The Koru Spiral
The Double Koru Spiral

Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 1
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 2
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 3
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 4
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 5
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 6

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ,

we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ,
and we write according to our prophecies,
that our children may know to what source they may look 
for a remission of their sins. 
– 2 Nephi 25:26, Book of Mormon


This week, the Disney movie Moana was released on DVD. I had been SO excited by news of this animated feature, mainly because of my Hawaiian heritage. It looked to me to finally be Polynesian done RIGHT; authentically!  When I say finally, I am thinking of the first Disney attempt at Hawaii. Though it was good in parts, the alien-Elvis- haole tourist-tranny tinted viewpoint of Hawaii in Lilo and Stich really disappointed me. I just knew, or should I say felt, that from the moment I first heard of the production of Moana, that this film would be different. However, when the time came last November for the movie’s release in theaters, I chose not go. Staying at home with my newborn son was more important to me. So my husband and the children went to see it. Then all of them kept their mouths shut , for my sake, no spoilers, for all these months! Is my family not magnificent?!


Then what did my dearheart oldest daughter do on the very day Moana came out on DVD, this week, Tuesday? After a full day of work, she chose to make that day a special event, for my sake. She bought the DVD. She asked if we could make a dish from my mother, Pi’ilau Rice, then helped me to shop for and cook a vegan meal centered around it. My daughter sat right beside me when our family gathered together to watch the movie. She delighted in my delight, crowing that she KNEW which parts I would love, which parts would make me weep or cheer or laugh or whatever. She made me feel so loved and appreciated. I am SO blessed to have such a thoughtful, compassionate and unselfish soul as she is to be my firstborn child.


As for the movie itself? It has dethroned Mulan and become my all-time favorite Disney feature. It has become so because I think visually and symbolically. (I always have, but did not discover it until my late twenties.) Perhaps I will be criticized for saying so, nevertheless, this film – for me – is a healing, Christ-centered parable from start to finish. I had scriptures popping up in my mind throughout, and woke up spontaneously the next morning at 3 am with even more deeply healing personal insights. Any person who has experienced domestic violence and/or been hurt by unrighteous dominion would be benefitted by watching Moana. Any person of aboriginal heritage would be bolstered and strengthened by this movie. And family history-temple workers?! Oh my, yes! You, too!


I am Katharine, daughter of a village chief, born in the Land of Great Water. I will cross the horizon to find my Creator, for I know His name and He knows mine. I will not just hold the heart of Elohim, I will embody it ~ I will return his Virtue, his Truth, his Light, his Life: HIS SON, His Sacrifice… back to Him. For I shall see Him as He is, for I shall be like Him. I am the Village Crazy Lady, like Mary Kekahuli Manunui was before me: Those stories? It’s true. All of it… And like her, I see who YOU are: a child of the Creator.


The personal meaning of the movie Moana that I am about to share is just that: personal. In no way do I speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or anyone involved in the production of this film at Disney. As my mom likes to say, if you prepare a thimble’s worth, you receive a thimble’s worth and if you prepare a bushel’s worth, you receive a bushel’s worth. Well, I must have sat down to watch Moana with a bushel basket.

I don’t know completely why I feel compelled to share these things, but something keeps nagging at me to blog about this. Maybe part of the reason is because of the phenomenal positive outpouring about Moana that I have witnessed among my friends on Facebook, especially those who are female and LDS Christians, as I am. Most, if not all of them can not explain why they love this movie so much, and many state that they are not usually Disneyphiles. (Neither am I, because once burned, twice shy. If something from Disney appears to be virtuous and lovely because it is getting praise and good reports, I still preview it anyway; and good thing, too. For example, despite all the accolades from other people, I hated Frozen and would not let my kids see it.) But with the release of Moana last November, and now with the DVD in March,  I am reading words like addicted, in love, fabulous, touched, and amazed, along with very high praise for the compelling, beautiful, awesome music. I have even observed a slight undercurrent, here and there – on Facebook and online – of comparisons between Heavenly Mother and Te Fiti. This is no danger, in my opinion, as long as our feelings and beliefs about her are kept whole –  as in,  within the bounds which have been set by the Lord through the doctrines of the Church.

NOTICE TO ARTISTS: I draw with words, but most people still want to see pictures, and I do not own any images.  Wherever possible, I have tried to turned to fan art and merchant art, rather than Disney, for illustrations.  If you would like an image removed, please contact me. I will take your art down immediately. 

