[Alternate titles: The Hook, The Parables, The Christopher-Nolan-Is-a-Secret-Mormon Show]
I’ve explained the substance of the book, the purpose, but there’s a crucial element missing: the hook. The hook is something that may seem a bit distant from the substance, but I think you’ll see where I’m going soon enough.
The surface appeal of the book is that every chapter opens with a parable from hero pop culture. Examples: Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, and others. Below is the tentative table of contents with the corresponding parable.
- The Eternal Arc [Star Wars] – Mirror
The book opens by showing that the hero’s cycle, as mapped out to near perfection by Luke’s journey in Star Wars, is actually a stunning reflection of our journey through the plan of salvation, from blurry-eyed intelligence to grand gods and goddesses.
- A Mirror of God [Harry Potter] – Mirror
The climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sheds light on our relationship with our Heavenly Father and how learning of that relationship unlocks our own unending potential and obliges us to share that light with the world.
- More Precious Than Fine Gold [Ender’s Game] – Shield
This life is full of pain, but God provides us a shield in the form of the Atonement and knowledge of what that pain is for, and if we approach the loneliness, rejection, and despair of this world the right perspective like Ender Wiggin did, and endure our fiery trials well, we, too, can be filled with Christlike compassion and love for our fellow man, and be multiple steps closer to godhood.
- This Dream Shall End [Inception and Narnia] – Shield
Grief and loss are unavoidable in this telestial world, but if we realize that this life is ultimately, like Inception, much more a dream to wake up from, we can look forward to that last day after the last battle with the forces of entropy, when we will be reunited with our loved ones forever, and every good thing that was ever lost to us will be restored.
- The Fruits of Repentance [Harry Potter] – Sword
There is a duty associated with receiving the blessings of the Atonement, and that is the duty to spread its effects to others; in the story of a major Harry Potter character (spoilers galore) we see the unending potential consequences of a life, like Alma the Younger’s, turned from evil to good, changed by a single act of repentance after a lifetime of wickedness.
- The Work is Not Yet Done [The Dark Knight Rises] – Sword
The work is not complete when we alone are saved, nor was it done when the Atonement was complete, nor at any stage of the Plan of Salvation thus far, and the place where the work of the gospel needs our help consistently and always is the holy temple, where, like Bruce Wayne rising to the top of that prison pit, we can perform ordinances first for ourselves, and then, like him tossing the rope down to the other captives, perform it for the long-awaiting dead.
- A New Call for Consecration [Spider-Man] – Sword
Our time, talents, and all that the Lord has or will bless us with—most especially our artistic capabilities, including our storytelling—are not ours for personal use or gain or boasting, but are to be used for the good of the work and the spreading of the gospel, for with great power comes great responsibility, and make no mistake: we have been given much.
- Healing in His Wings [The Dark Knight] – Shield
As Batman’s sacrifice saved Gotham’s future from the Joker’s corrupting influence, so did the Savior rescue me from the depths of addiction, and here I bear testimony of His healing and raising powers for all.
- Holding Up that Shield of Faith [Harry Potter] – Shield
In the final book of the saga, Harry must show an extraordinary amount of faith against an onslaught of opposition and doubt in Dumbledore’s mysterious plans, not to mention his own future and uncertain capabilities, but it is a faith rewarded, and even against Hermione’s skepticism, a faith that is proved reasonable, as ours will be, and in fact already is.
- The Answer Lies Above Us [Interstellar] – Mirror/Sword/Shield
Celestial transcendence and rising above the dust of this world are impossible goals for us to achieve alone, and yet they are necessary for our spiritual survival, and when we turn heavenward for assistance, God is there, waiting to help us do just that, to rise to His station, for that is His work and His glory.
Given this emphasis on stories, much of the book is implicitly a testimony of the power of literature (I include cinema in that) to teach truths, including and especially the gospel. I am actually a storyteller at heart, but a Mormon first and foremost, and so I recognize how those two traits can and must intertwine (see Chapter 7). Given his pioneering example into this territory, Orson Scott Card is one of my heroes, and he is quoted several times in the book.
More frequently cited, you’ll notice from the table of contents alone, is Christopher Nolan. There’s something about that guy. I think he’s either a secret Mormon or he’s just waiting for missionaries to knock on his door. He just seems to get it. Besides the thrilling action scenes, gorgeous cinematography, and mind-blowing plots, there is truth, both theological and philosophical, at the heart of every one of his films. There are natural allegories to our own doctrine, and a core wisdom and morality that far surpasses any other filmmaker working today, almost always running parallel with Latter-day saint wisdom and morality. He awes me, and my dream is to someday sit down and talk with him, and maybe even share the gospel. I think he’d be open to it, given that he seems to know so much of it already.
Now, the details of what I think Nolan gets at are in the book. Before now and the launch I will definitely be giving more depth to these teases, but you might be able to pick up on some of it from your own experience with his films already.
Which is the perfect time to note that to get the most out of The Hero Doctrine, you’ll want to be familiar with the parables. You’ve probably seen Star Wars enough times that it won’t matter, but if you haven’t read Prisoner of Azkaban, for instance, shame on you, and for Chapter 5 to work, you definitely want to have read through the entire Harry Potter saga and learned the entirety of Severus Snape’s character. And as we mentioned Christopher Nolan, please go watch the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. Then, after reading the book, go back and watch them again. You’ll see what I mean.
This blog, then, will not only be about specifically LDS matters. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a storyteller, and a lover of stories, especially as vehicles of truth. So here I’ll probably be often writing about, well, writing, and story craft, and looking at narratives in ways a lay reader might not have before. In the play Shadowlands, writer William Nicholson gives C.S. Lewis the line, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Well, writers write to ensure we’re not alone. So what I’m doing here, with this blog, is attempting to show you how I view the world, how it makes sense to me. And whether it’s in pop culture, the scriptures, or the plot threads and symbolism I’ve seen in my own life, stories are how I make sense of the world, and of the gospel, so that’s what you’re going to see.