'Book of Mormon' musical: Humorous hazing or modern minstrel show? National faith leaders consider impact

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  • Rock Calgary, Alberta
    June 20, 2011 2:19 a.m.

    Heartwarming?...Did you say Heartwarming?
    How can a production of any kind that uses such filthy language that it has to be deleted from ones playlist, or ridicules and debases anyting, much less religion in the name of entertainment be called heartwarming.

  • panamadesnews Lindon, UT
    June 18, 2011 5:17 p.m.

    To harrylaven: Prejudice has nothing to do with pre-judging or post-judging. It has to do with judging without all of the facts - thus in a person's judging, without all of the facts, he or she is actually not being truthful, even if in one's own mind one thinks or feels he or she is being truthful. I cite in point some born again Christians who hear half truths from some church leaders and make statements based upon those half truths they have heard, without themselves researching those statements. That is prejudice.

  • Bountiful Boy ALEXANDRIA, VA
    June 17, 2011 4:43 p.m.

    I've downloaded and listened to every song in the musical - at least five times now - and I'm not convinced that this show is mocking Mormons, Mormonism, or the Book of Mormon. In fact, I think the show's writers, directors, and producers LOVE Mormons. If all they were doing was mocking Mormonism, the show would be a huge flop. And we all know, it is anything but. Having grown up in Utah, I understand that in general, Mormons feel that unless you're praising their faith, you're bashing it. This is not necessarily so. And in this case, for most "Book of Mormon" theatre goers, the show is heartwarming.

  • Theeng2 Holladay, UT
    June 17, 2011 11:43 a.m.

    If the play starts to tour around the country it will be interesting to see if it will do as well as it's done on Broadway. Certain plays like "Wicked" can do well almost anywhere, but I'm sure there are a lot of places that the BOM play would BOMB.

  • San Diego Chargers Fan San Diego, CA
    June 17, 2011 11:40 a.m.

    To answer the question in the title: Modern Minstrel Show.

    I downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes, thinking it would be fun to listen to with my children, who are interested in Broadway musicals. Unfortunately, I quickly deleted most of the songs because of the profanity-laden lyrics and offensive disrespect of God, Jesus and Joseph Smith, including very vulgar sexual references about each of them. Not funny, and definitely not for children.

  • Jonathan Eddy Payson, UT
    June 17, 2011 11:31 a.m.

    @ Enola

    Can we attribute the same "artistic value" to lighthearted, comical musicals with subject matter that includes the Holocaust, the events of 9-11, immigrants dying in the desert attempting to escape poverty and political unrest, those that live alternative lifestyles with incurable diseases? I suppose it's all in good fun.

  • harrylevan Salt Lake City, UT
    June 17, 2011 11:20 a.m.

    There are roughly two views here. The first, and minority view, is the Rabbi's, who optimistically and in good humor believes that it is important to laugh at oneself and he extends this to religious communities. The second and most popular on this comment board is that the musical mocks the LDS faith and that this is bigotry. Both are wrong.

    Rabbi Hirschfield is mistaken: the musical mocks religion - it does not make it look attractive. While BOM musical is specifically about Mormons, the point could equally apply to any religion. Everyone else (just about) is wrong to think that the attacks conatined in the musical are bigoted. Race and ethnicity are qualitatively different than religion. It is not bigoted to mock a belief, especially if it it ridiculous, as the beliefs of Mormons (and Christians in general certainly are. You can't read something into a person based on their skin color, country or origin, sex, or sexual orientation. You can about someone who subscribes to dogma. Nothing prejudiced about that. Prejudice means prejudging. Pointing out and acting on your disagreement with someone is not prejudging, it's post-judging. This is not a difficult point to understand.

    June 17, 2011 11:03 a.m.

    I listened to the entire soundtrack the other day, from which the gist of the storyline may be gleaned. I must admit that it was profane and shocking. But it was the innocence of the Mormon missionaries set against the harsh realities of life that, even in a somewhat humorous context, left me thinking and gave artistic value to the musical. I don't think it can fairly be criticized as an attack on Mormons, even though it does make fun of some of the more unusual beliefs tied to Mormonism. I didn't come away thinking less of Mormons, I came away thinking that we are all a bit naive or intentionally blind to the real problems of the world. I think that was the most profound message of the play.

  • yarrlydarb Ogden, UT
    June 17, 2011 10:42 a.m.

