Sunday, March 27

Why I Believe: The Book of Mormon

There's a new show on Broadway called "The Book of Mormon - the Musical." It was written by a group of men who triumphantly proclaim their distaste for religion through endless sarcasm and obscenity, and its scenes are touted as ridiculing not only Latter-day Saint theology, but the beliefs and faith of religion as a whole.

The musical, which loosely follows the story of two missionaries serving in Uganda, has been heralded by the media as pushing Broadway to new heights of obscenity, profanity, and vulgarity. I'm not sure how that is supposed to be positive. I don't think the message of the musical is positive at all.

I'm not even sure if the writers of the musical ever read the Book of Mormon.

If they did, they didn't get it.

In a world that seems constantly headed for disaster - whether international financial crisis, nuclear catastrophe, international power struggles, or all-out war - people need the hope and peace the gospel brings. They need to know that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, contains principles of truth that can improve our lives, help us find perspective, and bring us closer to God.

The Book of Mormon has changed my life. It has answered my prayers, taught me truth, opened my heart to others, inspired me to greater heights, dried my tears, and pushed me to serve my fellow men.

That's the secret of the Book of Mormon. It's not that the stories are cool about Ammon chopping off arms or Nephi and Lehi surrounded by divine flames... it's because, with each story, there is a parallel to my life - a principle that I can apply to become a better man. 

Nephi teaches me obedience - I will go and do what the Lord has commanded me, for I know He has prepared a way. Being attracted to guys/having ssa/sga/gay in a family-oriented Church means that sometimes I'm the exception to the rule. But just because marriage is a lot less simple doesn't mean that the commandments change. They don't - and as I forge ahead in my life, sometimes I feel like Nephi - not knowing beforehand whither I should go... but knowing that God loves His children and will be involved in my life.

Alma teaches faith. When I was younger, I knew that God loved me. But I didn't know how I could believe it when looking at my life. I have a desire to believe... and from that desire grew my faith. Today I have faith that, no matter what happens in my life, if I am doing what is right, all things will work together for my good.

King Benjamin teaches service. I find that service - especially unannounced, unspoken, anonymous service - warms my soul and gives me incredible peace. There's nothing better than doing things for others without getting any physical blessings in return. And I find that it helps me organize my life and resist temptation better. Cool.

Ammon and his brothers teach diligence. They went among the Lamanites to preach the gospel, were cast into prison, and continued with faith. When I'm having a rough day, and I wonder if I'm doing anything worthwhile, I think back to my own conversion to the gospel... and feel the joy it has brought to me. And that gives me the strength to keep moving forward.

Moroni teaches passion. His fiery letter to Pahoran, his march to oust the king-men and his making of the title of liberty are solid proofs of his zeal in the gospel. If all men were like unto Moroni, the powers of Hell would be shaken... as Satan would not have power to tempt any man. I sometimes think I take after Moroni. Usually I'm pretty cool-headed. But inside I'm hot with passion for the gospel and its principles. And nothing pushes me to action faster than when they are under attack.

Mormon teaches the importance of keeping a record. It's nice to have spiritual experiences, or to learn from the hand of the Lord. But with those experiences comes the responsibility to share what I've learned with others. The Lord commands all men to write and keep a record of His hand in their lives... and that applies to me... and with that record I can share my testimony that God lives and is actively a part of my life.

And Moroni teaches of the importance of having my own personal experiences. The Prophet Joseph taught that a man could learn more from gazing 5 minutes into Heaven than by reading every book ever written on the subject. Reading the scriptures isn't enough for me. I need to have personal experiences - to ask God sincerely if they are true, as Moroni encourages, and to seek the Lord in all things. And it's been true in my life. The Book of Mormon is just a starting point, from which the Lord teaches me more about who I am and my eternal destiny.

Reading the Book of Mormon, and abiding by its precepts, will bring a man nearer to God than will any other book. I've seen that. It has changed me, and continues to change me each day. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and a doorway to receiving revelations from Him. And that's why I believe.


  1. Wow. I'm amazed reading your testimony. There are a lot of parallels between your experiences and mine as I read the Book of Mormon. I also love the story of the conversion of Zeezrom. Powerful stuff!

  2. The creators of BoM: the Musical are the creators of South Park and grew up in the church. The S.P. episode about Mormonism is (in my opinion) pretty respectful (especially in the scene yielding the idea that we could be right) and very factually correct. I was hoping that BoM: the Musical would be the same thing besides the idea that nothing out of Utah applies in Africa (despite the fact that our numbers are BOOMING there). I haven't heard any reviews yet, although from what you say it sounds like I'm going to be disappointed.

  3. Thank you for your blog. It is inspiring, uplifting and educational. Thank you for boldly and intelligently sharing your testimony, and for being brave enough to share your personal challenges in order to teach some of us a bit more about what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. No matter the cost.

