A Mormon Explanation of the "I Believe" Book of Mormon Musical Number from the Tonys

The Book of MormonSo I watched the Tony Awards last night, where The Book of Mormon Musical cleaned up. It won eight awards, including best musical. (It also included what’s likely the only time Joseph Smith has been thanked from a mainstream awards show.) (For my review of the original cast recording, take a gander at this post.)

The musical number they chose to perform was I Believe, which is the stirring ballad the Mormon missionary sings to inspire himself to recommit to the religion and fulfill his duties. And of course–since it’s from the creators of South Park–they decided to pick some of the more “out there” Mormon beliefs for the missionary to sing about. Now, on the nice side of things, they at least didn’t choose anything that Mormons don’t actually believe. So that’s something. On the other hand, by taking some of those beliefs out of context, I recognize that a lot of my friends out there who watched the show (all three of them, most likely) are wondering if I’m not more than a little crazy right now.

To address this, I’ve decided to give a Mormon commentary on the various lyrics in the song. Because hey–what’s the point in having a fairly public blog where I (from time to time) discuss my religion if I let something like this just slide on by? So if you’re interested in the Tonys or Mormonism at all, read on. If not . . . catch ya tomorrow.

The Lyrics to “I Believe” (my comments in red)

Ever since I was a child
I tried to be the best
So what happened?

My family and friends
All said I was blessed
So what happened?

It was supposed to be all so exciting
To be teaching of Christ across the sea
But I allowed my faith to be shaken
Oh, what’s the matter with me? This is actually a pretty common feeling for a Mormon missionary to have. I know I had it often on my mission. You’re halfway around the world, surrounded by strangers, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. You don’t need to be dealing with warlords in Uganda to still be very uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. People mock your religion on a daily basis, to your face. I think it’s natural to revisit your beliefs from time to time to check that you really do believe all this stuff. It would be a lot easier if you didn’t, after all. Just go home and go back to normal life.

I’ve always longed to help the needy
To do the things I never dared
This was the time for me to step up
So then why was I so scared? Again, pretty spot on so far. While some Mormon missionaries go on missions mainly because they feel pressured by Mormon families or Mormon society, the bulk of them go because they sincerely believe they will be helping other people.

A warlord who shoots people in the face
What’s so scary about that? Um . . . no comment?

I must trust that my Lord is mightier
And always has my back Okay
Now I must be completely devout
I can’t have even one shred of doubt Hmm . . . not really seeing eye to eye on this one, personally. That said, I knew missionaries who felt this way–who felt that you either believed something 100%, or you didn’t believe it at all. In my personal opinion, if you haven’t thought about your beliefs seriously–including the possibility that they’re wrong–then those beliefs can’t be very strong. Doubt is a part of faith. If you knew something 100%, then there would be no need of faith. Actually, that’s something I liked from an earlier part in The Book of Mormon Musical–Joseph Smith points out that God let the golden plates get taken away without letting Joseph to show them to all sorts of people and prove that he was telling the truth. But then he adds something along the lines of, “But I guess that’s sort of what you were going for.” Exactly. I believe God doesn’t actively prove his existence, because a big part of the reason we’re here on this earth is to learn how to have faith. But now I’m ranging kind of far afield–back to those lyrics.

I believe that the Lord God created the universe Nothing to comment on here, right?
I believe that He sent His only Son to die for my sins Still good.
And I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America And . . . here’s the first big “huh?” moment for most people, most likely. But this is essentially what all Mormons believe. We believe The Book of Mormon (the book, not the musical) was written by a group of people who left Jerusalem around 600 BC and were led to the Americas (where exactly–North/South/whatever–is a point up for debate.). Joseph Smith translated this record (written on golden plates), and that translation is what we now have as The Book of Mormon. This is a big part of the religion. The Book of Mormon doesn’t supplant the Bible. It’s another record of God’s dealings with his children. As a missionary, I told people about this story all of the time. It isn’t something we hide at all–we make a point of openly addressing it. If people are going to join the church, they’ll join it because they believe this account is true. Frankly, if you’re also ready to believe in the need for a Savior and the existence of a divine being–if you believe Moses led the Children of Israel to the promised land, if you really believe in the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark and all the rest of it, then believing this doesn’t seem like that big of a step to me. But it sounds really odd when you take it out of context.

