Debunking ‘The Book of Mormon’
How spot-on is the Broadway musical’s satire? Local writer and lifelong Mormon Nicole Hardy weighs in.
Good satire, it’s been said, isn’t cruel. It isn’t spiteful or petty. When it does its job, it makes people reevaluate the world they live in, maybe even learn a thing or two while having a laugh. And for the past decade, no one’s written better satire than South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Whether they’re lampooning Tom Cruise or tackling an entire religion as they do in the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, it’s with wit, empathy, and a healthy dose of profanity.
But how many of their Mormon gags, penned with the help of Avenue Q cocreator Robert Lopez, ring true? What’s this about God living on a planet called Kolob? We turned to Nicole Hardy for a debunking session. Hardy—a local writer raised Mormon whose upcoming memoir, Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin, details her crisis of faith—dissected lyrics from two Book of Mormon songs, “All-American Prophet” and “I Believe,” and rated their authenticity on a scale of truthiness (truth, truthy, not so much). But at the end of the day, lds.org is the authority and the Book of Trey and Matt is the escape.
There’s a part three to the Bible, Joe! / And I, God, have anointed you to dig up this part three / that is buried by a tree on the hill in your backyard. Truth.
“So the story is: An angel appeared and told prophet Joseph Smith that there were these golden plates, and he dug them up, he translated the plates, and that is what became the Book of Mormon.”
I believe / that God lives on a planet called Kolob / I believe / that Jesus has his own planet as well / And I believe / that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. Not so much.
“I feel like those were things that people talked about a lot when we were growing up, but if you go to the website now and try to find the real answers to those questions, they don’t say those things. They say that the planet is a metaphor for the greatness of Christ and they believe that when we’re exalted, we will become ‘like God.’ … They will say the Garden was here but they won’t say the exact location.”
I believe / that God has a plan for us all / I believe / that plan involves me getting my own planet. Truthy.
“All of that is 100 percent true (but I believe the planet is an exaggeration). It’s the no. 1 premise of the whole entire church that God has a specific plan for you. I think there’s a million ways to be of value on the earth, but they will say for both man and woman that the greatest work you’ll ever do in life is within the walls of your own home. They will say things like: raising a family and having a happy family that is devoted to God is the most important thing you can do; I don’t know many women who have had high-powered careers. I know a lot of women who have part-time jobs.”
My family and friends all said I was blessed. Truth.
“I think that there is definitely a feeling among Mormons that they are sort of a chosen people, and I think the urge to go out and do missionary work comes from this place of really wanting to spread truth—more than wanting to upset other cultures and make people assimilate. … I didn’t [go on a mission]. I felt like if God wanted me to give up life as I knew it and go preach the gospel that I would have some spiritual confirmation of that, but I never did.”
You cannot just believe part way / You have to believe in it all. Truth.
“That’s for sure. You can’t just pick and choose the way you want to live. You’re either all in or you’re out, which makes it really tough if you have questions. Questions aren’t encouraged. If you’re struggling with your faith, often the advice is to wait for a change of heart. Obey and wait. … Everything that is a challenge for us is a test to work through and a challenge to overcome, and hopefully that will bring you closer to God in the end. But I think some questions can’t be solved through silence. …
You never stand up and say, ‘I believe.’ You always get up and say, ‘I know.’ ”
“It’s difficult to find something that’s poking good-natured fun [at a religion], and maybe that’s the genius of The Book of Mormon. I don’t think it’s meant to be mean spirited or exploitive. And there’s a lot of stuff about it that sounds weird from the outside, and even from the inside we know it’s a little kooky.”
The Book of Mormon
Jan 8–20, sold out (ticket lottery will be held close to opening), Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St, 206-682-1414; stgpresents.org
Published: January 2013