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Fether

When do I teach my kids anti?

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You have been successfully click-bated... sort of.

I may be late to the party, but I discovered Jim Bennett the other day through a newish online Latter-day Saint podcast “Midnight Mormons”. He is an “apologist” and has some amazing insights and rarely take. Opinions when it comes to the gospel.
 

Since then I have been looking up other podcasts and talks from him and discovered a series of long form podcasts 2+ hours where he and John Dehlin (popular anti-Mormon advocate). I started watching them and they have been extremely entertaining in that Bennett exposes many preconceptions we have when we talk about the gospel. He also does a an incredible job of faithfully expanding the conversation that prophets are not perfect.

Anyway, I wanted to share this with some family members and friends, but I also did t want to expose them to John Dehlin had they not discovered him yet.

That leads me to my question. What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics? Should it be done? Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices? Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ? 

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1 minute ago, Fether said:

...but I also did t want to expose them to John Dehlin had they not discovered him yet.

Regarding testimony, the primary function of a parent is to provide opportunities for your children to feel and recognize the Spirit.  Then (as Moses did on the mount) they will know the difference between the glory of God vs the weakness of Satan.

The pitfall of "introducing" anti stuff too early is that the methodology tends to be one of mortal logic and temporal evidence.  If they learn to depend on that too early, how can they ever learn to depend on the Lord?

Man's logic is fine for temporal matters.  But the things of God are learned through the Spirit.  And that is about being in tune enough to feel and recognize its promptings.  Have they learned that yet?  If not, they aren't ready for apologetics.

1 minute ago, Fether said:

That leads me to my question. What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics? Should it be done? Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices? Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ? 

Certainly as general principles, it's fine to explain that basic gospel truth to them.  And it is healthy to teach them about the law of witnesses.  

We need to hear the same message from other apostles to validate the word.  Then we need to pray on our own to confirm that what we just heard was true.  That way we know that it isn't just rhe fallible man speaking.  It is the words of a prophet.

This of course goes back to teaching them to feel and recognize the spirit. 

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15 minutes ago, Fether said:

That leads me to my question. What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics? Should it be done? Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices? Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ? 

If any of them are avid readers, having them go through the Work and the Glory series is an excellent start.

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This is the main reason why I have looked into anti-Church material. I want to be able to answer questions, or simply be aware. I, personally, wait for my children to ask questions, but as @Carborendum if I can get them to know the Spirit, then anti-Church material won't bother them. They will be like me. Some history will shock them, but they will do as President Nelson said, paraphrased, "Take their concern to the Lord and trust in him." Trust in what has already been witnessed. People who fall to anti-Church material (like my brother) are individuals who have lost the Spirit in their lives. If people want to leave, like John Dehlin, they will find their personal reason to justify their disobedience and their desire for the great and spacious building.

So, as you are studied, take your thought to the Lord, converse with your wife, and make a decision. And as you already know -- watch milk before meat. :)

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1 hour ago, Fether said:

I started watching them and they have been extremely entertaining in that Bennett exposes many preconceptions we have when we talk about the gospel. He also does a an incredible job of faithfully expanding the conversation that prophets are not perfect.

[...]

That leads me to my question. What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics? Should it be done? Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices? Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ? 

"What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics?"

Which topics? That there are "many preconceptions we have when talking about the gospel"? Sure, talk about our preconceptions, many of which might be right on target, others not so much. That "prophets are not perfect"? Perhaps I missed the memo saying that they were. What other topics are you talking about?

Regarding prophets being imperfect: Why is that such a talking point among the anti-Mormon, the disaffected, and the weak in faith? I think that "prophets are imperfect" is not the issue, not at all, not even a little. I think the real issue is that I don't like what Brigham Young said about "the negro", or how Joseph Smith sealed himself to Brother So-and-so's wife and/or a fourteen-year-old girl or whatever. Prophetic imperfection isn't the issue; prophets saying and doing things we don't like is the issue. The honest and aware will make that their question, rather than hide behind the skirts of "prophetic imperfection".

"Should it be done?"

Depends on what the topics are you wish to broach.

"Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices?"

This is a straw man. No one teaches that to their children.

"Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ?"

Same comment.