I am a Mormon
And a Mormon just believes This is probably the line that bugged me the most from the song. (And overall, I actually like the song quite a bit.) It makes us sound like Mormons believe anything they’re told. Mormons are encouraged to question–to pray about things on their own. To gain a personal testimony about the truth of Mormon doctrine. Blind faith is a no-no.

You cannot just believe partway
You have to believe in it all
My problem was doubting the Lord’s will
Instead of standing tall You know, I don’t have much of a beef with this part. Because with Mormonism at least, it would be difficult to just believe pieces of it. I mean, when your religion started with a fourteen year old boy talking to God and Christ in a glade in upstate New York–and then that boy went and translated gold plates–then it’s hard to ignore that and focus on the more trendy pieces, like the importance of families. Because either we’re a bunch of delusional lemmings, or it’s true. Not much of a middle ground there.

I can’t allow myself to have any doubt
It’s time to set my worries free
Time to show the world what Elder Price is about
And share the power inside of me

I believe that God has a plan for all of us Definite core Mormon belief
I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet And . . . another one that probably throws a lot of people for a loop. Essentially, Mormons believe that, as children of God, we can all “grow up” to one day become like God. Again, I don’t personally think this is that big of a leap. For me, it’s a logical extension of that whole “child of God” thing. Children grow up to be like their parents.
And I believe that the current President of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God Yup. We believe this. It’s one of the core foundations of the religion. We believe that for a couple thousand years, God had a certain pattern developed: he spoke to people (called prophets), and gave those people a message. Those prophets then gave that message to God’s children. There was an apostasy, where for a space of time there was no prophet on the earth. This went on a long time. People still received inspiration and personal revelation from God, but as far as an organized, led-by-a-prophet church of God, we believe there wasn’t one. That organization needed to be restored, and that happened in the 19th Century in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church). Believing in a prophet today shouldn’t be that big of a stretch, if you believe there were prophets a long time ago (Moses, Noah, Isaiah, etc.)
I am a Mormon
And dangit, a Mormon just believes

I know that I must go and do
The things my God commands
I realize now why He sent me here

If you ask the Lord in faith
He will always answer you
Just believe in Him and have no fear

I believe that Satan has ahold of you Okay.
I believe that the Lord God has sent me here Sure.
And I believe that in 1978 God changed His mind about black people This isn’t entirely fair. Did members of the church make racist remarks about non-whites prior to 1978? You betcha. Really not nice remarks. Statements that make me personally very uncomfortable. But at the same time, I recognize that these people were just people. They had problems just like your or me. They had character flaws. They grew up in a time where the beliefs on race were much different than they are today, and I don’t think it’s entirely fair to judge them by today’s standards. Am I trying to defend them? No. I’m not. They said what they said, and I’m overjoyed that Mormonism has moved on from that. That said, I firmly do *not* believe God “changed His mind about black people.” Rather, I think we as flawed individuals were finally ready to figure out just how wrong we were. What’s interesting is that if you go back to the foundation of the church, Joseph Smith was actually very accepting of races–things went in a different direction upon his martyrdom. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you. It makes sense to me. (But then again, I’m a Mormon, and you’re not. So maybe that explains that.) Anyway–I just mean to point out we don’t believe God goes around changing His mind on a regular basis.

Again, this is something that fits right in line with that whole “prophets” thing. We believe in continuing revelation. God still speaks to His children and offers them guidance, tailor-made for today–not long ago. (For more about prophets, read a talk by Ezra Taft Benson (a Mormon prophet) focused on the subject: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6751 To me, this makes perfect sense. If God once spoke to His children, why in the world would he stop? If having prophets used to be important, why would they be unimportant now? Did humanity need guidance only in pre-internet, pre-global economy, pre-industrial revolution, pre-everything-in-the-past-2,000-years days?

