Posted by: martinworster | November 19, 2012


Considering the main contender for the American Presidency (Romney) was a Mormon, the timing couldn’t have been better to go and see the new musical Book Of Mormon in Los Angeles. The musical had a very successful run on Broadway and headed West for a few nights. Before moving to America, Mormonism was something I’d heard of but didn’t know much about. Another one of those weird religious offshoots – or more accurately cults – that America seems very adept at producing. We don’t really get many Mormons in the UK.

Before seeing the show I had some reservations. Let’s face it, Mormonism seems an easy target for a satirical piece of musical theatre? Some of it’s beliefs and practices seem a bit crazy and hence are really not too difficult to mock for cheap laughs. I know, Mormonism probably spread so much in the US echoing why people originally came to this country to escape religious persecution in England. It’s one of the States’ founding principles. But we live in a pluralistic – ideally tolerant – society, where multiple religions and beliefs coexist, for the better part, peacefully. As well as being able to practice those beliefs we should be able to see art that playfully questions those beliefs.

So the musical was a high octane, high camp romp following a pair of male Mormon missionaries as they go on one of their journeys to far flung places trying to convert non-believing heathens. Right from the start I hate the arrogance of proselytizers turning up in foreign lands thinking their belief system is superior and trying to turn the natives. It’s like Britain’s use of Christianity during the growth of Empire in attempt to turn the ‘savages’ to religion. Colonial expansion was partly justified as it was argued that we were doing them a favour by saving their souls.

Our pair of Mormons get sent to a war torn Sierra Leone where the locals have more to worry about what with AIDs, famine and slaughter by crazed war lords than whether the Garden Of Eden really is in Missouri. One of the Mormons has a habit of stretching the truth and hence begins to spin some elaborate yarns to the locals about Mormonism, mainly on it’s origins and how it could help them in their lives. Hence he is very successful at converting the locals although the veracity of what they’re converting to is of course questionable.

Through questioning the validity of certain Mormon beliefs the play by extension challenges all religious dogma. Most of it – if you really think it through – is essentially nonsense and is too easy to find factual flaws in and evidence that religious texts are man made. I am not really a big musical fan so some times the songs dragged on for me. Plus the delivery was very high camp as a of pastiche to the music hall style. Again, not really to my taste, but I appreciated how the gay campness of the male roles was probably some sort of jokey comment on Mormons attitudes to homosexuality.

The crowd loved it. I do find it positive that this sort of show is so popular and wins Tony awards as it opens peoples minds to some of the wackier aspects of religion – especially the bits that promote intolerance and bigotry – that need to be consigned to the dustbin of history. I don’t think it would be a big hit in England for the simple fact that there are hardly any Mormons so it’s something that hasn’t penetrated our society. Some of the jokes and references probably went over my head. The constant gags about underwear, plus the uniform way they dress when on missions.

One thing I enjoyed was learning more about the sect. Mormons believe the Garden of Eden is in Missouri. Hmm. I’m not sure what’s worse, actually believing it exists or that it is in Missouri. In the late 1800s the founder of Mormonism – Joseph Smith – said he found some golden plates under a rock in upstate New York on which were written direct missives from God saying that there was a third part to the First and Second Testament. The third part was The Book of Mormon. You couldn’t make this shit up. Well you could if you were Joseph Smith, a convicted fraudster. There was obviously enough people around at the time willing to believe this to get the movement up and running.

The racism in the book – God’s punishment to sinners was to make them darker skinned as part of the tribe of Lamanites – was also touched upon. Indeed up until 1978 black men of African descent were not allowed to be ordained in the church’s priesthood. This was overturned in 1978 – effectively saying that what God had said in The Book was incorrect and wrong. Or for most sane, rational people, highlighting the fact that the Book of Mormon (the book, not the play) is man made and clearly a hoax.



  1. Reblogged this on MARTIN'S IN LA LA LAND….

  2. You know, the book is always better than the movie. You should read the book too.

    • Yes, I will do, definitely interested in some good fiction recommendations.

      • Oh you’d like fiction? Check Easton Press. I’m sure they have some that you’ll enjoy. I’m reading Eat Pray Love. Maybe you’ll enjoy that? 🙂

      • By fiction I was actually referring to the Book of Mormon, will give it a peruse one of these days..

      • The Book of Mormon isn’t actually a work of fiction, FYI.

        But, when you do read it – hope you like what you see. I know others have.

        All the best!

  3. The Book Of Mormon is absolutely a work of fiction. It was written by convicted fraudster Joseph Smith and is nonsense.

  4. I agree with Canonbury – the Book of Mormon is totally a work of fiction.

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