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Thanks for the insights. I, personally, am not a fan of secular explanations for “anti”. It is sometimes interesting, but that’s it. Rather, the responses that  I have had the biggest effect on me have been those that point out fallacies in my own thinking and traditional church cultural beliefs that aren’t necessarily supported by the church itself.

ie Comparing current church teachings to the Bible. A lot of times people will ask members to show them where in the Bible a certain principle is taught (word of wisdom, becoming like God, degrees of glory, temple ordinances, etc.). If they can’t find it, they will count that as a point against the church. Antis and active members themselves often times wonder “why isn’t this in the Bible?” And have a difficult time with it. Instead of trying to use some vague reference of Christ saying “ye are gods”, or Paul being caught up in the third heaven, realize that we don’t believe everything is built on the Bible. Our teachings don’t need to be found in the Bible because we actively teach and believe that all truth is found in many different sources. The Bible is just one source.

There are answers like this for almost every “anti” question out there. Almost every question people have can be answered by gaining a stronger understanding of the basics of the gospel. Often times it is met with a “oh duh... I was taught that in primary” (at least that is how it is for me when I have such realizations).

What I will likely do is teach the principles the best I can. Once they reach an age where they can start reading seriously (like 10), I’ll start suggesting books to read and Why I suggest them. I will encourage them to read “rough stone rolling” as one of the books to check out. From there, IF they show more interest, that will open opportunities for further conversation. Though I do understand not everyone cares the least bit about it all

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

That leads me to my question. What is the best way to introduce and teach these topics? Should it be done? Is it worthwhile to continue teaching our children that all our previous leaders were void of big mistakes and prejudices? Is it worth while to teach them our leaders were somehow mythically pure, nigh unto the purity of Christ? 

I'm a mom, and practically OCD honest.  My husband is also a Protestant (respectfully and wonderfully so).  We also have anti-Mormon relatives.

When working with my daughter, I tell her stories of men of God (latter and ancient days), focusing on teaching lessons.  I don't hide the fact that these men were human-- that Peter got scared and fell in the water (for example).  Rather, such is an opportunity to teach her how yes, she too gets scared some times, but Christ is there to catch her.  These flaws aren't things to hide and then need to be delicately discussed.  Rather they are things we talk about openly and how they refined the people in the stories, and how her flawed self can be likewise refined.  

6 minutes ago, Fether said:

ie Comparing current church teachings to the Bible. A lot of times people will ask members to show them where in the Bible a certain principle is taught (word of wisdom, becoming like God, degrees of glory, temple ordinances, etc.). If they can’t find it, they will count that as a point against the church. Antis and active members themselves often times wonder “why isn’t this in the Bible?” And have a difficult time with it. Instead of trying to use some vague reference of Christ saying “ye are gods”, or Paul being caught up in the third heaven, realize that we don’t believe everything is built on the Bible. Our teachings don’t need to be found in the Bible because we actively teach and believe that all truth is found in many different sources. The Bible is just one source.

I'm also totally ok acknowledge that there's many things that are true which aren't in just the Bible-- God's marvels extend far beyond it!  Such isn't "down putting" the Bible,. rather acknowledging the sheer majesty that is God and His wonders.  

Edited by Jane_Doe

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29 minutes ago, Vort said:

That "prophets are not perfect"? Perhaps I missed the memo saying that they were. What other topics are you talking about?

That is exactly the point. We say “they aren’t perfect” out loud, but that isn’t the picture we focus on painting when we speak of them.

To more perfectly explain my point, I’ll share my experience.

Growing up, I learned about Joseph smith through Sunday school classes, church made media, and general conference talks. Everywhere I looked, they spoke of Joseph Smith was such reference, respect and admiration (with good reason, save Christ,  he did more for humankind than anyone else in history). Occasionally we would read or hear that he wasn’t perfect, but that wasn’t a shock. I’m sure he got grumpy sometimes. 
 

Later in Life, I read “Mormon Enigma”, “Rough Stone Rolling”, read through the CES letter (which I did see right through as I read it). The historical documents and in depth stories about him did not match the picture that was painted for me growing up. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I thought that meant he got grumpy some times, that maybe he made an occasional inconsequential rash decision. But not that he hid his initial plural marriages from the church and even his own wife, and him shouting hosanna to a call for the death of the Missourians was a long way from the Nathan Mitchell portrayal I was use to seeing.

So my question is this. Do we teach other and our children in depth about Joseph smith and some of the concerning things he did? Or do we play “Prophet if the Restoration” on repeat and hope they never come across the CES letter, or if they do, hope they know how to respond to it?

When we confront an enemy of the church or a fool on this forum, it is easy to say “ya... we don’t teach that, we have been saying they are imperfect for a LONG time... since the beginning even.” And walk away knowing we won an argument. But when it comes to our own children, The words we say and the things we teach are important... but just as important, we need to paint the correct picture. If those pictures don’t match historical records and they find that out, it may cause issues. That particular illy happened with my sister

Edited by Fether

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7 minutes ago, Jane_Doe said:

I'm also totally ok acknowledge that there's many things that are true which aren't in just the Bible-- God's marvels extend far beyond it!  Such isn't "down putting" the Bible,. rather acknowledging the sheer majesty that is God and His wonders.  

