Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book of Mormon: The Musical.


There was message of thinking for yourself. The “righteous and good” missionary was spoon fed everything his whole life. He was told that if God was proud of him, then he would get everything he prayed for. What a load of crap. The play did not address this directly, but it was there. Too many times, people are fed this. But, you know what? We are all given challenges. Heavenly Father loves each of us, and He gives us the challenges we need in order to be better. Sometimes that challenge is learning to think for ourselves. Elder Price was finally able to do that, but it took a crisis of faith. The musical did not end with Elder Price being the most successful missionary, but it did end with him realizing that the most important thing in life helping other people. Sometimes that help does not look like what you thought it was going to look like. Sometimes your values are challenged. Sometimes your faith is challenged. Sometimes your life is challenged. If you close your eyes to the things that are challenging you, then you miss the lesson you are supposed to learn. And sometimes the person who is going to teach you the lesson has no idea that you need to be taught. Or that he is the one who will teach it to you.

There was a message that along with hope, people need practical things that sometimes cannot be given through hope. I truly believe that hope is essential for survival, but in most circumstances hope will not help a person survive physical difficulties. The humanitarian efforts of my church are just phenomenal. We do many wonderful things around the world, but we also send missionaries around the world to preach the Gospel. They are well trained and well intentioned in preaching the Gospel, but how well do we prepare them to physically help the people they teach?  Yes, they can lift heavy things. They can mow lawns and do physical labor, but what else? How difficult is it to teach the missionaries about ways to help the physical difficulties. Health issues. (In the play it was things like dysentery, where the missionary with the imagination added a dysentery storyline to a part of the BOM and in turn told the people not to drink the water they poop in….pretty simple.) A crazy story for those of us in the know, but effective to the people who needed to hear it.) I know that it is not that simple, but I wonder how well we prepare our missionaries for the practical teachings of the area they are serving.


Now, a word about the language. I expected it to be SO MUCH WORSE. It really was not bad at all. I have heard worse at school. I have heard worse in the house in which I grew up. I’m aware of the F-you song, but that is a portrayal of reality. How many people in the world truly feel that God has abandoned them? I would be willing to bet a lot. The musical puts into actual words (in song) how people feel throughout the world. Bad things happen and people feel abandoned, and I am sure the song expresses the sentiments of many people in this world. The musical simply puts a group of those people together in one setting. They feel abandoned by God. They are afraid. They are being threatened, tortured, and killed. They have no hope, and the only thing that makes them feel better is the words in the song. But, if you pay close attention to the play, you will see that throughout the play, the Ugandas stop cursing God and begin to thank him. They begin to have hope. And yes, even Elder Price at the end says those words, but he is still emerging from his crisis of faith. He felt abandoned. He was spiritually wounded and abused physically. It is not unreasonable for him to feel that way. But, he still has some hope, and he is willing to continue to nurture that hope with the people who have taught him…with the people who he expected to teach. Everyone learning something from someone unexpected.

As for the Mormon jokes…did the musical make light of Joseph Smith,  the Book of Mormon, and many of the beliefs that I hold dear? Yes, it did. But, in a way, the knowledge that I had made the play more enjoyable. I laughed at things that others did not. It is quite clear that the creators of the musical have both a healthy respect for and understanding of Mormonism. There are clearly things that they don’t understand, and these were definitely in this musical. As a devout and believing Mormon, the fact that I do understand all of these things, made the play even more enjoyable. It did not shake my faith. It made me appreciate what I have even more. Does that make sense? It actually makes me more determined to raise my own boys with these things in mind.  Understanding all of these things made the play even more enjoyable.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that while this show makes fun of Mormonism, it is actually making fun of all religions in a way. Mormon is the easiest one to use for the purpose because it is one that few on the outside understand. It is the religion that seems “weird.” It is a religion that, for whatever reason, people are okay making fun of. Mormons just happen to be the most outgoing of all the faiths. The most willing to venture out into the world and share our “crazy” with other people.  Outsiders rarely know they who story behind the “funny” things (like special underwear, the Garden of Eden in Missouri, and the Golden Plates), but they are more than willing to make fun of it. This musical makes fun of it, and then continues on with some interesting insights into human behavior, motivation, learning.


I read this on another blog,  and I really liked it: (I can't remember the blog, sorry.)

Don’t be offended that the missionaries started a new religion. These missionaries care deeply about the people they serve. In the end, they stay behind to help the Ugandans, to support them, and give them hope. In the beginning, the Ugandans are cursing God. In the end, they are thanking Him.
Elder Price’s line: “We are still Latter-day Saints–all of us–even if we’ve changed a few things, or we break the rules, or we have complete doubt that God exists. We can still all work together and make this our paradise planet.”
What does it mean to be LDS? The final song of the show begins:
“I am a Latter-day Saint
I help all those I can
I see my friends through times of joy and sorrow”
How cool is THAT? This is totally a pro-Mo show. At the end I wanted to stand up with my friend and squeal, “We’re Mormons, too!” that’s how proud I was.
I guess what I’m saying is: It’s gotten a lot of praise and good report, and I left feeling completely uplifted.
I wish Mormons weren’t so offended by it.