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Author Topic: Book of Mormon
Glenn Arnold
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I dunno, maybe people just decided not to even broach the subject here. Maybe in deference to OSC.

But after the Tony Awards were handed out, it seemed like this isn't a topic that can really be ignored.

I should start by saying that I never liked South Park. I've heard funny things about it, but every time I've watched it I just felt uncomfortable, not entertained. Same goes for Team America. I didn't bother to watch all the way through. Both of these shows have strong followings, so I tended to assume that everyone praising The Book of Mormon is part of the same crowd.

But now I keep hearing really positive things about the play, and frankly, I haven't heard anything really negative. And I've got to assume that it's a topic that is being discussed among the LDS.

So with that, I open the topic. Does anyone here have anything to say?

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Hobbes
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What happened at the Tony awards? I'm confused, maybe some links? I'm totally unappriased of popular culture and I imagine there are at least a couple of other people who aren't sure what's going on...

Hobbes [Smile]

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BlackBlade
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I don't intent to see it, but that's mostly a function of my not living in New York. I imagine I'd see many more plays and musicals if I did.

I listened to some of the soundtrack on itunes and I laughed, but nothing has lead me to believe that it won't be an extremly dirty sacreligious romp in Mormon Missionary Land, with a feel good message tacked on the end along the lines of,

1: "Religion is good, so long as you keep it to yourself."

or

2: Religion has lots of truth, but no facts."

Those are my thoughts.

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BlackBlade
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Hobbes: Book of Mormon won a truck load of awards at the Tonys, including Best Musical.

The official church response to the musical.

Pretty much expected.

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MattP
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I haven't seen it, but I'd love to. I've listened to the soundtrack a few times and it's really a lot of fun.

It's got a lot of really course language, so that obviously turns people off. Some of the characters (not Mormon ones) are blasphemous, though I wouldn't say the musical itself is blasphemous. I agree with what most of the critics are saying - it's a great show, with some raunchy lyrics, that ultimately paints a fairly endearing picture of its Mormon protagonists. That's just going off of the music though.

I definitely wouldn't put it in the same class as South Park or Team America. I appreciate both as base satire, but Mormon really is a traditional Broadway musical in most ways.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
And I've got to assume that it's a topic that is being discussed among the LDS.
Not as much as you'd think.
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Glenn Arnold
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BB: The impression I got was not that there are no facts, but that the facts are sort of irrelevant.

The overall message as I understand it is that the motivation to do good that is brought about by belief is more important than the truth of those beliefs.

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BlackBlade
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I certainly can't say you're wrong. I haven't seen it, nor read a synopsis of the plot outside of Mormon missionaries go to Africa, culture/religion clashes happen, it's funny.

edit: Oh and let me just say my experience mirrors what Porter is implying. I haven't heard any Mormons talking about it.

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rivka
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IME, books/movies/TV shows about religious groups written by outsiders get far less discussion by members of said group than by other outsiders.
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scholarette
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I have heard people complain that it actually is far more disturbing in the portrayal of Africans, but I have not seen the play or heard the music.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Some of the characters (not Mormon ones) are blasphemous...
I would say that one of the Mormon characters is very blasphemous, but out of good intentions. Which may make it worse, from a certain perspective.

The overarching message of the musical is, as Glenn stated, that working to do good is good, even if your desire to do good is based on absolute poppycock. It's a fairly solid musical, even if -- as you might expect from something written by the South Park guys -- it goes for the cheap laugh too often, and some of the song parodies are quite well done. It also treats the LDS church fairly gently, once you get past the hurdle that it basically posits that, yeah, pretty much all Mormon doctrine is absurdly silly. (If you don't believe that sacred things can also be laughable, this is not the musical for you.)

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Olivet
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I saw this excerpt from the Tony Awards show. It was shared by my old Hatrack friend, AKA, who is LDS. She was very pleased with it, saying basically that, yes, the song does invite us to giggle at Elder Price's naivete but that she felt there was still power in such an unabashed statement of belief:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tggtPHDmrR8

I think we kind of expect irreverence and Tourette levels of foul language from the South Park guys, but there is also (in this song at least) quite a bit of endearing sincerity.


So I shared the video on Facebook with the statement that I'd like to see the show (though my chances are slim to none of even being in NYC in the next... ever).

