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"The Book Of Mormon Musical" : Doctrine On Broadway


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NPR recently posted the soundtrack to "The Book of Mormon", the Broadway musical from the creators of "South Park" and "Avenue Q" that has turned into a smash hit.

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/09/136054170/first-listen-cast-recording-the-book-of-mormon

I haven't seen the show, but after listening to the soundtrack a few times, I have to admit that the music is really good. I suspect from the quality of the music alone, these songs may be with us for a long time. I have dozens of CD's of Broadway and film musical recordings, and this would definitely be in the top 5 or 10.

BOM_CastAlbum_01.jpg

30 years ago, President Kimball expressed his vision for the arts, and the ways in which music, film and art could help tell the story of the Saints. In some way, as I see the success and reaction to "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway, I see a skewed fulfillment of that vision.

In the field of both composition and performance, why cannot someone write a greater oratorio than Handel's Messiah? The best has not yet been composed nor produced. They can use the coming of Christ to the Nephites as the material for a greater masterpiece. Our artists tomorrow may write and sing of Christ's spectacular return to the American earth in power and great glory, and his establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in our own dispensation. No Handel nor other composer of the past or present or future could ever do justice to this great event. How could one ever portray in words and music the glories of the coming of the Father and the Son and the restoration of the doctrines and the priesthood and the keys unless he were an inspired Latter-day Saint, schooled in the history and doctrines and revelations and with rich musical ability and background and training?

Faithful LDS have given it their best shot over the years, to mixed (and usually underwhelming) success.

As far as the songs go when it comes to "religion", it's a mixed bag. Several are harmless, several are "interesting", and some are so patently offensive that they would be extremely objectionable to anyone who is sensitive to profanity and "lightmindedness" towards the Church and its leaders.

One song stands out as particularly interesting, and I've listened to it more than the rest. It's surreal to imagine this song being sung to packed houses in New York, and soon it will be heard all around the world (and, with the inevitable film version, it could help shape future perceptions of the Church in ways we can't yet foresee).

The song is called "I Believe". It is sung by Elder Price, as he deals with a crisis of faith on his mission in Uganda. You can hear it here:

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/09/136054170/first-listen-cast-recording-the-book-of-mormon#playlist

(The song has one aside line from an African that contains some profanity. If you want an edited MP3 of the song, PM me).

Here are the lyrics:

I Believe!

Ever since I was a child, I tried to be the best

so what happened?

My family and friends all said I was blessed,

so what happened?

It was supposed to be all so exciting, to be teaching of Christ across the sea.

But I allowed my faith to be shaken, oh what's the matter with me?

I've always longed to help the needy, to do the things I never dared.

This was the time for me to step up, so then why was I so scared?

A warlord who shoots people in the face,what's so scary about that?

I must trust that my Lord is mightier...and always has my back!

Now I must be completely devout...I can't have even one shred of doubt!

I Believe!

...that the Lord God created the universe

I Believe!

...that He sent His only son to die for my sins

And I believe!

...that ancient jews built boats and sailed to America.

I am a Mormon, and a Mormon just believes.

You cannot just believe partway, you have to beleive in it all.

My problem was doubting the Lord's will instead of standing tall.

I can't allow my self to have any doubt, it's time to set my worries free.

It's time to show the world what Elder Price is about, and share the power inside of me!

I Believe!

...that God has a plan of us!

I Believe!

...that that plan involves me getting my own planet.

And I believe!

...that the current President of the Church - Thomas Monson - speaks directly to God.

I am a Mormon!

And dang it, a Mormon just believes.

I know that I must go and do the things my God commands.

I realize now why he sent me here.

If you ask the Lord in faith, He will always answer you.

Just believe in him and have no fear!

I Believe!

...that Satan has a hold of you

I Believe!

...that the Lord God has sent me here.

And I believe!

...that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people.

You can be a Mormon! A Mormon who just believes.

And now I can feel the excitement, this is the moment I was born to do.

And I feel so incredible, to be sharing my faith with you.

