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Are Mormons Offended by Book of Mormon Musical?

Are Mormons offended by the play The Book of Mormon Musical?  In a nutshell, yes, most are.  And in my opinion we should be.  After all, I do believe God would be, too.  But my concerns don't stop there...  I can't say that these concerns would be classified as being offended, but rather a deep unhappiness with the distorted and misrepresentation of my Mormon faith -- which unfortunately many are being led to believe are accurate.

Deseret News published this excellent article, last night, in response to The Book of Mormon Musical's Tony Award for the Best Musical of the Year...




"Earlier this year, Scott Rudin, a producer for "The Book of Mormon Musical," told NPR about a conversation he had with a man who attended a preview showing of the production, which on Sunday night won nine Tony awards, including best musical. "I left the Mormon Church after my mission (in Africa)," said the man, who had brought his children to the show. "(I) married a Jewish woman and now I live in Montclair, New Jersey. My kids know nothing about my upbringing. They have learned more from this (musical) than they have from all their lives with me." 
Rudin's anecdote echoes a common refrain that the show's producers have repeated since before it opened, that "The Book of Mormon," while obviously satirical, offers an accurate depiction of Latter-day Saint doctrines and culture. Indeed, the musical's high-profile creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have claimed in multiple media interviews to have "done their homework" when it comes to LDS teachings. 
While theater experts and media pundits have praised the musical, others have pointed out the play is not only profane and inaccurate, but actually an attack on faith more broadly.GetReligion.org's Mollie Ziegler wrote that the play "is an entirely New York phenomenon. It mocks general religious belief using Mormon characters. It's made by media elites (media elites whom I generally like, admittedly) and enjoyed by a class of people who go to Broadway musicals." 
Likewise, New York Times columnist David Brooks observedthat "The central theme of 'The Book of Mormon' is that many religious stories are silly."
He said the play's message boils down to this: "Religion itself can do enormous good as long as people take religious teaching metaphorically and not literally."
"The only problem with 'The Book of Mormon' (musical)," Brooks continued, "is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn't actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False."
 
A Deseret News analysis of the show's content, based on its official script and lyrics, reveals several errors and misrepresentations that go beyond the bounds of generalization for comedy's sake — and Mormonism isn't the only subject with which the Tony award-winning musical takes liberties. And those liberties can create important misperceptions.
You can read the entire article HERE.

Looking on the positive side...  I believe that the best all of us can do, is to take whatever opportunities that we personally are given to make sure that correct information about our Mormon beliefs, is made available to those within our sphere of influence.  And lets make sure our voices are kind and corrective and not loud and disciplinary when we do let our feelings be known.



tDMg
Kathryn

Book of Mormon:  An Introduction


Learn more about the Book of Mormon
Request a FREE copy of the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon Musical: Practical Religion for Modern Times? 

39 comments :

  1. It's been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I think that it's true in this case (so I disagree with you in part). Most people won't see the musical, but many people will hear about it and might want to know more.

    If you're LDS, you need to get a thick skin. If you were an Apostle of Jesus Christ in the ancient church -- and in the last century, you also needed to have a thick skin. Maybe having a thick skin = saint?

    The truth comes out and the word "Cumorah" means, "arise, o light". So anything that gets people curious enough to look at the church with any sort of an open (or even mildly curious) mind is a good thing.

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  2. @LL -

    I'm not sure I buy into the philosophy "there is no such thing as bad publicity". I think most often that's too easy. As I mentioned at the end of this post -- we should all take opportunities within our sphere of influence to discuss the our beliefs -- and make this a positive. That's up to us...

    I've been doing this Internet thing for quiet a few years now, my skin is thicker than most. However, my thick skin has created a willingness to speak out against that which I believe is wrong and not ignore -- as the suggestion of being thick skinned implies.

    In fact, it was precisely this type of "thick skin" that got the Apostles and early Christians in trouble. They refused to be hushed, they spoke out, they taught and did these things until they were silenced by their opposition.

    I certainly don't consider myself to be of such caliber, but I'd like to think that I'd be pretty good to have on the team:)

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  3. I've been asked questions such as this: Do you really worship sea gulls?

    Somebody raised the issue with that person at some point and it cause them to ask a question and provided a teaching moment.

    I think that the musical (who almost nobody will see given the nature of Broadway - even if it goes on tour) does the same thing. Advertising...

