The Sciences

Bravo for Mormons!

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMar 31, 2011 3:48 AM

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Trying to Relish the Big Time, Even When It Brings a Cringe:

The house lights came up and it was intermission at “The Book of Mormon,” the new Broadway musical about a pair of innocent young Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda to spread the faith. John Dehlin, a graduate student who flew in from Utah to see the show with a group of Mormons from around the country, was still riveted to his theater seat, having flashbacks. “It’s way, way too close to home,” he said, recalling his own missionary years in Guatemala: the shock at the poverty and violence, the pressure from the mission president to baptize more natives, the despair when his mission companion ran off with a local girl — and the Mormon mandate, above all, to repress doubt and remain relentlessly cheery. A friend in the crowded theater aisle, Paul Jones, passed by and gave Mr. Dehlin a high-five and a hug. “It’s right on,” said Dr. Jones, a dentist from Gilbert, Ariz., “but I cringed a little bit, a couple of times.” The arrival of a Broadway musical that ridicules their religion, produced by the creators of the scathingly satirical television show “South Park,” is proving to be a cringe-worthy moment for many Mormons. And yet, even though the very name of the show appropriates the title of the church’s sacred scripture, there have been no pickets or boycotts, no outraged news releases by Mormon defenders and no lawsuits. This is intentional. Mormons want people to know that they can take it.

Not all religious communities react in the same way. In Birmingham, England, 2004, Theatre attacks Sikh play protest:

But Mohan Singh, a local Sikh community leader, said: "When they're doing a play about a Sikh priest raping somebody inside a gurdwara, would any religion take it?" The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, said the play was offensive to people of all faiths. "The right to freedom of expression has corresponding duties to the common good. "Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred places of every religion." The theatre said more than 800 people had to be evacuated, security guards were attacked and thousands of pounds' worth of damage was caused. A foyer door was destroyed, windows were broken in a restaurant and demonstrators smashed equipment backstage.

There are many things you can criticize about the United States. But at least there is the possibility of doubt and nonconformity.

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