Yep. Those wacky, irreverent South Park guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) are up to their old shenanigans. They’re bringing down the irreverence anvil once again with a mighty blow to the head of organized religion — and (yet again) Mormons are the target. As if this and this and this and this were not enough Mormon mischief, Parker and Stone have announced the pending release of their newly penned Broadway musical to be titled: “The Book of Mormon” (LDS Church lawyers permitting, of course). As we read from the New York Post:
“The Book of Mormon” will juxtapose a tale of two young Mormon missionaries with the story of Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism in the 19th century.”
Uh oh. Freakin’ flippin fetch, even.
Well, believe it or not, count this Mormon as one who is actually EXCITED about the musical. Crazy you say? Well….let me explain a few reasons why:
- Trey Parker writes some HILARIOUSLY FUNNY songs. Just ask the Canadians. Seriously. Great stuff. So unless your Mormon funny bone has been completely amputated, you have to be at least a teeny bit giddy with anticipation for what he might do with the veritable cornucopia that is Mormon history and culture…and especially with traditional Book of Mormon stories. Can you imagine what these guys will do theatrically with songs like “Ammon’s Arms of Outstretched Love”, “Stuck in a Barge with the Jar…e…dites”, or “Where did all the Lamanites go (A DNA love story)?”. I know that we LDS Church members are typically serious about our beliefs — but could it be that sometimes we take ourselves a bit too seriously? Can’t we learn to laugh at ourselves just a little bit? Personally, I think it would do us some good. Well….now’s our chance!
- Believe it or not, these guys really are thoughtful. Fart jokes aside, as Stone recently said in the article linked above, “We learned a long time ago that if something is cynical just for the sake of being cynical, it won’t last too long.” I doubt they’re going to pull any punches, mind you, but my guess is that fair minds will be somewhat surprised at the level of respect that they ultimately show to us Mormons….just like they did at the end of their “All About the Mormons” episode. (You gotta admit…that episode has a seriously sweet ending…for Mormons, anyway…except for that “s$#% my b@$&#” line at the end, of course. Still…..we actually win in the end!!!!)
- Count this as the final testament to the fact that Mormons have “arrived”: I believe that I’m somewhat typical in the sense that I have always had a bit of an insecurity complex about my Mormonism. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and in my home town (Katy, Texas), Mormons were always ostracized as strange….out of the Christian mainstream….peripheral….. almost cult-like, if you will. Well….with Harry Reid running the U.S. Senate, Mitt Romney running for president, Glen Beck manhandling both cable t.v. AND the airwaves, Donny and Marie owning Vegas, random Mormons dominating reality TV shows (including American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance), and Stephenie Meyer topping both the NY Times Bestseller list AND the silver screen — Broadway is pretty much the “last frontier” to seal the deal on complete and total global Mormon domination. Well…consider it done. Our dominion is now complete. We have finally arrived….thanks to Matt and Trey, that is. Most importantly, how can they call us a cult once we’re headlining 52nd Street? The Jews got “Fiddler”. The Catholics got “The Sound of Music” AND “Doubt“. Now it’s our time to shine. Start spreading the news….Mormons meet Manhattan.
- Four Words — Mitt Romney for President!: If my timing estimates are correct, “The Book of Mormon” will be released just as the 2012 elections are really starting to heat up, with Mitt Romney looking to be the Republican front-runner. If Mitt thinks that the polygamy and “Missouri” questions were tough during the last campaign — I wonder what the questions will be like once this musical is released. Regardless of your political party — you gotta admit that it’s likely gonna be entertaining to see the Governor do his own Broadway song and dance routine on Meet the Press, no? Add Sarah Palin to the mix, and I’m seriously grabbin’ the popcorn.
- You also gotta admit….as bad as we might get it….the Scientologists got it way worse. Ouch!
