient civilizations of Central and South America. Learn about European conquest and colonization of these areas. 
  • Plan an imaginary trip to South America. Where would you go? Where would you stay? What would you like to do there? How much would it cost? Make a daily itinerary and calculate the costs. 
  • Learn more about the gaucho horsemen and horses. See if there is a place near you where you can see or interact with horses. 
  • Learn more about the types of music, dance, and other arts in South America. Is there a person or school in your community that teaches South American music or dance? 
  • Find a recipe for food from South America and make it as a family. 
  • Learn more about native animals in a certain area of South America. 
  • Choose a language that is spoken in South America (there are many!) and learn a few phrases. 
  • Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelves apostles is the first apostle of this dispensations from South America. Learn more about his life and teachings. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Darkness, and Light

Advent embraces the whole arc of the Christian cosmology. 

The Bible begins in darkness. "In the beginning . . . the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light" (Gen 1:1-3). 

Darkness, and light. 

Then, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. . . .The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:1-14). 

Darkness, and light. 

Finally, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. . . . The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. . . .There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light." (Rev 21:3-4, 23-25; 22:5)

Darkness, and light. 

God's light broke into darkness at creation. God's light broke into darkness at Christmas. God's light will break into darkness at the end. And in every moment between - God's light is breaking into darkness. 

This world is cyclical. Darkness, and light. Darkness, and light. Darkness, and light. We continually experience darkness. And God’s light continues to break in. 

Advent remembers the ways that God has broken into our darkness in the past (Christmas). Advent acknowledges that we still live in a world of darkness. Advent hopes that God will break into darkness again. Advent hopes. Advent hopes. Advent hopes. Advent remembers the First coming and clings to the promise of the Second Coming. 

“Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf). In Advent, we look back. We say, “Yes. God has kept God’s promises. God has been faithful.” supported by the security of God’s past faithfulness, we turn our gaze forward. We say, “Yes. God will keep God’s promises. God is faithful. God will not leave me alone.” 


Advent is a time of darkness. And yet, each Sunday we light a candle. Light. Through the darkness of this season, God gifts us with glimmers of light. Through the darkness of our mortal sojourn, as we wait for God to make all things right, God gifts us glimmers of light. Our life is a constant cycle of darkness and light. Advent reminds us that God’s light will always break in. 


Sunday, December 15, 2019

How Long, O Lord?

In the darkness of waiting, it appears that God has abandoned God's people. There is silence, there is oppression, there is darkness over all the face of the earth. In first-century Judea, God has promised so many things and has not delivered on the promise. The people suffer under Roman occupation. The people remember the glory of King David and Solomon's temple. The people remember how God has been mighty! But it is not so now. Stricken down, the people have long waited for God's promises to be fulfilled. Has God forgotten? Has God abandoned us? How long, Lord, will we suffer so?"

It appears that God has abandoned God's people. Yet - it appears. It is not truly so. 

In the darkness of despair, the people wait for God. The people cry out, "How long?” 



“How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me? for ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

“How long, O Lord, wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions” (Psalm 35:17).

“How long, O Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?” (Psalm 89:46)

“How long, O Lord, shall the wicked triumph?” (Psalm 94:3-4)

“How long, O Lord, shall I cry, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2)

How long, God, will we be left alone in the dark? How long will You watch silently? How long will You see us suffering and not act? How long will evil prevail? How long will you ignore us? 

Advent is for the waiting. Advent is for the asking. Advent is for the soul-wrenching despair and grief. Advent is the time to lay bare our struggles and doubts. Advent is the time we ask, “Has God abandoned us? Has God had enough of our sinfulness? Will God refuse to aid us?”

Christmas is the answer. Christmas says, “God has not abandoned us. God has not left us alone in darkness.” 

Christmas says, “Behold! The day is coming.” Indeed, even, the day is here. The Kingdom is at hand. The Lord is come, with healing in his wings, to save us all. God came before. God will come again. 


We don’t know how long we will wait here below. We don’t know how long darkness and wickedness will prevail. But we have the promise - Christ will come again. Light will break forth over all the earth. Our darkness will have an end. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Miracle on 34th St (1947): Discussion Guide for Parents

20th Century Fox, 1947

All information below is general suggestions and ideas. 
Always adapt to your family’s situation and beliefs and the needs of individual children. 

