LDS Church Responds to South Park Mormon Musical

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.

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.