Sucker punch

I feel the air whoosh right out of my gut when my sacred beliefs are mocked.  Truly – physically painful.  I can’t help but wonder, Can they do that?? Can they SAY that??  It just seems so…wrong.

I watched the Tony Awards last night – a bloated affair of self-congratulatory narcissists who pride themselves on their open-mindedness.  Look, I love musicals.  And plays.  And movies.  I buy into the admiration of those who pretend for a living.

But there was just this icky feeling about the entire show, from the first song (Not just for gays anymore) to the celebration of the grand success of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon Musical, I just felt so squirmy and uncomfortable.

No – I haven’t seen the musical.  But from the moment I heard about it, I felt that sucker punch in my gut.  Apparently it is the most vulgar and crass production ever on Broadway.  49 uses of the f-word.  In one play.

Awesome.

When I see the actors portraying missionaries with the symbolically significant name tags on their white shirts – it hurts.  I have had three missionaries serve the LDS church, and I know how sacred those tags are to them.  Once a missionary has been released from his mission, the name tag is tucked carefully away, precious to the one who wore it.

Once one of my younger boys wanted to be a missionary for Halloween and asked his older brother if he could wear his plaque.  The older brother explained its sacred significance and the plaque remained tucked away where it belonged.

Weird to those who don’t understand, but the plaque is sacred.  Precious to those who’ve worn it.

But I have to wonder…Is there a purpose in this?  Will the success of the Best Musical 2011 The Book of Mormon bring more good to the LDS Church than it does pain to my heart and the hearts of millions who believe?  Think about it – who would have ever thought the word “Mormon” would be said at the Tony Awards EVER?  Now think about how many times it was said – 14 nominations and 9 awards.  This can be good, right?

There is a quiet non-LDS outcry amidst the critical outpouring of love for the musical.  How can the mocking of religion be so warmly embraced?  What if it were The Koran, or The Torah?  Can you imagine?  And from what I’ve read, the portrayal of Ugandans is blatantly racist.  Some suggest that Ugandans have a greater reason to be offended than Mormons.

So, the LDS church has non-LDS support.  What about those who see the play who wonder – what is this all about?  Someone suggested on another site that the mission president in New York should have missionaries standing outside the theater handing out copies of the Book of Mormon:  “You’ve seen the play, now read the book.”

Why does that sound rather appealing to me?  I would never want one of my boys subjected to the kind of crudity they would undoubtedly encounter in such a situation, though.

But…good thought.

Michael Otterson wrote an amazing piece in the Washington Post from the Latter-day Saint perspective.  My favorite part – when he pointed out that the creators of The Book of Mormon Musical spent seven years writing it, and Otterson listed what the church had done in Africa during those seven years.

Here’s the really weird thing – during the Tony Awards, one of the songs from the musical was performed.  The actor portrayed a missionary who was struggling with his faith.  The song is called “I Believe.”

Don’t judge me, but I kind of liked it.  And to be honest, most of what was said was fairly accurate about what and how I believe.  Of course there were mistakes in theology, but surprisingly few and surprisingly minor.

But pay attention to the parts where the audience laughed at what this “missionary” believed.  At his faith.  At what the audience perceived as outrageous beliefs.  And this is where I struggle:

When did standing by that which is morally sound become something to laugh at?  How crazy can it be that I believe that one shouldn’t lie or steal or cheat on one’s spouse or have sex before a legal commitment to marriage or that I should treat my body as a temple – a gift from my God?  For that matter, how is it that my belief in God, in His word, His creation of man and earth, and that I am His child makes me blind, a sheep who stupidly follows, ignorant and downright crazy?  And how can volunteering to serve the needy at my own cost be a bad thing?

Let’s look at a few of the more outrageous events that most Christians believe:  Water into wine, the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus Christ died and was resurrected, Lazarus rising from the dead , a virgin birth… Shall I go on?

So is it so weird to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days?  That the word of God was written on gold plates and buried until the world was ready to hear these words?  That God would assist His righteous people to flee a destroyed Jerusalem?  That God speaks to his Prophet today?

Really, if you look at Christianity literally, isn’t it all a little hard to believe without faith?  Without prayer and personal revelation as to His truths?

The problem is this – the play mocks those who believe – as if we are told to “just believe” without any thought or personal prayer.  Apparently neither missionary in the play has even read The Book of Mormon.

Yep.  That’s what we teach all right.

So what do you think?

LATE EDIT:  Remember Proposition 8 in California and all the negative press the LDS church got for supporting it?  According to Elder Ronald Rasband (who lives in my ward) church membership is exploding there.  Draw your own conclusions.

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4 Responses to “Sucker punch”

  1. So well written. Thank you!

  2. Well written! I really appreciate your willingness to put your internal struggle out there for all of us to analyze and consider. I’ve been intending to listen to an edited version of the sound track so I can form my own opinions as well as answer questions that might arise from non-LDS theater friends of mine who might end up asking them.

    My husband, frequently described as the most liberal LDS person you’ll ever meet, commented that his only issue with the musical is that it touches (not necessarily incorrectly) on deeper doctrines that will only create unnecessary confusion amongst investigators. After dealing with seriously misinformed people while on his mission to Washington D.C. South who actually believed that we throw virgins from the top of the Salt Lake Temple into the Great Salt Lake, he feels like this is going to make the job of missionaries even harder.

    In discussing your post with him, he just told me that he would never recommend this musical to anyone outside our faith because it would just confuse them.

    I still have lots of thinking to do on it before I pick my own stance, but I’m grateful you so honestly put it all out there.

  3. Very well thought out and written! You make your parents very proud.

    So sad to suspect that all the misinformation and cynicism will hurt more than help the reputation of our church.

  4. I have missed so much!

    Nice job. I agree with all that you said.

    I listened to “I Believe” and even though it was filled with our truths I felt ill. Kills to hear them laugh.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are great. 🙂

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