The Book of Mormon Musical — A Mormon’s Review

The Book of Mormon Musical. It’s true, I saw it. And I lived to tell about it.

I have to admit, I was curious to see what all the hype was about. A Broadway musical about the Book of Mormon was an opportunity too tempting to resist.

Book of Mormon Musical marquee

Show tagline: “God’s favorite musical!”

I had read a handful of reviews, but the phrase “surprisingly sweet” from the Salt Lake Tribune’s review was the only idea sticking. I had failed to read some of the more granular reviews like the one in the New Yorker that would have probably prevented me from seeing the show.

I was born and raised in Salt Lake and have been a member of the Church my entire life. I went to Brigham Young University, I worked at the Church’s Missionary Training Center, I attend church weekly, I go to the temple several times a month, I pray often, I read my scriptures, I wear my seatbelt. You get it. I’m pretty Mormon.

I have however lived for the past six years in arguably one of the most liberal cities in the country – Boston. I have a handful of gay friends whom I love, I’m not afraid to be at a bar, I drink Diet Mountain Dew everyday and don’t’ consider “hell” or “damn” swearwords. Again, I’m pretty Mormon.

That being said, as I sat down in my seat, I felt a tinge of anxiety. What had I just paid to see? Would the next three hours prove to be only a few short minutes of tolerance until I was too uncomfortable and had to leave? As the curtain rose, it would reveal some sweet surprises and some not so sweet ones.

It’s a very well-done production. The music, the scenery, the choreography, the writing and the casting do not disappoint. I found at the end of the show I could hum almost every melody—very catchy tunes.  Time flew by quite quickly (besides a few uncomfortable moments).  This is Broadway and you don’t make it here with a show that does anything subpar.

It’s pretty accurate. Besides very minor details – like how one is assigned his or her mission call – the creators got all the details right. They did a great job capturing the culture, terminology and idiosyncrasies. They tell some of the history of the Church with an obvious bias and outlandishness, but I applaud the creators for at least doing their homework.

It’s highly vulgar. I tell people that the F word was said about 200 times. That’s probably a slight exaggeration, but it’s in there. A lot. You also have a few scenes with sexual innuendos involving male anatomy. I certainly would not go see the show with my parents or grandparents, but I was sitting next to a 70-year-old-woman who seemed to be having a great time. Out of about a dozen scenes, I was definitely uncomfortable for two of them.

It’s sacrilegious. Jesus speaks like a dude – hardly a language of a divine being – and uses other phrases that you’d probably never associate with Him. The resolution at the end appears to be that religion is a nice story we tell each other to give ourselves hope—a pretty narrow and flawed conclusion of something that has SO much more potential.

All in all, it’s vulgar, but fairly harmless towards the Church directly. It has about as much impact as an episode of South Park. For any believers in God – not just members of the LDS Church—you’ll probably not be wishing to see it again. (And Mormons aren’t the only ones not wishing to see it again — this “Non-Converts View ” shares some of my same points.)

I have no doubt that the show will win a few Tony Awards, however I think the Mormon church’s official statement sums it up quite nicely, “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

I know how I feel about the show now that I’ve seen it, do you have interest in it? Or have you heard enough to dissuade you? Do you think the general public’s perceptions of Mormons will change based on the musical or its success?

 

 

Other posts you might like:

Mormon Women and Careers

Media Attention Misses the Heart of Mormonism

Why Should I Adopt My Baby to Someone Else?

About Emily L

Born and raised in the West, but grew up when she moved to Boston, Emily loves big cities, traveling, experiencing different cultures, trying new places to eat and meeting people. She’s the most happy when all these interests converge. She works as a program manager for one of the geekiest universities in the world and has learned that the characters from “Revenge of the Nerds” really do exist.
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265 Responses to The Book of Mormon Musical — A Mormon’s Review

  1. Teppo says:

    Since extra long comment threads are unwieldy and this one is already very long, lets try to focus ourselves on the Book of Mormon Musical. There are many related questions that deserve to be brought up and my goal here is not to stop you from discussing them. Instead, I would ask that we continue those discussions in the comment threads of the following posts:

    Historicity of the Book of Mormon:
    http://www.reallifeanswers.org/2011/02/19/a-skeptics-experience-with-the-book-of-mormon/

    Faith and evidence:
    http://www.reallifeanswers.org/2011/02/05/the-scientific-method/

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  5. Brian says:

    Although I’m not a Mormon nor am I from a liberal bastion from the coasts, as a Baptist from the heartland after seeing BOM I’m more appreciative of what religion is all about. From seeing this production, which albeit uses Mormonism as an example of organized religion, I recognize that religion is a basis for belief and no matter what your religion, tbere are things about it that you do not readliy observe. The need to believe in some higher being, however, is important, especially if you feel wronged by the world and God in particular. Without faith & belief in something better, the world would be a sadder place. Thanks to those involved in helping open my eyes to acceptance in belief rather than “religion bashing.” Your belief is YOURS, no one else’s – don’t let anyone take that away!

  6. Steve Perry says:

    The musical is very well done. The main purpose of this musical is not to bash Mormons but to shed light on the silliness of religious beliefs as a whole. They just happened to choose the Mormon church as the example. What they’re saying is that religions belief some really silly things (believing that a man parted the Red Sea, that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri, God lives on a planet called Kolob, etc) but that if believing in those silly things make you a better person, then so be it and more power to you and that religion in which you believe in. So whether you believe in the Book of Mormon or the Book of Arnold, it should make no difference to the non-believers, as long as it makes you a better person.

  7. Ellen says:

    Just popping in to thank you for going to see it, and explain how it affected me, an atheist from the midwest with a couple of Mormon friends and a decent knowledge of the insanity that is the FLDS.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that, just as long as people don’t hurt anyone, I have to right to tell anyone what to believe, or to judge. But after reading about some of Mormon history, mostly the parts in ‘Banner of Heaven’ by Krakauer, its pretty easy to have the same queasiness I have with Scientology.

    Till this musical reminded me of the friends I had in high school who were Mormon, and totally cool and open. The ‘Joseph Smith American Moses’ song, as insane as it is, kind of shows the feeling that non believers have. I’ll be honest, the golden plates are kind of odd to me, same with the Israelis coming to America. But it really doesn’t matter, because Mormons are generally super nice and polite people who really care about being good, upstanding people. And if a religion that teaches that Native Americans descend from ancient Israelis produces the kind of cool Mormons that I’ve met, then how is it any different from Catholics eating metaphorical flesh and blood of Jesus?

    The point of the play is that, just as long as the religion encourages people to be good (i.e. not raping babies, not circumsizing women, staying kind and nice during oppression) it’s a good thing. They’ve said that ‘The Book of Mormon’ is their atheist love letter to religion, and you have to look at the musical with that mindset.

    • Paul, the convert says:

      This is an atheist “love letter”. but unfortunately written with a poison pen. You can’t have the results without the belief and they trash the belief.

      Our missionaries give up two years of their lives to share this life enhancing, life transforming message, and that effort is ridiculed and satirized with toilet humor.

      As an atheist, have you actually examined the Book of Mormon and the method it describes on how to discern the “TRUTH”, or do you just look at the anti-Mormon literature, because it agrees with your “No God” view.

      • Teppo says:

        Paul, I’m a devout Mormon but I must disagree that the Book of Mormon Musical is written with a poison pen. Of course, I would hope that the producers and writers believed in God and in the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. However, even if someone thinks our beliefs are crazy – and they are quite peculiar from a secular point of view – I would much rather have them at least admire the fruits of the faith rather than be all out negative.

        In my opinion, respecting the results of Mormonism goes a long way towards understanding. I have personally gained a conviction of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by studying and praying about it. This brings a lot of joy and purpose to my life. But we also need to be respectful of the views of those who don’t share the same conviction. I think most of them don’t mean to attack us, even if they poke fun at us.

        • Paul, the convert says:

          Teppo:
          I certainly do not mean to attack or disrespect others opinions or positions (except of course the producers and writers of the play.) I do believe they are quite intelligent and do mean to attack our belief.

          I would disagree with you. The belief precedes the fruits and it is the foundation. Mormon life is hard and demanding. Without the belief, it is easier to fall away.

          And it is the least of our brethren that really have my concern. Other near Mormon faiths are less resilient. What the propagandists do to the Catholics is far worse.