And then some of my other Mormon friends on Facebook shared this link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/amos-and-andy-and-the-book-of-mormon/2011/06/15/AGRlHPWH_blog.html

Not written by a Mormon, it more or less compares the show to horrible racist caricatures of past eras in entertainment. So I felt really badly that maybe people were hurt by my interest in the show. I would never have caused them pain intentionally, of course, but...

Well, there are a lot of people I care about a great deal who believe things I find ridiculous, things I can't reconcile logically with what I know of their intelligence. I mean, I'm married to an extremely intelligent man who doesn't believe in God, global warming or taxing the super rich, and I love him with all that I am.

So, it's not a huge leap for me to simply not talk about the specifics of my friends' belief systems. Recently, I had to repeatedly tell a very well-meaning Catholic friend to respect my boundaries about the unnaturalness of some types of marital relations, but that was the first time anything of that sort has happened to me since I've lived in New Orleans. (I'm still not entirely comfortable around her.)

I just really don't want to be that guy. My impression is that some Mormons find sincerity and the truth shining through the play, for all that it is obviously satire, and some feel they're turning young LDS missionaries into Step'n'Fetchits or Shylocks (though, I think the case could easily be made that Shakespeare wrote Shylock rather sympathetically, for his time, but I digress). [Dont Know]

I don't think there is an LDS "party line" on the show. I'd frankly be surprised if there was.

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Amanecer
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quote:
I think we kind of expect irreverence and Tourette levels of foul language from the South Park guys, but there is also (in this song at least) quite a bit of endearing sincerity.
I think the "but" in that sentence should be an "and". South Park has endured for 15 years precisely because of the endearing sincerity that is regularly in their show.

I'd be interested to see the play, but seems like it'll be sold out for years.

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Jeff C.
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The creators have said that this play is an "Athiest's love letter to religion". The play portrays Mormons in a positive light, but warns how organized religion can sometimes cause harm when it is used the wrong way. It also goes on to say that, if used correctly, religion can do wonderful things.

I agree with their overall message, because it is historically true. But I don't know if it was such a good idea for Athiests to make a play about religion like this. I can see how some might be offended by that.

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Olivet
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Amanecer - You're right, of course. That is how they do it. They slather foul, offensive bravado around a soft, nougat-y center of sincerity. It works.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
it more or less compares the show to horrible racist caricatures of past eras in entertainment
Similar comparisons have come to my mind as well. I didn't see any value in speaking up, partly because I don't know enough to know if it's an appropriate comparison or not, but also because I didn't see any good coming out of me saying such a thing.
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DDDaysh
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This kind of stuff happens all the time when you get modern art commenting on religion.

San Antonio just had a bunch of protests of the musical "Corpus Christi".

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SenojRetep
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Here is a review, written by someone "born and raised in Utah" (whom I assume is, or at least was at one point, Mormon).

quote:
Ultimately it’s disappointing that Trey Parker and Matt Stone—two of the best satirists around—should have chosen such soft religious targets: missionaries from Utah. The finale to season 14 of South Park (the censured episode about the propriety of depicting Mohammed in a bear costume) was gutsier by far. By comparison, poking fun at clueless Mormon teenagers is a cop-out. It’s a waste of theatrical talent. (Andrew Rannells, who plays Elder Price, is particularly good.)

The play’s take-home message—that all religions and scriptures are preposterous yet potentially useful and uplifting—is hardly a revelation. To call The Book of Mormon a daring piece of religious satire is like calling Jesus Christ Superstar a great opera. With low-budget animation, South Park manages to do more with less. The 2003 episode about Joseph Smith (“All About Mormons”) is funnier, smarter, and spikier than The Book of Mormon—and you can watch it online for free.

This was posted on my Facebook feed by a (fairly liberal) LDS friend. Other than that, I have one other (fairly liberal) LDS friend who has said he wants to go see the show. And that's about it. I've heard more talk on NPR about the show than in church.
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AchillesHeel
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Looks funny, from the video Olivet shared it doesnt seem like they avoid just how crazy religion really sounds to an atheist but somehow came off polite enough to get by a theist audience member. I wouldnt mind watching a recorded performance.

quote:
But I don't know if it was such a good idea for Athiests to make a play about religion like this
Well, if it were not an atheist making it then wouldnt it just turn into a recruitment piece? Theist's have been making thier own performances about thier own religions forever, and also been making performances about how the other ones are bad and wrong. Atheist's are an outside party, and unfortunatly for any sensitive believers every religion comes off as silly when you dont sugar coat it.
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DSH
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Don't be fooled by the "born and raised in Utah" bit.

