"The Book of Mormon" musical returned to Salt Lake City recently, and the Deseret News asked readers what they think. More than 230 people responded.
Here are a sampling of the responses, edited for length and clarity:
Many expressed dismay at the treatment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and questioned whether this would be tolerated if it was directed at another religion:
• "It's offensive. Entertainment based on the insulting of others' core beliefs isn't something I want to see. I would say the same if this were titled 'The Talmud,' 'The Koran' or the 'The Catechism.'"
• "It's making fun of something I hold dear. If someone were to do this to my husband or my child, I wouldn't like that either. …"
• "Would you watch a musical play titled the 'Liberal Left' that depicts far right's feelings of them and call it genius?"
• "Show me any other minority group in our country that would put up with the condescending narrative. Where is Broadway's comedic depiction of the LGBT community? Of Jews? Of blacks, Hispanics or Asians?"
• "Bad. Does not say much for any community that would turn out to see this. Given the persecution of LDS members in (the) 19th century, it is amazing that anyone would think it acceptable to joke about the religion."
Some said they might go see the show if it wasn't so vulgar and offered more substance:
• "I'm not against the play, but you can be clever and funny without being so vulgar, and I hear the vulgarity is pretty high. I'm kind of tired of the lack of clever comedy."
• "Art is meant to convey beauty, wisdom and awareness to the multi-faceted world we experience. It does so in a way that is meant to last long in the mind and in our culture. I have listened to songs from 'The Book of Mormon' musical and it fails to convey anything I would want to have a lasting impact in our culture."
• "Not interested in seeing garbage. Just because something wins awards does not mean it provides any value."
• "I'd rather read the book."
• "I saw it and will not see it again. It's extremely funny, and I knew what I was getting into because the writers are from 'South Park.' The second act just got extremely offensive … just very crude and goes much further than mocking comedy. While I enjoyed parts of it, I would not see it again."
• "I avoid shows I know to feature potty humor and profanity. I will overlook some profanity in the name of realism or a compelling story, but this play doesn't meet that standard."
• "I tend to focus my attention on those things which are noble, praiseworthy and of good report. I avoid an expenditure of funds for those activities that do not meet that standard."
• "Would you eat rotten, worm-filed apples coated in chocolate?"
• "Despite my good sense of humor and my tolerance to profanity and sacrilege in other media, this musical goes way too far in an effort to blatantly mock and defile things that are sacred to me. It makes you laugh, but only because you are so shocked that you don't know what else to do. I could never use the word 'decent' to describe this show."
• "I would rather send my money to actual missionaries serving around the world than to a foul-mouthed Broadway production company lampooning those same missionaries."
• "I have a deep-rooted respect for anyone's beliefs. I think it's OK to be able to laugh at yourself, but there is a line, and from what I've heard this musical has crossed it."
Some of the language and storylines of the play also rub many of our readers the wrong way:
• "I don't feel the desire to go watch something that I feel mocks things that are sacred to me."
• "I have read excerpts, reviews, seen clips and enough to know it would not only be a waste of time and money, but much worse. This 'musical' demeans so many things I hold sacred. I don't think it takes anything close to creative genius to make fun of beliefs, or young men earnestly sharing truths they've worked hard to know and have faith in. I think it's cheap and easy. And does it contain enough truth, or brilliant humor, or anything worthy to truly recommend it? I would say a definitive no!"
• "It is very irreverent and depicts our missionaries and our religion in a mocking manner. I would not see anything that mocks any religion because Christ is our Savior and should always be depicted in a reverent and positive manner."
• "Mormon missionaries work tirelessly to share the gospel. Their work should not be belittled."
Some readers are supportive of the production:
• "Because it's not an atheist show. It has a pro-religious message that catches many by surprise, just like Monty Python's 'Life of Brian.' Instead of just mocking religion, they also acknowledge the positive side of it. That's why (it) became so popular in such a religious country like the U.S."
• "Extremely funny. Gives insight into what Mormons believe and clarifies some misconceptions about the religion."
• "Totally positive. People who hated the church in the past have been opening their doors to the missionaries because they want to see how much of the play is accurate."
• "It's just a fun night out. We should embrace the uniqueness and impact of our religion rather than being defensive and insulted. Truth will always filter through over-the-top comedic hyperbole."
• "Intriguing story line simply told in a fun musical format. The Mormon story is filled with amazing biblical-like experiences. Artists have the right to take those experiences and story lines and reflect them in any format they so choose. The box office will determine if those artistic story lines are commercially viable."
• "I think positive. Overall the play portrayed Mormons in a positive light. Personally I think there are a ton of jokes that only Mormons or people who lived around Mormons would understand."