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  4. @LL -

    I don't disagree with you. I've been asked some pretty strange questions myself, which have led to productive conversations. We will take the opportunities and hopefully create positive experiences. Still not so sure we need the negative in order to accomplish this on the whole, but we'll use whatever life hands us, eh?

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  5. Reading this post reminded me of Elder Bednar's talk on choosing not to be offended and I think a lot of Mormons have consciously chosen to take that route in regards to the musical.

    That isn't to say that the musical itself isn't offensive -- clearly there is enough explicit and degrading content in it to make it offensive (that's what these guys do so why are commentators trying to say this is the exception!) but what I'm getting at is that I don't think Mormons are emotionally stewing over it for long even while we recognize this isn't very flattering to us or presents us in the way we want to be noticed or understood by others. What they've decided is ok to say about us, isn't ok with us and that's not because we don't have a sense of humor. I listened to the entire soundtrack, some of it I thought was really fun, clever and enjoyable. On the other hand some of it I found to be disgusting, grossly misleading, perverted, ignorantly condescending and on and on --

    But even with that said, I would say no, I'm not offended, I've chosen not to be but the musical has content that is offensive -- as a whole, it's not flattering to me and my faith no matter what commentators or the writers try to say to convince me to the contrary.

    I wish we could invite them to consider what it would be like to desecrate their own sacred worldview -- but they don't seem to understand because it doesn't seem that they have one? And perhaps this is why developing empathy for Mormons getting their faith butchered on Broadway seems to be at an impasse. But among those who do hold something sacred, we may have a sympathetic ear.

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    1. I know this was from a long time ago but I must politely disagree that they would not be offended with an attack on their world view because they don't have one. They are all extremely offended and have fired people and gotten others fired when people disagree. The debate on gay marriage, abortion, gay rights are just a few of the issues that they are extremely prickly about. If a musical was made mocking their beliefs they would be up in arms to destroy the people who made it.

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  6. @laura -

    Yes, being offended is a choice, as Elder Bednar has so well taught us. Some members are offended in aggressive ways and tend to express themselves with anger. Most are offended for Christ' sake and for this I have no issue. As you admit, the play is offensive and is meant to offend. It should then be no surprise that many Christians would be offended.

    You bring up a very good point. The majority of members who have made a choice to be offended, are doing so in an appropriate way. In general their responses have not been made in anger, but for the defense of truth. I would expect no less from those who profess to be Christian.

    Perhaps, like yourself, those who do not use the term offended in this case prefer to use less descriptive terms, as I've met relatively few members who have no issue with this play.

    To be "offended" can simply mean to be displeased with a thing. I believe that much of the offense that we are seeing among members of the LDS faith, settles on this definition.

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  7. I can go with that definition "to be displeased with a thing" though generally I think the term offended conjures up an image of someone being in a very emotionally wounded place and who is very angry about whatever has occurred. That is something I worry about in sending out the message generally that Mormons are offended. It may sound to others like Mormons are really angry or terribly wounded or in a frenzy and I don't think that portrays how we typically respond to things in a tempered way, the musical included. Mormons are displeased I think is probably more accurate.

    On the other hand, people don't tend to change their behavior unless someone makes a point to say its offensive and cases of racism and sexism are perfect examples. Unless someone makes a big stink that something is offensive, people just keep doing and saying whatever nonsense they were doing and saying.

    Anyways, for the individual, better for the soul not to be in the offended knotted up mode. As a group, we could probably benefit from making an articulate stink.

    I think mostly we are on the same page just using different verbage.

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  8. @Laura -

    I think we are, too.

    Most people perceive Mormons as generally calm individuals, who don't get upset. I think that's true about us, as a people. We don't use anger to send messages. This is a good thing. In a way, I guess that could be a reason why some are uncomfortable with the term "offended"?

    Currently there are many using Google to specifically search for "Mormons offended by Book of Mormon play" or "are Mormons offended by...". I think it's nice that when they find my blog, they do not find the negativity they might be expecting. That's important to me.

    Perhaps I will consider naming a future post "My Articulate Stink..." Only problem is, I don't think anyone will be searching for those terms. ; )

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  9. VULGAR!!! I wouldn't watch ANYTHING like this about ANYONE!

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  10. @Emily -

    Nor would I. I think it's important to have boundaries as to what we are willing to find acceptable. This play goes way beyond my own personal boundaries. Completely unacceptable.