It might impress non-Mormons, but it carries no water with other born-and-raised-in-Utah Mormons and quite frequently garners inner sneers (and sometimes even outward sneers) from Mormons who were not born and raised in Utah.

(full disclosure: DSH was born in UT but raised in Kansas... thankfully)

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Olivet
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AchillesHeel - I have seen a lot of atheist-produced media about religion, and from what I've seen of it, this show seems about as kind as it gets. It reminds me a bit of Kevin Smith's Dogma, which I rather enjoyed but my Beloved found "too sincere." Since Kevin Smith is at least nominally Catholic, I'm not sure it's a fair comparison.

It does, at least, seem to celebrate the humanity of the individual while, yes, utterly mocking the perceived illogic of the belief system. So, it hits the sweet spot in which outsiders perceive it as fair (because it is nominally kind) and insiders are perfectly within their bounds to be offended while others acknowledge that it could have been worse.

I can't help but wonder whether they would have been that gentle with Catholics or Muslims. In choosing LDS, they did pick a religion which has done very little harm to the world by comparison (no long histories of torture and holy wars, etc.). I don't see a "love letter" to other religions seeming quite so loving, especially from atheists. (It is possible that, in only having heard the songs, I have missed some crucial bit of LDS bashing in the play itself.)

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AchillesHeel
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They havent been so polite with catholisism but I dont know if they have ever targeted islam before aside from mocking the whole Mohammad thing. As far as a religion that doesnt have a history book of wrong doings, they went after scientology pretty bad.
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MattP
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quote:
As far as a religion that doesnt have a history book of wrong doings, they went after scientology pretty bad.
The Church of Scientology has actually done some pretty nasty stuff, but it's been in the form of mistreatment of individual members and harassment of critics. Not exactly the Crusades, but still a group I'd be afraid to criticize in any high-profile way.
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Olivet
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I have to admit that the Church of Scientology is where my policy of respect for religious differences begins to break down. It's new enough that its origins as an open-eyed money/power-grab are pretty well documented. Yet, some individuals have used it as a means to self-actualization and I can appreciate that.

I suppose I tend to follow the idea that groups of people tend to be stupid and evil while individuals within those groups can still be brilliant and enlightened. That's an enormous oversimplification, but pretty much everything is.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
As far as a religion that doesnt have a history book of wrong doings, they went after scientology pretty bad.
The Church of Scientology has actually done some pretty nasty stuff, but it's been in the form of mistreatment of individual members and harassment of critics.
Everything else they do is pretty nasty and exploitative too. They're just pretty much every possible negative tendency and modus of religion, amped up to 11 like a cartoon super-villain.
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Jeff C.
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Scientology isn't a religion. It forces people to pay money in order to rank up in the "church" so that they can learn more about the religon. No real religion does this. In fact, most religions might ask you to donate money, but most do not force you to.

Scientology, by definition, is a mix between two different things: a really sucessful science fiction club and a cult. Seriously, think about it.

1. You pay dues
2. There are aliens
3. It was started by a scifi writer

Here's where the cult aspects come in...

4. Psychology is evil
5. The "Disconnection policy", where members are told to cut off all ties with friends and family (this ultimately forces them to rely on the church for all social contact)

This has to be the only religion I've ever see in modern day society that I actually have a problem with. I don't mind Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Deists, Athiests, or even Satanists. But I can't stand Scientology.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
No real religion does this.
This is only true if you define "religion" in a way that excludes the possibility. No true Scotsman would do this.
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Jeff C.
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Even by that logic, Sam, it's still not something that any major religion does. I stand by what I said.
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MattP
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quote:
Scientology isn't a religion. It forces people to pay money in order to rank up in the "church" so that they can learn more about the religon. No real religion does this.
Some "real" religions require you to pay a tithe to remain in good standing with the church.
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Samprimary
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Yeah, trying to say that scientology isn't a "real" religion is pretty much flat-out pulling a no true scotsman on it.

Scientology is absolutely a religion.

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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
Scientology isn't a religion. It forces people to pay money in order to rank up in the "church" so that they can learn more about the religon. No real religion does this.
Some "real" religions require you to pay a tithe to remain in good standing with the church.
Well since your response was extremely vague, I don't really know what to say except that I disagree. If you're talking about christianity, you never have to pay a tithe. It's encouraged, but there's no law in the religion that says you won't receive help or knowledge unless you pay money. There's also no rule that says you have to pay money in order to be a Christian (i.e. a member of the faith). Or a Jew. Or a Muslim. Or Deist. Or anything else that I know of. I know plenty of people who go to church and never put money into it.

