Theatre Review: “The Book of Mormon” @ Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 04/12/11

To me, I’ve always felt that the Broadway community has opened their arms to everyone. And I mean anyone and everyone. It’s a safe place. As an educator, this is one of the biggest things I stress to my students. There’s absolutely no bullying at any level in my classroom. It’s extremely important that everyone has a place in the theatre no matter what your sexuality is, your religion or your ethnic background. It’s what the theatre is all about.

Some people might ask, “Why did I go to The Book of Mormon”? – a show that I’ve already called out for its offensive nature. So hear’s the answer: I wanted to have an opinion on this show. I wanted to be able to respond when people asked what I thought. I felt it was important, since I am Mormon and a part of the theatre community.

Today’s theatre experience was unlike anything I’ve experienced. In my safe place, I was verbally assaulted, bullied, humiliated, and I felt really disappointed in the Broadway theatre community. The incredibly horrible and offensive jokes went off without a hitch. Somehow the audience thought it was okay to laugh at Mormons and the people of Uganda.

I wonder what they would have thought it if was about their religion or their ethnic background? What if the musical belittled your sexuality? Would that be okay?

Generally, the writers of “South Park” are equal-opportunity offenders, meaning they make fun of everyone and anyone. It’s their shtick; do I agree with it or watch it? No, but at least it’s equal. The Book of Mormon takes everything sacred to the Mormon community, places it out-of-context (coupled with a lot false information) and makes light of the entire thing. Then they wrapped the entire production with a bow when it trivializes and minimizes the struggles of the people of Uganda. It’s humiliating on every level.

It was really hard for me to sit through the entire production, but I did. (I was very tempted to walk out during “I Believe” in the second act.) I think, first and foremost, I was offended by the Ugandan plot line. Last week, I went and saw Ruined at Berkeley Rep – a Pulitzer Prize winning play – that focuses in on Mama Nadi, an owner of a bar and brothel, in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. It dealt with the horrible atrocities that the women go through: rape, genital mutilation, starvation, and physical and verbal abuse. It was heartbreaking to watch and I left the theatre speechless.

To go from a very moving theatrical experience to a musical that literally makes fun of everything that made that play so special was heartbreaking all over again, but for all the wrong reasons.

When is it okay to make fun of genital mutilation? Or murder? Do we, as a society, not have any common decency?

This satire, or humor, was only there to humiliate and make fun. There was no witty political banter, or special insight they wanted discuss. It was all school-yard bullying, but instead of on the school-yard, they took it to Broadway. And it’s appalling that the writers, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, thought the subject matter was even humorous. While, there was a (sorta) sweet message at the end that “tied” the musical up, it’s hard to feel that it was genuine or from a place of respect after sitting through two hours of outright bullying.

Now to get to the material that was personally offensive.

Three years ago, I moved back to my home in the Bay Area, California, after a decade long absence. While I was gone, I lived in Pennsylvania, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and Florida. I spent that time getting my degree at Brigham Young University, going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and joining the work-force after graduating. When we moved back, I was instantly welcomed into the theatre community in the Bay Area. They quickly took me into their arms and made me feel at home again.

As a Mormon, the last couple of years in California have been hard to be a part of the theatre community and be wrapped up into the Prop 8 mess. But, from the very beginning I supported my gay and lesbian friends. I didn’t post signs; I didn’t donate money and I voted no against Prop 8. I continue to support them every day. Not every Mormon in California supported Prop 8. I was even proud of the gay community when fought back with respect and honor instead of hatred and violence.

It’s simple: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Just because you don’t believe or feel a certain way, it doesn’t give you privilege to mock the sexuality, ethnic background or sacred beliefs of another and especially not on Broadway — the place of acceptance and love for all.

The Book of Mormon is now officially a way to spew disrespect and hatred that’s shrouded in campy musical theatre lyrics and songs. They took my one safe place and stomped all over it. Because it’s a Broadway house, it was okay for an audience to laugh and praise it. I was even embarrassed that someone wasn’t stopping it. If I heard this kind of disrespect in my classroom I wouldn’t let it continue and generally there would be major consequences for the student(s).

This type of behavior doesn’t do anything for the cause of religious, racial and sexuality equality. I’m continually fighting for equality for my friends and yet I sat through one of the most personally offensive things I’ve ever seen!

How did this all happen?

The scariest part of this production was the sly, crafty and very skillful way they are presenting the material. The score and book are very strong. The songs are catchy, well-written and the lyrics are very witty. The musical direction, vocal arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen Oremus (Wicked, All Shook Up and 9 to 5) are fantastic — some of the best I’ve heard in awhile. Even the performances are excellent. Andrew Rannells has an awesome voice and his depiction of Elder Price was great. Josh Gad will be getting a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Elder Cunningham. He was hilarious and the best part of this production. The inventive and creative choreography and direction by Casey Nicholaw was equally as impressive.

My biggest fear is that come Tony Award season, it wins Best Musical and then has the opportunity to continue to entertain thousand of audience members with its off-color humor and disrespectful subject matter. It’s only lending a hand at keeping tensions up between the Mormon and homosexual communities — something that doesn’t produce any positive results on either side, especially when both are in the arts and theatre community.

I felt awful after I saw The Book of Mormon today. I felt betrayed by the community I’ve come to love, support and trust. I’ve made it my life. I teach, perform, critique and basically live and breathe theatre. After today, I lost some of my faith in the community. I lost a lot of respect for the producers, performers and writers who made this possible. I lost a lot of respect for the Broadway community that is supporting it.

If you plan to see this, I want you to think about what you are applauding for when you jump to your feet at the end of the musical. What jokes are you laughing at? Does it make you a better person for joining in on the bullying? Why are you supporting this?

I would love to take back the money and time I spent at that theatre today. I wish I had seen something else, but I’m glad I have the opportunity and my own platform to take a stand. Someone has to say something; I guess it’s me.

I strive to live by a simple rule that I say over and over in my classroom: respect.

Respect yourself, respect your surroundings and respect one another. That is what we should be singing about on Broadway.

Comments: Keep them respectful. That’s all I ask. (All disrespectful comments will be deleted.)


84 thoughts on “Theatre Review: “The Book of Mormon” @ Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 04/12/11

  1. I think you are reviewing this show as a devout Mormon. The point of this show was to have a laugh and make light of the religion and serious issues in the world. It’s satire.

