Last night husband and I went to the theater to see the Broadway tour of The Book of Mormon. I laughed a lot and gaphawed several times as well. For those not in the know: The Book of Mormon is a musical written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. If some of those names sound familiar, it's because you probably have seen them listed on every episode of South Park. Robert Lopez was the Broadway genius of the group. Together they wrote a play where two characters, Elder Cunningham and Elder Price become an unlikely mission duo sent, not to the sunny streets of Orlando, but to Uganda. Upon arrival their bags are stolen and they quickly discover they are surrounded by extreme poverty and very reluctant converts. So reluctant in fact that there has not been a single Mormon convert since the LDS showed up in the area. That is until Elder Cunningham begins to preach a rather...interesting...version of the Book of Mormon. Within all this Elder Price struggles with his beliefs and the expectations that have been put upon him by himself and others.
The play is irreverent, rude, crude, and downright hysterical if none of those things bother you. I've heard of Mormons who say they like the show, which I find fascinating because the show really is showcasing how absolutely ridiculous the Mormon faith is....and takes a swipe at all religions while doing so. The show is also smart and really examines things like racism, savior complexes, attitudes toward African, short-term missions work, and beliefs.
My favorite part of the show is it's focus on missions. If you recall, I have been on several short-term mission trips ranging from one week to two months and have some strong opinions about their utility. I've heard some criticism regarding this element of the show, but I really think those people are being too "woke" for their own good and completely missing the point. In the show, these white Mormon boys travel to Uganda, a place they can't even find on a map. Neither knows anything about the country nor do they actually care about the people in the beginning. The stereotypes they have color their opinions of the people there and make it hard for them to relate at all. Nevermind that the religion they are trying to spread has no relevance to these people at all. Elder Cunningham has to lie to them in order to get them to even listen. It also forces the audience to stop and think. As you are laughing at the song 'Hasa Diga Eobowai' it occurs to you that this IS what you imagined Africa and by extension Uganda as being like. And intellectually you know it isn't true. That what you are seeing on that stage is your own stereotypes being thrown back at you. You as the audience are being forced to watch a stereotype that you know is wrong and that makes you laugh and uncomfortable at the same time. Perhaps the best part is near the end when one of the characters says to the heartbroken Nabulungi (girl, love interest, true believer), "You didn't actually believe all that stuff did you? It's a met-a-phor." As if these people with a lack of education and inability to read can see more clearly than the people who came to witness to them or the true believers.
I know a lot of people who would be offended by it on every extreme. The Christians think it is cool that they are making fun of Mormons until they actually see some part of the show and realize that it's really making fun of all religions. The social justice warriors hate it for displaying African/Ugandans in such a "prejudicial" way. And then there is the rest of us who understand that comedy has a funny way of being both hilarious and a societal mirror and one can enjoy it for both reasons.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.