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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316 Responses to The Book of Mormon Musical — A Mormon’s Review

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  2. 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 will just make People with character want to become a Mormon!

    • Ritz says:

      I totally agree that raping a baby is one of the most abhorrent crimes known to man, and I’m ALMOST positive that Matt Stone & Trey Parker do not condone it at all. Unfortunately, raping babies is an ugly truth; the virgin cleansing myth prevails in many African countries, if not in many other parts of the world as well.
      I don’t think the purpose of that scene was to make a joke about child rape, but instead to bring this topic to light in order to demonstrate just how destitute their conditions are. Stone and Parker were most likely trying to shock the audience and push boundaries with the scene, but since the musical is considered a comedy, it may have produced laughs from the audience as a side effect. On another note, many difficult topics cannot be introduced into conversation without breaking the ice, and many times comedy has been used to do that (“The Big C”, “In Bruges”, or even “M*A*S*H”).

      • La plumkett says:

        I read this from a while back. For one I’m not an idiot and quite aware of what I saw and what the play said…comparing The Big C type of humor and Mash too this ditty is quite unfortunate in itself. This writing isn’t even close to the league of these wonderful writers? It doesn’t matter what your rationale is humor should never be used for any reason when referring to such horrendous realities.. People don’t need to be introduced ? There are horrible sick writers and there are ones that are not! Simply as that!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dad was doing something he had done all his life, giving. As sick as he was, he was still pleasing others. Dad sure could play that Mandolin!

  4. 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!

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  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    • Reacher Melendez says:

      i have no problem with atheism, i think i have a problem with athiests, with you being a prime example. not liking vulgarity is one thing (hilarious to me because the play in and of itself is not that vulgar at all), but you couldnt have said it more the opposite of truth and reality. not liking it is your right and opinion, but the fact that they do not use vulgarity for cheap laughs or to ‘extract laughter’, saying maybe the most creative writers in our generations are ……ugh, nevermind. just all wrong in your statement. couldnt be more of it.

  8. 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.

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  10. 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!

  11. 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.

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  26. 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.

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  46. 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

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