Breaking Dawn-To Preach Or Not To Preach? That Is The Question: Mormonism Within The Twilight Saga

4 Nov

Stephenie Meyer is a practicing Mormon and a graduate of Brigham Young University. Many readers of the saga may not know that she instilled her own beliefs into her novels. This article examines the essay written by Margaret Toscano as she takes a closer look at the doctrines of the church and how they weave into the texts.

The five doctrinal themes that frequently occur in the texts are:

  1. the centrality of free will or free agency
  2. eternal marriage and family
  3. an unorthodox heaven and hell
  4. the literalness of the supernatural
  5. the divine destiny of humans

Free will or free agency, as called by the Latter Day Saints, is the God-ordained, individual freedom of conscience. In Twilight, Bella chooses to put love first so she can be with Edward. Edward chooses to put his love for Bella before his concern that his lust for her blood and the lust for her blood from other vampires puts her in constant danger.

In New Moon and Eclipse, the focus is on Bella’s love for Edward and her deep friendship with Jacob Black, can she have both men in her life at the same time?

In Breaking Dawn, Bella must choose first to keep her baby and then after she is changed into a vampire what choices does she have in how not to endanger humans?

In this interview, Stephenie speaks about her religion and her upbringing as a “good girl” and according to the text most Mormons maintain that the dark side should be avoided even in contemplation through art.

 

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20049578,00.html

The novels have been removed from the LDS church owned bookstore, Deseret Book, in Salt Lake City, Utah due to “customer complaints”. Some people believe that the sex scene in the beginning of Breaking Dawn is the reason why the books were removed although the scene is a non-graphic depiction of sex. However, the text suggests that it was the overall darkness of the vampire world and the strong erotic tensions in the novels that bothered Mormon readers.

Within the novels, love is a force that leads the characters to act irrationally putting love first complicates the choices that each character makes. For example, Bella is torn between her feelings for Edward and Jacob. She is constantly hurting both of them and by the end of Eclipse she is agonizing over the consequences her choices have had on the ones she loves. As long as Bella remains in her relationships with Edward and Jacob she is constantly putting her parents, friends and the townspeople of Forks in danger. When Victoria creates an army to kill Bella in revenge for James’s death, Bella realizes that she also is to be held responsible for the actions of the army. This is in contradiction with the Mormon view that right choices can guard one from evil.

Mormons believe that a man and a woman can be together forever in an “eternal marriage” memorialized by the LDS temple. This is shown in the relationship between Edward and Bella on the last page of Breaking Dawn. However, Stephenie also balances it with love for friends and extended family. Family is a key factor in the novels, Mormons concentrate on the biological, nuclear family whereas the spiritual family is shown in the novels.

An eternal hell does not exist in Mormonism, In order to get to the highest heaven, one must follow the Mormon beliefs and rituals. LDS culture has a belief that says without those you love, there is no heaven and they also believe that families can be together forever so there is pressure to conform to LDS rules so that families can be together forever. For Bella, hell is being without Edward and heaven is being with him. However, she realizes that her larger family also plays a part in her happiness.

Meyers created a world where the mythical and mundane overlap. Mormons believe that the physical body will experience a literal resurrection and that the earth will eventually be renewed in a celestial paradise. When Jacob began shape shifting to become a wolf, Bella finds it ironic that the only human she had been able to relate to is not human after all. When Bella’s life is threatened by her pregnancy she tells Jacob she knows everything will be alright which demonstrates the hopeful, humanistic cosmology of Mormonism.

All the characters in the novels struggle with the human, monstrous and angelic sides of their natures. Edward is often described by Bella as an “angel”. When Jacob first began to shape shift he sees himself as a monster. Bella constantly struggles with her humanity throughout the series. First seeing herself as an ordinary girl and by Eclipse sees herself as the biggest monster because of the pain she causes Edward and Jacob. However, by Breaking Dawn, Bella finally discovers her true self. She is beautiful, graceful, powerful and exhibits many gifts that save her family. She is truly a God. Mormons believe that they can become Gods like their heavenly Father and Mother.

