Last night, I won the lottery.
The theater lottery, which might actually be better than the real lottery. I was one of 25 lucky people who had their name picked out of a recyclable bag and got a $25 ticket to see the touring production of Book of Mormon: the musical at the Boston Opera House, making me the first person in history to see this show for less than ten million dollars.
I asked the box office if I got a discount for being an actual, real-life Mormon. They said no.
There’s a high chance that I was the only actual, real-life Mormon in the crowd, mostly because this show, written by the guys who write South Park, has a reputation for being irreverent and offensive. Maybe not the most orthodox choice for someone who is about to be the central focal point of all jokes to attend.
But I really, really enjoyed it.
And here’s why.
First of all, I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously in anything, and religion is no exception. It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself, and that’s exactly what the show gave me the opportunity to do. It also helped that I knew what I was getting myself in to. I was prepared for offensive content and excessive language. Were there some parts that still made me squirm? Absolutely. But not because they were slandering my faith.
While the show is wildly offensive, it isn’t mean. I never felt like the show was attacking my beliefs1 or saying “Look at how stupid these Mormons are!” Instead, the show is universally offensive to everyone—organized religion in general, rich, poor, minorities, men, women, children, whites, blacks, Americans, Africans, Asians. Really, nobody gets out of this one without a few blows landing. It is a satire, and satire by nature is biting. But I never felt like it was mean2. And it was never technically wrong about any doctrine3. There were actually jokes I felt like I got that no one else did because I was a Mormon, and I certainly related in a way I’m sure most people didn’t.
Here’s why I loved the show: it weirdly had a great message. The whole show culminates in the idea that if you find something you believe in, whether that’s “right” or “wrong,” if it makes you happy and makes you a better person, who cares? Believe in things that make your life better. For me, the LDS Church has always been one of those things, and for the characters in the show, it’s the same.
So we think the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. Okay. Moving on.
Being part of this Church inspires me to be a better, more compassionate person, and gives me direction. And that’s what matters.
I think the LDS Church also deserves points for how well they’ve reacted to all this. When the show was first announced, there was a lot of whispering and wondering if the Church was going to react the same way the Catholics did to Da Vinci Code. Instead, the entirety of the Church’s response was, “Meh. Okay.” Not only that, but the playbill for last night’s show featured three very prominent ads for the Church, tagged, “You’ve seen the play, now read the book!” and “The book is always better!4” It takes a lot of confidence to react that well, and I think the Church’s response should guide it’s people’s response. This show is not intended to undermine us, or to make Mormons look like fools. It’s a loving satire, and we should make the best of it5.
In the end, I saw Book of Mormon: the musical. Did I love it? Yes. Did I walk out of it with my faith still intact? Yes. Would I recommend every Mormon go see it? Absolutely not. But I don’t think they should waste time being offended by it.
And in the end, being offended is just a waste of time. Save your venom for something that really matters.
- They just phrase things in a way that provides for maximum ridiculousness. That being said, my favorite line in the show is still “And I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people!”
- I really appreciated that they didn’t take any cheap shots—no mention of polygamy or abstinence or green Jello.
- The only line I took issue with was “Those we’re Christian missionaries, we’re Mormons.” Because Mormons are Christians. Duh.
- Which I thought was hilarious and brilliant. Also, if you’d like a copy of said better book, please send me an email!
- If I had thought of this ahead of time, I would have worn a sign that said, “I’m a real Mormon—ask my anything!” Missed opportunity. But the offer still stands.