It truly is amazing that we still have revelation today. However, traditional Christian beliefs still creep into our lives. I remember a few friends in high school voicing to me their wrestle with the fact that certain gospel teaching aren’t found in The Bible 

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29 minutes ago, Fether said:

It truly is amazing that we still have revelation today. However, traditional Christian beliefs still creep into our lives. I remember a few friends in high school voicing to me their wrestle with the fact that certain gospel teaching aren’t found in The Bible 

I was debating adding that "of course I know many Protestants that this doesn't jive well with, but I don't care." or a more in-depth answer along those line, but found it kind of disrespectful.  

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1 hour ago, Jane_Doe said:

I was debating adding that "of course I know many Protestants that this doesn't jive well with, but I don't care." or a more in-depth answer along those line, but found it kind of disrespectful.  

They definitely don’t like it. But it’s the truth. I. Perplexed whenever I see Christian vs Mormon debates. In such debates, the Bible is the only common denominator that is a reliable source. 
 

It’s like having someone wanting to debate you on  the theory of relativity, but he only accepts the works of Darwin as scientific.

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I am a strong believer in teaching correct and true principles and letting individuals govern themselves.  My dear wife (who is not a great scriptorian) most often expresses herself with the idea of her conclusions as what works for her with the idea that if they can solve life challenges using a different method - good for them but whatever the result; that they take responsibility for their methods, choices and results.  

I very much appreciate her view concerning such things.  To be honest I very much dislike and have little respect for those that say they believe something because a prophet or a scripture says that it is so.  Why do I have such a problem?  Because there is a great deal of disagreement on what exactly a prophet or scripture actually says.   For those that have not noticed that Satan will falsely interpret scripture as a means of temptation (see the temptations of Christ in Luke).  Seldom do I hear someone reflect the correct principle of careful study, drawing the best conclusion that they can and then asking G-d if their conclusion is right.  I have often employed this approach in understanding scripture - and to be honest there are still many things that I have not yet resolved or received answer from G-d.

The second principle that I believe one should understand is that truth comes not in a one and done methodology but rather a line upon line upon line and precept upon precept upon precept.  I personally think that those that have resolved scripture and revelation to a singular idea or concept - are likely not going to develop any deeper or clearer understanding of revelations and divine truths.  They are no longer as "little children" and cannot be taught.

The final principle is that to learn anything we ought to seek out the best sources that we can.  For example, if we feel we should learn about Democrats - Republicans are not a good source - and vice versa.  If one wishes to learn about Christianity - a Muslim or a Buddhist is not a good source.  My father would say to seek out someone that is the best  success at what you would learn - and to never seek out someone that is a failure at the subject.  I am amazed that so many work so hard to fail and so little at success?

 

The Traveler

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I'm not so sure looking at sources from those who are anti or against the Church is such a wise decision, nor introducing others to it is all that wise.

Yesterday morning, one item in summary that we heard from our Prophet during the morning Session was...

To ask the Lord and to use faithful sources for answers.  Choose to believe and if you cannot, at least have a desire to believe (much like Alma's sermon on faith).  Instead of feeding your doubts by interacting with others who doubt, follow the Lord and good sources of faith and the gospel.

Probably a slanted take on part of his talk, but partly how I saw it expressed.  I am thinking that it is a reflection that I've heard from older Prophets and General Authorities where they tell us to read from the Best books, that when using something for our faith to use sources that build faith up rather than tear it down, and above all, pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help us and to give us a testimony, or to fortify and strengthen the testimony we already have.

I can't say that my thoughts on this are correct, or the right way, but I have to say that I'm not sure utilizing anti or negative sources against the church are the best course of action or study.

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The absolute top-notch, one-stop high-quality source for all criticisms, and the best answers folks were able to produce, is right here:

https://www.jstor.org/journal/farmsreviewbooks

They took books/articles written on LDS topics, both pro and con, and reviewed them.  Sometimes in great depth.

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Part of the problem while growing up in the church for youth is that their testimony is often nebulous. They have felt the Spirit and their testimony is growing but it isn't connected to anything concrete and so when the seed of doubt gets sown they don't have specific experiences to fall back on and say "I know it's true because..." This isn't to say they aren't having experiences but they often aren't really recognizing what it means and how they are progressing along Alma 32s faith to knowledge process. So while learning about the tactics of antis can be helpful I think it's even more important to help them solidify in their own minds exactly what they are experiencing in the gospel and what it means. That way no matter what tactic the anti takes your child can say "Well I don't know about that, but here's what I do know..."