The scriptures say that if you ask in faith, if you ask God himself you will know.

But you must ask Him without any doubt, and let your spirit grow...

I Believe!

...that God lives on a planet named Kolob.

I Believe!

...that Jesus has his own planet as well.

And I believe!

...that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.

I believe the Lord will reveal it. And you'll know it's all true, you'll just feel it.

You'll be a Mormon, and by gosh, a Mormon just believes!

I Believe!

The song touches on a few points that have been discussed on this forum (Eden in Missouri?), but presents them as most traditional Mormons see them (and Church publications present them). In other words, I find this song to be a plainer expression of what Mormons (and certainly energetic Missionaries) believe than one would get from some online quarters. Certainly, there could be quibbles with the wording (God lives near Kolob, not on it!) but I suspect such quibbles would make the wrong point about our belief in such things.

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I find this song to be a plainer expression of what Mormons (and certainly energetic Missionaries) believe than one would get from some online quarters.

But what would constitute the divinely inspired art / entertainment President Kimball spoke of? Certainly more than just high production values.

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FYI:

The profanity-free songs are actually the majority: “Hello”, “Two By Two”, “You and Me (But Mostly Me)”, “Turn It Off”, “I am Here For You”, “All-American Prophet”, “Man Up”, “Baptize Me”, and “I am Africa”. Both “I Believe” and “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” and “Tomorrow Is A Latter Day” each have a single profanity.

The rest have quite a bit more. With "Hasa Diga Eebowai" and "Joseph Smith: American Moses" being especially explicit.

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But what would constitute the divinely inspired art / entertainment President Kimball spoke of? Certainly more than just high production values.

It's an interesting question, especially considering the reactions people are having to the play. People seem to truly appreciate their take on religion. And keep in mind that the overall theme seems to be that even though religions can involve "unbelievable" elements, they have the capacity to make very real, positive changes in peoples' lives.

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the overall theme seems to be that even though religions can involve "unbelievable" elements, they have the capacity to make very real, positive changes in peoples' lives.

Yes, generally speaking all religions have some good to offer. I think all would agree that the Light of Christ is a form of divine inspiration that shines in positive messages. Even the most rebellious and unrepentant will eventually receive a form of divine inspiration when they accept of the fullness of the Holy Ghost to the degree they can stand it (DC 76:85-86; D&C 88:32). Such are a funny amalgamation of light and darkness where some redeeming qualities do not a full redemption make.

I think President Kimball was envisioning something divinely inspired to a degree heretofore unseen on Broadway, well beyond the best that can be hoped for in a telestial sphere. I don't think the overall theme of the play is enough to qualify. Many things other than religion also have the capacity to make very real, positive changes in peoples' lives to the same telestial extent.

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I read those words as mocking those who believe. And the Hasa Diggo Ebowa (or whatever) is offensive even as a name. The tune is great --- the message is so abhorrent, particularly as it starts out so innocently (and the elders as just trying to fit into local customs --- I'm sure lots of RM's might have had one of those cultural obstacles, but this is designed to make them look foolish).

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And the Hasa Diggo Ebowa (or whatever) is offensive even as a name. The tune is great --- the message is so abhorrent, particularly as it starts out so innocently (and the elders as just trying to fit into local customs --- I'm sure lots of RM's might have had one of those cultural obstacles, but this is designed to make them look foolish).

The message that song gives is, that in the past, preachers of religion have not brought these individuals anything they see as applicable and helpful to their physical suffering,, address their AIDS, or to stop their babies from being raped, and their women from getting genitally mutilated - their main concerns. This left them with the impression that God did exist, but chose not to help them. Thus their attitude, and mantra.

It's a key moment. Elder Price just plays into this stereotype the Africans have learned to expect. When he presents the message as he memorized it, and it doesn't convert anyone, he loses his faith, gets scared, and goes home.

Elder Cunningham, when it comes down to it, reverses this, adapts the message and shows them that God is relevant and does have something to say about their particular situation, and the finale has the Africans change their motto to "Thank You, God" as a result.

