The Tarzan Principle

The main idea in the post can be a fun way to teach a specific principle of the gospel. It works well in an home or classroom setting, and coupled with the story in the included James E. Faust talk, makes for an effective lesson. Read on…

When offered, I immediately chose to write on the passage for the Proclamation which states: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

Unfortunately, when we read the second sentence, this is what we hear:

“blah blah, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah blah, WHOLESOME RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES!” Woo-hoo!

I am not writing about how those “activities” often supersede crucial things like honoring the Sabbath, fulfilling stewardships, attending meetings, etc. Nope. I’m not even going to go there. Disneyland. (Oops, I went there – sorry.)

Instead, I want to spend this invaluable opportunity specifically discussing the 4th item in this important list: Forgiveness. Yep, just the one.

Why? Because forgiveness is hugely important. And, because all of you are now my special friends, I would like you to meet Tarzan. (Just go with it. I promise you won’t regret it.)

As you know, Tarzan lives in the jungle. His favorite mode of transportation is swinging through the trees. It is fast, efficient and exhilarating. He fluidly swings from vine to vine, never touching the ground.

Upon closer examination, you can see that as Tarzan reaches out and grabs the next vine, he releases the vine he had been riding on. This allows him to move forward, constantly grasping new vines to continue his journey.

Imagine what would happen if Tarzan grabbed the next vine, but refused to let go of the old vine? Exactly. He would stop dead – suspended in the air between two vines. To regain his momentum, he would eventually have to choose which vine to release.

Everyone of us finds ourself reaching towards the Savior, towards the atonement – reaching and searching for forgiveness. It is inevitable. It is part of the plan.

However, like Tarzan, if we are trying to grasp the atonement, and refuse to let go of the things we are hanging on to, we stop dead. We lose all spiritual momentum. We are damned.

The Lord said it better, and he didn’t even need to use Tarzan:

“Wherefore I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another;
for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses
standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”
Doctrine & Covenants 64:9

The greater sin? You are telling me that my refusal to let go of the things that have been done to me – the pains that I have had to endure – will cause me to lose the Lord’s forgiveness and the power of the atonement? Yes. Exactly. You get it.

If we are unwilling to forgive – unwilling to let go – we are condemned, and have denied the core principles of the very atonement we reach for. Seems a bit hypocritical doesn’t it – to try to get something for ourselves that we deny others?

I have witnessed the toxic nature of an unforgiving heart. I have seen an unwillingness to forgive prevent couples and families from moving forward and regaining their spiritual momentum. Stalled. Damned.

I have witnessed people who cling to the old vines of anger, accusation and resentment until they are so cankered that they no longer reach for the Savior. Spiritually stuck between two vines. One offers hope and joy, the other condemnation and bitterness.  Personally, at times I have carried grudges far longer than I should, and I have felt those burdens immediately lift and drift away as I decide to release them. Immediately.

I have also seen those who labor to forgive find great peace and happiness as they free themselves from burdens they have been carrying for 10, 20 years, or 10 to 20 minutes. Forgiveness offers hope, peace and spiritual momentum.

Think of your grudges, resentments, hurt feelings, pain. Can you let them go? Can you move forward? For the sake of your happiness, and the happiness of your family, find a way to forgive. It is the only way.
And it is worth it.

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Do you want to read more?

The first is an aricle in a recent Deseret News about stories of forgiveness. The second is a Conference talk by President James E. Faust, who I love and miss.

Desert News article

James E. Faust


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  1. I saw the post title, and then saw that it was implementing the Proclamation on the Family. Immediately I thought of the phrase “Children are entitled … to be reared by a father and a mother …” Nowhere does it mention a monkey.
    You post idea was much better.

  2. This is great! Thanks so much for planning my next fhe lesson.

    Seriously, this is a wonderful analogy and I look forward to using to teach my kids the freedom we gain from forgiveness.

  3. With such an obvious correlation, I was wondering when someone was going to blog about the comparison between famous cartoon characters and important gospel principles. Can’t wait for the next installment! Scooby Doo and Temple Work for the Dead perhaps?

    All kidding aside, this is a great post. I think it can be relevant not only to forgiveness of others but also of ourselves. Too often we get hung up on our own perceived failures and shortcomings and don’t allow ourselves the permission and courage to shrug them off and move forward.

    Or swing forward, as the case may be.

  4. Another great lesson to be drawn from this illustration…..we can’t have one foot in Babylon and one foot in Zion. We’ve got to choose.

  5. Another way to look at your “vine” analogy is what if we only held to calling we loved and refused to reach to the next experience. I’m sure we have all had callings we weren’t ready to let go of yet. But with this same visual, if we refuse to let go, think of the spiritual momentum we can lose. Even worse yet, if we take the new calling but continue to look back at what we once had it can be equally dangerous. My 4 year old was walking to his new preschool class and was walking backward away from the car waving at me. Finally I honked, jumped out and said (I’m sure calmly) “Turn around!!!You are about to walk down a flight of stairs!”
    Nice analogy… you always make me think. Reminds me of 2Nephi 31:20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a stead fastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
    maybe that is a different direction than you were going, but it resonated with me…Thank you

  6. Great analogy! Plus, Tarzan is totally buff!

    We just had a lesson in Sunday school about forgiveness today and got to watch “Godly Sorrow”-Aaron Ekhart’s first film.

    I think forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood principles in the Gospel and your lesson here is a great way to explain it!

  7. Definitely, a great FHE topic, with Disney tie-ins and everything. Seriously, great treatment of a very important topic. Thank you.

  8. I love this visual, although I think Tarzan is one of Disney’s worst movies. Great message though and perhaps I will even use it in my next EQ lesson.

    BTW: I’ll have you know that I have NEVER been to Disneyland on a Sunday. We usually reserve that day for Knotts Berry Farm. Much less busy.

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