    You have every right to be upset about the way your religion was portrayed, however this show was not meant to convert people to Mormonism. I believe most people going to this show are either going to be athiest or those who don’t take religion seriously at all (i.e. me).

    You have great things to say about score, songs, book, acting, etc…that is how the show should be critiqued. I don’t know what you were expecting from the creators of the most offensive TV shows and movies.

    1. I think the problem with this show is how offensive it is. Just like going to a theater and watching a rated R movie, this play was not rated the sort. This show was on Broadway, the famous Broadway, known for its amazing theatrics and its amazing story lines. This storyline however was not amazing, this play was not amazing in its performance or its song or its ability to convey a message. This man reviewed it as a devout Mormon and a devout theater goer. I am reviewing it as a person in our society who loves Broadway plays and has seen many go through it.

    2. well I’m sorry but I do NOT think badly of myself for enjoying this musical. The songs ARE great the story IS funny, .The performances Were amazing……

      ..All religions have some funny qualities about them…..that cannot be denied BUT believers of whichever faith choose to accept those”unique” qualities and are faithful.
      That doesn’t mean religions can’t be “laughed” at. Broadway and entertainment industry itself depicts contemporary humor. And although I am a Catholic, the Book of Mormon actually piqued my interest and motivated me to learn and read more about Mormonism- which I found to be interesting and very respectable.

      Sorry but aside from some of the vulgarity, I did NOT think this was intentional bullying or anything that could create long lasting wounds on society.

  2. I like your posts/tweets, you seem to be a very decent man, so I’m sorry about the experience you had at this show. But I don’t feel sympathy for the Mormon Church – because they have essentially declared war on me and my family and others like us (including so many in the theater community). They entered into the public and political realm to strip away our civil rights. For that institution now to be mocked and ridiculed can’t be surprising to you. It’s a juvenile response, yes, but people have been damaged by that church’s coordinated campaigns against us.
    I’m sorry you felt so hurt and betrayed within your sacred place of a theater. But I don’t think it’s worse than what countless gay Mormons have felt in their churches, and their families. This show will come and go, but I’m afraid the Mormon church will be preaching for a very long time that people like me, and my family, are immoral and destructive to society. I agree with you about this: it’s a horrible feeling.

    1. two wrongs do not make a right!? i am in the same boat as you manmom, but am still surprised by your comments. i don’t believe that the church preaches we are destructive to society, rather fearful members of the church who don’t yet have their own personal faith to stand for what is right. i am challenged with hatred each day but choose to be the better man. obviously the Broadway critic does not feel this way and i thank him for that.

      1. Jason, i think you are absolutely right! I hope you do not feel attacked by the LDS Church because that is not their intention in the slightest. They do not believe in knocking people down or destroying a certain type of society. They believe in Christ. Does Christ (their name is after all, The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints.) differentiate between race religion or gender or appearance? Think of all the people he healed?! Now take that down a notch and think of the purpose of missionaries in the LDS Church. Their job isn’t to force their religion on someone else, their job is to help people. They are to be like Christ was, a support a help a friend to those who need them.

    2. Dear Manmom,

      Our church does not declare war on anyone. The members of the church are one thing but the church, an institution as a whole, does not declare war on any religion, race, gender or sex of people. Our church does not openly downtrodden on humans of any kind, in fact we do not do that even behind closed doors. I am afraid you are mistaken in the placement of your hatred toward the LDS church. Please i would love to talk to you more about this, i do not believe that this hatred is needed in our world or our country.

  3. Bravo! I am so proud of the way you are standing up for what you believe in. As one of your lesbian friends and a theatre educator, I hate to see the stage used to attack a group of people whether it be due to race, sexuality, or religion. My rule in my classroom is also RESPECT. To have something like this on Broadway just adds to our society’s growing trend of destroying people’s individual values and inducing mass hysteria.
    I try so hard to get my students to understand that you have to embrace all people despite your differences and all a show like this does is say that respect for each other is not something to reach for, that words don’t hurt and actions don’t matter. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and Trey Parker et al need to take responsibility for what they’ve produced and apologize to those they have offended for a very long time.

  4. It’s how it goes, right? You are expected to be open minded and supportive of people and how they choose to live their lives…except when it comes to being Mormon. You are on point Spencer. It is bullying. It isn’t appropriate. I don’t care who the target is: jews, muslims, gays, lesbians, mormons, athiests, etc. You can’t cloak a message of hatred behind a few songs and then claim satire to appease anyone who might be offended. If the play was making fun of homosexuals then the theatre community would be up in arms. And that, my friend, is good ol’ hypocrisy.

  5. So what did they get wrong, or get out of context, about being Mormon? I haven’t seen the show yet, and I’m not Mormon. You gave specific examples on what you found offensive in the Uganda plotlines (jokes about genital mutilation, etc.), but no examples what they “places it out-of-context (coupled with a lot false information)” about the Mormon community.

    I am sure there are a lot of us non-Mormon people who will be going to see the show; it would be helpful to have examples of what they got wrong, besides just it was offensive.

    1. I didn’t go into details, because it was quite a long post, but their main plot points are entirely false:

      You don’t receive your mission call in the Missionary Training Center.

      You don’t go on a mission with the same companion for two years.

      You can’t transfer “missions” – meaning, he can’t be transferred to Orlando.

      You don’t pick your mission, nor are you told that if you do “what’s right” God will give you the mission of your choice.

      Mormons do not have “scary hell dreams”.

      The missionaries’ area or zone, wouldn’t be closed in Uganda and then sent home – they might close an area, but you would still finish your two years on your mission.

      While you pay for your mission (there’s a set fee each month), the church ultimately takes care of all of your needs while you are your mission, so staying in Uganda without the aide of the church, wouldn’t/couldn’t happen.

      And those are just the main PLOT points.

      Then there are all the flippant remarks that they made about the church’s doctrine, or the culture of the church. In every respect, the way they went about it was making light, pointing fingers, and basically taking everything out of context to make us look like fools.

      It’s all unfortunate that people (meaning the Broadway audience) who maybe don’t know a lot about Mormons and their faith, are now learning complete falsehoods through a Broadway show.

      Do your research. Fire the dramaturg.