      • Katie, the free. says:

        I know that this is about a year late, but I only just stumbled upon this comment and couldn’t help but say something.

        You stated that “you can’t have results without belief.”
        Excuse me? She was saying that the Mormon folk that she knows are good people. Are you telling me that you can’t be a good person if religion doesn’t guide you there?

        Why folks like you believe that, I’ll never understand. I sat next to, and chatted with, a man on an hour plane ride who was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. It wasn’t until near the end of the flight that it was brought up that I was an atheist (yes, there, I said it. You may judge me now). His response was a somewhat shocked expression, and a statement along the lines of “wow, you have extremely good morals [even though you're an atheist].”
        My mother taught me right from wrong. She taught me how to be a good person. I CARE about being a good person, to my family, to my friends, and to strangers. “Treat others as you would have them treat you” is not a religious statement, it’s a life statement. I don’t strive to be a good person because it will get me anywhere in the afterlife, or even anywhere in this life. I strive to be the best person I can be, because it just matters to me. I don’t need a god for that.

        And I think what she was saying is that, if religion helps you be that good person, than who is anybody to judge? Even if certain things about your religion don’t make sense to other people (just like other peoples’ specific religious beliefs might not make sense to you), who cares, as long as you’re a overall good person?

        And, you know what (and I know that this won’t get me anywhere, but there is anger here)?
        Pull that giant stick out of your rear.
        Matt and Trey make fun of everything and everyone except for Libertarians.
        Religions make fun of other religions (and non-religious folks). Scientists slander other scientists (even in their own field – and especially in others. See XKCD – cuttlefish [it's a harmless webcomic, promise]). If you don’t like what they’re saying, then don’t listen. It’s not that big of a deal. You’re not even stuck on a subway, where you have no choice. You’re on the internet. Don’t like it? Don’t look for it!

        You’re the one being extremely judgmental here. Get over yourself.

        Dumdumdumdumdum!

    • jones says:

      as a member of the Church, I really appreciate what you’ve said.

      Just so it’s clear, the FLDS church and the LDS church are two entirely separate things. :) The LDS church, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reads and follows the Bible, The Book of Mormon, and do not practice polygamy , have compounds, or dress from the 19th century. FLDS members chose to follow certain aspects of a lifestyle that the true LDS church would not condone, and therefore became its own church entirely.

      I’m just doing my duty as a member of the Church to make our beliefs clear. I do agree with a lot you said. :)

  8. Ben, Newnan says:

    There’s anti-Mormon literature? Why?

    And for what it’s worth, although I don’t consider myself a candidate for conversion, I have learned more about the LDS faith and beliefs over the last few months as a result of this show than I ever imagined, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I would imagine more than a few souls will be won over as a result of Parker and Stone’s production.

    Emily, great job on the radio program the other day, and thank you Teppo for letting us know about it.

    • Paul, the convert says:

      Ben, I’m glad for your spiritual progress. I hope you are younger than when I started my spiritual trek.

      My concern is for our youth, especially the young men with raging hormones that seem to have an affinity for bathroom humor & short term thinking. If you go to one of these singles wards, you’ll see a plethora of wonderful, beautiful women. You won’t see a comparable number of men.

      I suspect they’ll make a lot of money on this show. The money and fame might be a motivation. People can have personal reasons for writing anti-Mormon literature. Gays in California might be ticked off by the church’s opposition. There’s any number of reasons people would chose to write or produce anti-Mormon literature.

      • poisonsting says:

        Paul, the convert,

        Oh, i get it. the gays in california wrote a 9 tony award winning broadway musical because they were mad about mormon’s support of the gay marriage ban. You mo mo’s were just the little push they needed to get that inspiration out of those fairies!

  9. Gail D says:

    Emily, I enjoyed your review and also your thoughtful and kind responses throughout this spirited discussion. I have listened to the soundtrack many times (I hope to get tickets to the show) and what I took away from that was the respect (yes, respect!) that the show’s writers have for LDS beliefs that they don’t understand–but that produce such positive results in the lives of believers.

    I’m not LDS: I’m a mainline Protestant who teaches biblical studies and the history of Christianity at a local community college. You asked, “Do you think the general public’s perceptions of Mormons will change based on the musical or its success?”

    Like you, I live in a diverse, urban area. I think that some of the people seeing the musical will be intrigued enough by the overall positive message of the musical to seek out more information about Latter-day Saint beliefs.

  10. Deb says:

    I am a practicing Christian and have no interest in seeing another faith-bashing “creative” enterprise because I think it gives credence to the “artist.” Tired stereotypes are hardly the stuff of creativity anyway, whether making caricatures of Mormons, Christians, military personnel, Blacks, etc. What would be REALLY original would be showing people of faith triumphing over human frailty.

  11. Gabo says:

    I am glad that Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez wrote this musical! The beauty of satire and parody is that it brings a mirror to ourselves, and it shows us how our belief system is perceived by others. There are those who look in the mirror but cannot see. These will get offended by other’s perception of oneself.
    I am a former member of the Church, and the only thing that I regret is that as Rannell’s character I allowed my inner doubts to be overwhelmed by warnings of other members that my lack of faith in many tenets of Mormonism and religion as a whole were a sign of weakness, disloyalty, unworthiness, and instead decided to “believe”, and proclaim that “I knew…” when I didn’t.
    There is something worthy of satire in Mormonism…and in religion in general…I agree with Maher that it is a pernicious development of mankind, but every atheist must come to this conclusion by him/herself. But know that if you are a Mormon and you state to Stone, Parker and Lopez, and others that look at reality in a different way than you, that if you talk about a deity with a physical body, of the presence of Adan Ondi Aman in Jackson, Missouri, or of the “historicity” of the Book of Mormon that you cannot expect your audience to keep a straight face.
    As a matter of fact, look at yourself in the mirror and state those “truths” to yourself, to your face, and you have only two choices, you could either ask yourself, “Really? Is this what I believe? Is my subjective evidence from the so called “burning sensation” true knowledge or a wishful thinking that will match my behavior to my peers in the Church?” or you will disregard doubt and like the musical character, decide that you are a Mormon and Mormons, “dang it” believe?
    The musical highlights the good intentions of the Mormon missionaries, they mean well to their Ugandan prospects, but it lightly shows also the marketing techniques used by missionaries to do missionary work, you have a script for crying out loud! No different than Herbal life, or New York Life, or a pyramid scheme to increase proselytes – I call them clients, since 10% of one’s income is no small accomplishment, even a life insurance product sold today doesn’t have that proportion of cost per income in a recurring purchase from a customer. Your hosts are defined by your missionaries as “prospects”!!! Of course you cannot see what’s the big deal…And that’s the reason why people love this musical or jokes about Mitt Romney on the Daily Show.
    Even though I would have to be African American to validate this statement -which I am not- you expect the African nations not to feel offended by the fact that early church history viewed Africans and their descendants in a condescending way? Like a member told me while I was doing a home teaching visit long time ago, “to deprive of the full benefits of the priesthood to anyone because of the color of their skin is immoral it doesn’t matter what doctrinal explanation you have for it!”. I agree.
    I know that there are many members who are African Americans or Africans who have decided to join your ranks, yet this doesn’t mean that history is on your side, it only means that the power of delusion and of your representation of reality is such that they can’t even question the inner truth of the presence of racism in your doctrines and dogmas…And why would you question your theology when you are threatened with ex-communication or not passing your annual certification on your temple worthiness?
    The musical needs that level of shock value because any belief system needs that defibrillator quality of a cartoon -like in the danish Mohamed cartoons- or Cartman’s intolerance towards Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, in South Park to reveal the darker side of the “well intended”citizen. It is why Jon Stewart jokes about McCain’s statement on immigrants causing Arizona blazes works…Such is the power of satire!
    It is my hope that as the growing realities facing mankind such as climate change, the progress of science, the dissemination of knowledge, the inequalities in wealth and social justice, that satire will become less relevant to show us what really is “truth”. Because it is then that we can really see ourselves as we really are, with no arrogance, like Lennon stated “no hell below us and above us, only sky”.

    • Paul, the convert says:

      Gabo, just put it better than I ever could. The point of the musical is to undermine belief.