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  11. This play is a very obvious depiction of the people in the great and spacious building who are laughing, mocking and scoffing at believers of Christ. Some will not like this scoffing and may have their faith weakened. Not sure what we can do but at the least let's call this what it is. The gulf between the righteous and the wicked is increasing.

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  12. @dewko -

    Good analogy. You bring up something that I've considered as well... How will members of the Church withstand as their faith is being mocked? While we spend time correcting many of the distortions of our adversaries concerning out doctrines -- we must also strengthen the faith of each other. I may have to blog on this concern.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  13. If the Book of Mormon is really what you guys say it this (the word of God) than this thing should have been forseened in there. For example, in my Bible it clearly states "Luke 6:22:22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake". So why so surprised, shocked and sad? This was supposed to happen, even if you're Mormon,Jew, Muslim, Christian of any cult or God knows what other religious denominations.

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  14. Have any of you actually seen the play? I saw the play and I thought it made Mormons look pretty good. It barely even made fun of the beliefs at all. The South Park episode was a lot worse. They teased upon the history of the Book of Mormon and then they injected opinion in order to slightly tease it. There aren't any factual innacuracies in here because you can't argue with an opinion. If I were to call your rage silly, that is my opinion and it cannot be proven factually. No need to be so angry. After all Matt Stone and Trey Parker even came out and said that they "Love Mormons." In several episodes of South Park they even show that only Mormons go to heaven.

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    1. I agree with Manny here. I saw the play when it was in previews and any vulgarity in the was not aimed at the church. I actually felt uplifted afterwords and left wanting to be a better person. And I can't say I leave church every sunday feeling like that....

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  15. @Manny -

    After reading many reviews of the play I made a decision not to see it. From what I understand, there are too many things in the play that would most assuredly offend me personally -- music, lyrics, dialogue, etc... And BTW, I don't believe that only Mormons go to heaven.

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    1. If not only mormons go to heaven, why do we have to do baptisms for the dead... wouldn't that then make them a member of the mormon church...?

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    2. Well...

      IMHO, Mormon is just a nickname for people who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The LDS Church is the the organization setup here upon the earth to provide necessary ordinances, such as baptism, to enable the children of God to enter His Kingdom(s). There will be no division in the kingdoms of heaven that would designate membership to a church. Therefore, there will be no Mormons in heaven.

      The only doctrine of a church in the hereafter is "The Church of the Firstborn" of which those in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom will belong. (D&C Sec 76)

      The scriptures teach us that ultimately "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ". This is mandatory for any to have entrance into even the lowest degree of glory. It is my belief that baptism is the minimal ordinance required for entrance into the Telestial kingdom.

      I seriously doubt that on the other side of the veil there is any mention of Mormons, Jews, Muslims, etc... All become ONE in Christ.

      Of course this is all my opinion, based on personal study of doctrine, but it works for me. : )

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  16. I didn't say that you believe that only Mormons go to heaven. I was just merely stating what Stone and Parker constantly show in their episodes of South Park.

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  17. I just saw BOM Musical last night. Loved it! I am a Quaker. Most people think Quakers are like the guy on the Quaker Oats box and confuse us with Amish driving buggies around rural areas. I would love such a parody that we could parasitize. Catch the wave! LDS should have a store front across the street to answer questions and pass out the real book.

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  18. Jerry.... your Bible and our Bible are the same one!

    I'm finding it hard to be offended, considering all that is going on in the world. At least we're important enough to mock on Broadway! That's quite an accomplishment!

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  19. I'm an agnostic who has more respect for the LDS after listening to the musical and researching Mormonism because of it.

    I grew up as an evangelical Christian surrounded by hate-mongering hypocrites. To say it left me cynical and bitter toward religion is an understatement. It took me most of my early 20's before I realized not every Christian dwelled on hate nor bible thumped with one hand while sinning with the other.

    The musical's message of "as long as it helps" is a great defense of Mormonism. Yes, they make fun of the LDS being "part 3" to the Bible. If you grew up Christian like I did, you'll find most of what's in the book funny. But let's be honest, if you're a cynic like me, you'll find almost any statement of faith ridiculous, whether it's from a Muslim, a fundamentalist Christian, or a Jew.