    2. Well if you want to see both sides of the equation… then just call up the local missionaries… and remember they are only boys… 19-25. They know a lot but they aren’t perfect, because no one is. is a great place to start

  6. We all have our own personal opinions – it’s what makes the world go ’round or what makes it stop abruptly. The issue with such debates/discussions are that those willing to leave a comment obviously have heart-felt feelings and deep rooted views that guide their inner compass.

    It doesn’t seem like the article focuses on how devout the author might be, but that it hit an inner core of belief that was done so with the full intent to “shock” the audience. True satire does not need the shock value to compel an audience to continue to watch.

    I have always enjoyed the theatre because it has provided audiences the tools and platforms to face difficult social issues. Hollywood, on the other hand, relies on this shock value to keep its audience glued to the so called drama. It is shallow and unmoving. The theatre provided an option of depth and color in a world flat with over stimulated social media mumbo jumbo. I’m not saying that everything on Broadway is quality – but it’s real.

    I am ashamed that Broadway has let such garbage penetrate its halls under the cheap guise of satire. With the right talent and production even the lowest common denominator can look and sound amusing and witty. At the end of the day though garbage will always be thrown in the trash.

  7. I am not Mormon so I can’t say that I know how this feels. But I do think that you raise a good point in comparing it to South Park. South Park does equally make fun of everyone (including Jewish people like me). From what you’ve said, I agree that to single your people out like that was uncalled for and disrespectful. However I do think that they should be allowed their artistic freedom. I’m not saying that you were wrong to be offended, nor am I approving of what they did (like you, i feel i shouldn’t judge a show I’ve never seen). However I think that allowing offensive material to be created in the Broadway community is not a betrayal. In a way, it is like the opposite; it’s showing that that artistic freedom still exists in the theatre world, despite the fact that it is not done tastefully. That is how I choose to think about this. and again, I am not saying you shouldn’t be offended; I am specifically referring to the feeling of betrayal that you felt. And anyway, you shouldn’t let one bad, offensive show make you feel betrayed by the whole community. The Broadway community loves and appreciates you Spencer! 🙂

    1. It’s true that there that people should be allowed their artistic freedom. I would never want to take that away from anyone.

      Good view point. It made me think about it, which is what I hope this post is doing — creating a dialogue about the show, so that people can talk about what they’ve seen.

      I just think “in context” with my life experience, it was very hard to sit through the show and not feel betrayal. I know that it seems weird to have those feelings over one simple show, but it was a visceral reaction. I’ve never really felt like that before and I hated it.

      But I’ll be back to Broadway soon enough! 😉 I would never stay away for too long, but I do need a little of a break.

  8. Bway Critic, I found your critique to be very interesting. I have a completely different view but I very much respect your opinion and can see validation in a lot of your points. However, I can’t let you use the phrase “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and use words like respect or talk about what people “should be singing on broadway”. Even though you support your gay friends and gays and lesbians (thats truly great), the Mormon church, YOUR church, the church YOU support does not and tries daily to take gays and lesbians rights away. Just because you and some Mormons you know support gays doesn’t mean that your church is absolved of its wrong doing. By continuing your support of your church, you are HARMING your gay and lesbian friends and your beloved theater community. You are doing a great diservice to them

    1. Why is it okay to publicly attack the Mormon church and not the homosexual community, ethnic group or any other religious group?

      Hate is hate.

      My point is to respect each other and then maybe something good will happen because spewing hate on other side is just harming everyone.

      1. Well, to borrow a line from “Chicago”, they had it coming. I agree it would be lovely if there was no hate spewing at all. But I cannot feel sorry for the Mormon Church and its leaders and legion of supporters — the Mormon Church is a big bully that has been pummeling someone and finally gets punched back, then goes crying about being treated unfairly. Worse, they cloak themselves in religiosity as though that should render them immune from rational critiques or counter-attacks.
        Again, I’m sorry that you and other caring Mormons feel hurt by this. But in the scheme of things, this one show isn’t going to damage the Mormon church, which remains dedicated to keeping lgbt Americans and our families a very distant second class.

      2. Did you walk away from the show feeling the message was one of hate? At the end, everyone is a Mormon (or an Arnoldian)! And the message? It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as it gives you hope and helps you life a good/better life.

        Are you saying that people who see this show will not be sophisticated enough to get that, but will only see the hatred toward Mormons? That seems awfully naive.

    2. James that is an interesting point you make. That church does not take away rights, they are trying to keep things the way they are. All churches believe (taking away all politics) that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Please inform me on how that church is trying to take away the rights of Gays. They do not ban gays from existing. they do not punish gays by throwing them in jail or physically abusing them. They do not tell gays what to do and when. THEY EVEN ACCEPT GAYS INTO THE CHURCH! A good measure as to what this church does is if you study the teachings of Christ, this church tries to emulate them in today society. Now being gay was not as big of a deal back then as it is today but they are trying to figure out how He would had dealt with it and are doing so in a sensitive manner. I just dont see how by supporting their church (the LDS) church you are supporting or harming gays. Do you know the definition of Harm? And i cant believe that you honestly think they are taking away rights. The right was never given for gays to be married. IT WAS JUST BARELY INVENTED! How can you demand that a church is taking away something that was just barely invented or was being VOTED UPON. The state asked for a vote… and the people voted. The church happened to be a big component of that vote but the quote unquote “African population” was had more no votes than the LDS community.

      1. Forgive me for my simplistic comparision, but as I read this post – I just imagine for a minute that if you replace the word gay with the word black, or women it sounds just like a speech that might have been made 65 to 300 years ago. And such a speech would be seen as wrong today and we would pat ourselves on the back for how far we have come in human rights. Have we really come that far, when we keep having this same conversation, just changing the name of the players?

      2. Wow, race baiting and justifying inequality in one comment? And saying that treating a minority unfairly is okay because a popular vote said so? Are you familiar with the term, “tyranny of the majority?” During the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s, a lot of the reforms that came about would have been killed in a popular vote. The majority does not usually act in the best interest of the minority. Why do they need to? When you come from a point of privilege, you don’t see the problems. Popular votes did not make interracial marriage legal in all states, the Supreme Court did. We have parts of government, like the court, whose job it is to hold our laws to the moral character embodied in our Constitution. Without this check to our system we would not have made a lot of strides for equality.