You can be a Mormon
A Mormon who just believes

And now I can feel the excitement
This is the moment I was born to do
And I feel so incredible
To be sharing my faith with you

The scriptures say that if you ask in faith
If you ask God Himself, you’ll know
But you must ask Him without any doubt
And let your spirit grow Fine

I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob And another loopy things Mormons believe. Well, all I can say to this one is that we believe God has a body of flesh and bone. He looks like us. (Remember that whole thing about being a “child of God”?) So . . . if he has a body, he’s gotta live somewhere. Why is the place he lives called Kolob? Why is a chair called a chair? Language is used to let us refer to things that aren’t physically present. But remember, I majored in linguistics–and you don’t want to get a linguist started talking in signifiers and signified. In any case–this one sounds loopy at first, but with some explanation, I (personally) don’t think it’s that out there.
I believe that Jesus has His own planet as well Um . . . I guess? Not that I’ve heard a specific name given to it? But I suppose if we believe we can all become like God, and we believe that Jesus has already done that, then I guess it makes sense Christ has his “own planet.” But again, we believe Christ is resurrected. He’s got a body. He has to be living somewhere. Is that so nuts?
And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri Yup. We believe this, too. Is it a core part of our belief? Like, do we all get together at the beginning of church meetings and recite, “We believe the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri”? Nope. Then again, the Garden of Eden had to be somewhere. It wasn’t on Mars, right? 🙂

If you believe, the Lord will reveal it
And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it

You’ll be a Mormon
And, by gosh, a Mormon just believes And that’s all I’ve got for you.

So there you have it, folks. A step by step commentary on the lyrics, written by an actual sane Mormon. (Well, mostly sane, at least.) As I take a look at these various beliefs, I feel the need to add two more bits of commentary. First off, some of these beliefs are far from core. What I mean by that is that my religion has central beliefs that receive a lot of focus and attention–in church, in the scriptures, from the prophets. And then it’s got some “farther out there” beliefs that don’t get much play. For the most part, these farther out there beliefs are pieced together by obscure statements by prophets. Some Mormons like to obsess about these nitty gritty details, debating them endlessly in a never-ending quest to find “the whole truth.” In my opinion, this isn’t that much different from people who are still trying to understand Lost or The X-Files. (The truth is out there.) As far as I’m concerned, paying attention to the core teachings (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, etc.) is much more important and worthy of attention.

Second (and last) observation: the elements of church doctrine that seem so crazy to others trace their roots to elements that are often shared by most other religions. The main difference between Mormonism and most other religions is that we can point to specific dates and places where revelations happened. Where God appeared to man on earth. It’s a matter of being so darned recent that makes people feel like they can wave us off as loony. This is nothing new. Prophets have never really been trendy, from Moses to Noah to whoever. It’s easier to believe in something that happened a long time ago–you can pass it off as metaphor and go on your merry way. (For more on my thoughts on that, check out this post.)

In any case, I’m pretty much written out for now. I suppose I can open this up for questions and comment. All I ask is that we keep things civil. Deal?


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69 thoughts on “A Mormon Explanation of the "I Believe" Book of Mormon Musical Number from the Tonys”

  1. I’m not going to tolerate comments made by people who don’t have a big enough backbone to at least say who they are, but feel like spouting off ill-considered, poorly justified potshots at Mormonism. If you want to engage me in an actual well-thought out discussion of the post, then go for it. Thinking is required, however.

    I will delete. That’s the wonder of having a personal blog. In the words of The Wedding Singer, “I have a microphone, and you don’t.” Bonus points to you if you can fill in the rest of the quote. Extra big bonus points if you’re an internet troll looking to stir up a fight, but can actually follow the advice given by Adam Sandler. 🙂

  2. Bryce: Friend of Dave Hyde. Mormon. I believe. Thanks for taking the time put that particular nationally televised Mormon moment into context. I like to remind myself that all religious beliefs when thrown out of context are crazy sounding. “Dead man disappears from tomb, appears to ladies in a garden and then asks a guy to stick his hand in a hole in his side.” “Set an extra place at a yearly feast in case a dead guy shows up.” “Don’t think about the fact that Catholics believe the wafer turns into the actual flesh of Christ when consumed.” And I could go on…. Be well. — Scott Rackham

  3. Great post, Bryce. However, I would like to point out a couple of minor issues:

    First of all, you didn’t mention this, but the scriptures are pretty explicit that God doesn’t live on Kolob. There’s apparently a star called Kolob that happens to be close to wherever it is that God lives, but it’s not actually His home. Regardless, you’re right: He has to live somewhere.

