With the sad news of the passing of beloved stage and screen actor Alan Rickman, fans around the world are remembering his roles and his influence. For the younger generation, Rickman has a special standing as the popular Harry Potter character Severus Snape; for many in the LDS community, the series has often inspired gospel thought. From the humorous “Who said it: Dieter or Dumbledore” to the more introspective “5 Gospel Themes Found in Harry Potter,” members of the Church have always enjoyed making gospel connections with their favorite fandoms.
In the Church, the phrase “a mighty change of heart” represents the great process of putting off the natural man and seeking to become more like Jesus Christ. In many instances, this mighty change is represented by a powerful experience that starts the process. For example, Alma the Younger experiences a mighty change of heart in the Book of Mormon when he is struck down for three days by an angel and comes to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In honor of Alan Rickman and his unforgettable portrayal as Severus Snape, here are five things the character can teach us about a mighty change of heart.
One. A mighty change of heart can happen to anyone.
Severus Snape, by all accounts, was no good man. The self-proclaimed Half-Blood Prince, Snape embodied the calculating coldness of Slytherin House, excelled at dark magic, and stood as Lord Voldemort’s right-hand man before he became a double agent. Personally, he grew up impoverished, abused, and an outcast. Still, in the face of his great love for Lily Evans Potter and her tragic death, he found his inspiration to do what is right.
In the gospel, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how far you may have fallen. If the desire to change is there, you can start moving forward.
Two. When your heart is changed, you become fully committed.
The life Snape led to protect Lily’s son, Harry, wasn’t an easy one. First, if truth be told, Snape seemed to detest Harry as a person and found the boy reminded him of his great rival and the man who took the love of his life, James Potter. Second, Snape was forced as a double agent to kill Albus Dumbledore, the man who offered him a second chance, an innocent teacher and colleague, and become the most hated teacher and Headmaster at Hogwarts.
For the sake of his goal and what he was personally believed in, Snape was willing to do whatever it takes and whatever was asked of him, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it was. When we are brought to the truth of the gospel, we are willing to stand by Christ and the leaders of the Church, even when we may not understand or find ourselves unpopular or even despised. And as the old adage goes, we may not be asked to die for Christ, but are we willing to live for him?
Three. A changed heart doesn’t need glory or attention.
After Snape’s death, Harry learned Snape’s true nature as the man who fought tirelessly to keep him alive and defeat Lord Voldemort through the magical Pensieve, an object which allows you to view someone else’s memories. Harry discovers that in order to protect Lily and her family Snape changed sides and told Dumbledore he would do “anything” for them to be safe.
In one particular anguished memory, on the terrible night Lily Potter died, Snape instructs Dumbledore to keep his change a secret from anyone, Dumbledore is surprised.
Dumbledore: The boy survives.
Snape: He doesn’t need protection, the Dark Lord is gone!
Dumbledore: The Dark Lord will return! And when he does, the boy will be in terrible danger! He has her eyes.
[Snape pauses in shock]
Dumbledore: If you truly loved her…
Snape: No one… can know.
Dumbledore: That I shall never reveal the best of you, Severus?
In spite of his shortcomings, Snape became the bravest man Harry ever knew. Yet in his lifetime he never sought glory or to receive attention for all he did. It is easy when we gain gospel knowledge or have sacrificed much for the Church to want to be recognized for it. However, true humility is a Christ-like attribute and time dedicated to service and love without need for attention is something the Lord rejoices in.
Four. With a mighty change of heart, you act in faith.
Albus Dumbledore was the man who offered Snape the chance to change sides and protect the woman he deeply loved for the rest of his life. As mentioned above, Dumbledore made it clear to Snape that her son would need his help. For the most part, Snape was kept in the dark about what all this meant. It wasn’t until the last year of his life that Snape finally learned the full extent of Dumbledore’s plans, that Harry is a Horcrux and must die to kill Voldemort. Snape is horrified when he learns it.
“You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?… You have used me… I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter…”
In the end, Snape follows through on Dumbledore’s instructions to kill him and the Horcrux in Harry is ultimately killed by Voldemort. Luckily for us, and for Snape, Harry survives and goes on to live a fulfilling life, a life Snape never got to see him live. No matter how hard it was, Snape acted in faith and did all he had promised Dumbledore he’d do.
In our lives, we can do the same. We are often asked to do things that are hard or downright against our natural sensibilities. God has often asked people to face such Abrahamic tests. If we act in faith, we can accomplish the Lord’s will
Five. Just because you’ve changed doesn’t mean you’re perfect.
Severus Snape was not a perfect man. He loses Lily forever because of his ideologies and views, he harassed the students he didn’t like with cruelty that would get you likely get you fired in the real world, and lets his bitterness stop him from reaching any real potential as a teacher and forming any fulfilling relationships. His intentions for doing the right thing can be argued as selfish. His complexity as a character is one of the reasons Snape is so popular and discussed.
Likewise, we are complex human beings and the people around us are complex. We do our best to change, but we still falter and make mistakes. Even when we do right, we may not always do so for the right reasons. The people around us, including Church leaders, make mistakes. We must navigate a world full of imperfect human beings who often display some of the bitterness, anger, and coldness Snape does. If we are willing to work with Christ, we can use all of this to further our change for the better.
Gaining a mighty change of heart is something that must be done with Lord and the process takes a lifetime. However, the Lord is excited for every step we take. Jean A. Stevens, former First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency once said:
“Every mighty change of heart matters to the Lord.”