Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Book Of Mormon Musical: How Do Silly Stories Produce Good People?

The media is still buzzing about Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon" and the sneak preview reviews have been mostly positive so far. The Broadway musical is set to open at the Eugene O’Neill Theater on March 24. However, sneak previews are one thing. What the general audience thinks is another.  
From what I can glean from reading various media accounts is that the play is pretty enjoyable. For example, Jon Stewart absolutely loves the play. You can see him gushing about it in his interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker on the Daily Show:
I am intrigued by how Mormons will feel about this Broadway musical. The play paints a mixed picture of what the Mormon church is about. Not all of it is flattering. Some of it may be offensive:
"It's sprinkled with jokes about Mormons discriminating against black people and repressed gay longings, but the creators of a new musical about Mormons say it won't attract the sort of religious controversy they are famous for. 
One of the most anticipated musicals this Broadway season, "The Book of Mormon," satirizes the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, sexualizes the ritual of baptism and has plenty of politically incorrect jokes."
At the same time, Matt Stone and Trey Parker believe that the play also demonstrates the goodness and sincerity of the LDS people even if people find our faith to be a bit odd: 
Parker and Stone cite a song called "I Believe" in the second act as an example of how the show mixes humor about the beliefs of Mormons with warmth for the two main characters, including rising actor Josh Gad as a bumbling missionary. 
"It's this whole song that gets huge laughs, but it doesn't have a single joke in it," Stone said. "It's just interesting, idiosyncratic things that Mormons believe, but at the same time it is a really heartfelt song from a devout Mormon, so it isn't really just laughing at this person. It works on both levels."
By all accounts, this play isn't hostile to a specific religion like A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant which was a satirical musical about Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. However, that remains to be seen when The Book of Mormon Musical opens to the public. How the audience and members of the LDS church react remains to be seen.

Regardless of how the play is received, the creators of the Book of Mormon music pose an interesting and legitimate question about the LDS faith:
But having found that his Mormon neighbors were always good members of the community, Mr. Stone said, he had to wonder: “Do goofy stories make people nice? What if, in their goofiness, these stories somehow inspire that in the right way. Is that a social good?” 
I think these questions could be asked of any religion but I think given the fact that our religion is fairly new and recent in comparison to other religions, Mormonism is a good religion to use in exploring the general question about the value of religion have in people's live and society even if they are arguably based on silly stories. 
I pose a question to those that follow my blog: let us assume that the stories in the book of Mormon are just plain silly and are not true. What is it about our religion that produces good people? Is Mormonism a social good?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do you define good? The Bible says that none of us is good, no not one. Are you saying that to contradict the Bible OR perhaps you don't know what the Bible says about the sinfulness of humans.