      “It is my hope that as the growing realities facing mankind such as climate change, the progress of science, the dissemination of knowledge, the inequalities in wealth and social justice, that satire will become less relevant to show us what really is “truth”.”

      What?

      If not Jesus, I ask the atheist, what is truth? This is the atheists’ mother lode of argument. Tear down belief and offer nothing in its place. I’ll take the ten years of increased longevity as empirical evidence the “church” is the best blend of true science and true religion.

      • Eric M says:

        Some atheists DO have answers. You may or may not like the answers, but we do have them, and they don’t require faith, or that we “just believe.”

        Objectivism is a philosophy to help guide our thought toward the truth, rather than a dogma to be taken on faith.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW-xUEYaBnU
        http://www.aynrand.org
        http://aynrandlexicon.com/
        When you say that a statement is “true,” this means that the statement corresponds to reality, which is the world that you perceive with your five senses. A sense is, by definition, that which enables one to perceive the world. What is perceived directly by the senses is self-evident, and on this basis human beings build up concepts to enable us to think and understand the world in a broader way. (Beyond what is given in any immediate perception.)
        Faith is the belief in something despite it’s incompatibility with reason and logic, which are ultimately based in the self-evidence of the senses. Faith is allowing the beliefs of others to be stamped on your mind without checking them against your own perceptions through a process of thought. Thus, a belief is a matter of faith insofar as you *don’t think about it.*

        • ethan davidson says:

          I am not a Chirstian, but I fin Ann Rand more intolerable than the mormons, nd not because they are atheists.

          • ethan davidson says:

            I mant to say: U am not a Christian, but I find the followers of Ann Rand (objectivists) more problomtic than Mormons, and not because they are atheists.

        • Scott B says:

          I don’t know…Eric M makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t buy houses on faith. I didn’t choose what college to attend on faith. I didn’t marry my wife on faith. I guess just about every major decision in my life has been based on real experiences (by me or others) and full use of my reasonable and logical faculties. I suppose I’ve utilized “faith” at times some could say…but I would prefer to say that I made the best guess I could with what evidence I had on hand. To me the word faith has always been interchangeable with the word gullibility.

          • Emily L. says:

            Hey Scott,

            Thanks for your comment. It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with one of my good friends who is an atheist. We were discussing faith and how that plays into decision-making. His thoughts were similar to your own. I told him that I agree that we are to use our mind/intuition/senses when making choices, and in ALL cases I do, but I depend on God and faith to help inspire me to make the best decision, especially when I’m having a hard time reasoning my way through a situation.

            One such experience was when I was deciding if I wanted to attend Northwestern’s journalism program. I had wanted to attend the program for years, had been accepted and had gone and visited the school. After hours of thought and discussion I couldn’t decide if this was the step I should take. Attending seemed like a great choice for my personal development, but I was nervous about the future of the news industry. I prayed and prayed. At the time I worked at MIT and during my lunch break had been walking around campus and saw a flyer that Tom Brokaw (of all people) was coming to campus to discuss technology and the media. In the 4-5 years I had worked there, I had never seen a journalist come to campus. I decided to attend and prayed he would say something to help me make up my mind. He spoke for about an hour, said nothing relevant to my decision and then opened it up for questions. I didn’t have the nerve to ask him about my decision, but someone asked a question (I don’t remember what) and his answer was music to my ears. He talked about being at Columbia’s journalism program the week before and looking out into the audience and thinking, “What are these kids going to do? The news industry is shrinking faster than anyone expected and the job outlook is bleak” (something Northwestern wouldn’t admit). It was an answer to my prayers. He said absolutely what I needed to hear to make my decision. I honestly believe God helped me to be in that room at that time to hear that comment.

            As for faith in spiritual things, I think the important message is that faith is a temporary state until it is replaced with knowledge. I talk about this process in another post: http://www.mormonperspectives.com/2011/10/01/does-god-exist/. It discusses how I know there is a God.

            In the Book of Mormon we learn how we are to use faith to come to knowledge. If you’re interested you should read Alma 32 starting with verse 26 http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/32?lang=eng

          • Ben, Newnan says:

            I completely get what you’re saying, but I disagree on Eric M’s definition of faith. I don’t claim to be religious at all, but to me faith seems to be whatever it is that allows you to follow through with something even though you have no empirical proof it’ll work out the way you want it to, and yours seem to be particularly good examples of times when regular people just have to gather as much information as they can and trust that things will work out for the best. Or go on faith, as they say.

            There are no guarantees when we buy a house. That’s why we buy insurance–for the things we don’t expect, or couldn’t have predicted would happen even with our best guess. We do all the research we can, get all the inspections we can, and then just go for it. That’s faith.

            Same with marraige. You may know more about the person you marry than any other person, living or dead, has ever known about the person they would marry, but unless you have the unique ability to see into the future with complete accuracy, you’re just trusting that your hunch is correct. I don’t consider it gullible love somebody so much that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. My partner and I have been together for 26 years (married for 3), and I still don’t have any guarantee that it’ll last through the end of today. I just have faith that it will, based on our compatibility and history together. I don’t feel gullible.

            We all have faith–faith that when we go to bed we’ll wake up the next morning; faith that the chair we’re sitting in will hold us; faith that the car we’re driving won’t malfunction and explode. Faith is not a bad thing. It’s necessary. I just don’t like it when people substitute faith for responsibility.

            Religious people have a kind of faith that I don’t understand, but it doesn’t mean their faith in God isn’t just as real as my faith that my chair will hold me. Just because I don’t get it doesn’t mean it isn’t so, and that’s where Eric M and I disagree. He seems to be saying that unless he can prove something, it doesn’t exist.

            I’ve never really understood why somebody who doesn’t believe in God would even care whether others do or not, as long as it’s not affecting their personal liberty. I guess there’s a lot I don’t get.

  12. faithW/Oworks_is_Fred says:

    I posted something here before I was happy to express, but don’t see it here.

    anyway… What I like about the theory of this play is its transparency. There are some absolutely fantastic and internally progressive ontologies taught in the LDS faith that prove (aside from their absorption into the collectively contrived social conditioning of member cliques) amazing leaps in the realm of western religion and reform to the abominated contemporary christian model. Albeit these great pieces of information were aloud to breed among much more superfluous and hysterical statements that do little or nothing for aiding human consciousness or tangible social concerns. The desire to show it all as a fact-driven parody enterprise…showing both the good and bad together is a testament to Trey and Matts desire to distribute a personally valuable story to an audience that would not hear about it otherwise. You will not find such integrity in State written historical literature. They have spent years learning how to get peoples attention, and their revisitation of this subject is no accident.

    • Paul, the convert says:

      “There are some absolutely fantastic and internally progressive ontologies taught in the LDS faith that prove (aside from their absorption into the collectively contrived social conditioning of member cliques) amazing leaps in the realm of western religion and reform to the abominated contemporary christian model. ”

      Isn’t vastly sharper, to use the Razor, to say, “Joseph Smith was a prophet.”

  13. Matt says:

    “The resolution at the end appears to be that religion is a nice story we tell each other to give ourselves hope—a pretty narrow and flawed conclusion of something that has SO much more potential.”

    I agree that the resolution at the end wasn’t really sensible and, quite frankly and sadly, the only thing about the musical that wasn’t smart. They actually already featured this idea in the South Park episode “All About Mormons.” I disagreed with it then and I disagree with it now. The truth about existence any religion attests to be true forms the premise for the way of life it promotes.

    • ethan davidson says:

      I disagree.
      Just as Eraly Mormon teachings against alcohol and tobaco and cafeine helped it’s mebers live better healthyer lives (at least in some ways( so Arnolds mythology stopped people from commitiing rape, clitorectomys, and taught them how to prevent the spread of disentary, though none of it was true.
      Concusion: it is the results of a belife, not the belief itself. by which a relidion should be judged.
      As Jesus said “by theire fruits you shall know them.”