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A parent just needs two things: You need to know what you believe, and why you believe it.  If your beliefs are based on some vague remembering Primary hymns like "follow the prophet", you'll probably be blown out of the church at the first gentle breeze of some of our historical tidbits.  If, on the other hand, your belief and testimony is based on a firm conviction that Jesus is the Christ, a real, historical figure, who is as He is described in both the Bible and Book of Mormon, if it's based on witness borne to you by the holy spirit, then you can help your kid.

Overheard at the NT house the other day:

NT: Do you know why Christians like us believe like...

NTDaughter: We're not Christians!

NT: Wait, we don't believe in Jesus Christ?  Sure we're Christians.  Just a lot of Christians don't believe we are, because we have an extra book they don't, and we believe some things about Christ and God and stuff that other Christians don't.  Some of 'em get mad and judgey and say we aren't Christians.

NTD: Oh.

 

There you go.  Anti stuff addressed.

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When I read your article I thought about what President Russell Nelson said in General Conference on Sunday:

"If you have doubts about God the Father and His Beloved Son or the validity of the Restoration or the veracity of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a prophet, choose to believe and stay faithful. Take your questions to the Lord and to other faithful sources. Study with the desire to believe rather than with the hope that you can find a flaw in the fabric of a prophet’s life or a discrepancy in the scriptures. Stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters. Allow the Lord to lead you on your journey of spiritual discovery."

And adding my own advice:  If you are going to read material that is against the Gospel of Christ make sure you do not neglect material that is from Faithful sources and from the LORD.

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On 4/4/2021 at 6:31 PM, Fether said:

That is exactly the point. We say “they aren’t perfect” out loud, but that isn’t the picture we focus on painting when we speak of them.

To more perfectly explain my point, I’ll share my experience.

Growing up, I learned about Joseph smith through Sunday school classes, church made media, and general conference talks. Everywhere I looked, they spoke of Joseph Smith was such reference, respect and admiration (with good reason, save Christ,  he did more for humankind than anyone else in history). Occasionally we would read or hear that he wasn’t perfect, but that wasn’t a shock. I’m sure he got grumpy sometimes. 
 

Later in Life, I read “Mormon Enigma”, “Rough Stone Rolling”, read through the CES letter (which I did see right through as I read it). The historical documents and in depth stories about him did not match the picture that was painted for me growing up. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I thought that meant he got grumpy some times, that maybe he made an occasional inconsequential rash decision. But not that he hid his initial plural marriages from the church and even his own wife, and him shouting hosanna to a call for the death of the Missourians was a long way from the Nathan Mitchell portrayal I was use to seeing.

So my question is this. Do we teach other and our children in depth about Joseph smith and some of the concerning things he did? Or do we play “Prophet if the Restoration” on repeat and hope they never come across the CES letter, or if they do, hope they know how to respond to it?

When we confront an enemy of the church or a fool on this forum, it is easy to say “ya... we don’t teach that, we have been saying they are imperfect for a LONG time... since the beginning even.” And walk away knowing we won an argument. But when it comes to our own children, The words we say and the things we teach are important... but just as important, we need to paint the correct picture. If those pictures don’t match historical records and they find that out, it may cause issues. That particular illy happened with my sister

I'm still not quite seeing it. Whenever we teach children, we teach them on a level they can understand. Subtlety is often not a big part of a child's emotional repertoire. So we say, "This is right and that is left, this is up and that is down, this is good and that is bad." Based on such a dichotomy, where do the prophets reside? Are they good or bad? They are good.

As the child grows and progresses, beginning to see larger and more complex possibilities, then if it's appropriate, we can introduce less-than-flattering information to him about the prophets (or about his parents, or about anyone else that it would be appropriate to talk about). My children learned from my own mouth that Joseph Smith was poorly educated and obsessed with money or the lack thereof. But they also learned that he was a great and good man, highly intelligent in his own right, and a true prophet of God. Of these two groups of facts, which is more important to them to understand? Which has a greater positive impact on their progression through life and ultimately on their eternal well-being?

I just don't see that value in the inordinate focus on personality quirks or imperfections. I certainly hope not to be remembered by my stupidity.

