Here is what I wrote for my OP-ED.
“The Best Musical of the Century”
A recent review in The New York Times called the Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon “The best musical of the century.” While this new Broadway play won nine of the coveted Tony Awards this month, it also has directed more attention on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prompting the church to issue a simple statement that said “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ,” which I initially believed was inadequate.
At first glance, I thought the church’s mild statement should have been more forceful, perhaps even going as far as condemning the production for making a mockery of church doctrine, our missionary program, and many other things we hold sacred. However, after closer review, I realized that the official church response said exactly what needed to be said, and that the church public affairs office is handling this issue perfectly.
This musical is a story of two Mormon missionaries who are serving in an African tribe where there is poverty, a warlord threatening the community, and a widespread AIDS epidemic. In all the songs it has doctrine of the church spun to make it humorous. Many reviews have said it was the funniest musical they have ever seen. While maybe being the funniest it was also said to be the most vulgar play ever made. The New York Times reported, “…Content advisory warnings will be printed on tickets for the show” in regard to the extensive use of vulgar language and crude humor. With that in mind, this seems quite ironic to me, seeing how the topic of the musical is Mormonism and Mormons are advised not to use foul language.
The writers of the play, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, claim to mean no harm to the church, in an interview with CBS News they said this, “We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Alright let’s bash Mormons, how should we do it?’ We really wanted to make a very traditional musical.” Some argue there is much harm done even without the intention of harm.
Some, Mormons and non-Mormons, argue it has made a laughing stock of the church and some people’s only exposure to the church is through this musical which makes fun of it. One non-Mormon for the Washington Post wrote a very bold article expressing his thoughts about the play. He said, “The parts of the Book of Mormon I have seen are as innovative as a Newsies revival and as funny as the cruel, tasteless jokes told by an inebriated coworker at a Christmas party. The difference is that the coworker might sober up in the morning, but the mindless mockery that also gave us South Park will continue.” He then goes on to express his support to the LDS church by saying he “stands in solidarity with his Mormon neighbors.”
On the other side, everyone has heard the old saying that, “Any publicity is good publicity.” And that could be true in this case. Those who see the play may become curious of what the church is actually about and go to find more information through the church websites, it’s members, or it’s missionaries. There are many ways to find the true facts. There are websites such as Mormon.org, which contain videos of normal, everyday people who are Mormon, which help expel all the stereotypes of being Mormon that are commonly misconceived by the public.
Some might argue that if there was a musical made about any other religion, say the Muslims or the Jews, then there would be such a huge uproar about how socially unacceptable it is. But the LDS church seems to just roll with the punches and keep moving forward without causing a big scene. Some reviews have called this a right of passage. Another writer for the Washington Post wrote, “Note to Mormons: welcome to the American mainstream. Now, in order to join this fraternity, you need to go through the hazing.” I guess one play on New York City is all it took to make us mainstream.
At first I wanted the church to take a firmer stand on this play. But then as I thought more about it I found more and more reasons why maybe it was a good thing the church didn’t. With the church not making a bolder statement it may help this musical pass by without a big uproar causing a big issue with the church. I guess the heads of the church know that nothing can hinder the progression and achievements of the church. This little musical may be big and popular right now but time passes and fads fade. But the church and its progress will not fade; rather it will continue to grow and increase.
What would a bold statement do anyway? I can’t see it making the musical stop running, the makers writing an apology, or any more sympathy coming to the church. It would only cause a big hoopla over something that in the long run will be a minimal hiccup in the church’s progress. When the Proposition 8 was big it was big for a couple weeks but then it passed by, much like this play will in due time. Yes, the church gave a slightly bolder statement for Prop. 8 but even with that, nothing big really came out of it other then a huge mess for the church.
In my eyes the church is taking the higher road by not taking a firm stand on this play. Who really knows what would come of a bold statement. The more passive stand the church is taking is a safe way to not give this musical more publicity but also giving the church some good publicity along the way. In the end it’s like the church said, “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”