It is said that Mormons are a “peculiar” people. As such, especially in the present-day world we live in, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
In bars and restaurants across Manhattan, London, Chicago and D.C., people are talking about the LDS Church. Is that a bad thing?
No, but I’m guessing when former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Ezra Taft Benson spoke about a day when films, songs, musicals and plays would be written about the Book of Mormon he didn’t have the current Broadway show “Book of Mormon” in mind.
The first thing to know about the musical is that it was written by the same guys who created South Park. Maybe that’s all you need to know. Their humor can be irreverent, crude, biting and often downright offensive. But it can be very, very funny.
As it turns out, “Book of Mormon” is also irreverent, crude, biting and (depending on your sensitivities) downright offensive. And it is very, very funny.
I bristled, I cringed, I clucked disapproval and shook my head in disbelief a few times. But most of all I laughed.
And during the performance of a piece called “I Believe” I had an epiphany. Every line of substance in the song is something I have said or heard over the pulpit – maybe not in exactly the same way it is written – but substantively, it’s true. (Warning: the full lyrics are of a graphic nature)
Here is a sample:
That the Lord God created the universe.
That he sent his only son to die for my sins.
And I believe-
That ancient Jews built boats and sailed
You cannot just believe part-way.
You have to believe in it all.
My problem was doubting
the Lord’s will.
Instead of standing tall.
I can’t allow myself to have any doubt.
That God has a plan for all of us.
That plan involves
Me getting my own planet.
And I believe
That the current President of the church,
Thomas Monson, speaks, directly to God.
I know that I must go and do-
The things my God commands.
I realize now why he sent me here!
If you ask the Lord in faith
He will always answer you just believe
In him and have no fear.
The scriptures say that if you ask in faith,
If you ask God himself you’ll know.
But you must ask him without any doubt,
And let your spirit grow!
That God lives on a planet called Kolob!
That Jesus has his own planet as well.
And I believe
That the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
If you believe,
The Lord will reveal it.
And you’ll know it’s all true-
You’ll just feel it.
Now, when this is being performed in a musical rendition meant to poke fun at how “naïve” Mormons are, it gets some big laughs – particularly the line about the Garden of Eden being in Jackson County, Missouri.
But strip away the mocking tone and in some cases adjust the language slightly, and the kid is singing Mormon doctrine.
I wouldn’t doubt that there have been some people who watched the production and then earnestly sought to know more. In fact, early on in the run of the production the LDS Church bought space in the playbill with the message, “You’ve seen the musical, now read the book,” with an offer for an actual Book of Mormon.
Given that millions more people will hear about “Book of Mormon” than ever actually see it, the publicity is probably not all bad for the LDS Church or its members. Given how over-the-top the humor is, there are bound to be questions about the LDS faith that will lead to thoughtful and serious conversations.
Look, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. After all, we are a “peculiar” people.