I need to write something.
I haven’t written a book in over a year (while I realize that Anabel Redefined came out in March, it actually was finished by the end of August 2015), and even though I have tried (tooling around with Emma’s novel has been fun, but it’s proving a little harder than I had initially envisioned), I need to write something for me. Something that I’m writing because I want to. For no other reason than I think it will be good for me.
So, I’m reading The Book of Mormon.
The play. Not the ACTUAL Book of Mormon, although truth be told, I could probably write about that as well. But no.
I’m talking about THIS.
I’ve written before about how much I loved BOM when I saw it last summer at the Kennedy Center. The thing was, I expected I would think it was funny. I did not think I would find myself in the story. Even over a year later, the soundtrack is the first thing I flip on when I am alone in my car.
So, what I’m going to do is go through the Book of the play. I will be working from the Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical. The words of the text of the play are NOT MINE. You will know they are text of the original book because I will put them in italics. My thoughts, feelings, and memories from seeing it (as well as listening to the soundtrack all the time) are all mine. I’m not doing this for any monetary reasons. I’m providing a recap of my favorite musical of all time.
(Side note: I have a lot of Mormon friends. I love my Mormon friends. My feelings about BOM actually have very little to do with the teachings of the LDS church, which I will explore as I go on.)
So, with all that out of the way, let’s talk about the opening of BOM.
The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway on March 24, 2011. It is still playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it first opened, and has had two National Tours. I caught the second one at the Kennedy Center in DC in July of 2015. I also want to be clear about something: I knew absolutely NOTHING about this show until I saw it, aside from the fact that it was written by the South Park guys and it was called The Book of Mormon.
I don’t have any pictures of the stage that day, because UNLIKE OTHER PEOPLE AT THE KENNEDY CENTER I FOLLOWED THE RULES ABOUT NOT TAKING PHOTOS. But it was beautiful. Breathtaking, really. There were brilliant blues and clouds and the outline of a Mormon temple structure, topped, of course, with the Angel Moroni.
And that’s how our story begins:
PROLOGUE: THE HILL CUMORAH
We are treated to a scene from the ACTUAL Book of Mormon. As the Narrator informs us, it is the year 326 AD, and there is a leader of the Nephite people in ancient Upstate New York. He is named Mormon. Mormon tells us how his people sailed from Israel to create a new nation. He shows us the famous golden plates, which tell the story of his people and their journey, as well as their meeting with Jesus.
As the Narrator goes on, we learn that the Nephite people were wiped out, and Moroni, Mormon’s son, buries the golden plates in the hopes that someday, someone special would find them.
NARRATOR: And lo, Moroni buried the golden plates high on a hill. Centuries later, the golden plates were found, giving birth to the fastest growing religion today! A church that even now sends missionaries out…all over the world…
Then the scene shifts. We are taken to the Missionary Training Center, where we meet one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Elder Kevin Price, a good-looking and self-assured young man, appears holding the Book of Mormon. We hear a ding-dong, and…
ELDER PRICE: Hello,
My name is Elder Price
And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.
The song Hello starts.
Hello is adorable. We are treated to a group of Mormon missionaries–all young, clean-cut men–practicing their pitches, if you will, for when they go out into the world to evangelize. And really, after all, it’s a great sell, because:
ELDER GREEN: This book gives you the secret to eternal life
ELDER CROSS: Sound good?
ELDERS: Eternal Life!
ELDER GREEN: With Jesus Christ!
ELDERS: Is super fun!
What I liked about this song is it struck the right balance between endearing (the fresh-faced Elders are awfully cute and engaging), with a few hints of sanctimony. The fact of the matter is, whenever you encounter someone who has a different set of beliefs than you, if they are trying to evangelize you, they will be sure to let you know why THEIR beliefs are better than yours. I mean, after all, if you say no–
ELDER GRANT: No thanks?
ELDER GREEN: You sure?
ELDER GRANT: Oh well.
ELDER GREEN: That’s fine.
ELDER GRANT: Goodbye!
ELDER GREEN: Have fun in hell.
ELDER GRANT AND ELDER CROSS: Hey now!
That was the moment that got my first real laugh. Then, immediately after this, comes the entrance of Elder Cunningham.
Elder Cunningham was originally played by Josh Gad (you probably know him as Olaf). And my Elder Cunningham had a similar appearance: nerdy, a little overweight, and he did not fit in with the other svelte, handsome young missionaries. So it’s no surprise that his first words were:
ELDER CUNNINGHAM: Hello?! Would you like to change religions, I have a free book written by Jesus!
This is the first record scratch moment of the play. Everyone onstage glares at Elder Cunningham, while he is admonished by a loud, booming voice that admonishes him with the words “NO, NO, ELDER CUNNINGHAM! That’s NOT how we do it. You’re making things up again. JUST STICK TO THE APPROVED DIALOGUE. Elders, show him!”
And the rest of the song continues, with the other Elders performing the rest of the song in sync, with Elder Cunningham attempting to keep up with them but failing miserably to make himself a uniform part of the group.
Even though Elder Cunningham was meant to be laughed at, I found myself feeling a pang. He was trying so hard. But he wasn’t fitting in. And what, exactly, did the voice mean when it stated he was making things up AGAIN? That didn’t bode well.
The song finishes with a gentle reminder of our own mortality:
ELDERS: You’re gonna die someday!
But if you read this book you’ll see that there’s another way
Spend eternity with friends and family.
We can fully guarantee you that this book will change your life
This book will change your life
This book will change your life!
The Book of Mormon!
That’s where we’ll end for today. Thanks for coming on this journey with me! We’ll see you next time, when we go through my oldest child’s favorite song, Two by Two.