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Why do LDS General Authorities Quote from C.S. Lewis?

By Dylan Sage-Wilcox

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strive to live the high standards of their faith, they look to their leaders for direction in biannual meetings known as General Conference. Thousands of members living in Utah convene together in the Conference Center while millions more tune in on TVs, laptops and phones. Faithful members who listen to these inspiring messages given on a variety of topics from selected General Authorities of the Church say that there is at least one talk that really touches them. Each message is often given through the personal experience of the speaker, however, there are other sources of inspiration that are called upon. Such a valuable resource is Christian apologist and renowned author, C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is one of the most quoted non-Latter-day Saints in General Conference. Marianna Edwards Richardson and Christine Thackeray wrote C.S. Lewis: Latter-day Truths in Narnia where they pointed out some of the reasons as to why Lewis is so often quoted by LDS leaders: “Lewis had a knack of speaking for ‘every man’ and gave us modern parables for Christian living. All can relate to his testimony of Christ and his practical understanding of how to put gospel teachings into practice today.”

The Deseret News complied 23 C.S. Lewis quotes shared in LDS General Conference, they found that Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoted Lewis the most, 19 times, four instances being in General Conference, the others in talks and devotionals he gave. President James E. Faust came next to Elder Maxwell, quoting the author at least seven times.

Lewis was born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Ireland. His religious background began as a youth when he was baptized in the Church of Ireland, under the nudging of his mother, Florence Augusta Lewis, whose father was a priest for the church. In 1908 Lewis suffered many losses; the death of his uncle, grandfather, and mother, the latter died of cancer. These life events helped to shape his view on life and even death as he began to immerse himself in Greek and Norse mythology and other literature. He was sent to Malvern to recuperate from respiratory difficulties, it was here at the age of 15 that he abandoned his childhood faith and became an atheist pursing mythology and the occult. The young Lewis viewed Christianity as cumbersome and time-consuming, however it wasn’t until Lewis read George McDonald’s “Phantasies” in 1916, which “baptized his imagination” did Lewis finally have a religious epiphany.

In 1929, as a faculty member at Oxford University, he met fellow colleague and equally-noted author, J. R. R. Tolkien, who persuaded Lewis to be fully converted to Christianity. Lewis recorded in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, “That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

Since his conversion to theism at the age of 33, Lewis committed himself to the Church of England he became not just a defender of his Anglican faith, but of all Christianity. James Sire wrote “C. S. Lewis was a man with wide interests, a man who wrote with distinction in many fields – literary history, philology, criticism, Christian apologetics, science fiction, myth, poetry, and children’s literature. His readers are thus drawn from many walks of life.” Sire said that Lewis could be serious without being sentimental, he could be a genuine Christian without being trapped by religious piety, he could enjoy without the sole seeking of enjoyment, and he was willing to advise without becoming a professional advisor. Because of his broad perspectives and conversion from atheism to theism, Lewis was uniquely equipped to defend Christianity from naysayers because he was once a naysayer himself. His teachings and essays ranged from the Savior’s atoning sacrifice to the importance of motherhood. Hence the reason why many LDS leaders quote him so generously.

Jannalee Rosner, in her article for LDS Living, gives three insights into Lewis’s popularity among Latter-day Saint authors, leaders, and scholars. First, Lewis helps us with missionary work and Sunday School comments. Second, his ideas are related to Mormon doctrine. And third, he tells great stories and parables.

President Ezra Taft Benson gave a still-oft quoted talk in April General Conference of 1989 entitled, “Beware of Pride”, where he quotes Lewis, who said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” The first general authority to quote from the renowned British author was Elder Paul H. Dunn of the Seventy in 1977, who gave a talk entitled “We Have Been There All the Time” where he advised members of the church to give special attention to relationships with loved ones, family, and friends. He quoted Lewis’s words: “Take care. It is so easy to break eggs without making omelets.” From that point on, general authorities have been using Lewis’s profound insight to enhance their messages

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Family: Central Theme of the Fast and Furious Franchise

By Toni Yee

Family is the heart of Mormon theology.  Eternal family, extended family, – it comes in many forms.  But, rarely do we consider fast car families. The “Fast and Furious” movie franchise, however, maintains its core family theme through the recent installment “Fate of the Furious.” Fancy cars and drag racing are only part of the story. Family lends support, and can be drawn on by anyone in the most unusual circumstances . Even the urban race culture.