  14. Lori says:

    Those LDS members judging Emily remind me of the members of my ward that tried to have me released as a Sunday School teacher bc I told my class of high school seniors that I had seen “The Passion Of Christ”, which is rated R. I was flabbergasted that other members would be so offended that I saw a movie about Christ that was rated R due to the violence done to him. There are plenty of parts of the bible and Book of Mormon that would be rated R if portrayed in the movies. Whatever Emily’s reasoning for seeing this play is between her and God and not for others to judge. Jesus said we will know his disciples by how well they show love to others.
    As far as the play goes, I know that it is vulgar and crude, but I truly believe that “all things work together for the good of those that love God”. I think that overall, it will have a positive effect for the church as opposed to all the rubbish the anti’s spew about our church being a satanic cult. I think that this will create an interest that will actual be to the church’s benefit. And if not, then “bless them that curse you and do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you”. Take a few deep breaths and relax. God is in charge, and He knows what He’s doing. ;-)

  15. medievalist says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful review. I’m a Catholic academic and I searched specifically for Mormon reviews of the Book of Mormon. I have only seen clips of the musical on Youtube, including the “I Believe” song.

    That said, I’m a bit surprised at the complacent take on the musical. So the musical acknowledges that Mormons do lots of good in the world . . . that seems fairly insidious to me, when it also effectively lampoons central points of Mormon doctrine.

    Granted, the case for the good Mormons do in the world is a very strong case, and the LSD’s Head of Public Affairs Michael Otterson puts it well in his Washington Post Op-Ed:

    “Meanwhile, what of those thousands of remarkable and selfless Mormon missionaries who opted to pay their own expenses during the past seven years to serve in Africa while their peers were focused on careers or getting on with life? They have returned home, bringing with them a connection with the African people that will last a lifetime. Many will keep up their Swahili language or their Igbo dialect. They will keep in their bedrooms the flags of the nations where they served. They will look up every time they hear Africa mentioned on the evening news. Their associations with the people whose lives they touched will become lifetime friendships. And in a hundred ways they will become unofficial ambassadors for the nations they served.”

    Otterson brings up a point to which Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly turned: that the Christian faith transforms and elevates our lives, making of it a great challenge and adventure:

    “There does need to be a new realization that being human is something great, a great challenge, to which the banality of just drifting along doesn’t do justice. Any more than the attitude that comfort is the best way to live, that feeling healthy is the sum and substance of happiness. There needs to be a new sense that being human is subject to a higher set of standards, indeed, that it is precisely these demands that make a greater happiness possible in the first place. There needs to be a sense that being human is like a mountain climbing expedition that includes some arduous slopes. But it is by them that we reach the summit and are able to experience for the first time how beautiful it is to be.” (from the very readable book of interviews, _Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times_)

    But does the musical really give this sense, or does it make the heroic Mormon missionaries out to be just like the rest of us comfortable educated Western liberals, namely people who do good, however the New York Times is defining it these days?

    My guess is that most people, including people of serious faith like myself, will see the musical and find its message comforting: “these Mormons are just like the rest of us, just trying to do some good, even though they’re confused about life and what they believe.”

    The “I Believe” song is especially insidious, since it forefronts some of the least understood (at least by non-Mormons) doctrines and holds them up as pure nonsense. My guess is that Mormon believers have very good explanations for all of these things. But these are the most controversial doctrines and Mormons have rightly marginalized them in the ecumenical dialogues in the last few decades. I think this musical will severely set back by decades Mormon efforts to get the conversation on neutral ground.

    My last point: look at Catholicism, which has continuously been the brunt of such satire from time immemorial. In the twentieth century a branch of Catholicism sold itself purely on its social justice achievements and teachings, backing down on doctrine and personal morality. That branch has hemorrhaged parishioners, especially as kids become teens, and yielded very little fruit in priestly vocations and conversions (you see the same thing writ larger in mainline Protestantism). The reason? There are so many other, less complicated ways to “be good.”

    Sounds to me like this musical should be a wake-up call to Mormons that they have to get beyond the message of “We’re just like everybody else but do more good,” and start articulating the distinctive goods of their doctrines and ways of life–even if it means alienating certain segments of mainstream culture. (Alasdair MacIntyre’s _Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry_ could be a good place to start thinking about this.)

    • medievalist says:

      By the way, I realize that you point in the same direction as my critique in your last paragraph.

      And I think Gail D.’s comment is immediately indicative of the kind of response I think the musical promotes.

    • Emily L. says:

      Medievalist,

      Your comment is quite timely. I was thinking just today that I need to write a follow-up and address some of the topics discussed in the “I Believe” song. Not only would it be helpful, as you suggest, for Mormons to explain some of their history and doctrines, but also some of the information is just false (e.g., we have accounts of 11 other individuals who saw the plates that were translated into the Book of Mormon. The song says Joseph Smith showed the plates to no one). Let me know if you have specific points you’d like me or anyone else to address since listening to parts of the show.

      As for the point about members of the Mormon Church being viewed as “just like everybody else but do more good,” my favorite post about this theme is by NYT columnist David Brooks. He says,

      “The only problem with “The Book of Mormon” (you realize when thinking about it later) is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.

      That’s because people are not gods. No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own.

      The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.”

      • Eric M says:

        Emily L. wrote, “I was thinking just today that I need to write a follow-up and address some of the topics discussed in the “I Believe” song. Not only would it be helpful, as you suggest, for Mormons to explain some of their history and doctrines, but also some of the information is just false [...] Let me know if you have specific points you’d like me or anyone else to address since listening to parts of the show.”

        In the “I Believe” song, Elder Price mentions that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” But, it appears that, if Brigham Young is to be believed when he was apparently speaking on behalf of God, a Mormon doesn’t simply have to believe that God “changed his mind,” but that, in 1978, God retroactively wiped out the ancestery of blacks and replaced it. (Brigham Young in JD 10;110: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” Here–and in other quotes– it is clear that Brigham Young equates the African race with the “seed of Cain.”)

        So, perhaps you might address this point, in order to remove confusions that might arise from Brigham Young’s quotes.

        Best wishes.
        Eric

        • Emily L. says:

          I’m no expert on Church history regarding blacks, but just this week I read several blog posts by Margaret Young – an active member of the LDS Church who has done considerable research on the history of African Americans and Mormonism. I would recommend anyone read her insights on the issue. It is a three-part series:

          http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/07/22/all-god%E2%80%99s-critters-some-thoughts-on-the-priesthood-restriction-and-differing-opinions/

          As for polygamy, I think I’ve heard several reasons why this had to be — restoration of all things, it was a trial of their faith, etc. It is something I will never fully understand. However, just this week I’ve spent time in Palmyra (birthplace of the Mormon Church) and Kirtland, OH (home of the first Mormon temple) learning about the early leaders and history of the Church. As I’ve read excerpts from their journals, walked through their homes and places of business, it’s been interesting to learn of all the miracles that happened during this time. We have countless records of people seeing heavenly beings and the Gold Plates.

          My favorite account is from John Murdock. It reads,

          “During the winter that I boarded with Bro. Joseph, as just mentioned, we had a number of prayer meetings, in the prophet’s chamber, in which we obtained great blessings. In one of these meetings the prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.”

          I have felt to some degree that same love of God through reading the Book of Mormon and worshiping in the temple — two things restored through Joesph Smith.

          While many may find fault with our history, the Mormon Church has no doctrine explaining that it or any of its members or leaders are infallible. What we do know is that we as an organization and as individuals learn “line upon line, precept upon precept.” If we have made mistakes in our past, forgive us, and let us work to use the atonement of Jesus Christ to help us become better disciples of His Gospel.

        • Paul, the convert says:

          Eric, I think your issues with priesthood and Blacks, or polygamy indicate a funedmental difference between the creedal vision of God and the LDS vision of God. When someone has a gun to your head & is threatening your survival as well as your family (the extemination order), then the ethics are different or in the LDS understanding, God’s will is different.

          When Brigham Young says “always”, he may have meant during the listener’s lifetime. The seed of Cain thing kept the Mormons out of the civil war. From our understanding it was God’s will that the religion survived. Our contribution to the anti-slavery effort was Joseph Smith’s assasination and the influence that had on Lincoln.

          • ethan davidson says:

            wait, what was that line about how Joseph Smith’s assasination ended slavery by effecting Abrahan Lincol?
            I must have skiped my history class that day.

        • Teppo says:

          Eric, I’ve edited your comment to keep it on topic. We want to keep our comment threads focused on the topic of the post. We appreciate the discussion we have here but we also want to keep it from drifting into long tangents.

          • Eric M says:

            “Eric, I’ve edited your comment to keep it on topic.”