Source: Click, Melissa, Aubrey, Jennifer and Morawitz-Behm Elizabeth (2010) Bitten By Twilight: Youth Culture, Media and the Vampire Franchise.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

 

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46 Responses to “Breaking Dawn-To Preach Or Not To Preach? That Is The Question: Mormonism Within The Twilight Saga”

  1. littlebells November 4, 2012 at 9:41 PM #

    Actually a hell does exist in the LDS religion, but it’s not believed to be with a horned devil and burning fire. So as not to give a long explanation, it is a place where God’s presence ceases to exist. It is not known specifically what it is like, but it has been taught that it is a knowledge of your sins and guilt, knowing that you are forever alone and can never make things right. It’s like when you’ve felt guilt for an action/sin and magnified exponentially for eternity.

    • parisienne November 4, 2012 at 10:09 PM #

      LB,

      Thanks for the clarifications. I’m just going by what the essay said.

  2. littlebells November 4, 2012 at 9:43 PM #

    In general, do you think it’s wrong of an author to include their religious beliefs, specifically if they are not openly preaching? C.S. Lewis did this, so I’m just wondering. 🙂

    • parisienne November 4, 2012 at 10:11 PM #

      No I don’t think its wrong in the sense that its the author’s belief. What I do think is “wrong” is picking it apart and stating that the author has a message when the author may not have any message at all. I hope that made sense.

      • littlebells November 4, 2012 at 11:57 PM #

        I agree. Sometimes people read WAY too much into something.

      • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 8:56 AM #

        Our ability to reason is what separates us from animals. The more substantial content we consume the stronger comparative analytical skills we develop. For example if we don’t exercise our reasoning capacity then we wouldn’t be able to separate fact from fiction, divide and subtract, truth from lies etc…Gosh! I’m so glad Jesus didn’t say “go ahead stone this women to death because she’s been a “bad girl.” Otherwise we would all be screwed. LOL!!

        • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 9:37 AM #

          I think what you and Paris said are fantastic. Critical thinking is extremely important for all the reasons you mentioned and yet there is a time to stop and say, “Hey, sometimes a story is just a story.” “or maybe this sculpture is just that. A sculpture. Not a representation of man’s oppression under cruel and “cold” tyranny.” You know what I mean? hahaha!!!

          • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 6:07 PM #

            Yes! Hahahaha! Exactly, I discussed this better below with the Marcel Duchamp analogy. He made the argument of style vs. substance.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)

            • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

              hahaha!!! Thanks OB. I forgot to say that my sculpture example was that of an ice cream cone and not to read it as something more than it is. Yeah, I don’t get why a urinal would be considered a piece of art. Let me just say right now that every kid that colors should be making six figures for their art work because it has over 1 billion different meanings. hahahahahah!!!!

              • Open Book November 6, 2012 at 10:12 PM #

                Hahahaha!

      • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:04 AM #

        Paris,

        U said: “What I do think is “wrong” is picking it apart and stating that the author has a message when the author may not have any message at all. I hope that made sense.”

        Yes, it makes perfect sense. U are saying we need to know when content has been reduced to it’s least common denominator before determining if it needs further examination. Correct?

        • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 7:25 PM #

          OB,

          Get out of my head. LOL That’s EXACTLY what I was saying.

          • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

            LOL!! Ah! Great. I also stated above. Sometimes a bag of s*** is just a bag of s***. I thought u might like that analogy better.

            P.S. I’m always in your head Paris just accept it. LOL!!

            • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 8:23 PM #

              I know you are! 🙂

  3. amandalovesmovies November 4, 2012 at 9:47 PM #

    I know people who see the series as Mormon propaganda but it doesn’t seem to be working that well, since I don’t think there has been a recent rush of teenage girls converting to Mormonism. It’s interesting how much Mormonism is in pop culture nowadays.