According to Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), a franchise star, the family theme fate-of-the-furious-filming-locations-jagcan be traced back to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) Vin Diesel. “It’s something that came out of Vin’s mouth where he didn’t like the line that was there. At the end of the day, the movie is all about family.”  Throughout the 16 years of furious movies, one little ad-lib by Diesel established the idea that anchored the franchise. Your upbringing makes no difference. It doesn’t matter if your childhood was stable. If you’re willing to search, family can be found in many forms, just like the urban one in “Fate of the Furious.”  The premise is that humans are inherently drawn to family, and it doesn’t have to be traditional.

In “Fast and Furious Six,” Vin Diesel says, “You don’t turn back on your family, even when they do.” Despite their trials the characters stick together as a family in the end. Even though they encounter misunderstandings and arguments, all of the films repeat the family mantra over and over again.   In “Fate of the Furious,” however, Vin Diesel choses a path without his family. This is dome at his peril as is our lives are also at risk when we choose to go it alone.

Everything was going so well with Toretto’s family then all of a sudden, Cipher, a villain, tempts Toretto to turn his back from his family which he does. He is blinded with the consequences of his decision as he falls under Cipher’s spell.  Suddenly Toretto sees hismaxresdefault son, reminding him of the wonderful support family offers. Despite the influence of Cipher’s team, he reunites with the family reclaiming the satisfaction that brings.  Toretto’s family still welcomes him despite his sins.  “You don’t turn back on your family, even when they do” Toretto utters in “Fast and Furious Six.”  He thanks family members for their foregiveness.

A dominant theme of the Fast and Furious franchise is that despite our poor choices,  it is never too late to get back on track. Our family will always be there for us even when stray.  Toretto chooses to go rogue for a while, but later he realizes that family matters most. It may not be blood relatives, but friends can turn our to be even more loyal and loving if we invest in the group.

Trials and temptations are inevitable, but the lesson of Fast and Furious is that it’s up to us how we handle them.  No matter how hard life gets, family is all that matters in the end. As Diesel says, “I don’t have friends, but I have family.” A family awaits all us. But, perhaps not in the places we expect.

 

 

“Parrot Heads:” The New Trop Rock Film

Former Eagle Timothy B. Schmit, coined the the term “Parrot Head,” a reference to fans of the rocker Jimmy Buffett. Parrotheads don tropical shirts, sunglasses, and grass skirts; jimmy-buffett-2015-ab2c8ca49025539csome bring inflatable sharks to concerts and even haul in sand to simulate a beach in parking lots. The new Netflix documentary, “Parrot Heads” transcends the foundational; it’s a look at “Parrot Head 2.0,” which has spawned an entire rock genre, “trop rock.” Trop rock bands and festivals are a vestige of Buffett culture, supporting an argument of this blog that this is truly pop culture religion.

If religion is reduced to belief, community, and ritual, the Parrot Heads qualify.  Songs elicit feelings about tropical paradise and the need for escape. florida-keys-trop-rock-playlistConsiderthe song, Fins; fans sway in unison and repeat various hand movements.

Parrotheads advocate a simple life that respects nature; many support environmentalist causes. It’s a search for a laidback lifestyle and the reclamation of spontaneity, which they find missing from a nine-to-five, overworked society. Many Parrotheads are critical of institutions; Buffett himself has a particular aversion to authority.These communities are neither superficial nor ephemeral. Parrotheads exist outside the concerts through parrothead clubs, informal gatherings and websites.

imagesThe documentary is riddled with compelling facts such as $42 MILLION raised FOR CHARITIES. Parrott heads  DONATED MORE THAN THREE MILLION HOURS OF VOLUNTEER TIME SINCE THEIR INCEPTION 25 YEARS AGO. What could be more religious than that?

