Friday, August 15, 2014

Mormon Missionaries are Such a Joke.

A joke? That seems a bit harsh, wouldn't you say? Not to the viewers and writers of The Book of Mormon musical I suppose.

While getting dinner downtown with my family this evening, we noticed many nicely dressed people walking to the theatre to see the award winning musical The Book of Mormon. The story follows the lives of two missionaries in Africa. It's catchy, crude, and mocks the beliefs of the Mormon faith that I hold very dear to my heart. That, in addition to making fun of raping babies, female genital mutilation, and racism; everything that the thousands of Americans supporting and viewing this musical love, I guess. Good to see $11.4 million hard earned American dollars well spent.



Since the beginning, this musical has really puzzled me. As a nation, I like to view America as a good-hearted place with kind, intelligent, and selfless people. As a whole, we take care of each other and band together in times of need. We defend the defenseless and seek truth, understanding, and overall love and equality. Ideally, I'd like to continue to believe this to be true.... and yet, overall I will admit I feel alienated.

Generally, I think the LDS church has been very accepting and light-hearted about the production, but does that make it ok? Because our general approach is to turn the other cheek, then that's perceived as permission? Just because someone is an easy target, is it morally right? The general leadership of the church, it's members, and it's admirable approach gives a wonderful example, and though I'll continue to try to follow it, they are better people than I am.

I feel like a finger has been personally poked at me by my neighbors currently viewing the play. I feel laughed at by public figures (like Hillary Clinton) who rave about it's hilarious and "brilliant" script. I feel sad that there is such a draw towards an evening immersed in what has been described as "a nearly miraculous combination of vile and sweet." I feel defensive of my own baby brother living as a missionary currently in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, and my brother-in-law in Antofagasta, Chile.

(The cutie patootie in the top photo, left side is my brother Steven, stud in the bottom photo is my brother-in-law Garret.)


                           

Then there are my other brothers. Bryan (below) actually served his mission in Africa (JUST LIKE THE PLAY?! Yes. Sort of.) If you wanna know what an accurate portrayal of a missionary in Africa is like, I'm sure something can be arranged. I can assure you that proclaiming the F-word in an african language was not a common occurrence.


And Jeff spent two years in Austria. He was the first in my family to choose to go on a mission.

And that handsome blue-eyed guy on the left- that's Michael. He served in the good ol' state of Colorado. Believe it or not, us Americans can put missionaries through the ringer without the language barriers or culture shock.

Serving missions are serious, difficult, and can be trying. They are also selfless, rewarding, life-changing, and uplifting. More importantly, they are something the young men in the LDS faith don't do for themselves; they do it to help and serve others. Missions are strict, and spiritual. They can also be dangerous. My husband can attest to many times that he feared for his life while being a Mormon missionary in Chile. And, they do all this to share a message of faith, along with a belief that is sacred, special, and important to them with others who may be unaware of it, and the blessings it has to offer in their own lives.

This is why a raunchy portrayal of missionary life in the form of a satirical musical bothers me.

Not only that, it is a jab at all organized religion. Though presented in the familiar, yet misunderstood foil of missionary life, the fun is being poked at other christian denominations, sects, and religions as well. Is it still ok? Did they hide it well?

 I like to think I have no problem laughing at myself, I mean come on, I'm hysterical! ;)
But really, I recognize the importance in being able to take a joke, poke fun at yourself in all of your oddities, and I tend to not get offended easily. I also recognize that as this musical is a satire, it's nature is to poke fun. Even so, under every "just kidding" is the hint of someone's true feelings.

Sure, those missionaries in the play are naive, and ill-informed, and want to share doctrine that is downright comedic, but.... we're just kidding!

.... Are you?

I want to tell myself that the supporters of this musical, it's raving critics, and the common American viewers aren't laughing at me. I want to believe that even those not of my faith recognize the true sacrifice Mormon missionaries make by saving their money from a young age to support themselves for 2 years in going to a place unfamiliar to them to serve others, and try to share the sweet message of Jesus Christ and his love for us with others - others who may reject them, laugh at them, and even try to harm them.

Mormon missionaries may just be young guys (or girls!) in suits and ties riding bikes to you, but they are not to me. Those are my brothers, my husband, my cousins, my friends, and my future children.

I want to believe that those who go to see this play recognize that. But part of me wonders... if they truly did, would they be seeing it in the first place?