        And I don’t think Christ would have spent millions to prevent gay people from getting married as the Church did. Millions. I think Christ would have used that money to help the needy, instead of using it to get in the way of other people’s loving relationships with their partner.

  9. manmom, I could not have said it better myself. No one spews more hate out than Mormons and now that they are being made fun of for being CRAZY they go cry to anyone who will listen. Shut it Mormons, and sing the catchy tunes in the show.

    1. James you have obviously never been to a Mormon Church. Although I have been to many other churches who make it their place to bash every other religion they can, one of the Church’s main standards is that we do not spew hate about anyone.
      I have read many articles about this subject and I have yet to read what I consider a hateful or insulting article by the church about anyone although I constantly read about how homophobic I am or how disrespectful I am.
      Its funny that voting is now considered violent and that insulting and berating someone for a vote they may have cast is considered a fair result.

    2. Haha “wow unto the hippocrates for they shall be cast down into hell”

      Hate is a powerful thing James. Something that should be used wisely. But think, did Christ Hate? Did Gandhi Hate? Did Mohammad Hate? did any of the world leaders Hate anyone? Did Christ hate the people who put him on the cross and left him there to blead and die hanging only by 2 nails in his ankles? Nope.
      He didnt, he asked the Lord to forgive them. You might want to watch your “well placed hate” And maybe try to be a little more informed next time you post about something show some credentials so people can take your comment for worth.

  10. Hate is really a strong word and I think ill advised here. Making light of the Mormon’s belief is not hateful and the musical’s overall message is clearly that Mormons are good people that want to help, want a peaceful loving world, and are believers or at least followers are a very funny and unbelievable fable.

    1. I agree with you, the show does show lots of good things about the Mormons but you have to remember, every good critique has to take into consideration the authors deliberate wants and desires on the meaning and overall message of the play. After reading, interviewing and watching many different things i believe that their “over all message was not that Mormon are good people and want to help. But i do believe that the show is hilarious. But that does not make it right.

  11. I have really been struggling with the choice of seeing or not seeing this show. I am a fan of South Park but one of the reasons I am a fan is that they take no prisoners. Everyone gets to take a shot once in a while. I was very uneasy about a musical taking a shot at 1 religion.

    I am not Mormon (or any other religion). I try to be respectful of people’s beliefs. Yes, I was mad at the whole Prop 8 fiasco but I am not sure the answer is spreading hate or misinformation (I haven’t seen this show so I don’t know that it does this. Which is why I am out on the web reading opinions).

    I know that like an above comment said this one musical is not indicative of everything Broadway offers but I will be interested to see the conversation it creates. Thank you for your post. I shall now go look for others. One of these days I will make up my mind. Right now I am leaning towards no.

  12. Manmom and James, can you honestly say that the actual Mormon CHURCH (excluding individuals who have acted for themselves) has attacked the gay community? Can you honestly call their behavior, beliefs, and decision to stand for their beliefs bullying? If you take the time to read ANY statements from the actual Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they have been nothing but clear on their religious and political beliefs. No attacks made whatsoever. No name calling, no ridiculing, no degradation. Whether or not we agree politically or religiously is one thing, but what if someone made a broadway play RIGHT NOW making fun of homosexuality? IT WOULD NOT BE OKAY. So why then is everyone acting like this is okay and even justified?

    1. Holly, the statement says the church is fine with homosexuals as long as they don’t have pre-marital sex. And since they also say they do not accept same sex marriage, there open and liberal stance is that it is okay to be homosexual as long as you never act upon it or mention it to anyone.
      WOW, they really accept homesexuals, don’t they!!!

      1. They accept and tolerate them, that does not mean they believe what they do is right.

        When you walk into a stall or an open shower at a gym and a gay guy pulls you off to the side and starts to harass you do you just tolerate it? Or do you stop it before it gets worse and worse?

        Now i am not saying that gays do that! Not in the slightest but your comment is false as to what the standpoint of the church is. You should do some more digging and you will find some interesting new discoveries.

        Now your also misinformed there that gays are not aloud to mention it to anyone. They have the right to do say or think as they please. The Church just asks its members to refrain from practicing pre martial sex and sex between the same gender. The same way lots of church’s ask their members from refrain from killing others. The same way our government asks us to refrain from breaking the laws that are set in place.

        Hope this makes sens to you Charlie.

  13. Where can I get a ticket to “Respect yourself, respect your surroundings and respect one another,” The Musical?

    It sounds delightful!


  14. Wow. I saw this show last week and LOVED IT. Out of curiosity I went looking for reviews of the show and stumbled acrosss this site. Initially I was surprised at how “offended” some people were, but after thinking about it a bit I guess I’m not surprised at all. I came from a religious family (not Mormon). The Mormons aren’t the only ones that send missionaries to Africa, in fact a close family member of mine has spent his life working for religious based relief organization and travelling to all the world’s worst countries (including Ugada), and they do great work.

    Because I’m not tied to this (or any) particular brand of religion, but know enough to “get” the jokes that were made in the production, I thnk I was able to be the type of viewer that 95% of the rest of the viewers would be that see this show. Even though this show is “branded” after the Mormons, I came away thinking that it poked fun at religion in general, and did not make any undue accusations that could not be made about pretty much any religion. So to all the Mormons out there, don’t get too excited that this show is slamming you in particular, because a lot of people who aren’t Mormon don’t really see it that way.

    From my perspective, this show had the audience roaring from the time the curtain went up, the preformances were excellent, and we had the best time of our entire trip to New York at this show. I am recommending it to all of my friends (even the Mormon ones). I love South Park and this show was even better.

    If you can’t laugh at yourself, you must not own a mirror. Oh, and you should remove the stick that’s up your …

      1. for those of you who believe the hype, here’s a small fraction of the truth:

        ugandans are a spritual, God-loving people, raised in a very respectful culture. never would we say things like “hasadiga…” (whatever that means) to God.
        whoever is responsible should have atleast done some research to learn how to say a simple phrase in a local language. i’m not a critic but i know that believability is a mark of good art and they failed to do that.