            Uh-huh…Well, goodbye.

          • Ben, Newnan says:

            Eric, please don’t let that put you off. This particular thread is specifically about the Broadway musical The Book Of Mormon. If you read above you’ll see that Teppo directs comments that encompass other subjects to other blog entries on the site more suited to their particular subject.

            For what it’s worth, I appreciate your point of view very much. Your comments are intelligent and respectful, and I’d enjoy reading more from you.

          • Eric M says:

            Thank you, Ben, I appreciate the compliments.

            I don’t agree with Teppo that the second part of my comment was off topic, such that it warranted editing, but as the moderator here, Teppo’s decision is final. I won’t attempt to argue, and it is time for me to go elsewhere.

        • Scott B says:

          Continuing with Eric’s pointed, logical and justified questions: In one of the songs (I Believe?) its mentioned that ancient Israelites came to America and settled the land and, I assume, became the Native Americans. How does the LDS Church square that teaching with modern DNA tests that prove that Native Americans are decendents of Asia and not the Middle East, much less Hebrews?
          (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090428223836.htm)

      • ethan davidson says:

        Arnold’s religion had all those things. It just wasn’t ture.

    • Paul, the convert says:

      medievalist:

      Thank you. I have a son on a mission and this kind of ridicule breaks my heart. I’m so glad at last somebody is defending him.

      (As a former Catholic, it breaks my heart to see the ridicule that has been heaped on the Catholic church. FYI about 9% of our children are sexually abused in the public schools. You don’t hear many jokes about that on the late night comedy shows, do you? Or in the news?)

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Even from historical and organizational perspectives only(removing spiritual aspects for a moment), one of the most intriguing aspects about the founding of LDS church is that Joseph Smith essentially removed himself from the long-term equation of the doctrine by (1) bringing Book of Mormon, (2) re-establishing the concept of priesthood, and (3) emphasizing wo/man’s personal relationship with God.

        Non-believers of LDS church often utilize the equation ‘faults of LDS church leaders’ = ‘falsehood of the doctrine’ since leaders are ordained of God. But, the LDS doctrine and its key concepts TRANSCENDS individuals including Joseph Smith and all other historical figures of the church. It’s not the ‘sainthood’ of Joseph Smith that proves the Book of Mormon is a true, authentic scripture, but the veracity of the book proves that Joseph Smith was a prophet. In a similar fashion, the authority of the priesthood allows the all wo/men to make mistakes (including prophets) while the integrity of the doctrine of Christ continues on without error.

        So, for those of you who question existence of God, I’d recommend that you begin reading the Bible and pray whether God exists. For those of you who believe in God, I recommend that you read the Book of Mormon to see if it is also a Testament of Christ. If you come to the conclusion that God lives and the Book of Mormon is true, then a series of ‘if-then’ conclusion will lead you to conclude that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of Christ.

        Otherwise, the discussion is a non-starter.

  16. Ben, Newnan says:

    I have enjoyed every single comment in this thread, and I’ve noticed something I feel might need clarified, particularly for the people who haven’t seen the play. This musical is purely comedic. As great as it is that the writers were able to throw a little history and theology in there, I don’t think it’s reasonable to think they’re there for any reason other than context, and to make sure the audience gets the jokes.

    Not being Mormon myself, I really appreciate the corrections, but I think that to say the writers got “this” wrong, or they mischaracterized “that” is a little on the silly side. The play is not meant to be educational, it’s meant to be funny. Whether or not it hits its mark is entirely subjective, but it makes about as much sense to criticize it factually as it does to pick apart a Monty Python movie based on its historical inaccuracies.

    The play is very sweet and very funny, in my opinion, and I don’t feel it maligns Mormans at all, but I didn’t see it with the same sensitivities as a Mormon would, so I can’t really speak to that. I just think the inaccuracies can be discussed without insinuating that the writers had any motive other than to entertain.

    • Natalie says:

      Ben, I have enjoyed every one of your comments on this thread. Thanks for continuing to be a voice on this thread–your perspective is fascinating and a much appreciated contributor to this conversation!

  17. Ben, Newnan says:

    Well, thankya Natalie. What a nice thing to say.

  18. Eric M says:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” My comment has been awaiting moderation since July 8th. Who is the moderator, and why isn’t this person moderating?

    • Teppo says:

      Eric, my apologies. I am not sure why your comment was not published, I have now put it up. We really do try to be fair and not discriminate against points of view that differ from ours, especially when they are expressed as respectfully as yours. Sorry again and I hope you are still willing to participate in the discussion.

      • Eric M says:

        Thanks. Though, a more recent comment that I made, that was initially published, now says it is “awaiting moderation.” Strange.

  19. Pingback: Book of Mormon Musical Pushes Raunch, Sneaks in Satire - Occam's Knife

  20. Dolly says:

    First thought. Thanks for the well written review and for satisfying my urge to see the performance for myself. Your conclusions were my predictions from reading other reviews and you have a strength and talent that is a gift and no doubt something you have multiplied …. and some one has to do the dirty work. Just ask the soldiers.

    Second thought. To those that judge you for it. Anyone who is condemning someone else and telling them that it is wrong for them to use their free agency is forgetting a few critical elements of the Plan of Salvation.

    Let’s just agree that there is a political spectrum in all groups. Our Mormon group is no exception. Those that want to be carbon copies through out, are forgetting that the body needs the eye, the toe, the toenail, the nostril, the eyelash, etc…..

    Thanks for all of the deep thinking and helping others to scratch below the surface.

  21. LittleBird says:

    I am not a Mormon, nor do I play one on TV. Let’s call me Christian of another denomination. I have not read this entire thread of comments but I think that I am more impressed every day by Mormons.

    If you aren’t sure if you want to see the show or not that’s fine, and I have not seen it either. What I HAVE seen is the Tony Award performance of “I Believe” which says some funny and AMAZING things about Mormons. And seeing many of your comments above, I now know that this aspect of your lives is accurate; you believe. “You can’t just believe halfway, you have to believe in it all.” Sure, some may see this as quaint or cute or misguided. But the strength of your faith is inspirtational and impressive.

    The Book of Mormon may not be your cup of tea. But it’s giving Mormonism amazing exposure, and giving people like me tremendous admiration and respect for you all. I just thought some of you would want to know that.

    Peace!

  22. Major Van Harl says:

    PORTER ROCKWELL NEEDED AGAIN?

    Theo van Gogh the great grand-nephew of Vincent van Gogh produced the film Submission which was about the treatment of women in Islam. Well, Mohammed Bougeri, a Muslim, took offense, so he assassinated van Gogh. When a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad there were riots in the streets of Islam and people died. Enter Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame. They decided to do one of their cartoon stories where they had the prophet Muhammad locked in a U-Haul trailer and later hiding in a bear costume. Of course the Muslim world was not amused, and after subtle reminders by the Muslim press of what happened to van Gogh the boys from South Park backed down. I guess being killed and their bloody bodies left lying in the street like van Gogh was too much to offer for their art form. Of course Stone and Parker have continued to lampoon the religions of the world and do so without fear of reprisal as long as they leave guys named Muhammad alone. Before mass media most religions had their sort-of-open enforcers who were there to protect the church, the flock and the politics of a religion. Now there are too many cameras everywhere and instant communication to let the world know your religion is up to bad behavior, so is there enforce? I am a boring old Methodist, but to the best of my knowledge my religion has not had any secret society that swears a blood oath to defend our faith with the gun and the knife. That is not to say my church has not had its share of lying, cheating, stealing and killing, but no hit-squads that murder you in the street for publishing an unflattering article or cartoon about a Methodist Bishop. The Latter Day Saints Church or the Mormons as most people know this religion by, has in the past had its share of hard men, who did hard things in the defense of their religion and the people of that faith. People who were not only persecuted for their beliefs, but were driven out by local enforcement and sometimes murdered. When you see your family and fellow church members dead because of their religious beliefs in a land that is suppose to guarantee freedom of religion, you may find a pressing need for a little push back. Sometimes in the past, cold steel in the hands of hard men was the primary means of pushing back. Orin Porter Rockwell comes to mind when you think of a very hard man who stood-in-the-door to defend his religion and way of life. He was one of the earliest members of the LDS Church and he spent his entire life defending and protecting his religion and its members from alleged threats from within and outside the LDS Church. If even a fraction of the things Rockwell is given credit for are true, he dispensed his form of justice to the quick and the dead. Now back to the South Park boys. They have moved from cartoons to Broadway and their subject matter for this music extravaganza is the LDS Church. The Book of Mormon is a religious satire about two young Mormon men who are sent to Uganda on a two year Church mission. And of course the play does everything it can to make the LDS Church look like fools. I called a couple of LDS friends of mine, one a Bishop and the other a retired Air Force chaplain for their opinion. They were not amused by the musical, but both brought up the issue of LDS support to the people of sub-Saharan Africa. In the seven years it took Stone and Parker to develop the musical, tens of thousands of Africans have been helped by the LDS Church, through food supplied, medical support and education. What have the boys of South Park done for Uganda besides laugh at them? They would not dare to make a musical of Muslims dancing, singing and swearing at Allah in the name of being equal opportunity offenders. Of course not, they had already backed down in the name of their own safety when it comes to poking fun at Islam. When gay marriage was losing ground in California the LDS churches were protested, but when the votes were counted it was in fact the minority vote that had sealed the fate of gay marriage. Nobody ran out and protested at the Black or predominately Hispanic churches in California, possibly a personal safety issue? The Danites and Porter Rockwell the Destroying Angel, figures from the past. Hard times, hard people, hard decisions, don’t push.