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One song stands out as particularly interesting, and I've listened to it more than the rest. It's surreal to imagine this song being sung to packed houses in New York, and soon it will be heard all around the world (and, with the inevitable film version, it could help shape future perceptions of the Church in ways we can't yet foresee).

The song is called "I Believe".

Thanks for posting this. I found this song to be an accurate representation of what a lot of us go through on missions. It reminds me of David O. McKay’s story about how he struggled as a missionary, until he had an epiphany when he saw the words carved in stone, “What ‘ere thou art, act well thy part.” When he saw that, he decided to do exactly what Elder Price did, he decided, “I believe!”

Gordon B. Hinckley had a similar mission experience. Before his mission, he had doubts about the church, and for the first part of his mission, he was wondering if he was wasting his time. But then, like Elder Price and David O. McKay, he made the decision to stop worrying about his philosophical questions and doubts, and become completely engaged, “I believe!”

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Thanks for posting this. I found this song to be an accurate representation of what a lot of us go through on missions. It reminds me of David O. McKay’s story about how he struggled as a missionary, until he had an epiphany when he saw the words carved in stone, “What ‘ere thou art, act well thy part.” When he saw that, he decided to do exactly what Elder Price did, he decided, “I believe!”

Gordon B. Hinckley had a similar mission experience. Before his mission, he had doubts about the church, and for the first part of his mission, he was wondering if he was wasting his time. But then, like Elder Price and David O. McKay, he made the decision to stop worrying about his philosophical questions and doubts, and become completely engaged, “I believe!”

I've read Pres. Hinckely's biography, and i honestly don't remember him having doubts or philosophical questions about the church. I remember his struggles on his mission, but remember it as being from not feeling successful, not from a lack of belief in what he was teaching.

Do you have a reference for the idea that he had doubts about the truth claims of the church before that point? I'm sincerely asking and not trying to back you into a corner. I don't remember the story that way but that doesn't mean i'm not remembering it wrong.

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I've read Pres. Hinckely's biography, and i honestly don't remember him having doubts or philosophical questions about the church. I remember his struggles on his mission, but remember it as being from not feeling successful, not from a lack of belief in what he was teaching.

Do you have a reference for the idea that he had doubts about the truth claims of the church before that point? I'm sincerely asking and not trying to back you into a corner. I don't remember the story that way but that doesn't mean i'm not remembering it wrong.

That’s the narrative I had in my mind after reading the Sheri Dew biography. It said something about studying philosophy at the University of Utah before his mission, and having some sort of intellectual struggles or questions during that time. It was vague on the details, and I may have read between the lines.

I don’t have a copy of the book at hand, so I can’t provide a quote or more specific references. If you happen to go back to it, I'd appreciate it if you let me know if I'm misremembering.

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That’s the narrative I had in my mind after reading the Sheri Dew biography. It said something about studying philosophy at the University of Utah before his mission, and having some sort of intellectual struggles or questions during that time. It was vague on the details, and I may have read between the lines.

I don’t have a copy of the book at hand, so I can’t provide a quote or more specific references. If you happen to go back to it, I'd appreciate it if you let me know if I'm misremembering.

I borrowed the book from a friend so don't have it handy to refer to either. Maybe someone who does will come to our rescue. :pardon:

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I borrowed the book from a friend so don't have it handy to refer to either. Maybe someone who does will come to our rescue. :pardon:

I have it and perused it and I couldn't find anything regarding any periods of doubt, he struggled with his Mother's death and the book mentions about his missionary experience with his Dad's letter. I seem to have heard about this doubt aspect of his life and am wondering if it comes from his video on his life that the Church produced years ago? Something about graduating university into what? I suppose I could dig it out but requires effort...haha! JK! I will take a gander and get back to everyone and see what that says

Found it! Around the 7:50 mark it talks albeit briefly about his questioning

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I have it and perused it and I couldn't find anything regarding any periods of doubt, he struggled with his Mother's death and the book mentions about his missionary experience with his Dad's letter. I seem to have heard about this doubt aspect of his life and am wondering if it comes from his video on his life that the Church produced years ago? Something about graduating university into what? I suppose I could dig it out but requires effort...haha! JK! I will take a gander and get back to everyone and see what that says

Found it! Around the 7:50 mark it talks albeit briefly about his questioning

Thanks Duncan.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Nine Tonys and a shout out to Joseph Smith!