        Also, Ugandans r not as ignorant as this musical(as well as popular media) portrays us to be. we value education and enlightenment even to the point that elementary education is free for all. i personally can attest to the fact that my brother, sister and myself all have graduate level education. this is not out of the ordinary for many ugandan families.

        we love our children and protect them as much as the next person. in fact, our communal/extended family childrearing practices hardly permit such abuse to happen since there’s a high volume of people coming and going…we do not condone child molestation.

        therefore, they need to stop with the “flies in the eyeballs” and tell the whole truth. by misrepresenting, they are promoting the very ignorance they are portraying.

        so if you think its funny when the (mean)joke is on someone else, go ahead and laugh but please inform yourself about the facts and spare us the negative stereotypes. you’re getting wikipedia not the encyclopedia(and paying big bucks for it).

  15. Holly, that link you shared in regards to the Mormon church’s stance on homosexuality made it so clear that the church does not hate any group of people. Furthest thing from the truth.

    Tim, that’s fine and dandy if this musical makes fun of religion in general, but it’s titled “The Book of Mormon”! With Mormon missionaries as the main characters! I’d say there’s a narrowing focus on one religion.

    I have not seen this play and I probably won’t. And I don’t really need to in order to have an opinion about it. I think I’ve read enough.

    1. Liz,
      Anybody that forms their opinion without first hand knowledge is forming an opinion based on other people’s opinion. You can make up your mind without facts, it seems to be the choose of many people who don’t need information to decide.
      I did see the show and can say that it does make fun of the fables in the book of Mormon. What is wrong with that? It’s based on a con man claiming to find tablets buried in upstate NY by Jesus, who placed them there after he was crucified. What’s wrong with making fun of a story that includes how God got angry with one tribe of Hebrews and turned the people black as punishment or that the church modified their belief in the ’70’s and said being black was okay. If you can’t hold up a book of “facts” and ridicule how silly it is, then you live in a police state.
      On the other hand, the Mormon’s themselves were portrayed as caring people who are driven to try to selflessly help others. Yes, they are naive to think natives in Uganda are only in need of their book, or to think that repressing their own feelings is healthy, but at the same time there is an admiration of their dedication to their beliefs however misguided they may be.
      Liz, the musical has a main focus – it is entertaining the audience with funny situation and a sweet undertone of the wanting to help out less fortunate people. But I’d advise you to avoid it because you already made up your mind about it.

  16. As a non-believer who has both read The Book of Mormon and seen the musical, my reaction to Parker, Stone, and Lopez’ work was markedly different. If anything, the show left me with a more positive view of the LDS. Yes, the show lampooned LDS mythology–and by extension most religions’ mythologies–but is that a surprise? Only the Scientologists can compete when it comes to implausible origin stories. But the message that I took away–as did many other audience members I spoke with–was that whatever the mythology, there is a pure and intrinsic value to the core faith and the committment to sharing the love of God and caring for one another.
    You might find this review, by another LDS member, of interest as a counterpoint:

  17. Charlie, I’m afraid you missed my entire point.

    The LDS church may have views you or others disagree with but they didn’t create an entire Broadway musical singling out a group to make fun of their beliefs.

    That is all I’m trying to say. Stand for what you believe but don’t take others down to do so.

    1. Holly,
      You missed my point. How can you make a statement about the entire musical singling out a group to make fun of their beliefs without seeing it???? Read the reviews of any of the top newspapers. For example, from the NY Post,
      “Despite its title, “The Book of Mormon” is less about religion than credulity and the need to believe, as well as the singular American gift for dreaming up great stories and enduring symbols — and then selling them to everybody on the planet. ”

      The views of any organization are subject to ridicule, especially when they are based on a silly fairy take, but this musical does not attack the followers as much as admires their dedication and the devotion to helping others.

      1. once again charlie, you have to look back at the intention of the creators. This play was developed to criticize this one group of individuals. One of the creators was in fact a Mormon who left because he was angry for one reason or another and now has a vendetta against the church. He did what any other person in his place would do. Does that make in morally right? Is it morally right to destroy others faith because you yourself have lost your own faith?

      2. Erik, what creator is a former Mormon? Not Stone, Parker, Lopez, or Nicholaw. Again as other people have said, many people are making very strong statements about this show without having seen it, or in your case, without knowing any facts.

  18. I do not know what theater people have been going to, but I see a lot of plays and musicals and all of them (that are worth their price of admission) have something to say about something (some more profound or controversial or thoughtful or sad or hopeful or whatever than others). That is what draws ME to the theater. Whenever you have something to say, you will have someone who potential disagrees with it. One could go see “Hairspray” and say “I can’t believe the flippant manner in which that show deals with de-segregation. How offensive!” Or see “The Scottsboro Boys” and say “How dare they belittle such an important incident in American history by putting it in that form!”

    Theater is offensive because it is art. I respect your opinion greatly and think it is as valid as the next persons. I can understand you being offended by Book of Mormon (I personally loved it, the message it sent and virtually everything about it. As an agnostic, I didn’t care one bit about the Mormon bashing it was potentially doing anymore or less than had it been Judism, Islam, or whatever). But I will say this, I think it is very telling that you can say you have always found the theater to be a “safe, unoffensive” place for you. I have seen plays about race, sexuality, religion, Africa(ns), and on and on, that have challenged me, entertained me, offended me, and ultimately only made me more appreciative of the medium.

  19. This is the same church that just suspended its star basketball player for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. This does not mean it is hostile to hetereosexuals. What it does mean will remain elusive to most people, who only want their own views imposed on everyone, by any means necessary.

  20. You, original poster, went on a Mormon mission to convince others that their beliefs were wrong. 55,000 some-odd Mormons at this very minute are doing the same thing. The founding moment of the Mormon church (the first vision) has God saying to Joseph Smith “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight;”
    You spent two years trying to convince people that their religion was an abomination in God’s sight. How sad for you that you spent years dishing it out but can’t take it.

    The Mormons were behind the hateful lies (gays are coming for your kids) in the CA prop 8 campaign, as we found out in the judicial proceedings; that Mormons are clever in hiding their hate doesn’t make it any more hateful.

    So, because you specifically and Mormons generally live out there in the public square (missionary work, politics) you have to give others the same rights to speak out that you grant yourself.

