Belated Post about the Book of Mormon Musical

10 Jul

I am a little bit late to the party, but I recently bought the soundtrack to the Book of Mormon musical –Only $9.99 on iTunes!

On the whole, it wasn’t as shocking as I was expecting it to be.  After seeing Avenue Q and dozens of episodes of South Park, I expected the crude humor and the constant swearing.  Nothing that any of the characters says is any worse than the constant barrage of expletives and crude humor that comes from Cartman and Stan each week.

I also found that a lot of the songs reflected the general opinion about Mormonism that I had as a kid and that a lot of non-Mormons who grow up in the Mormon culture region still have.  One in particular stood out as representing common sentiments about Mormonism – “I believe.”

The song comes after an elder has abandoned his companion in Africa and realizes that he needs to go back.  He erupts in a song about how his mistake was doubting God and that Mormons just believe – without doubt and without question.  The song has been the focus of a lot of criticism.  It contains lines like, “I believe that God has a plan for each of us.  I believe that plans involve me getting my own planet,” and “I believe that God lives on a planet named Kolob.”  Members of the church have rightly criticized the song for simplifying Mormon belief and relying on Mormon folk belief to make jabs at the church.

What seems to be often missed in these criticisms is the general sentiment behind the song, which suggests that Mormons don’t question their faith and don’t think critically about it.  They, in the words of the song, “just believe.”  Such sentiments are what I believed about Mormon culture when I was a kid, and what I often hear from my friends from the area and elsewhere.  Most people have a vague idea that Mormons believe some wacky stuff, but the bigger idea for them is that Mormons do so without really thinking about it.   The song portrays this brilliantly.  Elder Price sings about how he went his entire life trying to make others happy and doing what he was told.  His biggest mistake, he suggests, was deviating from that.  His duty now is to convert the world to Mormonism and to do so without thinking too critically about its consequences.

In picking apart the actual beliefs that the song includes, many reviewers are missing the point.  The overall message that I left with after listening to the Soundtrack was not about Mormon folk beliefs about eternal progression but the song writers believed Mormons were nice, misguided people whose faith would fall away if they ever thought critically about it.  Such an image reinforces what most people already believe about Mormons, and to me, seems much more damaging than any statement about Kolob.


4 Responses to “Belated Post about the Book of Mormon Musical”

  1. Michael July 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I’ve actually heard some people voice this complaint; I know I have. However, it’s still uncommon enough that it is good for it to be repeated. 🙂

  2. Amy July 10, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    This is precisely what I have expressed to several people about the musical. The vulgarity is annoying, the mis-statements of our beliefs are irritating, but what really grinds my gears is this idea (that, unfortunately, the rest of the media is picking up on and quoting in legitimate articles) that “A Mormon just believes.”

    If that’s the image we’re projecting–a credulous, unthinking, group of bike-riding weirdos who don’t critically examine their faith but “just believe” despite all evidence to the contrary–but we’re “nice,” then we’re not doing credit to our religion. This is why I believe in critically examining my faith, in separating the gospel of Jesus Christ from the occasionally-weird and culture-bound atmosphere of the church, in figuring out what it really means to be a Christian, and especially a Restorationist Christian, in being ready always to give a reason for the hope that is in me. I wrestle with ideas and doctrines because they are vitally important to me–I think we only wrestle with what is really important to us. “Just believing” is entirely anathema to how I understand Mormonism–the strange doctrine that a young boy had a question, asked God, and got an answer–he didn’t “just believe” what the ministers of his day told him, and neither do I–and neither, I think, should any Mormon. It is a stunning idea to think that we have the right to “come boldly before the throne of grace,” to commune with God directly without any intervening mortal or institution. It is empowering, it is exhilarating, it is exalting. And it is cheapened by those who presume to pass judgement on my critical reasoning skills simply by noting my religious preference.


  3. Tobin Vance October 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    I’m the grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher. Real hellfire-and-brimstone, drinking and smoking’s bad M’kay Southern Baptists. Maybe that’s why I find this play so funny. If you can get away to see this, do so. Book of Mormon discount tickets are still available, but only for the Broadway production. The Chicago and Traveling productions won’t be around until next year, and a movie has been tabled indefinitely.
    “…see it now,” suggests the Village Voice, “or find yourself asking, ‘Dear God, how do I get tickets?” Sage advice, that. I got my tickets at Go see it! You know you wanna…

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