Having friends who are of many defining characteristics, faiths, orientations, races, and the like, I would like to believe that I would not support a production that openly ridiculed their beliefs and made a mockery of their lifestyle. I really, really wanted to believe that others would feel the same way about my faith.. but 9 Tony awards and a Grammy seem to disagree with me.

And frankly, that hurts. I cannot speak for all members of the Mormon faith, but it does. hurt. me.

Even so, people will continue to see it. The play will continue to be a roaring hit, and for years to come will continue to tour in cities that surround me.

That being said, I have a request. As a friend, family member, reader of my blog, acquaintance, or stranger, I hope you don't have the desire to see this broadway musical. If you are at all human, I've maybe even piqued your interest, but hope you understand my view.

Please don't see this play for all that it represents, that being it's crudity, cruelty, and straight-up ignorance.

If you should choose to see it though, I simply ask this: educate yourself. There will be points where you might think "Is that true?" or "That's what Mormons believe?!" and when those moments come I hope you are driven to really know. Want a free copy of the actual Book of Mormon? Tell me, I will get you one. Ask questions. Ask me. Ask a pair of real, live, bonafide Mormon missionaries (after all, that's what they are here for!) and learn what is real, and what is half-baked satire concocted to sell seats.

You are not a bad person for seeing this play, nor are you ignorant, but to believe everything said in this play is a whole other story. Though there are factual truths in the play regarding our beliefs, the presentation of them can be misconstrued, and belittling. It's hard to grasp the full and accurate representation of a story when you have only read chapters 3, 17, and 38. Out of respect for me, and the things that I hold sacred in this faith, I beg you to get the facts straight!


If you want to see a TRUE story about a pair of Mormon Missionaries, see The Saratov Approach (About two missionaries kidnapped and held ransom in Russia, available via Neflix) or movies like The Best Two Years, or The Other Side of Heaven (featuring Anne Hathaway, and I think available of YouTube). These are all pretty darn accurate, uplifting, and at times funny :)


There's a scene in the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape (with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio) where the main character's mother is made a spectacle of because of her large stature and weight. Children peek through the windows to catch a glimpse of her, people take pictures when she steps outside of her home, and in the end of the movie, she dies. Gilbert is distraught with how he will remove her from the second story of their home without a crowd gathering to watch in awe. Finally, he chooses to burn down their home, with her resting inside. A line in that movie always stood out to me when he says, "I can't let her be a joke. ... I will not let her be a joke."

That is the line that flashed in my mind seeing the crowds of people on their way to see The Book of Mormon musical.

I will not let my Brother be a joke.

Blood related, or the one that died for my the remission of my sins.

I hope you won't either.

24 comments:

  1. I like you. And I like this. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much! It's scary verbalizing something I typically keep more private like thoughts on religion and faith (as it's so easy to find yourself in contentious debate), so I appreciate your encouragement!

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  2. This is so awesome, Val. You are awesome. This play has bugged me for some time, but I've never found the courage nor the words to say anything about it. Missionaries are so dear to my heart too, and it hurts like crazy to see them constantly made fun of. Many people don't know or understand the trials they go through, and some never will be able to. I love the way you put this. Really, truly this is wonderful and I hope the whole world reads it :)

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    1. Um, no, YOU are awesome. Thanks for the support, love!

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  3. Good points Val. I am also LDS. My husband, our sons and so far 3 grandsons and one granddaughter have or are serving missions. Some in the good old US of A, other's in Japan, Chile, Mexico and French Canada. Another has just sent in his papers. We don't like to see the church belittled in any way, but I do think that that isn't the intention of the play. However, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and so I could be wrong about their intentions. But even if their intentions are not to ridicule the church and missionaries, it can certainly affect people that way. Many non members may think its all true and not just joking around. I haven't seen it and don't plan to. I don't want to support it. I have heard that many people have actually contacted missionaries because of seeing the play. so blog articles like yours can help people want to know what we really believe. Good Work.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! It's true what they say, any attention is good attention right? I am very impressed to see how kindly the church has handled the production. I did hear that in an interview the writers/creators mentioned they were not targeting the LDS church, but rather all organized religion, and that the LDS missionaries was a fun way to present that...though I don't know that is much of an improvement, haha. My hope is that those seeing the play are then driven to know more, and in that sense I'm appreciative! How exciting to have so many missionaries in your family, it really is the best! Thanks for reading!

