I read this one a while ago, but I forgot to blog about it.
The Golden Compass is one of my favorite books. I enjoyed it as a teenager when I first got it from my grandparents, and I enjoyed it this last time I read it. It’s a powerful story set in a universe like ours, but still very different, and follows a young girl named Lyra.
One of the biggest problems that come up whenever anyone talks about The Golden Compass is the concept of children fighting to kill God, that the book’s author is an atheist, and that this isn’t something that good Christians should be reading. I even recall one specific event in my adolescence when I was with a bunch of friends at the mall, and we decided to see a movie. A couple of us had read The Golden Compass and wanted to see the movie, but one of us was not allowed to see the movie; their parents had prohibited it.
Brigham Young said: “‘Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?’ says one. Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to study to know everything upon the face of the earth, in addition to reading those books. We should not only study good, and its effect upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences.” (JD 2:93–94.)
President Young says rather directly that it’s not only okay to read books that discuss the deeds of evil men, but also something that we ought to be doing. How else would we understand the consequences of evil?
Specifically regarding The Golden Compass, I have a problem with parents who insist that this book is evil because it contains a fictional account of children fighting against their church. If you haven’t read the book, then don’t argue.
This book strengthened my faith in God, Jesus Christ, and Their plan almost as much as in-depth study of the scriptures has. I highly recommend it.
Below, I want to explain my point, but I need to expose some spoilers… so…
Yes, Lyra and Will (he comes into the story in the 2nd book) do indeed fight against the church. But it is a church that wants to cut away all children’s freedom to choose. It’s a church that has long since left behind any semblance of revelation, which has been replaced by counsels and political organizations. It’s a church that believes in preemptive absolution, or pre-sin repentance (I already said ‘sorry’, so it’s okay for me to steal from you now). It’s a church that has an ultimate end of taking away choice in order to restore Edenic innocence. It’s a church that aims to make sure that nobody ever makes a mistake again.
If you’re LDS, you may be familiar with something we call the Council in Heaven. If you’re not LDS, we believe that before the world was created, God presented a plan to all of His spiritual children (that’s all of us, humanity) that said that we would come to Earth and have trials and make mistakes, that some would be lost, but that all would learn and grow. Also, He would provide a Redeemer for us, so that in spite of our shortcomings, we would all have the opportunity to be saved, if we exercised faith in God and this Redeemer. We believe that Jesus volunteered for this position, understanding that it would mean that He could not sin and that He would have to take the full weight of all of humanity’s pains and errors on His own semi-God-semi-mortal shoulders. We also believe that Satan presented another plan, where nobody would make any mistakes and nobody would be lost, that all would be saved without ever having to choose to follow God.
Oh, and Satan said that since it was His idea, he would get all the glory instead of God.
So we believe that God rejected Satan’s plan, because it would have fundamentally destroyed our freedom to choose for ourselves.
In The Golden Compass, the church’s main goal is the elimination of the freedom to choose. Imagine that in some alternate universe, Satan had been able to win over God and all of His children. We would walk through life numbly, not knowing good from bad, or happiness from sadness.
This is the church that Lyra and Will fight against.
The god (that’s intentionally lowercase) that they aim to destroy is Satan.
How can that be wrong?