  21. i really dislike the argument that mormons ‘had it coming.’ so hold on, mormons did something bad, so the other group (who, anyway? actors? homosexuals? the world at large? who are these folks purporting to speak for?) does something bad back. well guess what, you just justified the original bad thing the mormons did because now YOU deserve it.

    i have not seen the show, but by and large i agree with the OP in that i am a huge fan of respect (and i find it reprehensible that some justify their acceptance of this musical in that they would accept of the mockery of any religion – if this is your position, do you grant the same freedom to others who may wish to mock homosexuality? or does such latitude only apply to people who share your beliefs?).

    for example most of the homosexuals i know reacted to the prop 8 fiasco (and many mormons agree that it was a fiasco, and writing their opinions off as irrelevant might be comforting to the ego but is nevertheless an irresponsible generalization) with grace, and responded with compassion. they didn’t back down, they stood by their views, but they did so in a measured and considerate way that went much further to soften the religious homophobes and promote real understanding than any of the church vandalisms, internet rants, etc that also occurred.

    the hurt many in the GLBT community feel as a result of prop 8 is real and justified. but as the OP said, hate is hate. it is always wrong. and besides being wrong, it is not helpful. an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

  22. ps charlie z, get your facts right. your summation of mormon beliefs is not only too small, what you DO write is not even accurate. if you’re so excited to ridicule something, at least make sure you’re pointing the finger at a target that actually exists.

    1. Nobodyputsbabyinthecorner – The point I keep coming back to is that your critic is based on second hand information and not from actually seeing the show. I personally believe the stories in the book of Mormon are just as accurate in the two books that proceeded them. Scientology, Islam, and basically all the other religions based on fables from the past seem to have one thing in common, one extraordinary man who God spoke to when he was by himself. The one consistent theme seems to be that God is shy.
      The musical in question does not present itself as factual, it’s a musical comedy that has a main purpose, to evoke laughter. While the Mormon’s are a centerpiece of the plot, the elders are not treated with disrespect , it’s the stories from their book that are looked at with humor.

    2. I do not have first hand knowledge on the stories, so feel free to enlighten me. Tell me about the messenger of the Mormon message, Joseph Smith. Tell me about the origin of the religion.
      As an equal opportunity cynic, I find the stories in the first two books of the Bible (new and old) are equally hard to swallow.

  23. All good comments – the obvious missing point is timing – the run for President in 2012; Mitt Romney as a political target. Broadway is essentially ultra-liberal. Romney’s religion was polarizing even among conservatives the last go around and he is the front-runner (absent Trump) this time for Republicans. What better way to neutralize him than to disrespect / ridicule his religion as something non-mainstream? It is no different than publicly outing a gay person who would prefer to keep his or her lifestyle private. Just a thought.

    1. Shouldn’t we be judging our potential candidates by their intelligence and gullibility? The Mormon religion was not being disrespected for being “non-mainstream”. It was being questioned for it’s interesting slant on history. The Garden of Eden in Missourii? Jesus visited the US? The book of Mormon was buried in the backyard in upstate NY? HELLO????
      And let’s not lose track of this thread about the musical. While the authors love to tease about some very strange stories from Joseph Smith – a convicted con man I might add, they also show the Mormon’s heart and drive are both to the betterment of mankind.

    1. That’s not fair. Just because their faith is in stories you find dumb doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same about the stories in your faith. Or if you are not religious, even more reason to feel you are missing something.
      Speaking of science, there are some studies that the brain is hardwired to accept religion to help answer questions that can’t be answered. People are generally sheep, looking to follow and afraid of deviating from the ideas of the flock. Many individuals I believe are much more intelligent than I am are religious. Don’t confuse their ability to problem solve and use information with their need to believe.

  24. I am an inactive LDS member. I haven’t seen the show, but I’ve listened to the cast recording.

    I’ve been a huge fan of South Park, and I think this musical has the same style as the TV show. However, I was not offended by this the songs in the same degree as you did. I don’t feel bullied in any way. “I Believe” and “Man Up” were two of my favorite numbers from the cast recording. Well, since I haven’t seen the show, all of my thoughts will be based simply from that listen. There are a few things in your review that I disagree with.

    In South Park, when Parker and Stone make fun of a group of people, they usually portray them as stupid. They make it seem as if those people act only under the guidelines of their stereotype. And that’s what they did here.

    Furthermore, from the perspective of an outsider, our beliefs do seem outlandish. The song “I Believe” makes this point very clearly. While the song says that Mormons simply “just believe” pretty much what they are told, I don’t think that’s the main goal of the song. I think the song is saying that one shouldn’t “just believe,” and one must actually think before believing. I don’t disagree with that message at all.

    As for the following set of rhetorical questions:
    “When is it okay to make fun of genital mutilation? Or murder? Do we, as a society, not have any common decency?”

    I think you were implying that there are certain things that people shouldn’t be able to make fun of. If this is what you’re trying to imply, then I must disagree. If there were things that we (as a society) can’t make fun of, who gets to decide those things. If that’s not what you were saying, I would like some clarification.

    I have a few more disagreements, but all in all, I don’t think the mocking done in this show is mean-spirited at all.

      1. First of all, I didn’t say I was reviewing the show. I reviewed the material in the cast recording. I specifically refer only to songs and not other aspects of the show such as the book, costumes, sets or choreography. What exactly about my post do you have a qualm with because your response to me didn’t have a point. Are you suggesting that the opinions I formed based on what was presented to me in the cast recording are invalid because I didn’t see the show. Or are you suggesting that the themes conveyed by the cast recording become so drastically different in the context of the show? I really have no idea what you were trying to say with that retort. Because if you were trying to refute everything I said in my post with one sentence, you didn’t quite get there.

        I was trying to say that the show was doing something more than just mocking the church and Ugandans. I was saying that based on the cast recording, I felt like the show had a message. You, on the other hand, are making it seem that the show just goes “Hey look: Mormons. Let’s laugh at them. And oh, Ugandans have AIDS, poverty, pedophilia, and genocide. Let’s laugh at them, too!” You are making it seem like this show was out to get you. Get over yourself.

  25. I’m honestly puzzled by your review. I am a Mormon and I have had well over a dozen Active, temple-going Mormons listen to the soundtrack and–aside from some discomfort from vulgar language-the reaction has been nothing like yours–they have unanimously loved it, even felt HONORED by it. I think the show absolutely honors Mormons and never teases in a malicious way. Sure they play stereotypes. Sure, some of the plot points are not accurate to the logistics of how things work in our faith, but if you expect accuracy from this show you clearly do not understand the style of comedy that is being played. They are not telling the audience that they are portraying an accurate version of the Mormon faith–sure it is based in truth, but elements have been changed and exaggerated or completely made up at times to create a totally fun, ridiculous, and ultimately heart warming story.