WARNING: If you have not seen the movie yet, the remainder of this post is full of spoilers. I had to assume that readers had already seen the movie in order to write it.


At first, I thought the symbol on Moana’s boat and on the green gemlike Heart of Te Fiti was a spiral; specifically, what is called the koru spiral. However, upon closer examination, I realized it was not the same symbol. The koru spiral does appear in the movie, but just once, just after a pivotal symbolic point in the plot. According to Jackie Tump, a Maori jewelry creator on Etsy, “this beautiful shape is a treasured symbol in New Zealand.It is found in nature and symbolises new beginnings & spiritual growth, inspiring new ideas & projects.”

It is interesting to me that without knowing these things, my personal symbol – that I notate in my scriptures or notes whenever I feel the witness of the Spirit of God – is also the koru spiral. The koru spiral is personally significant to me in a second way, because of my affinity for lighthouses, and how it looks like a lighthouse staircase going up to the lantern tower. This spiral appears in the architecture of many pioneer-era LDS temples, in the design of the staircases, usually four, built in every corner of the building. Brigham Young taught that our progression toward God was always ever upward and onward, like an ascending spiral.

Finally, the koru spiral appears everywhere in nature.  I love this video about a mathematical principle called the Fibonacci Sequence.It amazes and inspires me! In my opinion,the Fibonacci Sequence it is a plain, beautiful and omnipresent witness to all creation that there is a Creator. This intelligence, greater than us all, has not only exquisitely ordered this planet in the gorgeousness of adherence to  eternal laws and principles, but He has also organized all of the universe around us in the same manner. Essentially, the koru is a symbol for life, and life eternal.

nauvoospiralstaircase022 iron rod


Translation: “The Spirit of the Ocean”


When I looked closely at Moana’s symbol, as it appears on her sail, I realized it looked like two separate spirals, reaching for each other or rotating around, like a dance. Aha! The lightbulb went off my head: Moana’s symbol was a new form of a symbol familiar to me, which I have seen portrayed across the world in different ways, but which always represents the same thing: the covenant relationship. Typically that covenant relationship is
1.) the mortal-Deity covenant such as occur with Gospel ordinances like baptism
2.) the marriage covenant (which may also include the mortal-Deity covenant)
3.) or simply the male-female relationship, properly balanced.

According to Jackie Tump, a Maori jewelry creator on Etsy, a double koru symbolizes “ two spirits surrounding each other & growing together.” WOW. Well, I have never heard a covenant described that way, but it sure fits. What a beautiful way to put it! Jackie says “this design also represents the Milky Way Spiral Galaxy that our Earth is part of as it moves through the Universe.” Essentially, the double-koru is a symbol of covenant-based, or holy creation.



Moana represents the individual child of God. She represents each of us in the process intrinsic to this earthly existence of discovering who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. Moana’s grandmother apparently named her: moana means ocean.

Moana represents the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). “Purity of heart,” said Kierkegaard,”is to will one thing. The Son willed only one thing: the will of His Father. That’s what He came to earth to do. Nothing else. One whose aim is as pure as that can have a completely quiet heart.” Since the central, core attribute of God is love, Moana loved purely and she loved much (Luke 7:47). I believe this is the reason why the Ocean chose Moana to complete the mission of restoring the Heart of Te Fiti. The soundtrack to this section is called An Innocent Warrior and is the same melody which is sung later, with lyrics, by Moana to Te Fiti. Yes, I think Moana was innocent of any selfish motive (Hebrews 12:23, Ether 13:10).

A seashell is essentially a rock of protection made by a living thing, but it is not a living thing by itself; at that point it is merely the shell, a physical representation of the eternal, deathless living intelligence (or, light and truth) that was once housed there but has now moved on (Psalm 62:7). When Moana and the Ocean first “met”, Moana showed her loving character  – her purity of intent – by choosing life (the turtle inside the shell) over non-living matter (the conch-less shell) when she dropped the seashell to assist and defend the baby sea turtle. Her choice and action to help the turtle  in his effort to safely reach the water proved that she valued life and that she loved growth and progress within life, i.e. creation.