New Joe Cocker Documentary: “Who was that guy, anyway?”

Mormons, when hearing the name, “Joe Cocker,” are likely to draw a blank, unless you’re an LDS child of the sixties. What Zoobie can’t sing, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” or as Cocker wails, “…from me friends…” in that instantly recognized Cockney – that is Cockney so heavy it demands a translator.

Unlike the 1971 film, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” the new Netflix – produced, “Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul”  joe2is no meager concert film.  Yet performance footage compels, and to our liking, songs play for more than thirty seconds. While paling in comparison to the more mature “Eagles History,” and Peter Bogdonovich’s “Tom Petty: Runnin’ Down a Dream,” there is much here in terms of the compelling question, “Who was Cocker?” Filmmaker John Edgington lays it out there for fans to pass judgement.

Universally, he’s considered the “nice guy.” Shockingly though, Cocker leaves a trail of friends in the dust once their value wanes.  Stunning is Woodstock organizer Michael Lang, who invests a career in Joe, only to feel the cold shoulder of abandonment – not even a returned phone call for decades.

Few watch the Woodstock performance without sensing genius. Rasping wails and spastic arm movements. Joe_Cocker_-_Festival_du_Bout_du_Monde_2013_-_003Starred boots pigeon-toed in. Yet how far should a “single-single” carry one? “With a Little Help” is like Pure Prairie League’s “Amy;” the band would do it ten times if they could. Making things worse, it was a Beatles cover. Cocker had other songs, but few are likely to endure. As for the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” project of the seventies, success was more Leon Russell’s than Joe Cocker’s. See the new autobiography of the Ban’s Robbie Robertson of you doubt Russell’s superior songwriting.

Jennifer Warren aka the “Love Lift us Up Where we Belong” one-hit wonder may have turned Cocker into the Truman Capote of rock. That duet kept him in the Chicago and Rod Stewart cohort of “never-to-make-it-to-stage-two.” Like Oskar in Gras’s novel  “The Tin Drum,” the infant genius never progresses.

The documentary is not polemical; the gravelly-voiced Cocker is left to the viewer’s judgment.  One thing can’t be debated; Cocker left it all on stage. Every note got his best effort. But, is that enough

“Moana” gets Mixed Reviews

by Danny Stout and Gunnar Christensen

The much-promoted Moana debuted this week with fodder for film critics and giddy kids alike. Disney animation delivers a bouquet of folding color, and a clear moral message; parents and youngsters content with Saturday afternoon euphoria on the way to the post-theater ice cream cone. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker deserve modest praise. Unique in film history, millions will see a version of Polynesian culture for the first time. There’s a lot at stake for Pacific Islanders if Moana is the only introduction to Oceana. Tēvita O. Kaʻili, Indigenous Oceanian Cultural Anthropologist at Brigham Young University-Hawaii said in the The Huffington Post, “Minutes into Disney’s Moana, it became obvious that despite its important girl-power message, the film had a major flaw. It lacked symmetry by its omission of a heroic goddess. By failing to do this, Disney resorted to reducing the mighty god Māui to a one-dimensional selfish borderline abusive buffoon to foreground the strength of the movie’s protagonist Moana.”

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/goddess-hina-the-missing-heroine-from-disney%CA%BCsmoana_us_5839f343e4b0a79f7433b6e5>.

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As Ka’ili points out, whimsy overrides the integral message; Disney’s versions are usually dilutions of the engaging age-old truth tales even children long to see (See reviews of Krampus, and The Real Beauty and the Beast on this site ). Again, a swing and a miss despite the cerulean ocean and lush green mountains interjected with upbeat music by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, especially the snappy tune, “You’re Welcome.”

Despite underlying values of family, following your calling, and taking risks, Moana shows that even a Pixar movie with all its technological trappings, can miss and even offend Polynesian audience members.