    What actually shocked me most of all in your review is that the song “I believe” was where you almost walked out of the theater. I have never heard a song by Janice Kapp Parry that captured Mormon faith better. My active, temple-going LDS friends are always quoting and singing from that song now because it is COMPLETELY accurate and has a powerful message of being willing to believe things that may seem irrational or nonsensical to others. It is the ultimate Mormon faith ballad.

  26. I enjoyed your review and just wanted to add something.

    I believe the real problem with a show like this is hypocrisy.

    If there were a show produced to mock or “satirize” another religion or perhaps an ideology or life style that is embraced and supported by the entertainment community, what would the reaction be? I can assume there would be a huge outcry as someone like Tracy Morgan can attest to right about now.

    Personally, I am offended by any entertainment that uses hate or mocking to tell their story, so I choose not to spend my time and money there.

    However, the imbalance in the nastiness that is aimed at certain religions and other less “politically correct or progressive types” and passed off as entertainment is startling.

    I cannot tolerate the hypocrisy of a community that awards and celebrates the mocking of a whole religious group in a most demeaning and mean spirited way, but then looses their minds when an already offensive comedian says something grossly offensive about another group that they happen to embrace.

    Hate is hate and comedy is comedy, why is there always a line when a “progressive” group is being hurt or offended? Tracy Morgan is now a monster for his vile rantings, but Christopher Titus bragging about his plans to assasinate Sarah Palin passes with nary a peep from the entertainment elite, strange, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be consistent one way or the other?

    I vote for trying to be entertaining without spitting your ugly prejudice on ANY group…that would take real talent.

    1. Mo,
      Personally, I’m offended by people who judge based on ignorance. Judging a person behavior by their skin color, sex or sexual preference would be ignorant. Or judging a book by its cover. In the case of this musical, I’m sure you never saw it. Sorry to mock you, but how stupid is it to comment without knowledge.

      I have seen the Book of Mormon and am somewhat baffled the comparisons you made. While the Mormon religion was held up to ridicule via the history of the religion and it’s beliefs (as told by the authors), the Mormon people were shown as devout, dedicated, kind and wanting only to help others. And the musical celebrates how faith saves the villagers.

      If mocking an idea is bad then you miss the whole point of free speech and the freedoms we enjoy here.
      I do agree that hatred hidden as humor is offensive when it pre-judges people based on sterotype. But in your rush to judge, you are guilty of the equally offensive act of voicing an opinion based on opinions not fact.

  27. I think it would be wonderful for everyone leaving the Broadway Mormon musical to receive a free copy of the Book of Mormon. It is by reading this book that people would understand the true feelings Mormons feel that have made the Mormon church keep growing in membership. Also, it would be educational if concert goers would also research Please look up

    What the Mormon musical does not address is the thousands of members who were persecuted and killed in the 19th Century for their beliefs. The Mormons have been through much persecution that many non-Mormons do not know about or understand.

    I am sure the Mormon Musical was very entertaining. But is it worth it to make fun of a religion that sincerely sends millions of aid to many people hit by tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes and to many more not just here in America but also to many abroad. This aid is sent to non-Mormons and to Mormons…even to gays. Their is no discrimination to those who need help. Please research aid given by the LDS church.

    To me this Musical is modern day persecution. In the last days evil will become good and good will become evil. Please tell me if a musical making fun of gays, Jews, the Pope or many others would have even been considered acceptable.

    I believe in freedom of speech. That is why I don’t understand why it is so bad for Mormons’ to have an opinion about gay marriage. And look how it has turned out anyway. Others had different opinions and won. Mormons will uphold the laws.

    1. Gerbula,
      To start with, your comments are critical of something you didn’t see. It really does show the Mormon elders as being willing to give with all their heart for the good of all. It actually has a pro-faith message, strange as it may seem. It is not an attack on the Mormons. Of course, it does make light of some of the history of the religion, the cheerful nature of the elders, and their optimism.
      The purpose of the musical is to entertain, not to promote the Mormon religion. If you want to have such a promotion, I suggest you go to a Mormon church.
      I’m glad you believe in freedom of speech as long as the message is one your church supports. You also believe in discrimination against a group of people because of their sexual preference. Mormon’s uphold the law when they see fit I guess, as in their historical belief in pologomy which last I saw was against the laws of the country.
      In closing, life is fleeting and laughter in short supply. This musical is God sent in making the audience feel better when they leave they when they entered.

      1. Yes, South Park has made fun of gays, Jews, and the Pope. The issue in question here is that we’re talking about Broadway now, not a cable show. That’s one of the OP’s points, this is not an off-Broadway or small, local production. What if they did a similar Broadway “satire” entitled “The Holy Quran”, would it be as well-received? Since the Danish cartoon incident lead to rioting and shootings that left many dead I think we can safely say that Muslims don’t take kindly to having their sacred things mocked (even if the violence isn’t condoned by the core teachings of the Quran). How about Matt and Trey’s take on “The Torah”? Would using Jewish beliefs as punchlines go over well in New York? (Not just lampooning culture or stereotypes, but actual core beliefs of things they hold sacred). They have a right to make South Park how ever they want. The point I hear being made is a disappointment in the theater-going public for applauding apparent bullying and hatred on Broadway, whose audience often tends to pride itself on tolerance and respect. And that’s a disappointment I share.

  28. Hi everybody, first of all I will state that I am LDS. When I first heard that the creators of South Park were going to make this play about the book of Mormon I was very suspicious, like most people would be. Anyways I have read quite a few reviews on the play, the opinions of reviewers and people who commented on the reviews ranged from absolutely hating it to absolutely loving it. But like what people have said before me (of which I agree) you can’t judge something without seeing it. But I read this other article ( ) that helped me. So what I’m trying to say is… Guess what people, if you boil down the play, it all comes down to curiosity of the people who made it. Curiosity is not a bad thing and guess what LIFE WILL MOVE ON! You can like the play or you can hate it but the play will come and go but the LDS church will continue steadily on it’s path. So quit worrying about the image of the church, it’s not gonna fall apart just because of one play.

