Any chance you caught the Tony Awards and this performance from the Best Play, Book of Mormon?

I like that they poke fun at the Mormons here while continuing to also show some of the tenets of their faith as being fairly mainstream beliefs that most people would believe. (E.g. God has a plan for us, etc.)

Some years ago I got the opportunity to tour the Mormon Temple on the West Side of Manhattan with a number of Paulist Priests. They opened it to the public to dispel some myths before the temple was consecrated. It was a once in a lifetime, opportunity. We got to see their baptistry (where Mormons practice “proxy Baptisms” saving the souls of non-Mormons by dunking themselves in your name), the ward (which is the equivalent of their parish), the bride’s room (Surprisingly Mormons take marriage very seriously–including being ‘Sealed” to one another for eternity. Mormons can remarry after the death of a spouse, but that marriage is only an Earthly marriage.), and the Temple itself.

The ward is the meeting place each Sunday and the Temple is reserved for private meditation. You go to the Temple when you really feel like you want to spend time with God. There’s a video that most Mormons watch again and again when they go to the Temple to meditate and it often strikes them in different ways depending on their situation. (Much like our three year cycle of readings).

I found the Mormons to be incredibly open and they answered all our questions without much secrecy.

My favorite part was when they described Sunday ritual: About 2.5 hours long. Once a month ANYONE can get up and preach for about 5 minutes.

The woman leading our tour asked us, “Isn’t that great! We get to hear each other’s voices once a month. Isn’t that something that you think your church might want to look into.”

Without blinking an eye, Paulist Father Jack Collins said, “Lady….” in a perfect New York brashness, “It’s bad enough that they have to listen to US!”

I doubled over in laughter and began to think of all the people who’d get up once an month and preach. It could be great or it could be a sideshow.

Regardless, there were two Mormons on the UB Campus here recently participating in a panel discussion with my colleagues and I and I found more of the same. Very open, willing to field any questions, dispelling myths and even admitting that some folks think their beliefs are a bit goofy.

I also like that when Mormons proselytize they mostly talk about their own experience, sharing THEIR story. They give a personal witness and a gentle invitation but they aren’t coercive in their tactics as some other religions have been in my experience.

I’m also glad that the Mormons have a thick skin about the play. One mormon who I know said to me, “Just keep talking about us. Give us the opportunity to start a conversation with people. That’s the best thing they can do for us.”

The LDS official response was simple but not vile spewing:

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

Imagine if someone did a similar play called the Book of Leviticus and made fun of Jews.
Or the Gospel of Luke and made fun of Christians?
Or the Koran and made fun of Muslims?

Would any of us have been able to have such a thick skin about it (see Donohue, Bill)?

I suppose we would not. I even remember being mildly offended at the play Altar Boyz some years back. There’s a bunch of movies that have lots of anti-Catholic slurs in them and you never hear a peep of apology about these. The Mormons seem to have struck a healthy balance in their response.