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  4. If the LDS church is honestly true, what does it matter what people "of the world" say. Shouldn't the spirit bear witness to them of the untruths of such a production? And before you write this off as obliviously "anti-mormon" I challenge you to research your own organization's history. Members are told to avoid any "anti Mormon" literature, but why? If the church and, by association, the Book of Mormon is true then it will be able to stand against any form of scrutiny as Jeffrey R. Holland says in his Oct 09 General Conference talk "Safety for the Soul". (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_ac3tWeV3I&src_vid=TMWK20vZFwQ&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_614466) I'm not here to bash on your religion as it was once mine, simply asking you look into its history, its true history, not the whitewashed watered down versions fed to primary children. I did just that, and using the churches own publishing's came to learn truths I once only though as "anti-mormon" hate speech. If your church is true, as you believe it to be, then you have nothing to fear. But even as you are reading this I know your reactions. To you I am merely a lost sheep, one pulled from the flock by the ways of the world, choosing the easy route of sin over the hard ways of righteousness. In fact, loosing my religion was one of the hardest times in my life and I wish the result could have been different but upon learning what I did I could no longer associate myself with such an organization. 99% of people who read this will not heed my challenge, instead choosing to ignore free though, and documented fact. I'm counting on you disagreeing with me and defending not only your religion, but your way of life as well as the lives of many of your loved ones. I can only hope that in your disagreement, as a way to validate your beliefs you do some digging. Discover for yourself. Like I said, If it is really true what do you have to fear? I do this not in anger, hate, or any other negative emotion. It greatly upsets me seeing good people taken advantage of as I and my family was (and is). I will say there is things about the church on the internet that is blatantly false and negative, but there are also facts that just because they contradict what the church says does not make them "anti mormon" or false. Thank you, and have a good evening.

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    1. I have a few things to address in response to this comment, and the comment following. 1. You are absolutely right, the spirit of the Lord, which is good, uplifting, and truth manifesting will make itself known (more easily to those that ask for a confirmation of some sort). I care what people "of the world" say because I'm human and have feelings, it's natural. If someone created a play insulting brunettes, that would probably bother me too! I'm not perfect, nor are many members and leaders of the church. This brings me to 2. I know there is so much information regarding the church and it's history, some even unsettling. This is the case with anything! Because we are, as stated earlier, human :) The church's history isn't perfect because the people making history were not perfect. Likewise, I don't think it is plausible for me to understanding everything in the religious sense. Even so, I can have confirmations of truth without it making perfect sense. The way I see it, the ways of God probably shouldn't make perfect sense to me, otherwise how do I have yet to progress and learn? My knowledge is small compared to all he knows, to believe I know it all would be nothing short of arrogant. To quote you, "even as you are reading this I know your reactions". I am a brainwashed follower, raised in the church and trapped by my upbringing and the expectations of others. I can't change your mind. But I do know that if I die and learn that is the case, I will have lived a pretty spectacular life, short of many heartaches and trials others have experienced. 3. I appreciate your challenge to explore more. I have delved deep into doctrine, as finding out whether the church is true or not for ourselves is something that has been encouraged by the church and my church leaders and teachers my entire life. The thing is there is a good and bad spirit that can be present to manifest, and I have felt both. I know much about doctrine that can be considered "unsettling" and have much still to learn, but it has only strengthened my testimony in more way than I can account. I'm sorry you did not have the same experience, but whatever your experience is, it is just that: yours. Likewise, mine is mine. 4. Though I appreciate your thoughts, I request any conversations that could be misconstrued as negative be moved to a private format. My email address is available under the "Advertising" tab at the top of the screen. This is not because I have deep, dark demons to hide, but rather because A. I'm not looking for a debate, especially a public one. It's inappropriate to me. and B. My blog is a personal blog meant to most importantly uplift others. Argumentative comments do the opposite of that. Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, this post is not about the truthfulness of the church. It's about something a lot of people lack these days: respect, understanding, and compassion. I merely verbalized an opinion about something important to me, it helps me to understand my own feelings better writing them down. I'm sorry they were not what you were looking for. Now, this response has already become so much longer than I had hoped, so with that, thank you so much for reading, and I wish you every happiness!

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    2. I always find it interesting that people who leave the church often points at members inside the church shouting that we are the ones being fooled and deceived. I guess one thing is for sure: one of us is.