Scientology is completely different.

And Sam, I'm sorry but I just don't agree.

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MattP
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quote:
Well since your response was extremely vague, I don't really know what to say except that I disagree.
Tithing is a condition for obtaining a temple recommend in the Mormon church. A temple recommend is required for access to the temple and the ordinances that can only be performed there. You can certainly attend Sunday services at the regular meeting houses without paying a tithe, but to "rank up" as you put it (be married for eternity, sealed to your children, etc.), you must go to the temple. A temple recommend is also required for holding many church offices.

[ June 19, 2011, 12:35 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Sa'eed
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They're making fun of Mormons. The New York crowd is lapping up mockery of Mormons.
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Hobbes
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I didn't realize that this play was out yet, I knew they were doing it at some point but it wasn't until this thread (and then one at Nauvoo) that I realized not only was it out, it was out long enough to win awards! Most people I hear talk about this play, or anything like it all basically take the: "the world is evil and will mock us but in doing so I bet more people will find and join the Church" approach. Which I'm not 100% disconnected from. My very limited exposure to South Park and limited knowledge of the creators makes me think they really liked their religion, even if they've gone in a different direction. I don't find the idea that the LDS Church is packed full of crazy beliefs but basically does things to be a message I'm happy to have spread but on the other hand I don't really care. And I agree with my fellow parishioners that this is more likely to increase conversions than it is to reduce them though I doubt it would impact the numbers much I feel like the Church is still obscure enough that it falls under the 'any publicity is good publicity' banner.


Hobbes [Smile]

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aeolusdallas
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quote:
Originally posted by Sa'eed:
They're making fun of Mormons. The New York crowd is lapping up mockery of Mormons.

That is a oversimplification of both the play and the audiences response to it.
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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:


1. You pay dues
2. There are aliens
3. It was started by a scifi writer

Except for the dues part you just described Hatrack River.
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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:


1. You pay dues
2. There are aliens
3. It was started by a scifi writer

Except for the dues part you just described Hatrack River.
[ROFL]
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Olivet
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Heh. True. There was a time when George Lucas, for example, could have started his own religion and people would have joined it like mad. It's quite possible that most religions/religious sects started as cults of personality, though with the older, more established religions to say so is speculation. With Scientology, it's recent enough for us to be able to connect the dots. Yet, despite the willingness of people to point out the man behind the curtain, it doesn't seem to impact some people's adherence to faith.

I'm not sure whether that is scariest or most awesome thing about religion in general. It may well be both at the same time.

By the way, I found another YouTube of the Tony Awards performance of "I Believe" that has the intro and stuff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHEqCXY2B-w

I can't get that frelling song out of my head. It's so darn catchy.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:

And Sam, I'm sorry but I just don't agree.

There's nothing to it. There's no compelling reason why Scientology can't be classified as a system of religious belief, even if one is of the personal belief that you can make a compelling argument that it was founded by delusion or intentional deception, or that it holds an 'invalidating' level of interest in political aspirations, business ventures, cultural
productions, pseudo-medical practices, pseudo-psychiatric claims, or any other criteria. Scientology could just move outright into, say, forceful military acquisition of land, and this doesn't move it out of the field of things that religions have done throughout history.

It's the same for other religions. You could even use Mormonism as an example. Someone could say that the shady and questionable origins of the religion, or Mormonism's economic practices, show that it's really not a 'real' religion, but it's based on the same scotsman criteria. They're all religions, full stop. You would have to show a defining trait of Scientology which is not just incomparable, but incompatible with what we define as religions.

Note that I also think that Scientology was likely born of a cult scam, and that it's all hilariously bonkers, and that the organization is evil and dangerous.

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Olivet:
Heh. True. There was a time when George Lucas, for example, could have started his own religion and people would have joined it like mad.

I'm not terribly sure I believe you.

I mean, it's not like any of Lucas' creations are at all similar to a religion...

[Big Grin]

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Olivet
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Hee! I know that Jedi Knight is an actual religion (though I'm not sure how seriously its adherents take it), but George Lucas foreswore becoming a prophet of the Force back in the late 70's when people were already quite close to worshiping him. He was reputedly aware of the opportunity. I'm just sayin' [Big Grin]
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advice for robots
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From a pure arts standpoint, I found the humor kinda superficial, the same way most cartoons on the Cartoon Network come across to me. Maybe seeing the musical itself would tie it all together more?