Looking at it from a superficialmoana-movie perspective, there’s continuity of emotion— laughing, then sadness, and optimal tension  appropriate for children. It personifies various parts of the earth, as does Hawaiian belief. You see a sassy and loving side of the ocean, the earth’s anger at its mistreatment, and its gratitude when honored with love and respect.

Moana is a colorful joyful ride, but an immature view of Polynesian culture. Despite its inaccuracies and stereotypes, however,  it places Oceana on the media map so to speak. Polynesia has entered the popular discourse, and it is up to audience members to clarify for misguided fans what they missed in this perfunctory effort.

 

 

 

“Grand Tour:” Crazy New Car Show on Amazon Prime

By Alex Maldonado

In the automotive world, few names hold as much power as Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. The trio has been in the public eye for over a decade now; most notably for their roles hosting the British car show, Top Gear. After building up a massive global fan base over the span of twelve years, mixing car news and reviews with slapstick humor and witty banter, the show met an unfortunate end in early 2015. In March of 2015, Clarkson, the lead host, physically attacked one of the show’s producers over an argument about a cold steak. The producer chose not to press charges, but the show’s parent company, the BBC, decided it couldn’t allow Clarkson to get away with is actions.

amazon-1-655340Clarkson’s contract was terminated and his loyal cohosts left with him. After a several-month-long break, the team was picked up by Amazon Prime to star in an all new car show called “The Grand Tour.” The show is set in a collapsible tent that will be transported from continent to continent, highlighting glimpses of the local car culture and completing Top Gear-esque challenges along the way.

The first episode -set in the California desert during a concert reminiscent to Burning Man- had a record setting opening, bringing in three times as many viewers as the opening for Amazon Prime’s previous leading show, The Man in the High Castle, according to Digital Spy. The debut episode revealed vcover20f-2-webseveral recycled and renamed segments from their previous show, including a news segment which, due to legal reasons with the BBC, is called “Conversation Street.” Another Top Gear throwback includes testing every new car they get their hands on a private race track with a professional racing driver. The new track is much smaller and simpler than the Top Gear equivalent, though the crew claims it to be significantly more dangerous. The danger doesn’t come from sharp turns, tight hairpins, or steep elevation changes; but from a climate causing regular moisture, uneven and bumpy sections in the tarmac, and even the occasional animal crossing. The Grand Tour also hints at the possibility of doing a celebrity feature segment, similar to Top Gear’s “big star in a reasonably priced car.” However, each time a celebrity is set to be featured on the show, they suffer an inexplicably sudden death, like a parachute not deploying while skydiving into the audience, or being mauled by a lion while walking up to the tent. According to news outlet The Sun, the BBC has threatened the Grand Tour with legal action if the show presents a celebrity interview segment even remotely resembling the recurring Top Gear bit.

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Another segment the Grand Tour team is struggling to revive in a non-plagiaristic way is their new car track time test. Previously, the team would turn the keys over to their silent, robotic, “tamed racing driver” called The Stig. The Stig was a fan favorite, never seen without his white racing suit and smoked visor. The Stig was something of a mystery to fans, regularly playing obscure music or sounds as he drove around the test track, and treating things as ordinary as a cellphone as something completely alien. Now, Clarkson and co. are enlisting an almost universally unpopular former NASCAR driver to test the cars. Wesley Wren of Autoweek critiqued the show’s new driver, saying, “[Last week’s] review gets even worse with not-so-tamed racing driver Mike Skinner behind the wheel. In the last episode, we saw the talented driver act like a stereotypical boneheaded American, which even felt stale in a small dose. The writers at “The Grand Tour” must have thought that people simply didn’t get the joke, because they doubled down with the American-isms for Skinner’s segment.”

The Grand Tour isn’t all bad though. Many diehard fans were happy just to see the gang back together, roaring million-dollar hyper cars around a racetrack again. As the show is still in its infancy, it’s clear the crew is still trying to discover what they want to be; what they want to do with their show, and where to go from here. The Grand Tour is something of a second chance for Clarkson, Hammond, and May; and they are still in the process of determining what works and what doesn’t. New episodes premiere every Friday, exclusively on Amazon prime.