    To sanpaco:

    So what are you paying attention for?

  • sanpaco Sandy, UT
    June 17, 2011 10:23 a.m.

    Do we need another article written by Mormons about this topic? This whole thing has gotten more coverage from Mormon journalists than by anyone else as far as I've seen. And no doubt, this article will now be syndicated in all the other Mormon news emails I get for the next week and a half. Can we please forget about this junk and move on with life?

  • Serenity Manti, UT
    June 17, 2011 8:54 a.m.

    It is such a shame that in much of today's society, the crude, the vulgar and the irreverent rule. People are indoctrinated by movies, television and other media sources, such as music, that crudeness, violence, and vulgarity are part of being sophisticated.

    There are people who never mature enough to realize that such things are offensive to their own souls, and eventually will kill any speck of spirituality they possess. They wallow in the mud of filth they have created, consistently telling each other that they have reached a level of maturity in which this is acceptable.

    The BOM musical is only one of many offensive dramaturgies. Even our Savior, Jesus Christ has been mocked and derided on modern theater.
    The world is the kingdom of the prince of darkness, and those who let him rule, belong to him. But as for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord and stay true only to Him. He is in charge, but people make their own choices.

  • yarrlydarb Ogden, UT
    June 17, 2011 8:30 a.m.

    To DN Subscriber | 7:35 p.m. June 16, 2011

    Certainly there are liberals who "... love to criticize, condemn, denigrate, or deny religious faith in general."

    But liberals do indeed exist in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they certainly do not have a monopoly on criticizing, condemning, denigrating, or denying religious faith in general.

    In fact, from my perspective, the conservatives have excelled in criticizing, condemning, denigrating, and denying religious faith in general by taking the hard line they have against their brothers and sisters primarily from south of our borders, whether such brothers and sisters are fellow members of the same church or not.

    It will be interesting to see how many ultra conservative LDS will heed and support the First Presidency's recent stated position on the immigration issue in this country.

    As a devout member of the LDS Church, I submit that the serious immigration issue these United States face far and away exceeds that of Broadway's Book of Mormon play fiasco, mostly in coming to realize what it actually means to be "brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ."

  • Spikey Layton, UT
    June 17, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    I have NO qualms about laughing at my faith or people laughing at it. We Mormons are quirky people, and our faith, from the outside world's point of view (and even from the inside) can seem very far fetched.

    What offends me are the cursings toward God Himself. But I don't have to answer for that one, so let 'em go for it if they want.

    My friend who is not LDS saw the musical when he was in NY, and even he---who is quite liberal---was offended. And for the same reasons I am. I still think the over-all impact is good, however, and I say, "let it go."

  • eagle651 Chino Valley, AZ
    June 17, 2011 12:37 a.m.

    We now live in a very different kind of world. Secularism and homosexuality with the all vulgar language is the new norm.

    The entertainment industry has no concern for one's religion or beliefs. It has become a godless industry.

    The authors of the Book of Mormon new exactly what they were doing mocking the LDS Church. While having fun with the book; they had total disregard for Jesus Christ, the foundation of the Church not to mention the Holy Ghost.

    Their hurtful approach has touched many members [Holy Ghost] souls.
    Matthew 12: 30-32 is very specific about this kind of blasphemy.

    I hope with all profits from the musical they might pay tithing to the Lord.

  • MiP Iowa City, IA
    June 16, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    Puny hand, meet the mighty Missouri river...

    DN Subscriber | 7:35 p.m. June 16, 2011
    Cottonwood Heights, UT
    "Many liberals love to criticize, condemn, denigrate, or deny religious faith in general...as was shown by the left's attack on Mitt Romney's faith in 2008"

    If I recall, Mike Huckabee, sworn conservative, had unpleasant things to say as well.

    Bebyebe | 9:01 p.m. June 16, 2011
    UUU, UT
    "I just want you to keep your religion to yourself. I will not ever, ever be part of your religion and I'm annoyed that you try to legislate it into my life."

    Both sides can make this argument. In the not so distant future I'm sure I;ll be forced to tolerate things I find immoral. And yes, I do mean forced.

  • Rock Calgary, Alberta
    June 16, 2011 9:36 p.m.

