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February 15, 2011

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Culturebox: On a Mission

Slate Magazine
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On a Mission
The new Broadway musical by the creators of South Park isn't anti-Mormon. Like all of their work, it's anti-stupidity.
By Christopher Beam
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, at 11:15 AM ET

'South Park' creators Trey Parker (L) and Matt Stone.On a Monday afternoon in late January, Trey Parker and Matt Stone crammed a few dozen people into a rehearsal space on 42nd Street in New York to watch a 25-minute preview of their upcoming Broadway show, The Book of Mormon. The audience consisted of friends, production staff, students, bloggers, and journalists--but, notably, no representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was pretty clear why. "You'll know it's done when you hear the word cunt and everyone bows," said Stone.

What followed is unlikely to please the Mormon church. The musical, written by Parker and Stone with Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, tells the story of two young missionaries dispatched to Uganda to spread the gospel of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion. Part coming-of-age story, part buddy comedy, the show mocks Mormons' clean-cut earnestness as well as the specific tenets of their faith--that Native Americans were actually Israelites who left Jerusalem for America in 600 B.C., that Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, and that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates he found in the ground with the help of an angel named Moroni.

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Christopher Beam is a staff writer for Slate. Follow him on Twitter. You can e-mail him at jcbeam@gmail.com.

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