I struggled to watch this Mormon mocking play

By Allen Alley,
Lake Oswego resident,

I had the opportunity to attend the musical, “The Book of Mormon” in Portland. On the surface, it was one of the most dynamic, entertaining, hilarious, magnificently well-performed productions I have ever seen. Watching the show, I joined the rest of a packed house and laughed, cheered, applauded and even choked back a tear at times.

As the show progressed, and the cheers and applause grew louder with every scene, I began to reflect more on what I was experiencing. I’m not Mormon, but my family tree has extremely diverse ethnic and religious roots spanning just about every major religion from Catholic and Protestant to Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Bahai. This diversity in my close family has made me inherently curious about, and generally accepting of, people who don’t share my ideas and philosophy.

I have known and worked with many Mormons. They are some of the most kind, caring, honest and community-minded people I have known. In politics, the Church of the Latter Day Saints members are beacons of integrity, honesty and grace — something that I find sorely missing in politics today. An example of their grace was on the full-page ad on the show’s program that roasted their religion and beliefs. The LDS Church ad simply said, “Our version is sliiiightly different. The musical is entertaining. The book? It’s life changing.” That simple, sincere, classy reply reinforces everything I have come to know about my Mormon friends.

It got me thinking: How can I get others to take a moment to reflect and think about our society and what we collectively condone, and what we condemn. Through their raucous affirmation, the thousands of people joining us at the Keller were condoning a clever, entertaining, bawdy and very graphic roasting of some really nice people. So I thought, what if we switched things around a bit? What if instead of roasting the beliefs of a conservative, teetotalling, caffeine-free group of super nice people, we were watching a play called, “The Koran.”

What if the play had a catchy song that instead of repeating “f— God” over and over, it said “f— Mohammed?” Or rather than a song about, having my own planet in the latter life, it had a song about marrying 72 virgins in paradise? Would the audience reaction be uproarious peals of laughter? Would there be nine Tony Awards and a Grammy?

I’m not advocating that we censor or ban “The Book of Mormon.” But I am asking, what if Muslims were roasted and belittled as mercilessly as the Mormons? What if we roasted Buddhists for believing in reincarnation or Hindus for believing cows are sacred? What would be the reaction of the audience and the broader Portland community? I dare say, I don’t think a play called, “The Koran,” which denigrated Muslims the way the “Book of Mormon” disparages Mormons, would be embraced with sold out houses, raucous laughter and thunderous applause.

What would be the reaction of our community? It is important for us to reflect and consider this simple question. Because I believe we really cannot claim to be an enlightened, inclusive society until we can truthfully hold ourselves to the standard that, in both cases, our reaction would be the same.

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