What is the Book of Mormon about?

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Book of Mormon is a popular satirical musical that is a Broadway hit. It is based on the Book of Mormon which is a sacred text part of the Latter Day Saints movement. The advocates of this movement believe that the book includes writings that belong to ancient prophets who inhabited the American continent between 2200 BC to AD 421.

The original play is written by Trey Stone, Matt Smith, Robert Lopez. It’s a musical comedy telling the story of two young Latter Day Saints (LDS) missionaries who are sent together to travel to a distant Ugandan village in order to teach the Mormon religion. They are sent there with the main purpose to convert the local citizens to the Mormon religion by sharing their scriptures with them.

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The two missionaries filled with enthusiasm meet with the indifference of the Ugandan people who are more focused on other pressing problems in their society. For example the Ugandans are oppressed by the local chieftains, also famine and AIDS epidemic.

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Play’s first part

Elder Price – the popular whiz-kid of the group with good looks and many talents shows strong dedication to his religious faith. His partner Arnold Cunningham is on the other hand a clumsy and shy nerdy person but with good intentions. He has the habit of always forgetting his approved scripture and lying. Being a pathological liar leads him soon into trouble.

When the two missionaries arrive in Africa for the first time they immediately see the locals are not at all impressed by them and they feel disappointment. Very soon after their arrival a military leader, who is called General Butt-Fucking-Naked, holds them at gunpoint and robs them.

During the missionaries’ attempt to make the Ugandan people change their religion and join the Mormon church, heir friendship and faith are tested. The two missionaries realize their religious two-year mission may not be as easy as they have expected it to be initially. Elders Price and Cunningham go from door to door on their conversion journey. Before going to the mission to Uganda the handsome Elder Price imagines another destiny for himself.

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The first scene of the play is at the LDS Church Missionary Training Center. There Elder Kevin Price and his missionary classmates show how they are trying each day to convert the public to Mormonism by going on campaigns from door to door.

Elder Price cannot wait to go on a two-year mission and strongly hopes that he will be sent to Orlando where Disney Land is situated too. While waiting at Salt Lake City Airport he says that he wants to change the world and also transform the lives of the people in Uganda. But Elder Price is sent together with the overweight Elder Arnold Cunningham to the Ugandan village.

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The poor citizens of the village tell the missionaries about their way of life during the famine and the AIDS plague. Besides, they are also under the rule of a tyrannical oppressor called the General who makes their lives even more difficult.

The missionaries hear that the locals sing a song in order to lift their mood - “HASA DIGA EEBOWAI”). To the missionaries’ disappointment the song’s name translates literally in English to “Fuck You, God”. They conclude they have a lot of work in front of them.

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Elder Price and Cunningham learn that there other missionaries in the village who didn’t manage to convert the local citizens to the Mormon religion. They were introduced to them by Nabulungi – the daughter of Hatimbi. Elder McKinley tells Cunningham and Price that if they want to survive in this village they need to reject all their thoughts of failure. He advices them to “turn off” their fears of failure as a light switch. In fact McKinley is homosexual.

Elder Price is shocked by McKinley’s words but Cunningham words of encouragement calm him. Elder Price still wants to achieve success with this mission. So he starts preaching about Joseph Smith who is the founder of the Latter Day Saint’s Church. Price uses for this purpose the song “All American Prophet”. But the Ugandan people think that he is conceited and bothersome and they don’t listen his preachings.

As General Butt-Fucking-Naked continues to torture his subjects the villagers start to lose faith. In this moment Nabulungi starts dreaming about paradise “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”. In fact she humorously pronounces the name of Salt Lake City.

“Sal Tlay Ka Siti
The most perfect place on Earth
Where flies don’t bite your eyeballs
and human life has worth
It isn’t a place of fairy tales, it’s as real as it can be
A land where evil doesn’t exist
Sal Tlay Ka Siti”

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As the missionaries’ attempts to convert the local citizens continue to fail the LDS Church is not really happy. Elder Price gets angry, ceases his preaching attempts and makes a request to be transferred to Orlando.

Elder Cunningham says to Price “I am here for your reprise”. But Price doesn’t want to be part of this mission and preach together with his partner any more. In this moment Nabulungi offers her support for Cunningham and asks him if he can explain to her what happens in the Book of Mormon.

Play’s second part

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After Elder Price’s leave Cunningham becomes the leader of the mission. Because he is not well-educated Cunningham tells lies in his religious stories. Despite this his stories attract the interest of the Ugandan citizens and he realizes that changing the truth can lead to good things after all.

In the same time Elder Price starts thinking about his childhood memories. He remembers having nightmares that were the cause of his regular panic attacks. Price’s last dream makes him believe that he should stay in the Ugandan village.

But Cunningham cannot let him join again the convert mission. Elder Price gathers a group of 10 enthusiastic citizens who are willing to join the Mormon church. In this way Price plans to come face to face with the wicked General and show him the Book of Mormon.

Unfortunately his attempt to convert the General fails and Price feels sad. Cunningham carries on his religious mission and even starts baptizing some of the villagers. The first person he baptizes is Nabulungi. One by one the village citizens embrace the Mormon religion. As a result the missionaries starts celebrating this event by singing the song "I am Africa".

Cunningham tells Price that the two of them should pretend they are preaching together because the Mormon President, who is head of the mission, is visiting them soon. During his visit he will congratulate them on the success of their religious mission. Price is left with the choice to rethink his life and guess why the church "Orlando" broke their promise of transferring him to Orlando.

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Upon the President’s arrival in the Ugandan village the two missionaries are praised for their great work. A group of Ugandans and Nabulungi organize a spectacle in honor about Joseph Smith’s story - “Joseph Smith American Moses” as it was narrated to them by Cunningham.

The President is terrified and tells them that they are not genuine Mormons and should return to their homes. Elder Price then comes to the realization that not the scriptures but the idea that religion can be helpful to people is the most important thing. Cunningham and Price reach the decision they should stay in Uganda and continue their convert mission. But Nabulungi learns that Cunningham lied to her.

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She gets angry and helps the General to conquer the village. The village inhabitants explain to her that the religious stories about overcoming life’s challenges Cunningham told them have a metaphorical meaning and they should not be taken literally. It’s obvious that they finally accepted the Mormon religion.

So with a common effort all villagers push away the General. In the end missionaries and villagers gather together to discuss “The Book of Arnold” after deciding that they should unite their efforts to make the world a better place to live.

How the play was created?

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The play first appeared on stage in 2011. Its lyrics, script and music were written by Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Ropert Lopez who are famous for making the animated comedy South Park. Robert Lopez is famous for co-writing the music for the musical Avenue Q.

The play makes popular different Mormon beliefs and traditions to the general public but the main achievement of the play is advocating the idea of love and service. Parker and Stone watched Avenue Q in 2003. After this they met with Lopez in 2003 and started the development of the musical for a period of several years.

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Therefore after almost seven years of development the play Book of Mormon appeared on Broadway’s stage in March 2011. The LDC Church responded in a polite way to the play and consequently bought an advertising place in Book of Mormon’s playbill.

This play received positive reactions from critics and had a record ticket sale in Eugene O'Neill Theatre. It received nine Tony Awards. One of these awards was for Best Musical, and the play also got Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.