    Sorry folks. there can not be anything that makes one "pleased" about this production when it contains 49 Fs and 26 others and deals humorously with rape and genital mutilation and then openly brags about its obscenity and its foul-ness. What possible good can there be.
    It is really a sad commentary when such a disgusting, revolting show can be accepted by the public. (And I haven't even started on the sickening adaptation of the holy Scriptures.) You mentioned Superstar, and I say it was irreverent and disrespectful, and so is this.

    How can anyone get enjoyment from it?

  • Bebyebe UUU, UT
    June 16, 2011 9:01 p.m.

    "Many liberals love to criticize, condemn, denigrate, or deny religious faith in general."

    Not true. I just want you to keep your religion to yourself. I will not ever, ever be part of your religion and I'm annoyed that you try to legislate it into my life.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 16, 2011 7:35 p.m.

    Many liberals love to criticize, condemn, denigrate, or deny religious faith in general.

    They seem to be less open when it comes to attacking a specific faith, but as was shown by the left's attack on Mitt Romney's faith in 2008 (studiously ignoring their pal Harry Reid's nominal Mormonism).

    This despicable "musical" is just a continuation of the anti-religion crusade, and the anti-Mormon focus is because it is an easy target mischaracterized by ignorant people as "a cult" or "not Christian".

    Clearly, if they get away with this demeaning of Mormons they will move on to other faiths.

    However, it would be interesting to see what the "tolerance" and "celebrate diversity" crowd (not to mention the believers) would have been if "Muslim- The Musical" was introduced.

    Although not a Mormon myself, I think that this play is despicable, but free speech guarantees allow people to do such things, and must be protected.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 16, 2011 7:24 p.m.

    I've gotta go with the official Church statement -- the danger is not that people will laugh at the play, it's that they won't -- that they'll take it seriously.

    I can't believe there's much real danger of that, particularly given the patently racist way in which the play portrays Africans in general, and African Saints in particular. Or the play's warmed over "white man's burden" plot, in which African's are portrayed as too ignorant, violent, poor, or diseased to have any goals and aspirations beyond their next meal, victim, or AZT pill.

    On the other hand, like all cheap shots before it, this play will get people asking, "Is what they said about Mormons true?" Which is the world's best segue-way into a discussion of the truth.

    And, that can't be all bad.

  • veegee OREM, UT
    June 16, 2011 6:38 p.m.

    I am a little confused by Professor Thislethwaite's argument. Am I to understand that her attitude toward women as they have struggled for equality and to be free from ridicule as women would be: "Note to [women]: Welcome to the American mainstream. Now, in order to join this fraternity, you need to go through the hazing."


  • Kimball Bakersfield, CA
    June 16, 2011 4:20 p.m.

    I haven't seen the musical but watched the Tony Awards and was amused by what I observed. Although it is a little uncomfortable seeing your beliefs belittled on national tv, it is also flattering that people have an interest in finding entertainment in your culture. Taking other peoples sacred beliefs and turning them into entertainment and subjecting them to ridicule is not my idea of something that is appropriate but I think it is better than what our ancestors went through e.g. tar and feathers, persecution, expelled from Missouri, run out of Nauvoo, Illinois in winter, etc. What the talented writers and creators of the musical have done is create another venue where people who don't know anything about our religion will have more curiosity and interest which will create something we pray for daily---a missionary opportunity. Thankyou for this opportunity to share our faith.

    Kimball Hawkins, eighth generation Mormon and steadfast believer in the church

  • krudd Turlock, CA
    June 16, 2011 4:14 p.m.

    I love and adore musicals. I have seen a lot. But I am also LDS WITH a sense of humor, but I will never attend this one. I am very mad. I don't make fun of anyone else's faith.I am a follower of Christ and I want to get along with my fellow Christians. This musical, makes us look like a bunch of koolaid drinking robots. I was also shocked to hear Thomas S Monsons name being mocked in " I Believe"..this is a sad sad day. I am really sad that people have stooped so low.

  • Elcapitan Ivins, UT
    June 16, 2011 3:01 p.m.

    Where are the approval recommendations. Practically nil. No Wonder since the show is uninspired and full of Vegas type vendettas against the Resoted Kingdom. I wondered why Broadway went for it. Now I know from the reviews. Lucifier has his hand in it. I will guess it would rate seventy percent "ugly" and "30 percent good" in it's reflection of the real truth. This would make it very popular on Broadway. Nothing to make some peoples day like taking a swat at our Creator and making lots of money while doing it, at the same time.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    June 16, 2011 2:40 p.m.