    Major Van Harl USAF R

    • Teppo says:

      Major Van Harl,

      Mormons are very committed to freedom of speech. We may not always like what others say, write or sing but we believe they should be allowed to do so. There is no place for violence in suppressing criticism of any religion. Even when I differ with someone’s opinion, I can say with with Evelyn Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

      • ethan davidson says:

        Thank you. all this talk of hard men and hard steel and pushing back made me nervouse. Hard steel can do a lot of damage to soft flesh, and even hard men are made of soft flesh.
        The south Park creators made fun of lots of religions, Jews, Catholics, Scientologists, Muslims, as well as Atheists and even agnostics. They were thgreatened with lawsuits by scientologists and with Death by Muslims, and the more the red ands swarmed on them, the more they kept stirring up the same ant hill, It was the Comedy Network, not them, who finnaly backed down on the Mohmaed stuff, They wanted to keep pushing it. Clearly this goes beyond trying to get laughs. It is my opinion that although they don’t believe in much, they realy do believe in the remdemtive power of free speech.
        Now as regards Mormanism, they have made it clear on South Park, in the Musical, and in interviews that they actualy think that Mormons are amazingly nice people who believe things that make no sense to them. But they also have stated that if theire beliefs make them so nice, perhaps they serve a function, wheter or not they are true. This pragmatic aproach to religion is clearly not the perspective as those held by people of faith, but neither i it the perspective of those who condemn religion categoricaly.
        Have they contributed material aid to Africans? I don’t know. But makeing people laugh is a real contribution to the greater good, IMHO. Life is hard, and laughter is what helps us us get through the time period that comes between now and whatever comes next.

  23. Justine M says:

    Emily,

    I enjoyed your review. I’ve been interested in speaking to members of the LDS Church what they think of the show. I have a few Mormon frienads, but none of them have seen the show (because they don’t live in NY), so the best way for me to accomplish this is to read review such as yours… (I’ve been reading plenty…so love it, some hate it, some fall in the middle. Like with anything else…I don’ know why I expected to be able to generalize. Silly of me)

    Anyway, in full disclosure of my POV: 22, female, non-religious theist, incredibly liberal (people – especially my atheist friends – are surprised when they find out that I’m not atheistic. I wish spiritual beliefs weren’t so heavily correlated to politics…but no one can deny they are)

    I loved this musical. I’ve seen it twice already, and plan to see it more. ($27 standing room tickets – definitely worth the 8 hour wait in line on a day off, especially if you bring things with you to do). Not only (as you said) is the music amazing and the lyrics clever (not to mention that the show is presented in classical musical theatre format – which as a theatre nerd, I love), the energy and talent of the cast is what grabs me the most. The love exuding from them for what they do, and the amount of respect (yes, *respect*) for the work they’re doing, the characters they’re portraying, and even the faith they’re discussing… just blows me away. (I mean “I Believe” is practically a love letter to the faith. And the way Andrew Rannells performs it…It is just a most beautiful performance. And based on what I’ve heard him say in interviews and the few moments I discussed the show with him at the stage door, he seemed to agree with my assessment of respect and love put into that song and the show in general)

    Yes, the show is incredibly irreverent. I expected nothing less from Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I grew up watching South Park, so I knew what I was in store for. (They make fun of everything and everyone. Pretty much every belief/non-belief system, including atheism). But I also think that past that irreverence is a lot of heart.

    Which brings me to this: I disagree with your assessment of the message. You say that “the resolution at the end appears to be that religion is a nice story we tell each other to give ourselves hope,” but that’s not what I got. What I got was this: no matter what you believe or what other people believe, we’re all people deserving of love and respect. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with a person’s beliefs or if the beliefs seem seem weird or even crazy to you; *if they’re not hurting anyone else*, and their beliefs enhance them and make them better people, the more power to them and their beliefs.

    Yes, there are plenty of Mormons who have seen and will continue to see the show. But the majority of the audience isn’t Mormon, and ultimately, I think that is the message that will be taken away by most people who see the show. And I think it will help foster respect, and maybe even a sense of healthy curiosity about the Church of Latter Day Saints.

  24. Dolly Wright says:

    Nicely said, Justine. Your take away is pretty much right out of a line from an interview I saw with Trey or Matt. (Can’t remember which one.) He said that it’s basically a conclusion of live and let live. Or, why does there need to be any criticism of people who are good to have around just because they are unified? In other words, “So what if it’s a crazy premise for a belief system, if it makes people happy and good for the community at large… let it be and more power to them.” (These are my summaries from memory and not from an actual quote from either one of the writers and I think you nailed it as a member of the secular, based audience POV.)

    With regards to the take away from Emily, I think her point is more poignant if you are a Mormon and want to know if you are going to be satisfied with the conclusion. Many Mormons would not be active Mormons if the belief system were only as deep as the warm fuzzy compliment that comes from this performance. It would not be worth the effort. Being a Mormon, from it’s very roots in Palmyra, New York, has taken a deep conviction to withstand the persecutors and it is not because of an arbitrary notion such as, which Disney princess is your favorite or the best. …

    I think that from an insider POV (inside the belief system which is alined with divinity and purpose), Emily is also spot on. She speaks to an audience of Mormons who want to know if this musical, in its attempt to be friendly to Mormonism, really “gets it” or are they on another planet like the writers of “Big Love”. The answer is fairly obvious. If they did really “get it”, that this is a religion based on God’s plan (as revealed to the inhabitants of planet earth)… then they would also want to be “baptized” because of a deep spiritual conviction and love for God and obedience and such. I would not expect such an effort for most. It’s fairly inconvenient to secular ways of life and not really more than curiosity. But for a Mormon, on the other hand, who says yes… we know we are weird or distinctive….. we get it… but it comes from a very special place in our hearts. This is what the Mormon audience is looking for. Is there any treatment to this absolution? Why would Matt or Trey want to write it from that POV? It would not make any sense to them. They wrote it from their perspective and Emily is simply pointing out that conclusion to someone from “within” that paradigm. In this case, the paradigm is the testimony that the Book of Mormon is in fact what it claims to be. The only way to know that, is if you are able to read the whole book, with the

  25. Michel says:

    I remember years ago when Jesus Christ Superstar first hit Broadway. There were many who also claimed that it was blasphemous and would have a very short run. It was condemned by the Vatican and many other Christian leaders, but in reality it helped the cause of Christianity.

    I see the Book of Morman doing the same thing. By poking fun, in that it will open the eyes of people that have no idea of what Mormonism is about.

    I understand that Amazon Tickets Online still has some affordable, available tickets for most shows, even though they are advertised as sold out.

    I’m looking forward to actually seeing the show.

  26. Emily L. says:

    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments and responses.

    Talking about faith and belief systems is a sensitive matter. One of my favorite principles about interfaith dialogue I learned from Krister Stendahl, Dean of Divinity Emeritus at Harvard University, and a Lutheran bishop. He said, “when you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.”