For those who missed it, they performed the song from the OP at the show.

The Church should have run a bunch of those "I'm a Mormon" ads during the broadcast. It at least would have shown a sense of humor.

MattStoneTreyParkerPA130611.jpg

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I have it and perused it and I couldn't find anything regarding any periods of doubt, he struggled with his Mother's death and the book mentions about his missionary experience with his Dad's letter. I seem to have heard about this doubt aspect of his life and am wondering if it comes from his video on his life that the Church produced years ago? Something about graduating university into what? I suppose I could dig it out but requires effort...haha! JK! I will take a gander and get back to everyone and see what that says

Found it! Around the 7:50 mark it talks albeit briefly about his questioning

AHHHH, i just saw this! I am so bad about posting in threads and then forgetting that i've posted and never returning to check who has responded.

Yes, thanks Duncan, very much. :)

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During the Tony Awards broadcast, playwright Trey Parker held up the Tony for Best Musical and thanked his co-writer, Joseph Smith, saying: "You did it, Joseph! You got the Tony!" Comedian Chris Rock said, "We know what the best musical is -- it's like taking a hooker to dinner."

Don't worry too much about what they say. Just spell the name right. What do you wanna bet that LDS baptisms will now increase? That's what happened when when Ed Decker's first anti-Mormon video was circulated door to door in Phoenix and Mesa Arizona. It piques interest and the missionaries are more likely to be invited in.

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Don't worry too much about what they say. Just spell the name right. What do you wanna bet that LDS baptisms will now increase? That's what happened when when Ed Decker's first anti-Mormon video was circulated door to door in Phoenix and Mesa Arizona. It piques interest and the missionaries are more likely to be invited in.

There are already plans for a movie version of The Book of Mormon musical, and the play will be touring the country (and the world) in the coming years.

But I seriously doubt there will be even a single baptism as a result of someone gaining increased awareness about the Church from the play.

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Perhaps Quorum/Relief Society Leaders can have a First Sunday lesson based on the claims in "I Believe".

Present them to the quorum, stating that all who watched the Tonys, and all who watch or listen to this production are being shown a Mormon who professes belief in these things, and and ask the class what their individual response would be if someone were to bring them up.

Do you believe that God created the Universe? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that God sent his only Son to die for our sins? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that Ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that God has a plan for all of us? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that this plan involves you getting your own planet? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that the current President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson speaks directly to God? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that Jesus has his own planet as well? Does the Church teach that?

Do you believe that in1978 God changed his mind about black people? Does the Church teach that?

It could lead to a very interesting discussion on the difference between official Church teachings and individual beliefs.

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Do you believe that God created the Universe? Does the Church teach that?

Yes (if by "create" you mean "create", not "drag out of nothingness"), yes.

Do you believe that God sent his only Son to die for our sins? Does the Church teach that?

Yes! yes!

Do you believe that Ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America? Does the Church teach that?

Not "Ancient Jews", but "Ancient Israelites", yes, yes.

Do you believe that God has a plan for all of us? Does the Church teach that?

Yes, yes.

Do you believe that this plan involves you getting your own planet? Does the Church teach that?

No (a "planet"?!?, I'm not settling for anything less than a universe, for starters), no.

Do you believe that the current President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson speaks directly to God? Does the Church teach that?

Yes, yes.

Do you believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob? Does the Church teach that?

No, no.

Do you believe that Jesus has his own planet as well? Does the Church teach that?

Not yet, no.

Do you believe that in1978 God changed his mind about black people? Does the Church teach that?

No, no.

Lehi

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