Bravo for Mormons!

By Razib Khan | March 30, 2011 11:48 pm

Trying to Relish the Big Time, Even When It Brings a Cringe:

The house lights came up and it was intermission at “The Book of Mormon,” the new Broadway musical about a pair of innocent young Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to spread the faith. John Dehlin, a graduate student who flew in from Utah to see the show with a group of Mormons from around the country, was still riveted to his theater seat, having flashbacks.

“It’s way, way too close to home,” he said, recalling his own missionary years in Guatemala: the shock at the poverty and violence, the pressure from the mission president to baptize more natives, the despair when his mission companion ran off with a local girl — and the Mormon mandate, above all, to repress doubt and remain relentlessly cheery.

A friend in the crowded theater aisle, Paul Jones, passed by and gave Mr. Dehlin a high-five and a hug. “It’s right on,” said Dr. Jones, a dentist from Gilbert, Ariz., “but I cringed a little bit, a couple of times.”

The arrival of a Broadway musical that ridicules their religion, produced by the creators of the scathingly satirical television show “South Park,” is proving to be a cringe-worthy moment for many Mormons.

And yet, even though the very name of the show appropriates the title of the church’s sacred scripture, there have been no pickets or boycotts, no outraged news releases by Mormon defenders and no lawsuits.

This is intentional. Mormons want people to know that they can take it.

Not all religious communities react in the same way. In Birmingham, England, 2004, Theatre attacks Sikh play protest:

But Mohan Singh, a local Sikh community leader, said: “When they’re doing a play about a Sikh priest raping somebody inside a gurdwara, would any religion take it?”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, said the play was offensive to people of all faiths.

“The right to freedom of expression has corresponding duties to the common good.

“Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred places of every religion.”

The theatre said more than 800 people had to be evacuated, security guards were attacked and thousands of pounds’ worth of damage was caused.

A foyer door was destroyed, windows were broken in a restaurant and demonstrators smashed equipment backstage.

There are many things you can criticize about the United States. But at least there is the possibility of doubt and nonconformity.


Comments (10)

  1. Having been LDS 20 years (converted at age 18 to 38 when I was excommunicated), and my inlaws and friend being Mormon, I can say, if anything protest and contention, are not part of the Mormon “DNA” for the most part (Glenn Beck notwithstanding, he’s a whole other kind of Mormon). Mormons are relentlessly upbeat and positive. It’s endearing, and infuriating. I love Mormons still.

    There’s a play in SLC right now called Borderlands (just saw it yesterday) written by the BYU playwright in residence about this very topic, the relentless upbeat, positive attitude and what it does to those who are on the fringes. I suspect that’s going to get some angry words in the opinion columns, but no protests on the street (even when one scene can be seen as heresy and there’s cussing -omg-).

  2. dave chamberlin

    I suspect Mormons have been teased for so long that they have grown immune to it. If you have an older sibling that loves to tease you, it doesn’t take long to toughen up. There is just so much material in the Mormon religion to make fun of, they must have long ago become used to it.
    Not a huge fan of South Park but their rips on Mormonism and Scientology were hysterical. Sounds like a play worth going to.

  3. Mark B.

    Don’t you think you should credit the New York Times from which you copied, word-for-word, the first five paragraphs of your post? Yeah, I know you linked to it, but anybody who doesn’t click the link will think you’re claiming to have written it.

  4. Yeah, I know you linked to it, but anybody who doesn’t click the link will think you’re claiming to have written it.

    it’s blockquoted. what kind of retard doesn’t understand blockquotes?

  5. @Mark B. Linking to the source of the quote and then blockquoting a section from that link is ,well, quite standard practice. Not sure that’s a legit criticism.

  6. Juan

    Nowhere have you attributed that image, which you copied pixel-for-pixel, to South Park! I am concerned that many readers will falsely assume you are part of an animated comedy team. Your lack of attribution shows you don’t share my concern, which also concerns me. I am, most concernedly, filled with concern.

    If you fail to address my concerns then I will have no choice but to become outrageously outraged — which is like being concerned times a billion! I am super cereal about this.

  7. Nowhere have you attributed that image, which you copied pixel-for-pixel, to South Park!

    there are people who don’t understand blockquotes, so for the benefit of those readers, i will enter into the record that the south park images is embedded, using a widget that the creators of *south park* provided.

  8. I didn’t even know it was a video until you mentioned that. They should make a more obvious widget.

  9. ackbark

    The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham apparently still hasn’t gotten over The Exorcist.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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