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A Love Letter to Mormons?

Dear Trey Parker & Matt Stone,

I was surprised to hear you tell Charlie Rose that you had sent a “non-Mormons’ love letter to Mormonism” in the form of your Broadway play titled “The Book of Mormon.” ( http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11570 )  As a 7th-generation Mormon, I just gotta tell you guys, well, uhm, thanks. Always appreciate a nice little love letter to drown out the hate mail we get.

Let’s just set aside, for now, any questions about why you would send a love letter to Mormons to an address on Broadway in New York, but  I’m still pretty sure I’m safe in speaking for my fellow Mormons to tell you guys that, assuming you’re sincere about this love letter stuff, that we would really like to make this relationship work. Heck, we want everyone to love us. Here in Utah, at BYU, we even gave a standing ovation to Mark Zuckerberg, for crying out loud. Saw it with my own eyes. So, yeah, definitely we love you guys too, potty-mouth and all, even if it’s still in a “you’re our brothers because we’re all children of God” kind of way. We might be able to make this work, if you really want it to, but I gotta be candid even if it’s going to leave you two in well-deserved tears: fat chance.

But let’s have a heart-to-heart anyway. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all you’ve done for us, but before we get too far into this relationship, I have to share a few doubts about whether this can really work.

For starters, I need to know if you guys are going to respect us in the morning. It goes without saying that you’re not getting any until we’re married, but we really need to know if you’ll ever be able to love us for our minds and not just for our, uh, nicer parts. You see, I watched your South Park episode “All About the Mormons.” I admit you made me laugh so hard I split a gut, and I understand the need to take liberties with the truth for the sake of laughs, but if we’re going to have any kind of future, you’re going to have to give at least some of us credit for being smarter and less gullible than you seem to think. I was thinking about counting the number of sung “dumbs” just for laughs, but it occurred to me that would be a pretty dumb waste of time. Don’t want to play to your stereotype, however well informed it might just be.

Now, I know how hard it must be to accept so much that seems so weird, dumb, and contradictory at first glance, especially when acceptance means you have to live like we Mormons live – stone cold sober, faithful to your wife even before you meet her, and faithful and devoted (but not blindly) to an admittedly human church and its benevolent leaders – but can’t you give at least some of us credit for being intelligent, rational beings who are not DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB and who have spent far more time studying and reconciling the history, teachings, and inconsistencies than you have? Let me just give you one example of a GLARING and serious error in this episode that leaves me a little concerned with  your scholarly credentials <Stan stares and blinks>.

For example, your song says “even though nobody else ever saw them” about the Golden Plates; and when Stan said “plates no one ever saw,” I stopped laughing for a minute while Stan finished his misguided rant. That’s just blindly wrong. Open your Book of Mormon again, and read right there in the first dozen pages of the preface “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses,” and “The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.” There were ELEVEN men, besides Joseph Smith, who saw and handled the golden plates. These 11 men, from five different families, were well respected in their communities, and even though several of them later denounced Joseph Smith as being a fallen prophet, and others were excommunicated, not one of them ever renounced the Testimony they signed. By any reasonable standard of historical evidence, the existence of the Golden Plates, in 1830 at least, is therefore an historical fact. If it was a fraudulent conspiracy of the witnesses, it stands as one of the best-perpetrated frauds of all time, because every one of the conspirators were known as honest men until the day they died, with their signed Testimonies being the only unexplained peculiarity that might possibly be construed to impeach their integrity.

I’m not saying this proves anything, mind you – except that you’re wrong to say nobody else ever saw the golden plates as evidence to prove how dumb we Mormons are.

So do you really think we’re ready to hold hands? I think you need to convince us that you have a more thoughtful, spiritual side to go along with your world-class sense of humor.

But let me get back to what we Mormons like about you guys. Nobody can say that I didn’t try to make this work, no matter how improbable the coupling.

True confession – you could have had us at “A celebration of Mormonism by some guys who aren’t Mormons.” You know how nice that is to hear after all of the ignorance, misinformation, maliciousness, and pernicious ridicule we see so often that we’ve learned to ignore it? Never mind fairness and justice – we may love it but we certainly don’t expect it. Actually, we prefer being ignored in the mass media – it’s rare that anyone gets it right (although Jan Shipps is a notable exception – she seems to understand us and almost always gets it right).

But then you just can’t let go of your opinion that the tree that bears the nice, sweet Mormon fruit that you love has rotten roots. So ultimately, you can’t have it both ways – respecting and loving Mormonism and Mormons but disrespecting the man who founded Mormonism, who once said, when asked how he could govern so many people (over ten thousand on that day), “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” I’ve studied dozens of great thinkers and inspiring men, both religious and secular, and Joseph Smith stands above them all (except for Jesus) in his vision, inspiration, and ability to teach, illuminate, and reveal. But he was prophetic when he said that the angel Moroni told him that his name “would be had for good and for evil among all the nations of the world.”

So I kinda doubt we have a chance. So I would invite you to study The Book of Mormon with sincerity of purpose, asking yourself if ANY man could have possibly written that entire book (much less dictated to others verbally, whether or not his head was buried in a hat). The conclusion of most Mormons (even those of us who have made it a life study) is that the book itself is a miracle and is its own witness of its own divine origins.

But again, guys, thanks so much for the love letter. I hope it does really well, and maybe quells some of the bitterness out there, although I suspect some people just love to cling to their bitterness like a comfort blanket.


Dave, on behalf of any Mormons who might agree with me

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Patience 4 Sep 2012, 6:18 pm

    Right, you should view your own skllis in high regard. Isn’t self-confidence paramount?What I was trying to say was social media is inherently transparent. You can’t expose something that’s already in the open.As for the irony of the ad and “MormonTV”, well, I think that the definition of what constitutes television is really starting to change. We debated this in a course in my program this past summer – is a TV show still a “TV show” if you watch it on Hulu, for example? Probably, but the venue has changed. Still, nobody is going to call Hulu television just like no one is going to call television Hulu. Nevertheless, the lines are blurring. In any case, people still recognize the difference in delivery method, so, with all of that in mind, it’s nothing significant for anyone to label their YouTube channel with “TV” as part of their name. I don’t think most people would confuse “MormonTV” for actual television (despite the morphology of mediums taking place today). Moreover, I think most people would understand that the ad stating not to believe in what they’ve seen on television is in reference to actual over-the-air broadcast and cable TV, considering that the ad directs people to a web-based delivery platform.This is just another exercise in semantics.