On 8 October during university devotional, BYU Marriott School of Business dean Brigitte Madrian helped students to see the value in finding gospel connections from cherished childhood stories.
When pregnant with her second child, Madrian was placed on bedrest. After making it through the mountain of academic works brought by friends and family, she picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time, thinking it was merely a story for children.
The boy with the lightning scar changed her life.
“I loved the alliterative names of characters like Mad-Eye Moody and Nearly Headless Nick, the myriad magical creatures ranging from house elves to hippogriffs, and the tantalizing array of potion ingredients such as boomslang skin and lacewing flies,” Madrian said. “I loved the humanity of all of the perfectly imperfect characters… but most of all, I loved the universal themes of the books: the power of love and sacrifice; the fight of good against evil; and the quest to conquer death.”
Madrian taught her audience in the Marriott Center five gospel principles that are reinforced through the story of the boy who lived.
Truth 1: All are alike unto God.
Throughout the Harry Potter series, a central theme is the battle for equality. Pure-blood wizards look down on those with non-wizard parents; house elves fight for recognition and equal rights; class divisions cause contention among students at Hogwarts.
Madrian taught that Harry shows an understanding of the principle taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 18, that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”
“I encourage you to strive to show a greater measure of Christ-like love to all of those around you,” she said. “Be sensitive to the needs of those in our community who are dealing with very real struggles, even if you do not understand them.”
Truth 2: The Lord will help make our “weak things become strong.”
God makes “weak things become strong” in three ways.
The first is by magnifying the concentrated effort to become better—we can acquire new skills, abilities, and strengths. The students at Hogwarts are frequently practicing the spells and potions they learn before the skills can become valuable assets later in the story.
The second way is by placing people with strengths in our lives to offset our individual weaknesses.
“My favorite example is in book one where getting the Sorcerer’s Stone very much requires the individual strengths of all three: Ron leads the trio to victory in the game of wizard chess, Hermione solves the logic puzzle concerning which potion to drink, and Harry mounts a broomstick to capture the flying key that allows him to open the locked door and proceed,” Madrian said. “Individually, none of them could have succeeded, but collectively they are able to keep the Sorcerer’s Stone from falling into the hands of Lord Voldemort.”
The third way that God makes weak things become strong is by placing obstacles in our path that highlight strengths within our weakness.
“For me, returning to BYU after thirty years at four very different universities is both an obvious source of weakness and a potential source of strength. A weakness, because after such a long time away, I often feel out of place back in this peculiar institution with its sometimes strange customs,” she said. “A strength, because my perspective after being gone for so long occasionally allows me to see things in ways that people around me can’t.”
Truth 3: We see through a glass darkly.
Harry and his friends rarely have a complete understanding of the challenges they face. Their attempts at finding the answers are often wrong and lead to problems they couldn’t have imagined.
Like these characters, God does not intend for us to have a full understanding of our mortal life.
“Sometimes our faith falters when we find ourselves in a situation that we cannot make sense of, believing that our ability to reason is sufficient for complete understanding, when in fact we have a very limited comprehension of things.”
Madrian taught that it is a choice to do what makes sense based on the partial understanding that has been given, with faith that God will direct the path and not lead His children astray.
Truth 4: The Lord will magnify your capabilities in doing His work.
Madrian referenced her favorite moment of the series, which takes place in the third book. Harry and Hermione travel back in time in order to change the course of events and save the lives of their friends.
In doing so, Harry finds himself in a bind: having already lived through the events, he knows that a hooded figure saves his life by casting a patronus, but he doesn’t know who. Time-travelling Harry watches his past self anxiously, waiting for the mysterious hero to arrive, only to realize it is himself in the future and casts a spell to save his past self. The spell is difficult, and had he not seen him accomplish it once before, he may not have been up to the task.
“Heavenly Father hasn’t given us a perfect vision of our past or our futures,” Madrian said. “But he has given us the ability, conditional on our worthiness, to receive personal revelation about what we can and should do in our lives. And when we are on the Lord’s errand, He will magnify our capabilities to act in His services and to be the means of accomplishing great things.”
Truth 5: Jesus Christ is the author of our salvation.
Madrian taught that while Harry Potter is the boy who lived throughout this beloved story, Christ is the one who lives today.
The central theme of the series is the quest to conquer death. Throughout the series, Harry defies death to defeat the one who is seeking to overcome it. This victory comes through his willingness to sacrifice himself to save the wizarding world.
Christ’s atonement and crucifixion were the sacrifice that saves all of God’s children.
“This Jesus is not the central character of some great work of literary fiction; He is the central figure in the great plan of redemption…His sacrifice, born of love, enables us to be forgiven of our sins and live again.”
You can read, watch, or listen to Dean Madrian's full remarks at speeches.byu.edu.
Writer: Kaylee Esplin