Hello! My name is Elder Llewellyn, and I'd like to share with you the most amazing book! (From the opening song, but with my name place in it).
Back in May, I went to see The Book of Mormon. I'd like to say that I absolutely loved it! I know that a lot of people in the LDS community have said some awful things about it, but I'd like to say that they have inflated their opinions to extreme views. Also, I highly doubt many of the critics have seen the show.
There were some aspects that I didn't like of the show. They all were around the vulgarity of some of the characters and songs. I felt that some of the things said or sang could have had the poor language taken out. That being said, I can see why the language was in there. People do a lot of swearing and for some it is just a part of their vocabulary. So it seems to me that the writers were staying true to the "missionary" experience. I've never served a mission, but I'm sure that some people who missionaries try to visit have run into many people with colorful language.
Now, here is why I liked it and why I differ from most of the LDS critics. It's true that the writers poked fun at our quirkiness (they also poked fun of a lot of sensitive issues), but we do the same with movies like Singles Ward. The truth is that we make fun of ourselves in the same way as they were poking fun at us. I don't see anything wrong with this because I was taught growing up that we, Mormons, are queer folks that are different from the rest of the world. It's ok that we are different and it's ok to poke fun at our quirkiness. The writers were trying to portray Mormons as a unique group of people and they were able to accomplish this, but it wasn't in a demeaning fashion. I thought that they portrayed the LDS Church in an excellent light.
Many people have said that they do a bad portrayal of the Church, but I disagree. The writers showed that missionaries, while they may be innocent, are going out to places like Uganda to try to better the lives of and to give hope to many people. Throughout the musical, it shows the progression of how the missionaries are changing the lives of a town. The people are no longer dismal and angry; they transform into a people full of hope of a better life and they are striving to better their lives. Isn't that what missionary work is all about? I'd say that these missionaries did a wonderful job doing it.
Other critics have said that missionaries aren't as innocent as was portrayed in the musical. I'd like to say that they are. I'm sure when missionaries are going through the MTC that there is some education of the area, culture, and "trials" that people face, but learning about them is completely different than actually experiencing them, especially when you come from the homogeneous state known as Utah or Idaho and the surrounding states. When the missionaries arrived in Uganda, they were completely horrified at the situation--they couldn't believe what was going on. The missionaries that were already there had lost hope in spreading the Gospel and were waiting until their two years were over. Soon the newbies had experiences that caused them to question what they were doing there. Each situation caused one to lose more and more faith because he didn't realize that the world was unfair. He seemed to imagine the whole world to be like the US, specifically Orlando. It took him a long time to realize that the world is not all butterflies, unicorns, and rainbows. Eventually, his mission companion helped him realize that the world is not always fair and that they can actually change the lives of a whole town for the better.
Finally, a lot of people have said that they don't show the correct doctrine. While this is partially true, most of what they say is true. The writers had to change a few doctrines so that people of other beliefs could relate and understand; however, these changes were not so far away from the actual doctrine. Imagine trying to teach someone who has no knowledge about the Church everything in a couple hours. Can you do that? Of course you can't. That is why they changed a few things to make it more "mainstream" Christianity.
Overall, I absolutely loved the play and I have bought the soundtrack. It always makes me smile. Also, I think that this musical and the current Mormon.org (I think) ads in NYC is giving the Church a lot of publicity, which could in turn cause more people to be interested in learning more about the Church.
PS There will be more to come on my thoughts about the gay missionary in the musical.