“The Book of Mormon” Musical is Anti-Mormon Dreck

By now you’ve all heard of the The Book of Mormon Broadway Musical, created by the makers of the vulgar comedy show South Park in collaboration with one of the people behind the obscene Puppet Broadway show Avenue Q.   It’s received glowing reviews from nearly all the elites and has been nominated for 14 Tony Awards.

It’s been described as “sweet” and it’s mockery of Mormonism dismissed as a form of affectionate teasing about the goofy beliefs that Mormons have, while still recognizing their value to society. Even some so-called “Mormons” and supposedly “Active Members” of the church have lauded it and encouraged members to see it.

I’m here to tell you that these plaudits are a load of tripe.  The Book of Mormon Broadway Musical is pure garbage.  The fact that so many people, including members of the church, have given it such glowing reviews simply manifests how desensitized these people are to vulgarity and blasphemy, and how far their hearts are from God.

When brother Michael Otterson, who is the head of the public affairs department of the LDS church, wrote about why he won’t be seeing The Book of Mormon musical for the “on Faith” blog for the Washington Post, some members of the church said that he had no business criticizing it when he hadn’t seen it.

Like brother Otterson, I would never pay money to go see the show.  I don’t want to give any support to something that even it’s most adulating reviewers say is full of unbelievably obscene language, so much so that they can’t even print it in their reviews.   However, when NPR posted the entire cast recording of the show for free listening on their website, I made the mistake of letting the criticism of brother Otterson’s not having seen the show before he criticized it get the best of me.

I tried to listen to all of the songs from beginning to end.  I made it through most of them, but there were two of them that were so unbelievably offensive that I had to stop and skip on to the next song before they completed.

It’s not just the extremely offensive language.  Even disregarding the vulgarity, the only way I can think to describe the message of the music is Anti-Christ.  There is absolutely nothing uplifting, edifying, or virtuous to be gleaned. And while some of the music is catchy and happy-sounding, it is merely a colorful envelope with which the spiritual anthrax is delivered to it’s victims, the audience.  And even the musical envelope itself is pedestrian and superficial. You’ll find more musical authenticity in the boy’s band organized by Herold Hill in The Music Man or even a profanity laced emo-punk album.

The way in which the names “Heavenly Father” and “Jesus” are used throughout the music made me cringe every time they were said.  All the expressions of faith by the characters, even the supposedly faithful ones, were hollow.  The ways in which the Mormon characters refer to their relationships to God, Jesus Christ, the Church, and each other are so inauthentic and false that the audience can’t help come away from it with a complete misunderstanding of what Latter-day Saints are like and what they really believe. This was not a good-natured, affectionate jibing.  Sarcasm is by definition belittling and unfriendly. This was a sarcastic, anti-Mormon production from start to finish, performed more artfully than your typical anti-Mormon tract, but no less maliciously.

One of the most offensive songs actually had no profanity at all.  In it the missionary and a woman they have been teaching sing about baptism using terminology meant to explicitly invoke the idiom of a first sexual encounter.

From the second song onward it is clear that Elder Cunningham Price has no interest in the glory of God, or bringing people to Christ.  In fact, the elders in the songs talk about bringing people to the church, but not about Christ or the Atonement at all. CunninghamPrice‘s primary motivation  is to leave his own mark, doing something great, and change the world– and get the credit for it.  While he does progress from wanting to do it all by himself and reap all the glory himself to the point of doing it with his companion, in the end he is willing to knowingly perpetuate false teachings in order to do it.

The missionaries in the songs progress from superficial beliefs with which the writers have conveniently endued them (as a straw-man to knock down) to a more nuanced belief. This transition culminates in the finale called “Tomorrow Is A Latter-day” which is not much more than an anti-Mormon rewrite of Annie‘s “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” with a few reprises from previous songs.  In it the missionaries, who by this point have lead the Ugandans to believe that God commanded Joseph Smith to stop raping babies and that he could instead cure his AIDS by raping frogs, declare:

“We are still Latter-day Saints, all of us, even if we changed some things, or we break the rules, or we have complete doubt that God exists, we can still work all together and make this our paradise planet.”

“Who cares what happens when we’re dead, we shouldn’t think that far ahead. The only latter-day that matters is tomorrow.”

And the song ends with Ugandans reprising the opening song now as missionaries themselves, except they are now preaching the story of their “prophet, Arnold Cunningham” instead of Joseph Smith, and the Gospel of curing AIDS by raping frogs.  So Elder Cunningham Price‘s desires to leave his mark are fulfilled in becoming himself his companion becoming a “prophet” who brings happiness to people through stories that he knows are lies.

This implied analog to Joseph Smith as a false prophet, and subtly to Jesus Christ as well, is the final message of the show.

Don’t waste your time with this dreck. Read the actual Book of Mormon instead.  It has more depth, more complexity, more honesty, and a much, much greater potential to change your life.

Latter-day Saints should distrust anyone, member or not, who praises such wicked doggerel.  And if our society rewards it with treasure and plaudits, then it just goes to show how little they have progressed since “Trapped by the Mormons” came out in 1922.

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5 Responses to “The Book of Mormon” Musical is Anti-Mormon Dreck

  1. Well said, J. Max! Perhaps the only positive to come out of the whole affair is the attention it is bringing to the Church and the Book of Mormon. Hopefully people will have a desire to read from its pages and compare the message from the musical with the message from God, bearing witness to the divinity of His son, Jesus Christ.