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints recently released a video highlighting one of it’s members and how the Book of Mormon came into his life and changed his perspective forever. It’s worth a watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dNYpXZIN_c&sns=fb

  27. Jamal Williams says:

    I would like to know your opinion on Big Love

    I have seen several articles of people complaining about how hurtful it is to the Mormons, but then again I saw the same for the Book of Mormon play. I know people can be hurtful sometimes but its becoming so common that people just don’t have any sense of humor when it comes to religion.

    • Emily L. says:

      Hi Jamal,

      I’ve never seen Big Love, so I don’t have an opinion of the show. From what I’ve heard about it, I think it’s a show that is more serious in nature and not necessarily funny. I think the offense some people feel is because it’s an inaccurate depiction of Mormons. We do not practice polygamy and the show’s creators have highlighted some of the more sacred practices in our temples. Not sure if that’s worthy of a laugh. It seems more inappropriate than anything.

      I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself, but there is a fine line of having a sense of humor and being sacrilegious. Religious bigotry or false representation is obviously something we don’t want to condone.

      I hope that was helpful and not too serious :)

      Take care,
      Emily

  28. Rick says:

    As an agnostic (some would say a wishy washy athiest), I find it commendable that Mormons are carrying out thoughtful, and meaningful discussions about this musical.
    I thought the musical was hilarious, but was somewhat uncomfortable about how it would make Mormons react. I can’t imagine what the reaction would be if Catholicism, Judaism, or Islam were the targets of this parody. Mormons should be proud of their thoughtfulnes. Matt and Trey were very astute to pick on Mormons and Mormons should take it as a compliment.

  29. thomas Wilson says:

    I invite you all the read and consider what the book of Mormon says and ask god if its true, and if you don’t believe in God, ask him if he exists and then ask him if its true. I promise that it is for I have received a witness that it is and everytime i try to imagine if it werent true, that witness just comes back to my mind, and i cant deny it, and the Book and our doctrine makes me extraordinarily happy.

    with love you servant and brother

    Thomas wilson

  30. Boof Of Mormon Fan says:

    I am so excited that Book Of Mormon is coming to London in 2013. I just booked a pair of tickets for the very first preview show at the Prince of Wales Theatre and now am counting the days!!

    Ticket info is at Book Of Mormon London but they only have limited numbers for the previews so act quickly if you want to go!!

  31. Magistus says:

    I am LDS. I love “South Park” and have a PhD. I have tried hard to be a good professor and deny the existence of God, but after looking in the mirror and confronting my bizarre theology, I still know Brother Joseph actually talked to God, and the Book of Mormon is true. God works through everyone in His own time and way. If you’re Mormon and you really believe, see the play – or not. We are a peculiar people but in the best possible way.

  32. Reacher Melendez says:

    I know I’m late and may not be read at all, but from what I saw, a couple things need to be cleared up (btw I am not mormon, I would say I’m christian while belonging to no denomination and really want nothing to do with organized religion as a whole)….
    the first is that this is not an atheist’s love letter, Matt Stone is an atheist, Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez believe in an Almighty in some form or other, and Trey seems to consider himself religious in his own way.
    Secondly, a message of the play that never is brought up for some reason: that when it comes to organized religion, geography and environment do not and more importantly CANNOT affect faith. How can we believe in a religion that says, as most of my Methodists friends do, that if you aren’t saved you are going to hell? It’s such a closed minded view, and when confronted with the question of what if they were born in Uganda and not America, would they be christians? And the answer is always the same: Even though it would be tougher to get to, yes.
    We can’t deny that atheism is growing, or like being gay (which I have no problem with), it is every day being completely acceptable and maybe a little ‘in’ to not believe in god now (case in point: in earlier interviews, Stone could not admit he was an atheist, now he does it proudly).
    Bottom line of this is obviously the message that’s positive is that we need to stop worrying about our belief structures and just have faith, sure, but the real deep and important message (and yes there is a few from the play) is that until religions take into consideration not only where a person lives but their day to day lives and struggles and limited view on the outside world, then it isnt a religion or god of the world, just your backyard.
    I personally loved the play, and am so very glad they chose Mormons, all religion is ripe for parody, even mine, but none moreso than Mormon, but that’s not why I’m glad, I’m glad because no other religion or church would handle it as well or as cool as Mormon’s do, I mean, this post for example. Mormon’s are going to see the show, and the creator’s of it have commented on how great they’ve been, how positive, yes some will hate it, but even they aren’t annoying, and what other religion would have atheists saying they can’t believe how great Mormon’s are when very few other cultures are as heavily ruled and oriented through said religion?
    Props to the play, and Mormons in general.

  33. Tan says:

    I’m LDS and have never seen the play. However, I was interested what exactly was portrayed in the musical about the Book of Mormon. This review helped me with the decision that I will not go to see this mousical. The only reason I don’t wish to see it is because I recieve enough judgement and stereotypical comments about me and my beliefs from my friends and the world that it would be a waste of my time. From what I’ve been reading, it seems to be the sort of musical for those who want to learn about the stereotypes of our beliefs and a brief overview of our Church history. If you really wish to know more, approach those weird guys dressed nice with name tags rather than spending money on a musical :) it’ll save you some cash.

  34. Tim says:

    I was raised in the church and have done my best to adhere to the teachings and beleifs. No matter how hard I try life just seams to shit on me. I have lost my wife, children, and every materialistic assett I have ever had. My faith is severely weakened at this point. Why should I even bother to try anymore? I was taught that if I wasnt sealed to my wife, i couldnt be sealed to my children, hence when I die I will never be reunited with my children in the afterlife. I dont even know why I am bothering to post any of this, I am resigned to dying alone and hopefuly slipping into nothingness, hope the aetheists know more than what i was taught.

    • Abalyn says:

      Tim,
      I am so sorry that you feel this way.
      I have had a few moments in life when I was in deep pain and nothing seemed to be fair. The idea of having an eternal perspective or learning from my trials seemed repugnant and negating of my experience. The only thing that got me through was that some part of me knew was God loved me and he didn’t want me to be in pain either. I know he loves you too.
      I am sure that there is a way for you to be with your children again; so much that is completely not right in this life will be made right in the next. I know too that there can be hope for better things in this life too.
      Hold on! Don’t lose hope!

    • Jason says:

      Dear Tim,

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss and difficulty. I wish I could say that I know how you feel. But, I haven’t experienced your challenges. I have my own. But, they aren’t the same, or appear to be as grave on the outside. I know that each of us will leave this life having been challenged to our limits if we let the Lord guide us. Like Job or Abraham or others that have sacrificed all, we will be stretched. I can only believe that you are in the Lord’s hands and he will not abandon you.

      Please forgive the long response. I want to speak comfort and hope and faith. The Spirit of the Lord can give comfort and encouragement to move forward. And as you live the gospel, you will be an asset to your children as you face your hardship and demonstrate an example of faith in Christ.

      I have two brothers that have gone through divorce. One divorce has dragged on for years and has gotten so ugly that now my brother’s children won’t speak with their father or any of his extended family. The well has been poisoned. And it has been very painful to see him wrongfully accused of awful behavior. Injustice is so hard to deal with, especially when we believe in a just God.

      I believe that God is just and merciful and that he loves all of his children. I believe that the justice and mercy of God allows for injustice during this mortal life. He allows us to be judged by a lifetime of behavior and experience. And he is merciful to give us the time to repent and heal. D&C 29 offers some great insights.

      39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

      40 Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.

      41 Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same death which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed.

      42 But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son.

      43 And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe;

      God provides us time to live, experience hardship and temptation, and repent as we walk through mortal life. It is a perfect plan designed to teach his children and provide us the necessary skills, experience, and developmental opportunities to fulfill our desired potential. But, it is so hard to look to the future when the present is so difficult to manage. When I am struggling, and I turn to the Lord, the challenges don’t always go away. In fact, typically, the Lord doesn’t want to remove the hardship as much as he wants us to develop capacity to overcome. A sort of “spiritual workout” that prepares us for the eternal ball field. Though the hardships don’t usually go away. They are put in context.

      When I was on a mission, I constantly felt that I was pushing against a wall. I was always pushing against my weaknesses. It wasn’t until I returned home from my mission that I realized how much I had grown. I believe that is how our experience will be when we leave this life.