  29. I’m Mormon and I wasn’t offended by the show at all… I think maybe it’s not an issue of the show being overly offensive but of you being overly sensitive. Cunningham and Price are the most endearing characters in the entire show, obviously it’s not all about painting Mormons in a negative light.

  30. A very thoughtful blog post, and I’m sorry that you felt so personally attacked. It is an awful feeling. It’s upsetting to be made fun of, but you know what’s worse? Being told your family is wrong, flawed, dysfunctional, and dangerous, and not just in a play that’s acting as pure satire, but on every news channel. As a child of a lesbian woman I spent my entire childhood absorbing media from so-called legitimate news sources with religious pundits discussing how my mother and people like her were leading to the destruction of the institution of the family. That is a truly terrible feeling, when society questions whether your family’s existence is destructive.

    I will admit that superficially, this show does seem like it’s only there to shock you into laughing, but the truth is, like much of Parker and Stone’s work, it’s a very sharp form of satire that has a distinct message or makes specific commentary. The Uganda end of the storyline seems to me to be a commentary on the appropriation and to some extent fetishization of African culture in shows like The Lion King, as these merry tribespeople who will sing and dance and entertain. By juxtaposing that style of American theater, the faux-African with the sort of things white people whisper about as being the horrors of being African, I think the Uganda storyline makes a strong statement of how ridiculously many clueless Americans perceive these people.

    The songs sung by Mormon characters are cheerful and sunny and very classic, old-school musical theater, and the Mormon characters are depicted as good-hearted people, cheerful perhaps to the extent of covering up their true feelings and natures in a subculture (their religion) that requires rigidity and conformity, right down to the hairstyle and costume. Parker and Stone have touched on the Mormons many, many times throughout their career, and it’s always been poking fun with a side of fond affection.

    I do think that without analysis (and I could go on and on with mine, perhaps as a sociologist I analyze the cultural implications too much) the play can come across as very offensive, but it’s saying something beyond the profanity.

  31. The show isn’t about “bullying” Mormons. It’s a satire and a celebration of religion in general. Mormonism was the selected topic because it’s so young and because Mormons are so happy all the time – even in real life it’s like they’re always about to break into song!

    Anyways, the fact that you almost left during “I Believe” demonstrates that you misunderstood the show. In “I Believe,” you have a 19-year-old kid who has questioned his God, calls himself on it, and reaffirms all of the things he believes in. There are punch-lines throughout the song, because some of the things Mormons believe in do sound a little crazy to us outsiders. But in reality, believing that God lives on a planet called Kolob or that the Garden of Eden is in Jackson County, Missouri, isn’t really any more crazy than believing that he sent his son to Earth to die for our sins and resurrect 3 days later. This is the satirical part of the song, but it’s joined together with a celebration of the inspiration that faith can provide. Mid-song, after affirming his faith in God, Elder Price displays the strength and courage necessary to jump in front the guns of an African militia!

    The show is satirical, and it has a hard edge to it; It is not about “shocking the audience,” though, because any fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren’t going to be shocked by vulgar language at this point. It’s also not about humiliating Mormonism or religion in general. It is a satire of it, and it should make you at least somewhat uncomfortable, but the overall message of the musical is that the power of faith can inspire us to do things we otherwise would not be able to do. It’s a brilliant and paradoxical combination of hard edged satire with celebration of the same topic matter that it’s satirizing. You really should go see the show again.

  32. “I wonder what they would have thought it if was about their religion or their ethnic background? What if the musical belittled your sexuality? Would that be okay?”

    It’s comedy. I don’t take myself so seriously that I can’t handle jokes at my expense. As a non-mormon, if someone made fun of my sexuality, race, or agnosticism, that would absolutely be ok.

  33. I saw the show last night and I felt like I was at a cockfight. It was sickening to see the theater packed with people laughing at the religeous “jokes,” the offensive Jesus portrayal, the genital mutilation “jokes.” All of it. This is the hottest ticket on Broaday? It speaks volumes about our country. An no, I’m not a Mormon or particularly religeous. Haven’t been to church in a couple of years. I took my nieces from Norway to see it. 19 & 24. They thought it was offensive. I won’t be taking my younger nieces from Indiana to see it ever, and they’ve asked to go.
    Ugh, that people can just gush over this sickens me.

  34. It is a show that is in your face with its strong language and brutal references but I think the message was lost on your “religeous” nature. Genital mutilation is might light of in the show but also informs you of the plight of the woman of Uganda that really suffer through it. Most of the Jesus scenes were straight out of the Book of Mormon except for the dream sequence which was about his guilt, not a mock of Jesus. Alas, the show should be avoided by those that are offended by foul language and can’t hear the message because of their sensitivity to any comic religious commentary..

  35. It’s amazing how a show that aims to smear a religion and its beleivers, especially one running for the highest office of our nation, somehow is shrouded from public view by the media. It speaks volumes about that media’s current bias. As a catholic Christian, I am outraged at such a display of “hate” as the media calls it, directed at my fellow Christians. But it’s another sign of the times in which Christianity is an easy target.
    And the response of the Mormon people has been one of passively turning the other cheek.
    The hypocrisies of those that attend such a production are legion. These are the same people who call us “haters” because we object to attempts to re-define marriage as we have always known it.

    1. Firstly I’m willing to bet you didn’t even see the show. It does not smear the believers of the religion, it mainly makes fun of the history of the religion and the ridiculous dogma of the Mormon faith. But as a free thinker, you feel authorized to criticize based on other people’s opinions.
      “Shrouded from public view by the media?” WTF are you talking about. Reviews went into to detail about the stories being told and warned some may be offended. You are in that minority.
      Christianity is not the target here. Jesus was not ridiculed or held in disregard, only the Mormon story about Jesus coming to America.
      And in closing, the Mormon people by and large are considering this their Fiddler on the Roof. Want proof? Check out the three page ad in the LA Playbill taken out by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints. If they were offended by it, why would they advertise at it.
      You aren’t a hater, you are just very closed minded and ignorant. You can define marriage however you see fit but to segregate it from others of different persuasions just means you think you have the only answer. Follow your principles but leave others to follow theirs.

  36. hasa dega eebowia. thats all i have to say. it is a great musical. it always makes me laugh. i also hope to become a Mormon just because i watched the play.

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