Readers also addressed the question of whether it's appropriate to host the production in Utah:
• "I personally don't like it, but I must also respect the right of others to exercise their free agency to host and watch what they want."
• "While I'm not a fan, I believe that it is a good thing for Utah to host this. I'm an ardent believer that, 'I may not agree with everything you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.' These people should have the right to show their play, even if it is offensive. Utah hosting this shows that we are a people that are open to ideas, even if they mock and trivialize what many of us believe to be sacred."
• "It is a good thing! If people don't want to see it for whatever reason, that is their prerogative. But people who want to see it should have the opportunity to see it close to home."
• "Although Utah seems to be the LDS capital, the entire state isn't LDS, so I think it is just an OK thing for Utah to host it. I think it's the same as any other state hosting it."
• "Utahns have their free agency to see anything they want. I wish that Utahns would do a protest with their feet and their money by not attending to send a message that we do not want that kind of entertainment in our city."
• "Both good and bad. It speaks well for freedom of speech but speaks poorly of the producers' wisdom in the disrespectful treatment of things deemed sacred to others."
• "Good or bad for who? Once again, it's theater. If you find it offensive and it hurts your feelings, then don't go see it."
• "I believe there are pros and cons. But I'm sure many in Utah would love to see it, and it shouldn't be kept from Utah just to prevent offense."
• "The First Amendment permits freedom of speech and association, as well as the free exercise of religion. Although this musical makes fun of my religion, other people should be free to stage the show and others to attend it if they wish to do so."
• "It's not good that they host it, but it would be bad to make a fuss about it."
• "If it's the state of Utah or any other public entity hosting the production, then I would say it is a bad thing and should not be encouraged or supported in any way. If it is a private or commercial venture hosting it then I would die fighting for their right to host it."
• "It's art. I wouldn't avoid the statue of David because he is nude. Art should be appreciated for what it is. Art pushes us to reflect inward. If we censor it, we lose the opportunity to learn vital information about who we are fundamentally."
Some believe the production has been a positive for the LDS Church:
• "It was mostly accurate in its portrayal, and it captured the spirit of Mormonism in trying to do the right thing. … The musical has been a net positive for the LDS Church. This play shows the inherent drive of most of the membership to try and improve the world they live in."
• "I think overall it has been positive for the church because so many non-Mormons have seen it and been exposed to Mormon culture. … It depicts a culture that is not understood or experienced by many Americans."
• "I think it's made lots of people actively wonder what the Book of Mormon actually is, and what Mormons believe."
• "Mormons have a stuffy image but the musical shows that Mormons don't take themselves too seriously. Everybody loves people who can take a joke."
• "It's not an atheist show. It has a pro-religious message that catches many by surprise, just like Monty Python's 'Life of Brian.' Instead of just mocking religion, they also acknowledge the positive side of it. That's why it became so popular in such a religious country like the U.S."
• "Positive. Not a single joke about polygamy, or about what happens in the temple, or 'Mormon underwear' (the main characters wear garments in one scene but nothing is said about them). Also, there's only one quote regarding blacks and the priesthood (in the song "I Believe"). So you can see, if they wanted to attack the church they could have used all those tactics. Instead, they just say that Mormons are awesome people with some wacky beliefs that don't matter in the end. I felt uncomfortable when Jesus appeared and said a bad word, and there's some offensive material, but the whole message is a good thing for the public image of the church."
• "Positive. It demonstrates that Latter-day Saints can make lemonade out of lemons."
• "From what I have heard and read about that very issue, it seems that it has been a positive for the LDS Church because it sometimes motivates non-Mormons to look into whether what is depicted is true or not."
• "Extremely funny. Gives insight into what Mormons believe and clarifies some misconceptions about the religion."
• "I'm Mormon, served a mission. Love the church. 'The Book of Mormon' musical has done so much good for the church by getting our name out there and taking Mormonism mainstream. I also serve in the U.S. Army and when people find out I'm Mormon, the musical is a great conversation starter."
• "The musical creates untrue views of the LDS Church, but I think it leads viewers to ask real questions and inquire further about the church and the Book of Mormon."
Perhaps what got the most rave reviews from readers was the church's response to the musical:
• "When the musical first came out, the LDS Church asked people to not picket it. Instead, the church put an ad in the musical's program. … The church turned a potential negative into a positive. Great job, church leadership."
• "I live in a major East Coast city. I don't think it affects the LDS Church image either way. However, what did improve the positive image is how the LDS Church managed its response. … The Church's calm, non-confrontational response to such a negative, mocking play should be a model for many currently in office."
• "I believe the way the LDS Church has responded to the musical has been the most positive thing about it."
• "I think the church has shown how people should act when someone does something offensive. Stand up and be proud of your beliefs, but you don't need to try and shut everyone else up."
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