    Yet out of all these religions' followers, I've come to realize Mormons seem to do the most good. After watching the musical and researching LDS beliefs (the musical encourages this) I realized a few things. I've never seen a TV commercial from LDS asking for money or for me to buy their new CD. The only commercials I saw growing up were the "Isn't it about time?" ones that demonstrated humanity and morality. Whereas my church's missions were feel-good field trips to other countries that lasted a week and offered no good to the people there, Mormons go on their missions to serve and offer their beliefs and humanity. Even if I find the book as ridiculous as the Torah, the Quran, or the Bible, I have to admit it seems to do the most good out of all the others.

    And while you can say that Trey and Matt are pandering to the media elites with this show, consider that they've repeatedly defended Mormonism on South Park. In the episode that mocked the faith, they concluded it with the Mormon kid explaining how much he loves his family and the book and that Stan, the show's "protagonist", needs to grow up rather than bashing the faith. In another episode that showed Hell, Satan's assistant explained to the Christians that only Mormons made it into heaven. After listening to the musical and doing my research, I can see why.

    I don't expect you to laugh at the show or not feel offended at someone mocking your faith. I just ask you to understand that for sinners like me, this musical can only help. Next time a Mormon knocks on my door you can bet I'll be treating them with a whole heap of a lot more respect :)

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  20. @sinner (btw, we are all sinners; )

    I have to say, that I really love your perspective on the play, and religion in general. I have no doubt that I would easily laugh at much of the "Mormon" humor in the play, but need to draw the line at the mocking of God, Himself -- and choose to be "offended". I'm not 'angry' or 'mad' offended, but 'appropriately' offended -- as a Christian.

    I've also scratched my head at many so-called religious folk who profess to be Christian, and then act out in ways that do not emulate Jesus Christ. Seriously, I don't get how they don't see the hypocrisy is such behavior. I believe that one can stand for their beliefs and show kindness at the same time -- even when in opposition to what others believe or value.

    And thank you for your kind words toward the people of the Mormon faith. We do try to actually do what we believe is right and serve others with sincerity. It's what we believe the Savior would do if He were here.

    Oh, and I actually just heard of a baptism that took place after the person saw the musical and decided to research Mormonism by going to mormon.org. So for that, I suppose I should thank Trey and Matt, eh? ; )

    Thank your for taking the time to comment. You make a whole lot of sense!

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  21. See that's what I'm talking about. So many of you are just so darned nice and reasonable! Very Christ-like. I think I grew up with too many Christians who followed the teachings of Chris, a selfish jerk who loved to hate. I always suspected I was reading about a different guy than the rest of the congregation.

    I wish you the best and love your blog. Maybe I'll stop by again some time.

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  22. I was raised Baptist, and it always made me wonder why God would be so determined to find fault with us. I grew up seeing men (who oddly enough look like missionaries) standing on street corners on Friday nights yelling as passers-by how they were going to hell. More judgement.
    I got some discount tickets Book of Mormon this summer, and found it very funny because I could identify with my own past. I was struck by the thought, however, that these people continued to try and complete their task despite the horrid conditions.
    Wrong or right, I did enjoy it and I came away with more admiration for the Mormon faith. Odd, that.

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  23. @Dennis Day -

    I'm really glad to hear you had a positive experience, and I really appreciate that you took the time to share it!

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  24. It seems, as it is with most things in life, that it isn't what happens (obscene musicals, etc.) but how we respond that is important and defines us. I have a nephew who is a missionary right now. If it keeps him from getting just one less door closed in his face, it is so worth it.

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  25. I'm glad I found this site. It is so nice to read civil, positive conversation between differing opinions. The old adage "making lemon-aid out of lemons" really applies here.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It's what we try to do here. : )

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  26. I'm a LDS Theatre Geek. I love musicals. I haven't seen The Book of Mormon (musical) except for what they showed on the Tony Awards and I've listened to the songs on Pandora Radio (I have a station that plays Broadway Musical songs) and I so far have not heard anything I find to be offensive. But then I'm not somebody easily offended. I've always had a sense of humor about the things I love. When I was a preteen, I was in love with The Backstreet Boys but I didn't go crazy when people insulted them, or made parodies of their songs (IE the parody song 'Which Backstreet Boy is Gay'). Most fans would throw fits, but I laughed.