  2. Here is a quote from Elder Packer, printed in the August 2010 Ensign magazine, which I think applies very specifically to the musical and those in the church who promote it:

    Atheists and agnostics make nonbelief their religion and today organize in unprecedented ways to attack faith and belief. They are now organized, and they pursue political power. You will be hearing much about them and from them. Much of their attack is indirect in mocking the faithful, in mocking religion.

    You who are young will see many things that will try your courage and test your faith. All of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Let me say that again: all of the mocking does not come from outside of the Church. Be careful that you do not fall into the category of mocking.

  3. nathan000000

    Great comments (from Brother Otterson as well). I’m baffled why a Latter-day Saint would feel like he could recommend this show. If you can’t draw the line of decency to exclude this piece, then what is drawing lines for?

    Incidentally, I watched a PBS documentary recently (Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think; worth watching) where one expert says, “Islam is really the last group where it’s publically acceptable to insult and denigrate and still get away with it.” I laughed and thought, “Have you heard of the Book of Mormon Musical?” I’ve heard Catholics claim the same thing, and I’ve heard Mormons claim the same thing. In reality, I think it’s far too optimistic a view of modern society to say that there’s only one group left that people are mean to.

    Speaking of the creators of South Park, I was disturbed by an article that appeared in the BYU newspaper, the Daily Universe, about 6 years ago when I was going to school there. The author interviewed the creators of South Park and got a full page spread devoted to the story. The main point of the article is that the authors had Mormon friends growing up, and that they liked Mormons personally.

    What disturbed me so much was the fact that they interviewed the guys at all, and gave so much space to them article. It’s not just because the two guys specifically lampoon Mormons and the Prophet Joseph Smith, although that’s bad enough. It’s that the show, South Park, is FILLED with vulgar, obscene, filthy material. It has second graders making ssexual jokes about each other’s mothers. It’s has a really disgustingly low standard. I just didn’t get why they would give a full page article as a platform for the two creator’s views. But even worse, the author seemed to be saying, “Look, these guys are our friends! They say Mormons are nice!” while ignoring the fact that they undermine every standard of decency generally, and sacred doctrines of the Restoration specifically.

    It came across like we Mormons were so desperate for approval and friends that we would fawn over people who actively fought against everything we stand for, as long as they concede that “Mormons are nice people.”

  4. James

    I agree with everything that’s been said so far. I’m a bit ashamed to admit but I read an article about the two guys that made the musical, South Park and the NC-17 movie Orgazmo (also an anti-mormon film) because I was curious about a couple things:

    First, were either of the guys LDS growing up. Nathan already said the answer, no they just had friends who were and one of them had an LDS girlfriend. They also said they’ve met a lot of Mormons and they thought they were the nicest people. As if that little admission washes their hands of the damage they do to people’s opinion on Mormons or what Mormon’s really believe and the doctrines they distort.

    Second, I was curious to see what the guys were like in an interview. That was one of the foulest interviews I’ve ever read, I think every 1-2 sentences they said had the F word in it.

    Third, I was curious to see what the plot was of the musical. Basically it seemed to be a missionary was on a mission in Africa or somewhere and didn’t really believe what he was teaching and they didn’t really say much beyond that.

    The article’s conclusion was that it’s ok to poke a little fun at Mormon’s as long as you say you like them you’re exempt from whatever foul things you say about them or just how you belittle religion as a whole. I didn’t buy it. I think the whole thing mocks religion and shuts many people’s eyes to the truth who might have been receptive beforehand. I can’t imagine the media would receive this very well if you replaced the name of the musical as The Book of Mormom with The Quran and had a musical mocking Islam.

    Thanks for writing this post Jon.

  5. atheist

    Speaking as an agnostic/atheist, you have a completely wrong view of things. I respect your faith and you are entitled to believe whatever you want. First of all, Mr. Wilson, let me say that in spite of having listened to the songs, you have not watched the play. I agree that someone of your religiousness listening to these songs would find them offensive. However, you took them completely out of context. When the songs are released, the producers make sure that you cannot find out the plot of the play from the songs or else everyone would listen to the songs and not watch the play. Some may find the language offensive, I agree. But this is a giant step down from South Park. This is ” an atheist’s loveletter to religion”. The musical’s theme is not to trash mormonism. In fact it satires all religions. The main message of the play ( people on this post may not agree with this) is that the main purpose of religion is to help people.
    The song you mentioned will seem offensive out of context. However, this song actually is about how the Book of Mormon cannot relate to many issues in the modern world. raping babies to cure AIDS, and female circumsision are indeed major problems in Africa that are not addressed in the Book of Mormon. The missionary adds to the Book of Mormon ( you probably will find this very blasphemous. ) so the missionaries can relate to ” mormonism”.
    I may not believe in your faith ( I was raised Jewish). However, I am not bashing its beliefs or criticizing the Book of Mormon. In fact Parker and Stone allow you to make your own conclusions. The song ” I believe” may seem odd to outsiders but I’m sure you guys will find that everything in it is true ( mormons do believe it). You, Mr. Wilson, are completely intolerant of this play. You in fact are ” bashing it” just like you claim they are doing to Mormonism.
    I do not expect this to get past the administrator. In fact my account will probably be banned ( or maybe just ignored) This is just my protest to narrow-mindedness in a broad range of religious and political groups.
    P.S @nathan000000 this musical is nothing like South Park. It is a giant step down from all the jokes. There are no jokes about fecal matter, prostitution, or anything at all. They are all sophisticated ( most making fun of other musicals such as the Lion King) BTW if this does not get through it just proves my view of your narrowmindedness. If it does get through then I congratulate the administrator on opening up his/her mind to different issues

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