Mormon Observations on “The Book of Mormon” the Musical

“The Book of Mormon” opened up last year on Broadway. It was made by the creators of South Park, and has brought a lot of publicity to the Church and its beliefs. To say that it has been incredibly successful is quite an understatement.

I think that there is a benefit in looking closely at the musical, particularly the songs (not unimportantly, the soundtrack is the most accessible way for people to experience the show right now). You see, the show’s portrayal of Mormonism isn’t… accurate.

Like, at all.

I would hope that most people recognize this. Still, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger of having the craziness in the show influence what people believe is true about the LDS Church.

I’d much rather own up to only the craziness I’m responsible for, thank you.

I won’t go as far as to say that the show is a bad one, though. The songs can be catchy, and the story highlights some very valid criticisms of faith and spirituality, missionary work, and, yes, even the LDS Church. I don’t hate the show, and while I won’t encourage you to see it, I won’t be picketing the ticket lines either.

I simply want to make sure that we can laugh at the (many) elements that are unrealistic, while at the same time recognizing that they are unrealistic.

And keep in mind, as the LDS Church has suggested, that

“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.”

Show Synopsis

The Book of Mormon tells the story of two LDS missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naive and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share the gospel—which only one of them really knows—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are worried about famine, poverty, and AIDS.

Responding to an Objection: ‘It’s Just Comedy!’

Some might suggest that I’m being overly sensitive about a show that’s just supposed to be funny. “Come on,” they say, “lighten up!” Or maybe, “Hey, it’s a satire. Relax!”

Regarding satire:

  • Satire “often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose (from dictionary.com, emphasis added).
  • “Although satire is usually meant to be funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humor in itself so much as an attack on something of which the author strongly disapproves, using the weapon of wit” (from Wikipedia, emphasis added).

As a satire, this show is purposefully exaggerating and attacking the weaknesses it sees in Mormonism, and doing so in order to show disapproval and disdain. A moral judgment is applied. Because of that, it becomes beneficial to investigate the show’s content regardless of whether or not it’s ‘just comedy.’

Complex Answers

This post series, perhaps more than any others, fits well with the ideas expressed in Simple Questions, Complex Answers?. There are many posts, it’s true (see the expanded table of contents). If I’d created a single blog entry per song, that entry would have been far too long to digest.

Still, this series is by no means exhaustive. If you have thoughts of your own as you read through the lyrics, feel free to add them.

****************************************************

Act I

Hello

Two by Two

You and Me (But Mostly Me)

Hasa Diga Eebowai

Turn It Off

I Am Here for You

All American Prophet

Sal Tlay Ka Siti

I Am Here for You (Reprise)

Man Up

****************************************************

Act II

Making Things Up Again

Spooky Mormon Hell Dream

I Believe

Baptize Me

I Am Africa

Orlando

Joseph Smith, American Moses

You and Me (But Mostly Me) (Reprise)

Tomorrow is a Latter Day/Hello (Reprise)

****************************************************

Find an expanded Table of Contents here.

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