    I love the Church. I wouldn't be who I am today without it but I can laugh about the things people say about Mormons. One thing that I do know about The Book of Mormon (musical) is that the writers did their homework. They are not promoting falsehoods about our faith (IE that we are devil worshipers, polygamists, etc). If I had the opportunity to see the entire musical, I would. I'm hoping it tours soon.

    In my opinion, it is a waste of time to be offended. I know what's true and what's not true, I don't need to be offended by falsehoods that others believe about me or my faith. Also, I would say that those who would otherwise never open their door to an LDS missionary, might go to see this play (those who think it will mock the LDS faith, those who like South Park) and I would say that this Musical could open a door to those who are otherwise unreachable.

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  27. I have to admit I hadn't thought about this much. I have a friend who saw the musical and has a song he can't get out of his head, but he didn't have much of a comment beyond that. He is a Muslim that I grew up with. We fasted during Ramadan with him, he was part of road shows and dance festival with us. We all went to VBS at the baptist church next to our school. (Free summer camp, including lunch, and the Mormon kids won all the prizes because we already knew how to memorize scriptures and had the bible stories down flat long before second grade.)

    I may just be harder on myself and other LDS members, but I think that the less offended we are, and the less offended we choose to be (think Elder Bednar), the more people will approach us. I have had 4 or 5 people ask me my opinion. My response has always been, "I haven't seen it, what did you think?" Turns out none of them had been to see it either. We moved on to other topics we actually knew something about.

    I think the responses from nonmembers in this thread are an excellent reason to hold our offended card close to the chest, and ask what the person we are talking to thought. No need to pull it out and potentially stop a conversation. My mom is an English teacher, she has several quotes around her room that are quotes from apostles or prophets that simply have their names underneath them, just like Mark Twain and Anne McCaffrey. She always gets a kick out of having her students use those quotes in a paper or speech, not having any idea that the concept is coming from and LDS GA.

    One of her students asked her what book Joe Smith wrote. He had tried to look it up, so he could include it in his parenthetical citation, but there were so many Joe or Joseph Smiths that he couldn't figure out where it had come from. She brought him a copy of an LDS history book for him to take home. He liked it so well he ordered one from Powell's Books. I knew the older siblings of that young man, one of whom is a well known Baptist minister here in Oregon. I have always wondered what he thought about his youngest brother expanding his love of Oregon pioneer history to include Utah pioneers as well. You just never know what will make someone interested enough to ask a few more questions. I know that young man's wife is glad he was trying to find the quote from Joe Smith. They were sealed, with their two children, a little over five years ago.

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  28. "Well-behaved women seldom make history." - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    Not that you are trying. As for the play, writing blog critiques about something you have not seen (aka, prejudged) makes you, at best, self-righteous and self-important -- which are generally not considered good behavior, whether you are Mormon, Buddhist or atheist.

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  29. I was about to comment on how Elder Bednar said we shouldn't be offended, but then read that your concern with the play is the same as my concern: that it's portraying Mormons in an inaccurate way and then making fun of them. One of the songs conveys the belief that Mormons say, "Read this book or go to hell." Well, we don't really believe that. But people may watch the play and laugh and think, "Those silly Mormons, thinking that people will go to hell if they don't read The Book of Mormon." So, I say . . . get your facts straight, THEN make fun of us. Then we will laugh right along with you. If you have to bend facts to make fun of us then there is something wrong with your approach."

    Signed,

    Nicole "Closeted Mormon Transsexual Not Letting It Go In Order to Be Obedient" Jade

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  30. i saw the play last summer in los angeles. inside the playbill there were, i believe, THREE full page ads placed by the mormon church that went something like, "the book is always better." obviously the ads were intended to catch the attention of folks who went to see the musical and who might want to learn more about actual mormonism. furthermore, those ads were not cheap, i'm assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that quite a nice little chunk of church monies funded the ads. so my question is . . . was it wrong for church leadership/management to give money that went directly to the production of "the book of mormon?" and if a mormon does hold the belief that it is wrong, then isn't that mormon in some state of disobedience? thank you for your time. j. zim

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  31. The creators of "The Book of Mormon Musical" have read the book of mormon through and through, just to make sure it is factual. Everything said in the song "I believe" is true. We do believe that god created the universe, and sent his only son to die for our sins.
    In fact, in the back of the program, it says "Now you have seen the musical, go read the book!" I also believe that they even had copies of the Book of Mormon for sale at the concession stand.

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