We can learn from the play Book Of Mormon

Posted Friday, May 17th, 2013. Filed Under Voices of wisdom

I just went to see the play, Book of Mormons, last night. I loved it. Admittedly I am not a fan of the show South Park because I find a lot of it inappropriate. Yet these same writers produced a really funny satire. The inappropriate humour carried throughout the play with many inappropriate words and scenes. So why the difference?

This play to me is a satire on religion, not just the Mormon religion but all regligions. I hope I do not offend any of my religious readers in what I write for I saw this play more from a spiritual view than religious. I can see how if you are religious you would find the play offensive.

Let me share my spiritual take on this. First I’ll briefly share the essence of what I want to focus on.

In the play some of the areas that they satirized were the seriousness and rigidness of religion, how G-d can be cruel by letting people suffer (in this case the people of Uganda, Africa) and that many of us are self-interested, yes even the religious ones.

One of the main characters, elder Price, was the top of his class and told how wonderful he was and how he was going to change the world. He was paired for his mission with this off-beat elder who was different than most of the elders. They paird these two oddities together and sent them to Uganda, Africa. Elder Price held the illusion that he was going to follow all the rules, share the teachings from the Book of Mormon and change the lives of the people of Africa. He never saw himself as a team player or paired rather he was the one who was going to change the world and his sidekick would stand and support his greatness. He was a lone ranger and very much self-interested.

The irony is that elder Price ends up abandoning his partner (broke rule #72) and decides to leave Africa after he sees a man being shot in the face for no reason. He began to doubt what impact he will have on these African people who knew only suffering and anger. His partner, the edler (oddball) he left behind began to share the teachings the book of Mormon with his own twist. He had a tendency to exaggerate and make things up. While he deviated from the book he did something that no elder before him had done – he gave these people hope, brought unity amongst a village that lived by ‘survival of the fittest’, and brought joy and laughter. The people for the first time felt a sense of purpose. The village, inspired by this younger girl, decided to embrace the religion and follow the book of Mormon and share the ideals of this church to others. Each one was baptized.

In the end elder Price didn’t leave. However he became very disillusioned with the religion and all that it offered. He began to reject being a Mormon. His oddball partner achieved the success that he couldn’t and didn’t. The news of this oddball’s success reached back to USA and the leader with a few partners flew down to honour this elder for his good work. This meant that he needed to bring his partner, elder Price, back to the fold. He tracked him down and asked elder Price to be there for him for the ceremony and then he can be on his way. Elder Price agrees to this arrangement.

When the leader of the church arrived with his two companions the villagers wanted to show their respect and gratitude and put on a play with what they had been taught about the story from the Book fo Mormon. As you can imagine, the oddball elder had a good imagination and made up some pretty funny stories, even embarrassing. When the play was done, the leader shut down this mission office and ordered the elders sent home. The girl was devastated. She felt betrayed and made fun of. She could not share this with the villagers who for the first time knew happiness. So she lied and said that elder would not be back because he was eaten by a lion.

While this is happening elder Price had an epiphany with relation to his existence and he finally understood what his oddball partner was there to teach him. He realized that the religion was not about being so stuck in your ways, rigid and serious. It was about bringing people together, a community and supporting one another; being kind to one another; trusting in G-d.

Lo and behold the oddball elder appears in the village and the villagers think he has risen from the dead. He and elder Price tell them they will not abandon the people of this village and that these villagers are as much Mormons as the next Mormon.

I have given you a skeletal version of this play. What really stuck out for me were a few things. First, the revelation by elder Price; second our existence – good or bad – and how we see our lives, comes from a belief system. As humans we have chosen to live with self-interest to the detriment of our world. If we can let that go and see goodness in our fellow human beings than we can change how we see the world. What was once a world of fear, anger and sadness can be replaced by love, compassion and kindness.

While the oddball elder created an illusion of paradise in the minds of the villagers, most knew that paradise was a metaphor, except for the girl who inspired the group to baptise themselves. She did come to realize this metaphor and in the end the villagers did stand together against the cruelty of others only to triumph. Anger was replaced with laughter, sadness with joy, and self-interst with unity.

From a spiritual view, I see this play as a metaphor for all the religions of the world that have caused so much death, sadness, war, and anger. Follow your religions but not to the point where one feels superior to another, or that every person must follow the same path. As for G-d, this is personal. I truly believe that there is ‘g-d-like’ in each of us. We as humans get to choose how we behave and treat one another.

So I did love this play and saw that even in the irony and silliness of this play that if we choose to help one another in this world, see G-d as benevolent and loving and mirror that, we will begin to shift so many things in our world.

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