inside-and-out

Only a month ago, Nate posted “I Contain Multitudes“. He uses the Pixar movie “Inside Out” to discuss the issues of opposition and internal conflict. My discussion below takes a slightly different path, but again uses the same movie as an analogy.

I know I’m a bit late on the uptake, but I just sat down with the family and watched the Pixar movie, “Inside Out”.

It’s definitely a kid’s movie, but like all Pixar movies, has many layers for audience members at varying intellectual or psychological stages.

For those who haven’t seen it, the movie follows the life of Riley, an 11 year old only child who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. The main idea of the movie is that there are several “characters” in her head – sadness, fear, anger, disgust and joy. They all jostle for space at the console (as above) to respond to various events that occur in her life. The main character is Joy who is broadly dominant and tries to use her “emotion” to respond to most situations – often sidelining the other emotions by pushing them away somehow. Each event creates a memory which is coloured according to the dominant emotion felt during that event (“sad” memories are blue).

There is a lot good about this movie and there are some genuinely emotive moments. Towards the end there is an interesting development in the plot. Riley runs away from her parent’s home after becoming dissatisfied with her new home and surroundings. She ends up returning and when in the arms of her parents “joy” and “sadness” take dual control on Riley’s console and a new “memory” is produced. But unlike the other memories (up till this point which are only one colour), the new memories are multi coloured. Indeed, the memory produced as Riley is hugging her parents is part blue (sad) and part yellow (joy).

This maturation in her development marks the climax of the movie and the end of the “child” Riley and the birth of the new “adolescent” Riley.

I see some similarities in the church here. Like the “child” Riley, the church – for many years – produced a unilateral narrative. It produced a correlated version of itself where under the direction of the First Presidency, information, stories and culture were highly controlled. Looking back, one could argue this type of control echoes that of a cheap romance movie – by the end you feel like you have been led down an emotional road manipulated into feeling exactly what the director wanted you to feel.

As I have gone through my own personal philosophical changes relating to how I see the church, I, like Riley have matured or changed. I have developed the ability to discard an emotionally and intellectually unilateral view and replace it with a complex one. One that sees the beauty in the introspectively intense Alma 5, the love that can be displayed in the Home and Visiting Teaching programs and the genuine happiness seen on the faces of the primary kids. But I also see the complexities in the narratives of the past, the unnecessary political involvement at the General level of the church and our policy and cultural treatment of those who identify as LGBT. The church, like its members, is neither all bad or all good.

Perhaps the way that Riley’s big move was a catalyst for her change, the rise of the internet may well have been a catalyst for some members, and even the Church itself to change. I think it was Elder Holland recently that said that we cannot just tell people to read and pray in response to genuine questions. People now have access to too much information that makes “just” praying kind of pointless. The church has lost the ability to control its own narrative. It now needs different ways to disseminate and explain its history.

Recently, Ally Isom, Director at the LDS Church Public Affairs spoke at the Fair Mormon Conference. Perhaps as a response to much of the hateful content I see on my Facebook feed (from church members), she urged against the dichotomy often referred to in such posts. She listed four concepts to keep in mind when speaking about these issues (Quoted in the Deseret News)

First, words matter. “I urge you to understand the meaning of words for all key players and then choose your words well.”

Second, people matter. She rejected frameworks that simplify issues into polar opposites and assume pernicious motives. Instead of mentally placing a person on an opposite side, see the other’s potential and value.

“Can we not see the people and resist the poles?” she said, adding, “What might happen if those oppositional dualities were framed as complementary or interdependent — each a unique part of a greater whole, each part of the total, ultimate solution?”

Third, Isom said “you matter.” She referred specifically to disciples of Christ, who said contention should be done away, and said their contributions make a difference.

“Authentic discipleship is the surest way to counter the pervasive anger that is overtaking our communities and politics,” she said. “Even more importantly, authentic discipleship is the best way to share the gospel’s truth — to live as disciples, to share our light and, in turn, the Savior’s light. In marketing terms, it is called ‘living our brand.'”

Fourth, Isom said “we matter,” meaning all people should work together as God’s children. People can successfully engage in the arena by working together both to create change and to allow themselves to be changed.

I see this type of commentary as one attempt by the Church to steer away from the singular and overly simplistic narratives too often presented in the past. Perhaps we are living in the day of a blue and yellow church??

Questions:

  1. How has your perception of the church changed as you have emotionally and intellectually matured?
  2. If it has changed, explain your journey in terms of the emotions you felt
  3. Do you see the Church maturing as it explores different narratives, produces websites like mormonsandgays.org and releases the “essays”.
  4. Is it like a marriage – initially seeing someone as perfect, then still love them later when they (you) do dumb things?
  5. Does Ms Ison like Pixar movies?