    The article makes a good point: For too long, Broadway has pandered highly to their support base. Of course, this is good business, but the danger is that they have distorted the truth along the way.

    Case in point: "Evita". The musical sought to rewrite history by portraying the Perons as more callous than they actually were. The reason for this portrayal? The Perons were anti-semetic, and Webber and Rice were afraid that painting the Perons too positively would anger the Jewish donors who were essentially keeping Broadway alive at the time (this is by Webber & Rice's own admission). Unfortunately, many people took the 'history' contained in "Evita" as fact when it is not.

    Maybe if Mormons were more involved in the theater, writers would be kinder to us.

  • RS Holladay, UT
    June 16, 2011 2:11 p.m.

    I believe that Professor Renyolds is right. Too many of us Mormons are too eager to try and appear "cool", and like nervous puppys scamper around looking for approval from the current cultural elite. We especially have a hard time admiting that some people, like the writers of this play, really do think we are ridiculous. The play gets away with one.

  • Values Voter LONG BEACH, CA
    June 16, 2011 2:11 p.m.

    In situations like these the Church usually chooses to just ignore or downplay the vehicle, thus denying it any further publicity. It then usually dies a quick natural death. (Think here of something like "September Dawn").

    What I'm most pleased about with "Book of Mormon: The Musical" is that it's become such a phenomenon, apparently the Church CAN'T ignore it. If it was simply bad, and of no consequence, they would be taking that approach, but since it has some wit and excellence and hits more than a few satirical bulls-eyes, they don't really have that option. The Church and its faithful members would love to control, as much as possible, the Church's public image. Unfortunately for them, their control only extends so far and they should just accept that. Rail against the musical if you'd like, but it will only add fuel to a fire you want to end sooner rather than later.

    Anyway, I ordered my copy of the soundtrack on Sunday and it should arrive any day now. Looking forward to it.

  • Wayne Rout El Paso, TX
    June 16, 2011 1:49 p.m.

    I was just wondering had the subject matter been the Jews or Blacks, would the production been given so much praise? Were it about illegals would we see the humor and honor the producer? I think nearly everyone who will admit it knows that this production was designed to punish the Church for it's position on homosexual marriage. It is a warning shot. Things will get worse if the Church continues it's present moral perspective on this issue. Maybe we need to have a national holiday for Joseph Smith or Brigham Young...or at least Jimmer.

  • Johnny Triumph American Fork, UT
    June 16, 2011 1:10 p.m.

    I'll choose to refrain from seeing this, not because it's Mormon related but because the content is obviously so disgusting and immoral that even mainstream media sees it as such.

    From Sunday's DesNews, story titled 'Is the 'Book of Mormon' musical accurate satire?':

    According to the musical's complete book and lyrics, those Ugandan characters utter plenty of swear words. The production contains at least 49 instances of the "f-word," and approximately 26 additional expletives.

    It also includes sexual innuendos, references to HIV, rape, genital mutilation and homosexuality.

    Newsweek, in a cover story on Mormons last week, wrote that "...the Book of Mormon may be the most obscene show ever brought to a Broadway stage."

    The New York Times review of the play made a similar statement, calling it "more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak."

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    June 16, 2011 12:13 p.m.

    Much ado about nothing. Long after the irreverent musical closes on Broadway (who knows how many years hence after its long run?) the book will continue to live on and defy its most ardent critics. I remember the outcry over Jesus Christ Superstar, and He lives on. . . so will The Book of Mormon.

  • CSP5 Ogden, UT
    June 16, 2011 11:49 a.m.

    While I personally am choosing to ignore the musical, rather than garner any offense from it, I can't help but wonder if Rabbi Hirshfield would feel the same if, for example, a musical was produced making fun of the fact that in many apartment buildings in New York on Saturdays, the stairs are much faster, because elevators have to stop on every floor, since pushing buttons is against the Jewish faith. Having not seen the musical, I can't make a direct correlation, but I can't help but recall the times where people have been accused of being "anti-Semitic" when something derogatory has been said about the Jewish faith. If the question, "Can't you take a joke?" has to be asked, chances are the joke wasn't appropriate in the first place. This merely seems like an immature chance to bully another group under the premise of humorous entertainment.

  • Dadof5sons Montesano, WA
    June 16, 2011 11:45 a.m.

    Well I bet more people will read the Book Of Mormon out shear curiosity and find out what it real is all about.