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31 minutes ago, Vort said:

As the child grows and progresses, beginning to see larger and more complex possibilities, then if it's appropriate, we can introduce less-than-flattering information to him about the prophets (or about his parents, or about anyone else that it would be appropriate to talk about). My children learned from my own mouth that Joseph Smith was poorly educated and obsessed with money or the lack thereof. But they also learned that he was a great and good man, highly intelligent in his own right, and a true prophet of God. Of these two groups of facts, which is more important to them to understand? Which has a greater positive impact on their progression through life and ultimately on their eternal well-being?

I just don't see that value in the inordinate focus on personality quirks or imperfections. I certainly hope not to be remembered by my stupidity.

I agree, I don’t think a focus on the bad is great.

My concern is that the surface picture the church paints of our leaders is that they are near perfect. That the mistakes they make are inconsequential and painted in such a way that we sympathize with them in their mistakes. 

As mentioned before, the Nathan Mitchell approach to Joseph Smith seems to be a huge departure from how Joseph Smith really was.

But I suppose the simple Antidote (or perhaps “vaccine”) to seeing this as problematic is encouraging study and making gospel discussion a daily and regular occurrence, and not strictly Sunday at church event.
 

I was not raised in this type of environment, instead, I sought it in my own. That may be why I am so concerned about it
 

When your only encounter with gospel topics is through church, then ya, your only exposure to JSjr would be the Nathan Mitchell approach. 30 years of only seeing that may be difficult if you then come across things not mentioned in Prophet of the Restoration.

Edited by Fether

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6 minutes ago, Fether said:

I agree, I don’t think a focus on the bad is great.

My concern is that the surface picture the church paints of our leaders is that they are near perfect. That the mistakes they make are inconsequential and painted in such a way that we sympathize with them in their mistakes. 

I understand your concern, and I don't dismiss it. But I think the focus is wrong.

The root of the problem appears to me to be a hero-worshipping culture where our leaders (in whatever field) must approach spotless perfection. Being a merely good, decent, honest man is not enough. (Would to God that we had merely good, decent, honest men holding our political and societal reins.) No, the man under question must never have exhibited any weakness or foolishness ever. More than that, he must never have exhibited any distaste for current popular fads such as homosexual conduct. And being religious is literally a detriment to him, unless (as do the British) the man is sort of "publicly religious", wherein he claims belief in and sustenance from A Higher Power, but is careful never to reveal exactly whom or what he worships. Because such things are far too personal, and just not appropriate for public discourse. Instead, he can talk about his sexual conquests and his baby-mamas.

If people cared about important things and refused to invest themselves much in trivial matters, this "problem" would not exist. So the fundamental deficiency is in how the public at large views and processes information. As long as this is the case, the Church will have trouble gaining traction.

But guess what? That has ALWAYS been the condition of Christ's Church, from the very beginning. The world actively teaches people to care about trivia and to ignore matters of substance. That will not change. If only there were a way to get people to hear the truth despite their own prejudices. If only the Savior could call out to such people and they would hear his voice, because they are his sheep. If only.

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58 minutes ago, Vort said:

The root of the problem appears to me to be a hero-worshipping culture where our leaders (in whatever field) must approach spotless perfection. Being a merely good, decent, honest man is not enough. (Would to God that we had merely good, decent, honest men holding our political and societal reins.) No, the man under question must never have exhibited any weakness or foolishness ever. More than that, he must never have exhibited any distaste for current popular fads such as homosexual conduct. And being religious is literally a detriment to him, unless (as do the British) the man is sort of "publicly religious", wherein he claims belief in and sustenance from A Higher Power, but is careful never to reveal exactly whom or what he worships. Because such things are far too personal, and just not appropriate for public discourse. Instead, he can talk about his sexual conquests and his baby-mamas.

I have been pondering this for a while, but I wonder of cinema, and before that literature, has spoiled us to good and decent men and women. There are so many great hero with imperfections, but those imperfections are rooted in some sort of righteousness or injustice done to them.

Harry Potter: ignorance of how magic works (his parental guardians were evil and kept him from it). he fell to anger (but only to bad guys)

Frodo: Self doubt (faux humility). temptation to an object that was putting a curse on him (not his fault).

These imperfections are extremely superficial and carefully done to not skew with the characters moral standing with the audience.

If Harry Potter ended with a scene of him getting annoyed with his son and yelling at him, we would all be thinking “where is the sequel trilogy where Harry becomes the villain? Only terrible bad guys yell at their children”

The rare occasion that cinema and literature does show this side of heros is when they also grab your attention long enough to show their redemption arc.

That isn’t how the real world works. You read about a mistake someone made in the past and you have to actively go look for more information on Them before you find what kind of person they really were

Edited by Fether

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