Update, April 25, 2011: After reading the commentary of Glenn Nelson over at MormonArtistGroup.com, I'm much less concerned about the musical and would like to update my opinion to this: "I choose not to go because of the vulgarity. If some people come away thinking Mormons aren't so bad, that's great." My original post follows. Kudos to Bookslinger, by the way, for directing me to Glenn's commentary.

When the artsy folks on Broadway mock your religion, the "cool" thing to do is chuckle with them and not sweat it. Perhaps the wise thing to do is to ignore it and not give any further publicity to a misguided effort. I just checked my resume and noted that I make no claims to coolness nor to wisdom, so I'll say what I think. I'm disappointed that Broadway and others in theater would stoop to belittle our religion in this way. I strongly agree with Michael Otterson in "Why I won’t be seeing the Book of Mormon musical," a carefully considered essay for the Washington Post. Kudos, Brother Otterson.

Here is an excerpt:
I’m not willing to spend $200 for a ticket to be sold the idea that religion moves along oblivious to real-world problems in a kind of blissful naiveté.

Somewhere I read that the show’s creators spent seven years writing and producing “The Book of Mormon” musical. As I reflected on all that time spent parodying this particular target, I also wondered what was really going on with Mormons in Africa during those same seven years.

So I checked.

  • The World Health Organization estimates that 884 million people worldwide don’t have access to clean water. This is a huge problem in Africa, not only because of water-borne diseases but because kids who spend hours each day walking to and from the nearest well to fill old gasoline cans with water cannot attend school. According to church records, in the past seven years, more than four million Africans in 17 countries have gained access to clean drinking water through Mormon humanitarian efforts to sink or rehabilitate boreholes.
  • More than 34,000 physically handicapped African kids now have wheelchairs through the same Mormon-sponsored humanitarian program. To see a legless child whose knuckles have become calloused through walking on his hands lifted into a wheelchair may be the best way to fully understand the liberation this brings.
  • Millions of children, meanwhile, have now been vaccinated against killer diseases like measles as the church has sponsored or assisted with projects in 22 African countries.
  • More than 126,000 Africans have had their sight restored or improved through Mormon partnership with African eye care professionals in providing training, equipment and supplies.
  • Another 52,000 Africans have been trained to help newborns who otherwise would never take a first breath. Training in neonatal resuscitation has also been a big project for Mormons in Africa.
  • Then, of course, there is the tragedy of AIDS. A couple of weeks ago I attended a dinner where the Utah AIDS Foundation honored James O. Mason, former United States Assistant Secretary of Health. When he was working for the Center for Disease Control in 1984, a project to research the epidemiology and treatment of AIDS was established at the Hospital Mama Yempo in Kinshasha, Zaire. After visiting the hospital and examining the children and adults with AIDS, Mason described the death rate and the associated infections from AIDS as “horrific.” Mason, a Mormon, knows quite a bit about AIDS and a great deal about Africa.
  • None of this includes responses to multiple disasters, like the flooding in Niger, where the Church provided clothing, quits and hygiene items to 20,000 people in six inundated regions of the country.

Of course, parody isn’t reality, and it’s the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously – if they leave a theater believing that Mormons really do live in some kind of a surreal world of self-deception and illusion.
He's got more to say--please read his full essay.

Of course, I know some of our critics here will jump all over the phrase "a surreal world of self-deception and illusion." All belief systems, including atheism and materialism, are subject to such criticism (not that I think it's fair or warranted, even for some views I disagree with sharply). As usual, you're free to disagree with our beliefs and claim they are errant, but this blog is intended for civil discussion and today's post is not intended to open up the floodgates for reasons about why we are deceived. The post is about the Broadway musical poking fun of Mormon blindness to real world problems versus the more accurate view (IMHO) that Mormons are very involved in addressing some of the big humanitarian issues before us.
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