Content Warnings:
  • Alcohol - drunk Santa, a husband tricks his wife by preparing triple martinis without her consent.
  • Coffee
  • Tobacco, smoking
  • Susan’s parents are divorced before the movie begins.
  • Santa Claus, fake Santa’s, Santa as fantasy/myth
  • Mild violence - Santa knocks a man on the head with his umbrella 
  • Santa described as mentally ill, prone to “violent outbursts,” committed to a mental institution, tried for “lunacy”
  • Kissing

Discussion Questions
  • Kris Kringle complains about the commercialization of Christmas and says no one cares about the real meaning anymore. What do you think is the real meaning of Christmas? How can we remember the real meaning of Christmas amidst all the business of the season?
  • Alfred says he enjoys dressing up as Santa and giving presents to children. Why does it feel good to give to others? Who can you help today?
  • Mr. Macy says Macy’s will be known as “the friendly store, the helpful store” when they send customers to other stores when they don’t have what the customer is looking for. Why are these important qualities? Gimbel’s store decides to copy this strategy, expanding the “spirit of goodwill.” How do good deeds multiply when one person starts it off? How can you set off a “spirit of goodwill” in your home or community?
  • Kris tells Mrs. Walker, "Christmas isn’t just a day; it’s a frame of mind.” What do you think that means? How are our lives different every day because of Christmas? 
  • Mrs. Walker is very concerned with truth and reason. Why is it important to examine the evidence and learn what is true? Are there some things that can’t be known by rational inquiry? What are some examples? 
    • Examples of things that can’t be proved with reason include matters of faith in God, trusting or forgiving other people, love, and more. 
  • At the beginning of the movie, Susan is very serious and doesn’t like “silly,” childish, or imaginative things. Why is it important to keep a childlike spirit? Why are imagination, silliness, and pretending important? 
  • Susan tried to make a deal with Kris, saying that if he gets her a house, then he’s the real Santa, but if not, he’s “just a nice old man with whiskers.” Kris tells Susan, “Just because every child doesn’t get his wish doesn’t mean there isn’t a Santa Claus.” Susan tried to prove Santa’s identity by gifts. Sometimes we get this way with God - demanding that God answer our prayers or else he’s not God. What’s the danger in this way of thinking? Why might God not answer prayers as we expect?
  • Unlike most of the other characters, Mr. Gailey always believes Kris. He is a friend to Kris stands up for him when others don’t. How can we be like Mr. Gailey?
  • Mrs. Walker tells Susan at the end of the movie, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” How do you define faith? Why is faith valuable? How do we develop faith? 

Scripture Connections
  • Christmas. Matthew 1:18-2:14; Luke 2:1-20; 3 Nephi 1:4-21
  • Giving, Generosity. Gen 47:15; Deut 15:11, 16:17; Prov 25:21, 28:27; Matt 5:42, 10:8, 19:21, 25:35; Mark 10:21, 12:44; Luke 6:35-38, 14:12-14, 14:13; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 9:7; Jacob 2:17; Mosiah 4:16, 18:28; Mormon 8:39; D&C 42:31, 52:40, 56:16
  • Friendliness. 1 Sam 18:1; Prov 17:17, 18:24, 27:17; Luke 14:12-14
  • Helpfulness. Gen 2:18; Ex 2:17; Deut 22:4; Moses 3:18; Abraham 5:14
    • Gen 2:18 - Research the original Hebrew word usually translated as “helpmeet.” Use BibleHub.com to see where else this word is used in the Bible. 
  • Truth. Deut 32:4; Ps 51:6; Prov 8:7, 12:19; John 8:32, 8:44; 1 John 4:1; Jacob 4:13; Ether 3:12; Moroni 10:4; D&C 1:39, 50:40, 88:40, 88:66, 93:24, 93:30, 93:36
  • Believe, Faith. Gen 15:6; 2 Chron 20:20; Hab 2:4; Matt 8:10-13, 17:20, 9:28; Mark 5:36, 9:23-24; Luke 8:50; John 3:16, 11:27, 12:36, 12:47, 20:25-29; Rom 4:12-18; 1 Cor 13:7; 2 Cor 5:7; Eph 2:8, 6:16; 2 Tim 1:12; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 11:1-12:2; James 1:5-6; 2 Nephi 31:19; Enos 1:8; Alma 32:21; Hel 8:15; D&C 46:14; Moses 6:23

Ideas for Further Study
  • Learn about the history of Santa Claus and St. Nicholas.
  • In this movie, Santa is known as Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, and Sinterklaas. Learn about different names for Santa in other countries. 
  • The movie begins with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Research the history of this annual tradition. 
  • The movie includes a court trial. Learn about court and the judicial process. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Recognize the Darkness

Christmas is joyful. Christmas is bright lights and warm cocoa and fresh cookies and gifts and singing children. We like to skip over Advent and go right into Christmas. We like to just get to the good part. 