- In all seriousness — it’s time for Mormons to become less insecure and less defensive. Let’s face it. Thanks to the Internet, our rich, colored, courageous, challenging and splendid history can no longer be swept under the rug or denied. Our history, warts and all, is now and forever globally available for full public scrutiny. Our once secret/sacred temple ceremony is now public domain (don’t believe me? Just Google or Youtube it)….so it may still be sacred, but it sure ain’t secret any more….and HBO is spreading the (Big) Love. Now, more than ever, it’s time to face the facts: we are who we are. We are a clean cut, lovable, somewhat defensive, and always “30 years behind the times” group of non-traditional Christians…with a somewhat wacky historical past. As Trey and Matt say, and if we’re really honest with ourselves we will admit — that we kinda DO embody Disneyland (in church and cultural form…sorry Walt), with all of the cuteness, corporateness, schmaltz, and disfunction that this comparison entails. But instead of running from all this….instead of whining about it….instead of acting like the wimpy kid at school who keeps getting picked on….isn’t it time for us to stand up, with our chests out, and actually OWN who we are? I, for one, think it is. It’s time for all of us to stand up, and proudly proclaim: “Mormons kick a$%, d@%$ it!” Ooops…there’s the Cartman in me coming out.
- At Least SOMEONE knows accurate LDS History. I think it’s high time for us run-of-the-mill Mormons to actually study and publicly own our history. I certainly never heard a peep about peep stones, Fanny Alger, polyandry or Mountain Meadows in my 40 years of Primary/Sunday School. And personally, I’m kinda tired of learning accurate Mormon history from Larry King Live, 60 minutes, and the Daily Show (vs. the whitewashed stuff we usually get at church). In my view– it’s time for us LDS Church members to actually LEARN our history…in an accurate way…something that many of us have yet to do. Once our “dirty laundry” is fully aired….maybe we can stop being so defensive…as if we have something to hide. Maybe less LDS church members will leave the church, feeling betrayed by the HUGE chasm that exists between the history we are taught in church, and the actual historical record. To be honest, I might be a little worried if Parker and Stone had a history of inaccurate portrayals of Mormonism. But using their portrayal of the Book of Mormon translation process as an example (again from the “All About the Mormons” episode, pictured to the right), this portrayal is actually more accurate than anything I’ve ever seen in 40 years of regular LDS Church attendance. No joke! To this day, I’ve never seen an LDS Church-published picture of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon golden plates using the method we now know he used…by looking at a peep stone inside of a hat. Maybe the South Park guys will actually motivate church leaders to portray our history accurately (again….warts and all)…which I would see as a huge bonus for Mormons in the medium to long run. For me, Parker sort of threw down the gauntlet when he said, “We’re bigger authorities on The Book of Mormon than most Mormons.” As hard as it might be for some of us to admit this…chances are that he will probably prove himself to be right. These guys really do do their homework. Maybe it’s time for us to do ours. Even if it requires coming to grips with messy Book of Mormon issues like DNA, unsettling anthropological evidence, and anachronisms.
- More importantly, doesn’t it seem likely that once the sordid details of our past are common public knowledge, these once titillating and scandalous factoids will no longer haunt our presidential candidates, nor cause us to be the subjects of regular mockery and ridicule on late night TV…BECAUSE THEY WILL NO LONGER BE EITHER FUNNY OR INTERESTING!!!! At some point, it will become old news…kinda like the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is today. The Jews got theirs (in terms of mocking/ridicule) back in the day. The Catholics got theirs as well (not done yet, apparently). Now it’s our turn (along w/ the Scientologists, of course). If we can wait it out with grace…if we can rip the band aid off quickly, so to speak…I believe that the pain and embarrassment will eventually subside…and we can get much of this unpleasantness finally behind us as a people, and as a church.
- Prop 8 — Let’s be honest. Didn’t we kind of earn some of this public scrutiny w/ our own series of shenanegans in California? As they say…if you can’ stand the heat….
- And finally…we must take consolation in the fact that It Could be MUCH Worse!!! At least they didn’t title the musical, “Joseph Smith and His 33 wives: The musical!” Then again…that might have been even funnier.
So Matt and Trey — this Mormon says “Bring it on!” We Mormons have wanted to enter the mainstream for almost two centuries now. Well…here we are. We’ve arrived. Consequently, it’s time for us to get comfortable being in the spotlight…for better AND for worse. Most importantly, it’s time for us to grow a sense of humor.
Finally, a special message to Trey and Mat: If ya’ll ever decide to grant an interview to a Mormon audience about your new musical, this Mormon is ready and waiting.
With much respect for your “authoritah“,
P.S. OK. Apparently not ALL Mormons lack a sense of humor about these things…..