      To me, it seems insane to make this decision based on a few "documented" facts. I've read a lot of these "documented" facts, from the theories about the origins of the Book of Mormon, to the falsely translated Pearl of Great Price...and I'll tell you one thing - the theories are shaky at best. Most theories are based on Joseph Smith plagiarizing the Book of Mormon from some manuscript he supposedly stole from Solomon Spaulding. What's funny is the LDS church actually FOUND this manuscript, and proved that it looked nothing like the Book of Mormon. But then....the people are concocted the theory responded "Oh...wait...no we think there was...another manuscript...but it's been destroyed...doesn't exist anymore." Yeah. Ok. Great theory guys. Someone plagiarized Harry Potter off something I wrote, too. I had the entire first book written in a spiral bound notebook. Someone stole it though. No. I don't have any proof. By the way, you can read the manuscript here:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=q9z-Pf4Y5ccC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

      I'll give you a dollar for every time you find the names "Nephi", "Lehi", "Helaman", or "Moroni". Seriously. You might be able to quit your day job taking money from me if you're confident enough in these "documented' theories.

      Anyone who believes these theories is really reaching. And I mean really, really reaching. Grasping at straws. I think those theories are a lot more of a fairy tale than Joseph Smith's explanation.

      I only bring up the theories about the Book of Mormon because in the end, it's the only thing that matters. Anyone who wants to leave the church will have to do it by crawling over, around, or under the Book of Mormon. You can't leave the church without providing some reasonable explanation of its origins other than the one Joseph Smith provided.

      Best regards,

      Harvey Specter

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  5. Comment approval Valerie? this is exactly what im talking about. I know you wont approve that, and it just furthers my point. Please I beg you, research. Contact me if you have any questions or would like to look at some of the church released documents that can be considered "anti mormon" by contradicting teachings, as well as historical facts. Email is asons13@gmail.com

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    1. Also on a more formal note, please do not come into my house and insult my rules. To avoid condescending remarks like these are one of the many reasons the option to approve or deny comments is offered. Just like you have the right to choose not to attach a name to your thoughts, I have the right to not approve comments if I do not feel they are appropriate. Though I have approved your comments (anonymous as they are), I will not approve further ones unless they are uplifting, and or add positive value to my blog. Thank you.

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  6. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Very well said - ditto ditto ditto!

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  7. Don't let it get to you. The Church's response is the right one. Remember, there is opposition in all things. It's Satan's way! But not to worry, truth always prevails. The Lord has a way of turning bad into good. I am sure this garbage play will open some peoples minds to actually ask "What do Mormons really believe?" and then actually take the time to find out. And when they do, lives will be blessed!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! The opposition makes the other end so much sweeter, doesn't it?

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  8. Nice post. I'm also LDS, so thanks for defending the faith. With your analogy to Gilbert Grape, though, are you saying that you're willing to "burn down the house" to keep your brother from being a joke?

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    1. Ben, you are very analytical. What a great attribute! I suppose if you really read in to it, it could be interpreted in many ways: destroying the walls that were keeping me from vocalizing something that in ways scared me, or rather doing away with anything that can hold someone back or keep them from standing up for what they think is right.

      Though I'm flattered you think I may have placed some underlying meaning, there wasn't any specifically to be found. That movie on the other hand... so much to interpret and discuss! It would be a great candidate to study in a film class. If you've seen it, you already know that the main character was trapped by this house his father built and later committed suicide in. In the film it was sort of a pheonix rising from the ash moment. I think him burning it down was both out of empathy and mercy for his mother and her final moments, but also a metaphor for a clean slate, fresh start, and freedom.

      To answer your question, I won't be setting fire to any theatre's any time soon ;) Though as a good friend of mine said, I will "bring down the thunder" if needed. haha

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  9. Thank you so much!! You could not have said that any better! I am a Mormon and I have a sister serving a mission as well as multiple cousins and friends. The play offends me and how so many people don't even think twice about going to see it. Thank you for saying this! It helps me so much in how to respond to people about the play and how we can use it as a missionary tool instead of letting it put us down!! Thank you again!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I'm grateful to not be alone in my feelings regarding the production. Your comment is very much appreciated :)

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  10. However, things like this just reaffirm to me that what I believe in is true. If the Church were ever mainstream and fully accepted by this world, I would fear that we had finally lost our way.

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    1. Ah! You couldn't be more right in my mind.

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  11. Unsettling history does nothing dilute the power of these words. Anyone who honestly wants to know Jesus Christ can't deny the spirit that accompanies them.

     15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heardd him.

     16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;

     17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.

     18 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.

     19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.

     20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.

     21 And when he had said these words, hewept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

     22 And when he had done this he wept again

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Oh hey! You're awesome.