As far as its content, it is set solidly within the strange religion that many outside the church have created to represent Mormonism.

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TomDavidson
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The humor is about 90% superficial, yeah. It's the great weakness of their writing, from my POV, but it's also what makes South Park accessible rather than a niche product.

quote:
As far as its content, it is set solidly within the strange religion that many outside the church have created to represent Mormonism.
Hm. I would say that this is more than a little unfair, actually; its portrayal of Mormonism is pretty fair from both a doctrinal and attitudinal standpoint, although obviously amped up for purposes of parody. (It is weakest from a procedural standpoint, since the writers clearly didn't care too much about getting the details of life in the MTC right.) Think of it as an Impressionist painting of the LDS church from the standpoint of someone with Mormon friends and you won't be far off.
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Which is exactly what I mean--it's a representation of the real thing that is gaining its own life as more and more media attempts to serve up the church for the consumption of the masses. A strange religion that consists of some funky fringe doctrine whose members are batty but likable. It really is turning into its own entity and keeps getting added on to. This musical is the latest installment.
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Stone_Wolf_
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**Language Warning: Mild**

quote:
Reason: In the episode “All About Mormons,” a Mormon family moves to South Park, and one of the boys finds out that they’re pretty nice. Then they have a fight, and at the end the Mormon boy teaches him a moral lesson: “Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life and a great family and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice, and helping people, and even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”

You’re known for lampooning religion. That clip suggests you see a lot of value in it as well. How does that balance for you?

Parker: I’ve been fascinated with the Mormons for a long time. They are the nicest people in the world. If a religion’s going to take over the world, and the one that really believes “just be super nice to everyone” takes over, that’s all right with me. Even if it’s all bullshit, that’s OK.

Reason: How were each of you raised religiously?

Stone: I was raised agnostic. There was no religion in my house.

Parker: I was pretty much the same. My father tried to raise me Buddhist, as in Alan Watts Buddhism, which is Buddhism in a way.

Reason: I have Mormon friends who are convinced you guys were raised Mormon, because of some of the references in the show.

Parker: Well, we grew up in Colorado. Colorado’s right next to Utah—you know, Mormon Central. My first girlfriend was Mormon, and I went to experience family home evening at her house for the first time. “What are you all doing?” “We’re sitting, and we’re singing songs and playing games together.” I was like, “Boy, that’s ****ed up. Families are not supposed to be doing that.”

Reason: There are also a lot of Jewish references. There’s a whole episode about going to Jewish camp, where they do silly craft projects. Did you go to a Jewish camp?

Stone: No, no. I didn’t even know I was Jewish until I was 16.

Parker: I had to teach him the dreidel song.

Stone: I’m not a very good Jew.

I think we’ve always had religion in the show because it’s just funny. I mean, there’s just a lot of funny stuff. We’ve done stuff that’s really anti-religion in some ways. But it’s such an easy joke to go, “Look how stupid that is,” and then stop right there. Religion’s just much more fascinating than that to us. So from the very beginning, we always thought it was funny just to flip it on its ear and show how screwed up it is, but also how great it is. People couldn’t tell if we were kidding.

Source interview with Parker and Stone.

Youtube of a different interview with Parker and Stone on LDS.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
A strange religion that consists of some funky fringe doctrine whose members are batty but likable.
Isn't this exactly what the LDS church is?
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Nope. We are not one of us likable.
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kmbboots
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I am not sure (after the whole Prop 8 campaign) that the LDS Church is quite so benign. It may be good in a lot of ways, but it isn't harmless.
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Let me just say how nice the church is just for the sheer support network it creates. I am currently the leader of a subsection of my ward, and am in charge of, among many other things, organizing groups to help out with moves, service projects, and whatever else comes up. We help and involve members and non-members alike on a very regular basis. I think our neighborhood is the better for it--just knowing each other and knowing we can call on others to lend a hand when needed. I know there are other churches and organizations that create similar support networks, but I can't help thinking that without the church organization and the call to stand ready to assist when needed, I would know very few of my neighbors and wouldn't be in a position to lend a hand on a few hours' notice.

We have some beliefs that some find strange, and we do send out fresh-faced young men as the face of the church, but we're a bit more than how we usually get portrayed--a list of fringe doctrines and a bunch of smiling people in suits.

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DSH
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"Batty" Tom?

All of us?

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