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LDS father and daughter team up to show God can be found even in Babylon

Lights, camera, Mormonism? Members can find their faith reflected in quotes from Yoda, Mary Poppins, Mister Rogers and plenty of others in Hollywood’s biggest and smallest movies.

(Courtesy) Father-daughter duo Mike and Grace Winder show off their book, "Hidden in Hollywood," detailing film quotes they say resonate with their Latter-day Saint beliefs.

What can a person learn about God’s good word from the pulse-raising film franchise “Fast & Furious”?

Loads, says Latter-day Saint Mike Winder, author of the new book “Hidden in Hollywood: The Gospel Found in 1001 Movie Quotes.”

Growing up as a Latter-day Saint, the former West Valley City mayor and Utah legislator said he always had his “antenna up” for messages that resonated with his religious beliefs.

But the idea for his 14th book — others include “Favorite Scriptures of 100 American Leaders” and “Presidents and Prophets: The Story of America’s Presidents and the LDS Church” — didn’t come to him until he came across an article titled “Who Said It: Dieter or Dumbledore?” in the magazine UtahValley360. The story offered a slate of inspiring quotes that readers had to trace back to either the silver-haired fictional wizard or the silver-haired Latter-day Saint apostle.

The comparison sparked an idea for Winder, who spent the next few years collecting quotes from movies — ranging from 1950s classics like “A Streetcar Named Desire” to cartoon comedies such as “Minions” — that he thought reflected core tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For help, he turned to his now-15-year-old daughter, Grace. Together, the father-daughter duo spent Sunday afternoons for years wading through film quotes.

Winder said there were some “grand debates” about how to format the final manuscript before they ultimately landed on 19 sections, each referring to different Latter-day Saint teachings, into which they sorted the sayings.

LDS teaching pops up in ‘Mary Poppins’

(Disney via AP) This image released by Disney shows Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins in "Mary Poppins Returns." A new book has found lyrics from the movie that match Latter-day Saint teachings.

For Winder, who lost his mother in 2011 and brother in 2014, it was the section “death and beyond” that he found most meaningful.

“The doctrine about how the departed are still with us is really powerful,” he said. “Some of the ways our favorite movie characters say as much is very comforting and very in sync with Latter-day Saint doctrine.”

As an example, he pointed to this Emily Blunt lyric from 2018′s “Mary Poppins Returns”:

Trust she’s always there,

watching as you grow.

Find her in the place

where the lost things go.

Grace said the project taught her that “there’s a lot of good in this world.”

Her favorite quote came from the wizened and wise Yoda. “I like when he says, ‘Do or do not. There is no try,’” she says, referring to a line from the 1980 “Star Wars” installment “The Empire Strikes Back.”

The most cited movies include “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a 2019 film in which Tom Hanks plays the beloved Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame. Winder found the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series were gold mines for Latter-day Saint beliefs on kinship, inner worth and the ability for all to connect with a power greater than their own.

‘Frozen’ warms up to ‘good theology’

(AP Photo/Disney) This image provided by Disney shows a teenage Elsa the Snow Queen, voiced by Idina Menzel, in a scene from the animated feature "Frozen." Latter-day Saint author Mike Winder says the film includes "a lot of good theology."

While many of the subjects outlined, he noted, aren’t Latter-day Saint beliefs alone, certain storylines or phrases do have particular resonance with teachings more specific to the Utah-based church. He pointed, for instance, to the 2020 Pixar film “Soul” with its depiction of a premortal life in which individuals develop traits that will define their experience on Earth.

The 2013 blockbuster “Frozen,” he added, “also had a lot of good theology.”

And what about the street-racing franchise “Fast & Furious”?

“There was a lot,” he said, “about the importance of family.”

In the end, the endeavor taught Winder a lesson that he said has “absolutely changed” the way he watches movies. And that is: “If you use the yardstick of Hollywood to measure the gospel, it fails. But if you use the yardstick of the gospel to measure Hollywood, you’ll find hidden gems of good report in movies of all genres.”