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A Look At the Fundamental Premise of The Book of Mormon Musical

A non-LDS friend of mine has been listening to the Book of Mormon musical on Pandora. That sparked some curiosity this week and I decided to write a reboot of a post I published . . . . a long time ago. #preIPHONE 

The Book of Mormon Musical is about a Mormon missionary called to serve in Uganda. Of course he doesn't know Uganda is in Africa because he is a religious character in American media. In America people of faith are portrayed as one of two stereotypes: (1) uneducated & naive, or (2) bat-shit crazy. In Africa he is forced to confront the harsh realities of life. This experience reveals his religious dogma as insufficient at best.

The premise is that a faith based life is too simple and naive to offer real help for the complex realities of life.​

Curiosity piqued. Just what does the church do in Africa? I looked up some numbers. Just the facts; no song and dance.

Number of Beneficiaries of Humanitarian Aid (2003 - 2010)

Immunizations (with other organizations)42,465,500
Clean Water3,953,601
Vision Care133,709
Neonatal Resuscitation Training53,130
Wheelchairs37,853
Food Production/Nutrition1,000
Other health initiatives total100
Total beneficiaries46,644,893

Africa Church Statistics

Total Church Membership

Congregations

Missions

Temples

2010

318,947

961

18

3

2017

239,524

1792

31

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I don't know if you have ever seen someone receive a wheelchair for the first time. I've seen a woman drag herself across the dirt floor to climb into her first wheel chair. 

It was transformative. She literally became a person in front of me. And it shames me to admit I couldn't see her until that point.

Looking at the facts, it looks like the church is doing a lot. And judging by the growth from 2010 to now, it looks like the message resonates.

I'm not hating on the musical. I haven't seen it. I'm listening to the soundtrack on Spotify. So far it's been really funny . . . and offensive. But still really funny. You know what they say? The book is always better.

On the Fallibility of Modern Prophets.

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.

Wilford Woodruff 
President, LDS Church

I used to think this meant that the the leaders of the church were infallible: incapable of making a mistake or being wrong. It's easy to be snarky and point out that (of course) they are human, but to actually point something out as a mistake well that . . . that's pretty much apostasy, right? At the very least it's a demonstrable lack of faith.

<sarcasm> I find your lack of faith disturbing because you already know only the wicked take the truth to be hard </sarcasm>.

Can we be lead astray?

No. Unequivocally.

What does it mean to be lead astray? The work and glory of God is the immortality and eternal life of man (and woman). It isn't . . . to be right. It isn't to be above reproach. It isn't freedom from embarrassment.

Did Joseph Smith doubt that he had been lead astray when he wrote, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"

Probably not. But if Joseph Smith could suffer torment, isolation, and martyrdom I think public embarrassment is within the scope.

<opinion> The Lord will not risk the immortality and eternal life of his sheep, but he will not protect us from feeling sheepish in the short term. </opinion>

President Gordon B. Hinckley grapples with the fallibility of LDS leadership.

President Hinkley experienced it in a way few ever have or will. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was called as a third Counselor to the First Presidency on July 23 1981, when President Spencer W. Kimball as well as his two counselors were unable to attend to all their duties. By 1984, Hinckley was the only publicly active member of the First Presidency. After Kimball's death, Ezra Taft Benson became President of the Church. Benson named Hinckley his first counselor and Thomas Monson his second. In the early 1990s, Benson developed serious health problems, removing him from public view. Hinckley and Monson carried out many of the duties of the First Presidency until Benson died in 1994. After Benson’s death, Howard W. Hunter became President and retained Hinckley and Monson as counselors in the First Presidency. Hunter died nine months later. At this point in 1995, Hinckley assumed the mantle of Prophet. Hinkley knew the limits of those called to the presidency better than most. His thoughts:

Gordon B HinkleyPresident, LDS Church

I have worked with the Presidents of the Church from President Heber J. Grant onward. … I have known [their] counselors, and I have known the Council of the Twelve during [these] years. All of these men have been human. They have had human traits and perhaps some human weaknesses. But over and above all of that, there has been in the life of every one of them an overpowering manifestation of the inspiration of God. Those who have been Presidents have been prophets in a very real way. I have intimately witnessed the spirit of revelation upon them. The Lord refined and polished each one, let him know discouragement and failure, let him experience illness and in some cases deep sorrow. All of this became part of a great refining process, and the effect of that process became beautifully evident in their lives.

From the life of President Monson.

2015 October Conference. President Monson is concluding his thoughts when his strength began to fail putting him at risk of a fall. Why doesn't someone help him? With the lights dimmed, very few can see the whole picture as the prophet concludes his remarks. Michelle Cope was there. Her story is a great example of how the Lord carries us at times. She gives the following account:

Most of you probably did not see what was happening behind President Monson at the end of his talk. I was on the floor, just a few rows from the very front of the Conference Center with a clear view of the scene. You might have noticed that President Monson really struggled to finish the last couple minutes of his talk and especially the last 30 seconds. I was afraid for him. I thought he might faint, pass out, or something worse.

And then, my heart melted when I saw behind President Monson was President Uchtdorf – on the edge of his seat, almost half-way standing up, with his arms stretched out, ready to catch the Prophet at any moment if he fell. You could see the worried expression on President Uchtdorf’s face as well as focused determination. He was on high alert and ready to catch him. As soon as President Monson said “Amen”, President Uchtdorf was immediately at his side and carried him back to his seat, safe and sound.

Michelle Cope 

President Monson teaches us, both in word and example, when we are on the Lord’s errand, He promises, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

When your life is difficult, when affliction leaves you wobbling and short of breath, don’t worry if no one is by your side, because He has your back.

Having the answers is not the mark of faith. It is only by asking questions that we gain our own greater understanding.*** I find these stories from the lives of two presidents build my faith in the leadership of the church as well as in myself. It is on you to work out your own salvation. The Lord will not put our salvation at risk but, you might by holding an expectation of infallibility in our leaders.

*** Answers are not necessarily included.