Long before the crazed buzz of big time musical Hamilton, there was another Broadway name that was sweeping the theaters by storm: The Book of Mormon!
This Broadway show comes from the creative minds behind the hit series South Park, and The Book Of Mormon quickly rose to fame for its catchy music and HIL-ARIO-US script! But with raunchy, snarky show creators comes an even crasser musical, and no topic is off limits. The Book of Mormon quickly became a conversation starter amongst dinner tables—but it wasn’t always to rave and praise.
To start off, what is Book of Mormon about? Well, in a nutshell, the musical is about young Mormon missionaries eager to spread the good word of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! One Mormon in particular is Elder Kevin Price: an eager beaver whose is always ready to serve and spread the word—especially in sunny Orlando. However, Heavenly Father has a different plan which includes pairing Elder Price with chummy, creepy, respecter of no boundaries Elder Cunningham.
The two find out they’re being sent to war-torn Uganda, and here is where the problems begin. As soon as the Mormon pair arrive their robbed, threatened with guns, and they meet the Uganda locals who sings the mantra that gets them through their tough life, and let me tell you it isn’t Hakuna Matata.
Hasa Diga Eebowai, a meaning that is personally too crass for me to mention here, is the song that begins the unsettling feeling in some audience members stomach’s and maybe the divide in your family.
But wait! I too was ready to jump out of my seat, call blasphemy, and storm out of a theater steaming mad, until I heard what the locals were saying past the crude references to God. The writing behind the song is actually pointing out hypocritical, intricate, and man made issues that happen when they seep into religion. The Ugandans in this musical are people who are living in a harsh reality of a diseased, AIDs-ridden, female mutilation, and impoverished war-torn land. Families are being ripped apart, dying or murdered, and are under oppression and—what’s worse, as the doctor says, “I have maggots in my scrotum!”
So when white missionaries show up from halfway around the world speaking of an American prophet and a foreign religion of a God who promises all sunshine and rainbows the locals, are going to respond out of the reality their living. The song isn’t so much about the offensive phrase as it is about pointing out the true horrors that people actually live around the world. The jibe at the audience is that people would wrap up in the emotional sensitivity in the phrase and miss the point. As I said I was almost guilty of this but I am glad that I simmered down and saw what the rest of the show had to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised!
The rest of the musical in my opinion is about confronting fear and disappointment when things aren’t going your way, especially when your belief teaches you something fundamentally different. It prompts the audience to ask the hard questions, and contemplate whether the nuances of religion are really that simple.
And, it proves that the person you think would be an all-star can be found in the unlikeliest of people. When Elder Price decides God made a mistake and he’s going to leave Uganda, it falls to Elder Cunningham to save the souls of those Ugandans—and boy does he man up! With a few embellishes of the Book of Mormon, the locals are lining up to be baptized with Nabulungi being the first and most-willing participate. But there’s always trouble in paradise, and as the baptisms begin to pile on, the war generals take notice and immediately put an end to it.
After Elder Price takes a trip to Spooky Mormon Hell Dream (we’ve all been there) Elder Price comes to his senses, decides to stay in Uganda, and believe in the mission God has set for him. When he receives a very unfriendly welcome which ends with not just a foot being shoved up his butt, Elder Price begins to question everything he has ever learned, and tries to make sense of the Mormon religion. But, he wasn’t the only one – after the President of the Mormon Church visits for a progress report of Uganda, he is met with the locals’ very inaccurate (and rather crass) visual representation of how the Mormon religion came to be. The wool has been pulled from over their eyes, including Elder Price’s, and it is there that the true heart of the story is found.
The irony behind The Book of Mormon is that for all of its crass and derogatory assessment of religion, there are still messages of the power behind faith, love, and belief. But, it also shines light on the problem behind blind faith, and letting a leader or a person delegate what that means to you. Elder Price and Elder Cunningham had to learn that you can’t take a blanket teaching from religion and apply it to everyone. The connection between a person and their belief is based off individuality and being able to relate the teachings within it.
So, if the family is looking to get out of the house this Thanksgiving and Book of Mormon is playing in your town, man up and give it a try!
Just make sure they have an open mind and are ready to say: Hello!