      This life isn’t supposed to be like suffering in a torture chamber until we are released after our sentence is complete. All our trials are designed for our growth, not merely for suffering as an entrance fee to heaven. We are here to become stronger and more like God.

      Tim, as your brother, I encourage you to look forward in faith. I don’t want any of God’s children to be lost. And I know that Christ and our Father in Heaven doesn’t either.

      If I may share a couple of thoughts regarding your children. The atonement is available to all, whether living today, having left this life, or to those yet to be born. The gospel ordinances are for all. That is why we perform ordinances for the deceased in holy temples. The commandment to seal the human family is in effect until it is complete. That includes sealing of children to parents. At some point, all of God’s children will be sealed to each other. It is essential to the society of heaven where blessings are extended to all of God’s children through the sealing ordinances. Do all you can to live the gospel and to teach it by example and the occasional sermon. Your faithful living will encourage your children to do the same. Eventually, the sealing ordinances can be be performed, whether in this life or the next. The key is that we all live worthy of the blessings we desire. The Lord will not allow blessings to his faithful children to be withheld.

      God bless you, Tim. Look to the Lord and trust in him. Bless your family. There are great blessings ahead for you as you keep the commandments.

    • R.Finch says:

      Please see my post I wrote in response.

  35. elle cole says:

    Would this play have been made if Mitt Romney hadn’t been running for president?
    Would the writers have the guts to write the book of Mohamed mocking the Koran.

    Just asking.

  36. E. Chapman says:

    The Book of Mormon musical is moving to London! They open in just a few weeks too. As a current missionary in Boston who thinks that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, I think this is epic. I haven’t seen the musical, but from what I’ve read about it in blogs, I’m excited to see it grow and expand.

    http://www.thebookofmormonmusical.co.uk/a-guide-to-mormonism/

    Check out this other perspective from a British member about The Book of Mormon musical. While I assume the musical takes liberal pot shots at Mormon missionaries, I think its a great idea and another way to help spread the gospel.

  37. desertoasis says:

    I doubt I will spend money to see this. I will say that I’m a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as of almost 12 years ago at the age of 37. At first, I looked into the church’s teachings just to understand what a man I’d started dating believed so I could respect his views, though I had no intention of leaving Catholicism and thought that if our relationship progressed to marriage, we could perhaps take turns going to each others’ church. Initially I didn’t even want to date him because he was Mormon, that’s how much I had NO interest in the religion. I found that sources would intentionally lie, deceive, twist, etc. the truth. Many times, I would rather accusatorially (is that a word?!) ask my boyfriend a question, thinking at times I’d finally found something he couldn’t explain. He often referred me to certain scriptures to read and find out for myself. I developed a rule that if a source was wrong 3 times, I threw them out, figuring the lies, distortions, etc. were intention and they weren’t trustworthy. To that end, if this movie mocks, distorts (again, I haven’t seen it), then you can take the position that there are those that will be offended by things that are portrayed as false if/when they found out that’s the case. In any event, I do know that many people have been drawn to find out more about the church through these sorts of “negative” channels (such as when Romney ran for President in 2004 and the conservative attack dogs came out against him, making his religion an issue, etc.). I spent a good deal of life NOT a Mormon and I will just say that I find Mormons who act like they are “the bigger person” so they can “handle it” when people mock Mormons or whatever to be a kind of sell out, like trying to be accepted into the “cool” crowd. Maybe because I did NOT grow up Mormon, I don’t feel the need to act like that.

  38. LA says:

    I have seen many many Broadway musicals, this was the only one that was sickening to me! I realize that it is supposed to be ridiculous…but laughing and making a joke about Fu***ing a baby is beyond the low of disgust ..if you have to say any thing like this or laugh in the audience you are pretty sick yourself..it will just make People with character want to become a Mormon!

  39. Ndawg says:

    Two words for you all to consider: “Scientific”, “Evidence”… Stop lying to yourselves, use the brain you were born with by thinking critically, stop being afraid of the unknown and death, and above all else, don’t let anyone tell you that you are not in control of yourself nor what your worth. We are evolved, self aware, inteligent and adaptable human beings, and each of us contribute to our species in our own significant ways! That can’t be wasted arguing over ficticious storytelling! Trust Science! Not fairytale Gods!

  40. Nellie says:

    I am LDS and really have no desire to watch this play. I have heard mixed reviews of it both from non-members and members alike. If it’s vulgar like you say, I have no interest in seeing it. Pretty sad that it has won some awards too. The Book of Mormon has changed lives as it has mine! Thank you for your write up on the play.

  41. Art says:

    From an atheists’ perspective, I found the musical mildly funny at best. I summarize it as unintelligent attempts that come across as sophomoric. When writers must resort to vulgarities, use of foul language as their primary tool to extract laughter, then they’re not trying very hard or being very creative as writers. It bothered me as much as people who are only insightful enough to state the obvious.

  42. David says:

    Thanks for your review. After watching the show, I was curious about what someone Mormon would think of the production, and I think your article was very balanced and fair. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Ashley says:

    I’m also glad to read your review. I’m also a mormon and I’ve had an open-minded view of the musical, but have heard a lot of push-back by members and have wondered if I need to be more concerned about what it teaches about our church. I hope it peaks a few people’s curiosity about our religion and that they can find the hope available in religion is much deeper than what is casually taught. Thanks for offering our perspective in a positive, kind way!

  44. Kevin says:

    I attended the Boston show also. I knew it from the writers of South Park and it showed in the play. I thought it was a cute show but not worth the money at all. Definitely not worthy of the reviews it has received. . The actors did a nice job for what they had to work with. At the end of it all I would have to chalk this up as a hokie money maker. Sorry “Book of Mormon” thumbs down.

  45. Reacher Melendez says:

    longtime follower of this post for some reason (it wont leave my inbox alone! lol)…however i must say i’ve become highly disappointed with the original poster. when i first read it it seemed like an open minded view of a fantastic work of art, the play. But the more i read in the responses and re reading the post, the more it makes me a little bummed i still follow it.
    I am a christian in my own sense of the word, knowing pretty much that whatever sect i belong to is probably pretty ridiculous in it’s comforting beliefs. grew up catholic and lutheran, then methodist after moving to ohio, but always a jesus fan, and my best friends (twins) growing up were mormons.
    out of you lot (mormons), i expect MORE, which is unfair, because in southern ohio, racist county, usa, growing up a puerto rican most of my religious right friends were awful when it came to religion. Point of this rant, is mormons are supposed to be the nicest bunch right? morally good? well, wheres the TOLERANCE AND ACCEPTANCE? I can’t get down with all these rules and punishments mormons have.its bad enough the beliefs are out there and united states centric and not humankind centric, but dammit, wheres allowance for others to be OTHERS in this world?
    and thats the message, one of the many great ones, of the play.

  46. I am a Catholic, with several very close Mormon friends. I wonder if the folks who put together this vulgar little ditty would dare to do one on the Quran?

    • Adam says:

      They were pulled off the air for showing muhammed on south park. It was eventually aired. They have no fear of tackling any religious sect.

  47. Patricia Davis says:

    I have seen this play and plan on seeing it a couple more times. The way I rationalized the vulgarity is the culture of the Third World countries. The Uganda people had no hope felt God left them. They had AIDS, poverty, dealing with their wonen being given to a drug warlord. They Africa nations feel to F the baby is a way to cure AIDS!!!! They feel America is hiding back the cure of AIDS from blacks. These writers did a lot of research to understand the background of MORMONISM. I will say the way the Church picks your mission is not accurate. But for the sake of the play it gave a little more substance. The Mormon Church even takes adds out in the program. I am not Mormon though my hometown mostly is. The songs are in line with their beliefs. I do not take to the swearing but it is part of the culture element

  48. m.coulter says:

    I LOVED the show. Language and all.Excellent from beginning to end. I saw no harm in it.I get very irked by visits from annoying Mormons trying to push their so called religion onto me.

  49. Poogiebear says:

    I’m not a Mormon, I’ve never watched South Park; merely a guest at the production of the show in Tampa last evening. The message to me was a parody on organized religion, totalitarianism & social rejects. The show was just what it was: Vulgar, sad, humorous and entertaining . Great cast & crew. I walked away with the message As long as you can lead – they will follow. Hysterical comments – this parody could have been on any religious sect.

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