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Is The Book of Mormon Good for Mormons?

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The new Broadway show, The Book of Mormon, opened on Thursday to rave reviews and has immediately become one of the hottest tickets on the Great White Way. Since the show is written and produced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the guys who brought us South Park, the project had been met with intrigue from its onset; now, though, thanks to all the accolades, some are second-guessing whether the show is so controversial after all. Mormons have even reportedly been fans of the show.

Larger questions still loom. As Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who both happen to be Mormons, consider presidential runs in 2012, what's "unclear is how the Mormon faith will play" in the run-up to the election, reports USA Today. With HBO's Big Love series finale last weekend and this new Mormon musical, is America warming up to Mormonism?

It's not helping Romney: Despite Mormon's reviews, this "has to be a big fat pain in the sacred underwear to the erstwhile Mass. governor, a Mormon stalwart," reports the Boston Herald. Had he officially entered the race earlier, it would have put Romney "on a collision course with the season premiere of HBO's Big Love. And because as many as 40 percent of Americans said they would think twice before voting for a Mormon, he didn't need that kind of headache, right?" So far, he "has brushed off the current pop-culture obsession with Mormonism" and has stressed religious tolerance.

Mormons don't look as bad as feared: "It's the Mormon moment," says Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. So far the church has excused the show's "ribald humor" because it's "braced by traditional values and affection for the Mormon characters." There's nothing really to hate here. "In the end, the message is not against Mormonism but literalism: that whatever our different myths, metaphors and rituals, the real purpose of religion is to give us a higher purpose and a sense of compassion in the universe."

Imagine if the play was about Muslims: "While it is possible in this culture to create a Broadway musical about Mormons it is not possible to do the same with Muslims," says Aaron Goldstein in The American Spectator. If Parker and Stone decided to make that show, and "were prepared to stand up to death threats, would anyone stand with them? I doubt it. "It is amazing how our willingness to defend freedom of speech and freedom of expression recedes in the face of violence or even the threat of violence."