But Advent invites, perhaps even requires, us to consider darkness - the darkness in our world, the darkness inside our own hearts. Pain, regret, sadness, loneliness are the proper backdrop for advent. We lose much if we refuse to acknowledge the darkness. If we try to ignore and push away the darkness, it remains, staring us down at all times. 

Christmas recognizes the light; Advent recognizes the darkness. 

Lehi taught, ”It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (1 Nephi 2:11).

Phil Schaefer of Christian Fellowship Church in Columbia, MO said, ”Advent leads us to consider our darkness that we may more profoundly see the light.” (Watch the sermon here)

We like to run from the darkness, but God doesn't. Christmas, like all holidays (holy days), serves to re-story us. It causes us to remember our stories. It teaches us about the character of our God. When the world was dark, God didn’t wave a magic wand and turn it to summer. When the world is dark, each December (and usually even more often than that), God doesn’t wave a magic wand and woosh the darkness away. Nope. 

God enters in to the darkness of our world, of our families, of our hearts. By entering into the darkness, into our darkness, God invites us, “Watch. Stay. Look. Observe the darkness.” When we embrace and enter into the darkness, when we allow ourselves to feel the full weight of how dark life can be - then, we are able to move past it. 

Advent is for waiting. Advent is for pain. Advent is for darkness. 

We waited for Christ to come then. We wait for Christ to come again. We have hurt and we have pain. We need God to join us in our darkness. 


And thankfully, God does enter in to our darkness. We need not face it alone. Our God will join us in the dark, in a stable, alone, rejected, cast out. God joins us even there. In the depths of the darkness, we are not alone. 

The Word in a Manger – The Jagged Word


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Noelle: Discussion Guide for Parents


All information below is general suggestions and ideas. 
Always adapt to your family’s situation and beliefs and the needs of individual children. 
**Spoiler Alert**


Discussion Questions
  • Christmas often involves a lot of talk about “naughty and nice.” At the beginning of the movie, Santa asked Noelle whether she had been naughty or nice. Why is it valuable to perform personal inventories of how we’re doing? How can we use the sacrament as a time reflect and ask the Lord to help us improve? 
  • Santa uses elves to help him make and deliver toys. We all need help sometimes. How has someone helped you? How have you helped someone else? 
  • Noelle says the “essence of Christmas” is getting the perfect gift. What do yo think is the “essence of Christmas”?
  • Noelle tells Nick, “It’s not about what the kid looks like, its about what’s inside the heart.” The Bible says, “the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature. . . for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Why is important to see what’s inside? 
  • Noelle advises Nick to take a break for a weekend. Why is important to take breaks and rest? This is why we have the Sabbath. How can rest and help others do the same? 
  • When Cousin Gabe becomes Santa, he decides to withhold presents from children who have made mistakes. Why do others think this is naughty? What would be a better alternative?
  • Cousin Gabe wants to update Christmas with the FALALA system to measure niceness and use drones to deliver Christmas presents. When is new technology useful? When is it better to stick to tradition? Why is it important to embrace both the past and the future?
  • After Nick says that Noelle should be the new Santa, one of the elder elves asks, “What makes a Santa?” Then he asks Noelle, “What does Christmas mean to you?” How would you answer those questions? What makes a Santa? What does Christmas mean to you?
  • Noelle says the Christmas gives us hope and inspires us to be nice. How does Christmas give hope? How does Christmas inspire us to be kind and selfless? 

Scripture Connections
  • Sacrament, Repentance
  • Teamwork, Body of Christ. 
  • Sabbath, Rest. 
  • Hope. 

Ideas for Further Study
  • Noelle meets a Buddhist man who says he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Learn about some other holidays that are celebrated in winter (examples: Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Kwanzaa). 
  • In Phoenix, Nick teaches yoga. Learn more about yoga. Where did it come from? Why do people practice yoga? What are the spiritual and physical benefits? Learn a few yoga poses. Consider attending a yoga class (if you have small children, many cities now offer “Mommy-and-Me” classes at yoga studios or libraries).