  4. GMG,

    Basing your opinion of the musical based on the reviews and not on first-hand knowledge is an interesting approach. You say " I don't think the message of the musical is positive at all." and yet do you know what the message even is?

    You say that "They need to know that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, contains principles of truth that can improve our lives, help us find perspective, and bring us closer to God." and that is precisely what the Book of Mormon musical brings. While doing it in a vulgar manner and a backdrop that shows all religion as kooky and weird, the writers demonstrate that religion is useful at bringing us happiness and a wonderful society as long as we don't take ourselves too seriously.

    You say "I'm not even sure if the writers of the musical ever read the Book of Mormon." They did. In fact they spent 7 years working on this show. So much that they embedded lines of the Book of Mormon stories into the show so subtly that I wonder if it was just the language and syntax rubbing off on them.

    In the First Presidency message, President Uchtdorf says "Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything. People have done the same with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning. Those who look for the good will find a kind and compassionate people—a people who love the Lord and desire to serve Him and bless the lives of their fellowman. But it is also true that those who look for the bad will certainly find things that are not so ideal."

    The Book of Mormon musical recognizes that religion in general needs to apply to our lives but in many instances can't. The backdrop of Uganda provides discussion about AIDS and cultural concepts such as having sex with a virgin will cure your AIDS". The Book of Mormon isn't designed as a practical guide to cure AIDS but it can and, int he musical, does offer hope and solidarity to the villagers and changes them from a people who are cursing God for their problems and pain, to a people praising the Lord and sharing their personal truths.

    The Creators of this musical definitely "Got it right" They took religiona dn the book of Mormon and showed how it could make someone "a better man."

  5. David:

    My comments are derived from interviews and comments made by the authors, and direct excerpts from the libretto... and then trying to amass the similarities in reviews. The authors have been working on this project for years, which means that a lot of it has already been publicized... And I know enough about Broadway personally to always question reviews.

    The Book of Mormon, and religion as a whole, should influence our daily lives. It should color who we are and bleed through into everything we do. Just interlacing stories from the Book of Mormon into the musical is like referencing a popular novel in the body of a research text.

    I agree that I can find the good in everything. That's usually what I do here, and people sometimes mock me for my optimism. And the writers were keen to include parts of the musical that show how belief can mitigate problems even when it doesn't seem to apply to everyday life. But the Book of Mormon is so much more. For me, the Book of Mormon does apply to my life... and with revelation becomes a manual for everyday living.

    Ultimately, there are a few good things in the musical. But when there are musical numbers in a mainstream Broadway musical that, in their course, literally curse God with profanity and vulgarity beyond anything I've ever heard of on Broadway... I can't help but try to share the real message. Like a rated-R movie, there might be some type of compelling message, but it's not worth the association with the rest. Knowing what I do, this musical would definitely be rated R, for profanity at least. And, at least in my own perspective from reading the Book of Mormon, if the authors had truly understood the Book of Mormon, they would have included much more than just references to stories. It would have changed their language, guided their choreography, pushed them to the limits in makeup and set design and lighting cues. It would have burned into the libretto and left their testimonies in the lyrics of each number.

    You obviously feel the profanity, vulgarity, and light-minded sarcasm was redeemed by a good message. I don't. A musical can have compelling music, insightful choreography, and good actors... but even not having watched it (I don't ever plan to - I am sure I would have to walk out as soon as they arrive in Uganda), I'd suggest watching a clean, uplifting musical instead, and then going home and finding personal direction and revelation in the real Book of Mormon.

  6. David:

    I am refusing to glance at it. I make the same decision for media and entertainment every single day.

    This is the standard that I hold, and the standard that the Brethren suggest for media and entertainment choices:

    "While much entertainment is good, some of it can lead you away from righteous living. Offensive material is often found in web sites, concerts, movies, music, videocassettes, DVDs, books, magazines, pictures, and other media. Satan uses such entertainment to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead you into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong. 

    Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable." - (For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God)

    Since I had to censor out the name of the song in your last comment for vulgarity, and from the comments made by the producers, and every review I've seen, I think it's pretty clear that this musical fits the bill of being "vulgar... in any way."

    There are hundreds of examples in literature, musicals, and film as proof that you don't need to be vulgar in order to show pain. I wouldn't see a musical that satirically denounces LDS beliefs (or all religion, as claimed by the writers) in the first place, but knowing that it's vulgar cements my decision, and will definitely extend to those who ask my feelings on it. Call me overzealous or whatever, but I follow the standards for media choice as endorsed by the Brethren in For the Strength of Youth, and I've seen blessings from making that choice to follow in my life. And so I will continue to maintain those standards.


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