“Amanda Knox” documentary features a modern “Inspector Javert”and mass hysteria

By Daniel Stout

The new documentary, “Amanda Knox,” is exhilarating and haunting, yielding a paradoxical film; it dishes out ample joy and tension. Thematically, the truth-small_121129-233805_to291112est_9350conquers-doubt story is difficult to pull off. Take Dateline and 20/20, the accused are inevitably guilty, or at least convicted. The film is less successful as a crime story than a psychological examination of mass hysteria, similar to the deindividuation of the Salem Witch Trials. Amanda Knox, a University of Washington student visiting Perugia, Italy, was accused of murder in 2007. The film is preceded by Knox’s memoir, “Waiting to be Heard” published in 2013.

No real evidence that Knox and her boyfriend murdered Meredith Kercher ever surfaced. She was found guilty of the stabbing, then innocent, then guilty again. Finally released from shackles, she returned to Seattle, only to face extradition efforts from the Italian government. These efforts recently ceased partly impeded by the Innocence Project. A reporter for the West Seattle Herald, Knox is rebuilds her life and narrates sections of the film, enhancing the dramatic tension, providing personal testimony of the terror of captivity and joy of newfound freedom. What are the factors underpinning a global media event where Italian crowds burned effigies, shouted profanities in the streets, and demanded justice, only to have the real killer eventually confess.

Relentless persecution of the innocent at all costs is a frequent subject of dramatic works. Hugo’s Les Miserables comes to mind as Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini makesgallery-1475164281-gettyimages-127239622 Inspector Javert look like a lightweight. Despite insurmountable evidence, Amanda Knox must be punished in the name of the people, country, and God. In a late scene in the documentary, he’s psychologically and, perhaps pathologically, unwilling to concede the court erred.

With the exception of The Thin Blue Line, Amanda Knox is superior to recent works on the wrongly accused, including Making of a Murderer and the The Central Park Five.

As Latter-day Saints, it’s difficult to view Amanda Knox without reflecting on the The Mountain Meadows Massacre, an event where Christ-like community gives way to sinister social pressure and mob hysteria based on misinformation and collective paranoia. Although a somber film, it flickers with the light of those willing to stand up for truth despite the punishments of opposing the crowd.

At a more personal level, the Amanda Knox story elicits conversation about how rumor and gossip often expands into immense harm that isn’t easily reversed.

 

Ben Rector’s album, “Brand New” touches the heart

By Hailey Daniels

Exhausting radio love ballads: Who lives that kind of life? Not me; I need an anthem to belt out. So, raise your glass if your life is crazy… “crazy normal.” When did music cease being relatable? Remember the bus scene in Almost Famous as the passengers sang Elton John’s tender “Tiny Dancer?” or Kate McKinnon’s moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to open Saturday Night Live? Music has a ripple effect to contemplation and positive actions. Such is validated by 28 year-old singer-songwriter, Ben Rector, and his repertoire of “Happy Music.”

benrector-press-shot-2-eric-ryan-andersonRecent album, Brand New, reflects sincerity often missing today; inspiriting beats and relevant lyrics characterize this uncommon work. The song, “Brand New” fills the senses with a mood of possibilities. Rector, a self-proclaimed dreamer, lives that reality through music. According to a perceptive Itunes review, “His tender croon is infectiously uplifting when set atop a gentle piano and galloping drum beat on the title train.” On “30,000 Feet,” he relates a conversation on an airplane among two very different people; they agree that despite ups-and-downs, life is good.

President Boyd K. Packer said, “Through music, man’s ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of the spoken language in both subtlety and power. Music can be used to exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction. It is therefore important that as Latter-day Saints we at all times apply the principles of the gospel and seek the guidance of the Spirit in selecting the music with which we surround ourselves.” Listening to Ben Rector, I sense this spirit of love.

In “More Like Love,” he sings of trading material things for love and its great impact. Such is frequently lacking in everyday life. If everyone would love and exemplify charity as the Savior did, it would make an enormous change. I wasn’t prepared for the refreshing passion in Ben Rector’s beats and lyrics. As Bono notes: “Music changes people, and people change the world.”

In Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 we read, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart;benrector1 yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” Whether they be hymns or pop-songs, they can touch the heart. If you are searching for music that invites the spirit of positivity and happiness, you will appreciate the lively tones of Ben Rector.

 

“Hamilton,” Continues to move and mesmorize Broadway audiences

By Stephanie Soto

With Lin-Manuel Miranda hosting “Saturday Night Live,” he deserves a review of his record-breaking show Hamilton. 07hamilton-slide-dr5r-superjumboMiranda breathes life into a mostly forgotten Revolutionary War figure through a creative synthesis of traditional and contemporary  music and acting styles. Hooray that Hamilton has young people reading American history again. After all, Hamilton, with others, planted the foundation for contemporary U.S. society.

Nominated for 16 Tony awards, it claimed 11, one of the most award -nominated shows to date, just shy of the The Producers and Billy Elliot.   Hamilton it is a Rap/Hip Hop musical.  Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, a founding father, is not your typical teen icon. Few young people recall his historical role nor significance.

Characters have distinct personalities, a notable feature of the musical. Actors play multiple roles, raising the talent bar even higher. Daveed Diggs delivers the fastest raps I’ve heard, with an accent no less. The ensemble wears mostly white costumes.

Women vocalists are superb.  Angelica, played by Renee Goldsberry is the more confident voice, until she meets her match in Hamilton.

Playing Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda is in most scenes demanding an exhaustingplaybill_from_the_original_broadway_production_of_hamilton performance. How can he rap for that many numbers and not forget a word?  Despite living 200 years ago, Miranda projects himself into the enigmatic Hamilton.

Several songs made the Billboard Top-Ten List, a great feat for musicals. A riveting score tells the story while simultaneously  projecting the viewer into the character’s stressed mind. Add in clever  wordplay, and we have a new form of Broadway art. Nuances such as movable props and sets moves the drama at the tense pace demanded. Stairs, a catwalk, and meticulous lighting provide the frosting on the cake.

Miranda’s Hamilton leaves us pondering issues of democracy equality, and economics.  See the show.  A musical with a multi-racial cast singing hip hop, while inviting us to critique our government present and past,  may not come along again soon.

 

New sitcom on heaven: “The Good Place” (but what if you’re there by mistake?)

By Kayna Kemp Stout

“The Good Place” (NBC) starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson is a new sitcom about what happens in the afterlife. Mormon viewers will chuckle, squirm, and nod their heads in unison at the portrayal of the grand beyond.

The Good Place - Season 1
THE GOOD PLACE — “Tahani Al-Jamil” Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) Ted Danson as Michael, D’Arcy Carden as Janet, William Jackson Harper as Chidi — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

For starters, we believe the afterlife is a busy place with comings and goings as we know it now, which is how The Good Place portrays it. We LDS adherents also believe we will be with like minded souls who have a similar goodness quotient. This also is a commonality with the show. However, the show has a twist. A few mistakes are made in the admissions process; there are unworthy clandestine members of the righteous neighborhood who were accidentally admitted. This creates havoc in an otherwise perfectly functioning afterlife. Can heaven or kingdoms as we Mormons say have flaws in them? After viewing three episodes, there are six main characters orchestrating the shenanigans in the holy neighborhood.

 

Ted Danson is the architect of the community with a human-like robotic assistant that knows everything, and can procure whatever is needed instantly. A modern-day version of 50001417Samantha without the nose-twitching from Bewitched. Add to the cast the two interlopers who are each paired with a benevolent member of the community, and you have the basis for many scripts about honesty, authenticity, and consequences. One of the amusing consequences of the misfits is their inability to swear in the good place. “Fork” substitutes for other four-letter word involuntarily replacing what they intended to say. I also enjoy informative lectures about ethics from the character whose former life was a college philosophy professor. He is tutoring the misfits in doing what’s best for the others in the neighborhood instead of just selfishly caring about themselves as they were accustomed to on earth. This makes for some good Sunday School lessons, which most Mormons would appreciate.