As we reported here at RD earlier last month, one of the big stories in the world of Mormonism this year will be The Book of Mormon, a Broadway musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone with help from Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, telling the tale of two naive but well-meaning LDS missionaries to Uganda who, faced with the realities of mass human suffering, collide with the limits of their insular Book-of-Mormon-Belt worldview.
Reviewers are reporting that despite the shock value of the show’s obscenity-laden musical centerpiece, The Book of Mormon musical is actually sweet on Mormons, depicting us—for all of our unique beliefs and, well, cultural corniness—not as caricatures but as good-natured human beings who really just want to help.
“It will be fascinating to see how the LDS Church and its members react,” I wrote. “When Jon Krakauer’s ill-conceived Under the Banner of Heaven appeared, the Church answered with a long, defensive, citation-heavy press release. These days, I’m betting that the Church’s extremely savvy digital media folks will find a way to make most of the traffic the show will generate. Just imagine a television spot for the new Mormon.org ad campaign: ‘I’m John. I’m a sixth-generation Mormon, a father, a husband, and a South Park fan. I think my religion is awesome, but I also know how to relax and laugh a little. And I’m a Mormon.’ Bingo!”
And today, LDS Church issued the following statement:
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.
That’s right, a deadpanned one-liner (notice the word “attempt”) with a hotlink to the actual book at the center of the hype.
I’m liking this cool, media-savvy response. In the digital world, it’s traffic that matters, and LDS PR is hoping that at least some of the Broadway hype will drive a little more traffic to the Book of Mormon itself.
See, it’s true: Mormons really do just want to help.