Moana also represents the sincere seeker of truth and light. Again, I am thinking here of Abraham, desiring to be greater. I am also reminded of young Joseph Smith, Jr, who wanted to know more and followed the admonition given in James 1:5.  They all desired more. To my mind, this speaks of the person who hungers and thirsts after continuing revelation from God. We can see it in the words that Moana sings:

From “How Far I’ll Go”
See the line where the sky meets the sea?
It calls me! And no one knows how far it goes…

See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding!
But no one knows how deep it goes

And it seems like it’s calling out to me.
So come find me and let me know…


From “More” (Outtake)
There’s gotta be more
I know there’s more, there’s always more
Someday I’ll be out on the sea
And I’m gonna see more
Yes, there’s gotta be more
I know there’s more, there’s always more

screen-capture-27I am amazed that when Moana headed out beyond the reef, into the unknown and open sea, she did not ever seem to doubt that the Maui and Te Fiti whom her grandma had told her were “out there” really were. Yes, it fascinates me that Moana never once asked, “Is there really a Maui? Is there really a Te Fiti? Or am I just voyaging out there to nothingness, to no one who does not, did not and never will exist?”  My conclusion is that somewhere, at some time when she was still living in the village of Motonui, Moana must have come to believe in or have a witness of the reality of deity for herself. I know this for myself, by my own experience.

I left home with at least three root witnesses of the truth of what I had been taught. In my case, my mother was very careful to teach me nothing of the old Hawaiian gods.  She wholesale rejected them, explaining that they were dangerous superstitions which too many of her people still believed. She said that it was in this very belief that the danger lay, because no space was left for the truth. As I came to understand it, believing in false gods was to give the real enemy, Lucifer, control. For he would use them, through your own fear, to turn you away from the true God and his Gospel.  When I borrowed library books and investigated the ancient stories for myself, they made me feel uncomfortable.  When strange stories were told to me about ancestors who had practiced black magic, I felt uncomfortable. When it was whispered to me what happened when one of my relatives tried to take a kapu person’s name through the LDS temple, all I felt was darkness. None of these things felt happy or cheering. So I turned away. I concentrated on learning for myself, from that time on, of the God and the Gospel that my mother and at least two generations of her ancestors had embraced.

Therefore, before I left home, I had to come to somewhat of a testimony of the reality and actual existence of Deity, for myself. However small that witness was as I embarked on my journey away from home, I did believe that there was a God. Specifically, I believed I had Heavenly Parents, who loved me and that their son Jesus Christ was the Savior who paid the price to enable my successful voyage home. I also believed that I had the gift of the Holy Ghost, which enabled the Spirit of God to always be with me, if I chose righteousness. But at that time it was still mostly a mental or logical belief, the spiritual part (which lives in the heart) was still in embryo from not having been very well practiced. I didn’t know how and I guess I didn’t feel much necessity for it or the worthiness to feel like I could approach God. Turns out that, like Moana, my first boat trip beyond the reef was a disaster, … especially for my efforts to try to save a pig; a pig who had taught me to “believe it not “(Moses 5:13).

screen-capture-31Moana represents the obedient soul, no matter how imperfect, clumsy, awkward or fallible that effort to be obedient is. Remember, a humble (i.e. teachable) and sincerely repentant soul is what makes a righteous one. Put another way, Moana is a symbol of loyalty to righteous traditions, and she is able to discern between truth and error in these traditions. For example, she does not reject or mock her village or her family but instead always strives to honor them and to do as they desire.  When Moana left home, she left with at least partial family permission, a mission plan she was determined to carry out, and with pure and unselfish motivations.

(Art by Chantel Kiana Suuava)

What I do NOT buy is the sneaky and deliberate message of most youth and children’s film storylines that if you break with social convention, religion, moral law, or whatever else you think “restrains” you, that it is perfectly okay and even right: we will show you why the rebellious are justified or correct in their choice. It seems to be the only key on the board that Disney knows how to hit, and I am sick of it. The studio hops around between the philosophies of men and the truths of the Gospel, sometimes from movie to movie, and sometimes within one movie itself. All this really muddies the waters, and if it perplexes me sometimes, certainly it has to be confusing my kids. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained,

First, individualism—the false idea that personal identity, space, rights, development, and well-being must take place in opposition to the claims of family ties and relationships. This translates in attitude and action to mean that my life and my… feelings are my business. Only I know what is best for me. Nobody can tell me what to do.

Second, relativism—the false idea that all moral stands are equally valuable, and it is prejudicial to assume one way is better than some other way. This translates in attitude and action to mean that morals are a way of imposing points of view on others and that those views are to their detriment. The result is that morality becomes relative to one’s personal, possibly unique, understanding.

