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Wendy Burch

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'The Book of Mormon' as Seen Through the Eyes of an Oxy-Mormon

Posted: 11/21/2012 10:44 am

As a self-proclaimed liberal Mormon (aka: oxy-Mormon) I knew I'd be entertained at the nine-time Tony winning "Book of Mormon." But I had no idea how much I'd be inspired -- and yes, even proud -- to call these often eccentric, odd-ball and devout people my own.

Growing up in a very active Mormon home in Salt Lake City, Utah, I was indoctrinated with all things Latter Day Saints, including an unusual array of Jell-O salads, enough food storage to last a lifetime and the mantra "Every Mormon a Missionary."

How ironic it is that the creators of South Park may go down in our history as being the Best. Mormon. Missionaries. Ever.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker wrote the Broadway smash and 23 songs that go with it, touching on everything from religion, a mission trip to Uganda, genital mutilation, existentialism, "Star Wars" and, well, let's just say the list is long and unrepentant.

But as I sat in the packed Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, I found myself once again embracing a religion that I had spent my early years defending -- and my "latter" days denouncing. You see, there is no such thing as a part-time Mormon. You are either all IN, or you find yourself on the "outs." And once you become a spectator in the Mormon spectacle, the doctrine doesn't seem to make as much sense. That's when many (like me) give Mormon taboos a try (including both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages). Once you are OK swallowing that, it becomes easy to turn your back.

Yet, I couldn't turn away from the chance to see my Mormon's portrayed on a Broadway stage. I laughed loudly right alongside a diverse crowd who was curious to connect with my Mormon culture (including my openly gay friend who was my date for the evening). For decades, Latter Day Saints have been so inaccessible -- shrouded in secrecy -- while trying to shed the idea that we still have a "Big Love" for polygamy.

Yet, two pop-culture anarchists (neither of whom are members of the LDS faith) somehow managed to make the Mormon's look fool-hardy -- and yet hardly foolish. The production points out the often preposterous pontifications of our Latter Day prophets, while intimating that the "golden plates" are no more far-fetched than burning bushes and parting seas. The show goes on to insinuate, that for a chosen few, Christ's teachings can even be found deep within "The Lord of the Rings."

The popularity of this production (which has grossed more than 105 million) has made Mormonism a part of our country's cultural conversation. (OK, Mitt Romney may have also had something to do with that, but he sang badly and never danced.) And it appears the genius of the creators from South Park is rubbing off on the Brethren of Salt Lake. Church leadership apparently approves of the show enough to buy three full-page ads in the Playbill program. Each page is a close-up photo of an attractive young person with a quote such as: "The book is always better."

Who would have thought that two guys who killed Kenny could give so much life to Mormonism? In fact, the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, should consider teaching the song "All-American Prophet" to all the Elders who pass through -- because never before has complicated religious dogma been lyricized so deftly (and to such a toe-tapping tune).

And speaking of songs, had I heard "Turn It Off" years ago, I could have saved myself hours of therapy. The insight into how most Mormons are conditioned to NOT be introspective was emancipating. As a former Miss Salt Lake City, I was a queen when it came to turning off "uncomfortable" feelings -- like a light switch. As the song goes: "Just go click ... it's a cool little Mormon trick."

Yet the greatest trick of all seems to be how this satire has convinced us Mormons to start telling our stories. In fact -- as evident from this article -- the musical even turned me back ON to my own religion.

Click through the slideshow to see most and least Mormon states in the United States:

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  • Utah

    69,124 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Salt_Lake_LDS_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Idaho

    26,108 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/Idaho_Falls_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Wyoming

    11,143 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Nevada

    6,486 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Las_Vegas_Temple_1.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Arizona

    6,147 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Mesa_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Hawaii

    5,137 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/LDS_Laie_Hawaii_Temple_front_view.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Montana

    4,698 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/MTempleafar.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Alaska

    4,530 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Anchorage_Alaska_Temple_by_artchase.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Washington

    3,975 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Columbia_river_temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Oregon

    3,862 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portland_Oregon_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New Mexico

    3,285 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Albuquerque_New_Mexico_Temple_by_a4gpa.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Colorado

    2,833 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Denver_LDSTemple.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • California

    2,050 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fresno_Temple_rear.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Nebraska

    1,281 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_Quarters_Temple.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • South Dakota

    1,205 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Kansas

    1,198 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Texas

    1,178 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_LDS_Temple_by_David_B.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Oklahoma

    1,147 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Oklahoma_city_lds_mormon_temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Virginia

    1,122 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Missouri

    1,103 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St._Louis_Missouri_Temple_by_Ella_Minnow_Peas,_left_frame_only.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • North Dakota

    1,030 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BismarkTemple7.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Arkansas

    945 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Petit_Jean_State_Park_view.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • West Virginia

    902 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • South Carolina

    808 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Columbia_South_Carolina.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Iowa

    808 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • North Carolina

    805 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RaleighTemple.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Maine

    804 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_beach_in_maine_on_a_clear_day.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Georgia

    801 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Atlanta_Georgia_Temple_04.07.07.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Maryland

    738 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_D.C._Temple_At_Dusk.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Kentucky

    737 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Louisville_Kentucky_Temple_by_Foto71.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Florida

    728 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orlando_Florida_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Tennessee

    720 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Memphis_Tennessee_Temple_01.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Alabama

    719 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Birmingham_Alabama_Temple_by_nateOne,_cropped.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Mississippi

    715 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Vermont

    701 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Burlington,_Vermont.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Indiana

    637 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Louisiana

    630 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Louisiana_State_Capital_at_night.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New Hampshire

    625 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:New_hampshire_in_autumn_.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Minnesota

    577 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St._Paul_Minnesota_Temple_in_March_2008.jpeg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Delaware

    538 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Ohio

    508 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Columbus_Ohio_Temple_(cropped).png" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Illinois

    435 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_Illinois_Temple3.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Wisconsin

    431 Mormons per 100,000 people.

  • Michigan

    428 Mormons per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Detroit_Michigan_Temple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Connecticut

    419 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Nhskyline_eastshore.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New York

    403 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ManhattanTemple.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Pennsylvania

    392 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • Massachusetts

    381 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bostontemple.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Rhode Island

    364 Mormons per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/N3419822_37931820_6163Providence.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New Jersey

    360 Mormons per 100,000 persons.

  • District of Columbia

    70 Mormons per 100,000 people.

 
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