    • littlebells November 4, 2012 at 9:54 PM #

      Hi Amanda!

      yeah, no major rush. hahahaha!!!! I actually didn’t even know the author was Mormon until I’d already read the first three books. Then I was like, “Oh, yeah, I see it now.”

      • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

        I never got it because I was never looking for that. When I read, I want to be entertained so I read strictly for the entertainment value. I don’t try to find meanings or messages within the author’s writings. I see it now that it has been pointed out to me.

        • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 7:58 PM #

          I typically read for entertainment the first time I read a book or script. But then the second, third and fourth etc…I begin my script analysis.

          Paris-

          Do u believe actors and designers process/reasons are different when reading a book or script?

          • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 8:10 PM #

            OB,

            I do believe they are somewhat different. As an actor, I typically look for what fallibilities does the character have? I see each character as a statue in the lump of clay. you start with the lump and you work gradually to bring out the strong points of the character. Each character no matter how evil does have redeeming qualities. I find it fun to allow the character to take its own journey and for me to be the vessel. I hope that made sense.

            • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:29 PM #

              Yes, our processes are a bit different but we are a little similar when I do my character analysis and I look at age, height, hair color, weight, class etc…

          • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM #

            What type of script analysis do you do? Do you break down each character or do you look at the over tone of the piece? What year it is? What’s going on in the socio-economic climate?

            • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:16 PM #

              Paris-

              If a film is based on a book then I begin my SA with the book, then cross reference it with the script.

              The SA for book: The first time is for first impression and instincts. The second read: I collect the basic facts. Time period, season, span of time of the story (does it occur in weeks, days or years), socio-economic class, and how many characters. Third read: character psychoanalysis for each character. Fourth read: Costume plot, how many costume changes for each character, distress clothing tracking, how many enter and exit periods etc… Fifth read: What economics, fashion, pop culture, music, dances, art and literature are mentioned in the script or book. This is then cross-referenced with my costume plot and character analysis. This is the basic run through.

              • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 9:32 PM #

                I applaud you. 🙂 I look at my character specifically and then how she relates to the other characters. What is her relationship/thoughts of each character and vice versa.

                • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:59 PM #

                  I really look at individual characters when doing my psychoanalysis plot. That include specific character flaws, motivations, desires and goals etc…

              • littlebells November 6, 2012 at 12:26 AM #

                I’m overwhelmingly impressed!!!

          • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 8:49 PM #

            OB,

            I do the same. The first time it’s to read for entertainment. If I have time and interest, I read it a second and third time because if it is really well written, there are little gems you find here and there. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s just simple writing.

            • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 10:03 PM #

              LB- Yes, we are similar. I love how u organize and set up the discussions for Page to Silver Screen….: )

              • littlebells November 6, 2012 at 12:27 AM #

                Why thankya, ma’am. 😉

    • parisienne November 4, 2012 at 10:14 PM #

      Amanda,

      I agree with you. I think people like to pick things apart and debate things in order to make themselves feel better. They have to find “deeper meanings” in everything.

      • Open Book November 4, 2012 at 10:42 PM #

        Welcome Amanda and very informative article Paris.

        Hey! What’s wrong with debating? LOL!!

        Q. If u don’t debate how do u resolve opposing views?

        • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 12:05 AM #

          That’s true!

          • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 1:56 AM #

            Well we could go back to resolving opposing views with fist fights, knives and guns. Yet, I prefer resolving opposing views with verbal debates. I hear the survival rate is much higher. LOL!!

            Seriously, how does one resolve opposing views without debates? Anyone can answer.

            • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 9:31 AM #

              You forgot hairpulling! And sticking rotten chicken bones under car seats! hahahahahahahaha!!!!

              • parisienne November 5, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

                no no no. bags full of dog shit. its more effective. lol

                • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

                  Yes! Sometimes a bag of s*** is just a bag of s***…..: )

            • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM #

              Oh to answer your question, I don’t think you can. Debates are great. Discussions are great, and sometimes playing Devil’s advocate is great. I think it allows for more intellectual stimulation and seeing a different POV. I actually agree with the article, but I wanted to point out what the writers of the book didn’t get right so our readers would have a better understanding.

              • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:43 AM #

                You’ve brought up a good point about intelligent debating. Paris has done an excellent job with research because its provided us with so many issues to discuss. Research is a big component in any real debating. The less informed u are the more subjective you become. Subjective debates always turn into personal and slanderous attacks and designed to shut down amiable resolutions IMO. So get enough material to keep the focus on the issues and not u. Today individuality and critical thinking is unpopular. In today’s society we get rewarded for being conventional. It takes a lot of courage and faith to take the road less traveled but u need enough gas to go the distance. Does that make sense?

  4. littlebells November 4, 2012 at 9:51 PM #

    “LDS culture has a belief that says without those you love, there is no heaven and they also believe that families can be together forever so there is pressure to conform to LDS rules so that families can be together forever.”

    Ok, I don’t know where they got this info, but that’s not 100% true. There is always a heaven, just doesn’t mean you get to be a part of it. Heaven is with family and God. And it isn’t LDS rules; it’s keeping the commandments that Jesus gave to Moses and preached when He lived upon the earth.

  5. littlebells November 4, 2012 at 9:53 PM #

    sorry, I’m not trying to debate the article, I’m just trying to give “truer” information. I never got that Meyers had Bella think she was a God. What do I know? hahaha!!! I thought she was incorporating their perfect physical state that Mormons believe happens after their resurrection. Being a vampire is definitely not Godlike in anyway, but I can see how their physical perfection follows that theme.

  6. Open Book November 4, 2012 at 11:40 PM #

    I find it ironic Meyers wrote a book that glorifies teen suicide but she finds Stephen King horrific? Hmm!

    • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 12:01 AM #

      Don’t even get me started on that stupid part of the book! Grrrrr!!!!

      • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 12:02 AM #

        I must be a horrible person since I’m a King fan!!! 😉

        • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM #

          LOL!! Yes, we need to fear SK he’s the root of all evil. I’m sorry but we can’t hide from the world it’s not perfect and neither are people. That’s why God gave us the ability to reason and the holy spirit to strengthen our faith and resolve. She makes no sense. Given Myers marketed Twilight to teens she needed to be more responsible and socially conscious. What made Myers work so juvenile is the “good girl” vs. “bad girl” mentality. Here’s another irony. Bella is a “good girl” but she hates getting older.

          • littlebells November 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM #

            With regards to authors, whether they are just telling a story or using their work to preach their beliefs or hide an agenda, I do like it when their writing gets me to think. Especially after I have put the book down. That’s why I enjoy Simmons, Lamb, and King so much. I can pull what I want from the story and use it for my betterment.

            Yes, would I love to be in a physical state of perfection living forever and ever! yeah! But I wouldn’t put people that I love in harm’s way to do so. What my real problem is is this: I did like the story. I had some issues with plot, but I did like it. Bella in the book is a lot more caring and thoughtful, but I’ve been bombarded with movie Bella who…yeah, it’s been extremely tainted and it’s difficult for me to discuss the book without using the movie as my “go to”. I do not get caring, thoughtful, smart Bella from the film. I see a selfish, cold, one dimension Bella and now I am totally getting off the subject! HAHA!

            • Open Book November 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM #

              LB-

              U are making an argument similar to Marcel Duchamp with the urinal in the museum. His argument was that there’s more to art then style and technique. Instead art is also about original ideas and concepts that make u to think. The Twilight books did introduce a new twist on vampires but once u scratched the surface the subtext was very weak and unsubstantial. Now the screen adaptation could have corrected this problem but it’s true the actors public persona overwhelmed the book Bella that was already operating from a deficit.

  7. parisienne November 5, 2012 at 7:19 PM #

    HI All!

    I’m here just running around. 🙂

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