Third, victimization—the false idea that we are primarily simply products of our drives, desires, past environments, and imperfections. This translates in attitude and action to mean that we are not really free moral agents; thus we cannot help how we act or how we feel… and shouldn’t feel guilty about something which isn’t our fault. According to this view, when we “lose control” it may be a flaw in our humanity, but it isn’t something for which we should be held accountable.

These three false ideas—individualism, relativism, and victimization—are the counterfeits to the equivalent gospel truths relating to family commitment, morality, and agency:

First, it is in commitment to family and others that our personal identity and development are fostered. Thus, we come to earth to serve others; as a consequence of losing ourselves in serving others we further find ourselves.

Second, it is in morality that we acknowledge God’s unchanging standards… in a world of relativistic values (see Matt. 5:27–28).

Third, it is in agency that we recognize we are able to choose not to be acted upon by our… drives and desires in a way which makes us our own victims.”

This why I can’t stand Ariel, Pinnochio, Gnomeo & Juliet, Kenai and Elsa at all. This is why I hold the mixed-messages of Merida, Rapunzel, Prince Phillip and Linguini at arm’s length. This is why I only give Mulan, Sully, Copper and Moana an “all clear” (Eph 6:12) and even then, I don’t usually buy the DVD. I call falsehood out here. I am tired of the constant drumbeat of this deceptive message:  If you, for the temptation, unlawful act or sin, chose to believe you can not resist because you choose to believe that you can not control yourself, don’t worry! You are the one who is correct! Yes, somewhere, some time, in that great fantasy neverland day (which will never come) you, the noble renegade, will return on your white horse. Then every knee shall bow and tongue confess that you, the maverick malfeasor, were right. The lie reaches its pinnacle with the concluding message that if the hero of our movie had not rebelled, he or she would not have saved us all (Moses 4:1). That is a Satanic message, and it is not true!

screen-capture-13Here is the truth: When I saw the conflict that Moana faced between the fear-based, erroneous tradition of her father – the prohibition against going beyond the reef – and Moana’s persistent internal yearning for the Ocean despite everything, I was immediately reminded of righteous Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Moana did not WANT to be disobedient to her parents, her family, her people or her culture. Moana spent years sincerely struggling to be obedient; to dutifully fulfill the expectations and carry out the role which she had been assigned within her society. (Hallelujah, what a first for a Disney princess! She is no Ariel.) Nevertheless, she increasingly recognized where her father was wrong and where her fathers and mothers before him had been right, due in no small part to Grandma Tala’s influence. Watching her character struggle, I do not think Moana would have left on her voyage without the strong encouragement of her Grandma Tala and the much more timid support of her mother. Moana would not have left without this feeling of sanction from these beloved and respected matriarchs and without knowing the truth of her origin as a descendant of voyagers. When Moana left, she was not deceived. When Abraham left, neither was he.

I sought for the blessings of the fathers…  having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge… desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir,… holding the right belonging to the [voyagers, Ocean-lovers]. – Abraham 1:2

I also thought of many passages from the Book of Mormon which describe the conflict between false tradition and righteous traditions. Prime among these was the Title Page of the Book of Mormon:

Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations

I also thought of what President Hinckley has repeatedly taught to investigators and converts from across the world, about taking your righteous traditions and bringing them – just adding more. Here is one example:

“Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service” (“Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Aug. 1998, 72; “Words of the Living Prophet,” Liahona, Apr. 1999, 19).

Finally, Moana is a general symbol of the power of matriarchy. My mind returned again and again to Hugh Nibley’s wonderful essay on the sad power struggle between matriarchy and patriarchy which almost constantly existed during this Earth’s history. Then I think of what we might have, if there were only prolonged, permanent, interdependent and mutually sustaining unity between the sexes.


All of these symbolic elements that I see in Moana can be described in one word: virtue. Virtue is one of the most prominent principles that enables us to have confidence in approaching our Father who is in heaven in order to ask wisdom at his hand. Therefore, if thou wilt cherish this principle in thine heart, thou mayest ask with all confidence before him and it shall be poured out upon thine head. – Joseph Smith (see D&C 121:45-46)

Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 1
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 2  NEXT
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 3
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 4
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 5
Moana – A Parable of Christ – Part 6