    Secondly, it really irks me when people talk about each of us having his or her “own planet.” Where do people come up with this stuff? Heavenly Father is the God of everything we can see. Perhaps that’s just this galactic cluster; more likely it’s the entire universe or more. But if we’re going to grow up to be like Dad, I severely doubt we’re going to be limited to one measly planet. That claim is just being weird for weirdness’ sake.

    Anyway, these are minor details, but I figured I’d try to set the record straight for anyone who doesn’t have the necessary context. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  4. Good points, Jeff. Like Scott said, trying to reduce a lot of these doctrinal issues (in any religion) into a single pithy line in a musical inevitably makes complex doctrine appear stupid. But then again, that’s sort of the point of the song, I suppose. At least they got the “I believe” statements mostly kinda sorta correctish. 🙂

    In any case, thanks for the clarification.

  5. Thanks for this post. I wanted to know how close these are, not being as familiar with Mormonism as other more popular types of Christianity. As an agnostic, I start snickering at “I believe the Lord God created the Universe”, so I really don’t understand how anyone who has any faith can throw stones at anyone else’s. You’re right that once you start with “talking snake”, “you get your own planet” shouldn’t seem that far out there at all.

    Anyway, thanks again for the explanation of the song. I do appreciate it.

  6. Hi Bryce my name is Tony but I don’t have a Google account and I’m not too sure about the other options which is why I chose Anonymous.

    My biggest concern w/what you wrote is that for most of it you kept saying that if you believe one thing then it’s not too far of stretch to accept something else and so on. In a way you can say that about anybody’s beliefs which is why I think the song goes on to say that “a Mormon just believes” but it’s not just Mormons it’s everyone. Sure you pray about it (they even mention this in the song) but ultimately you just believe; it’s a choice.

  7. That’s true, Tony. I suppose my “if you believe one thing then it’s not too big of a stretch” comments were mainly aimed at non-Mormons who view Mormon beliefs as being too strange. I wanted to point out essentially what you just said–that believing is believing.

    With the “Mormons just believe” line, I think there are two ways of looking at it. On the one hand, you have what you just said–you make the choice to believe, just like all religions must. On the other hand, you have the concept that Mormons believe crazy things because they’re told to–they’re (according to the musical) not supposed to question things. When I listened to this song for the first time, I tended to view it by the first interpretation. When I saw it performed on the Tony’s, the Elder singing the song has sort of a crazed look in his eye when he sings the line, which seems (to me) to slant the interpretation more toward the second option.

    In any case, good point–thanks for posting.

  8. great job here. i would like to flesh out what you stated regarding the church’s 1978 decision on black people…now your point seems more than valid read in and of itself; however, if you believe that the president of the LDS is privy to divine inspiration, how is it that the decision of including peoples of color into the church came not before (showing a sign of divine benevolence, maybe) the civil rights movement, but much after (seen more as a failure of attrition)? because from an outside perspective, it would appear that either the president doesn’t have this direct line, or that God was late to the equal rights party.

    -joel brady

  9. Thank you Bryce for posting this! This is exactly what I was looking for; a very sane honest Mormon to explain this. And you’re right; none of it is any crazier than any other religious beliefs; it probably only seems sillier because it’s not 2 or 3 thousand years old. Eons ago when I was a (non-LDS) Christian we learned about the more out-there Mormon beliefs in “cult class.” (note: I now think “cult class” was just as stupid as any of the cults we studied) Years later I worked for a Mormon bishop and one day I mentioned the planet thing, and he looked shocked like “how do you know about that?” Do you feel that now all the- well not dirty laundry, but maybe the more potentially embarrassing laundry is out there in such a big way, is it kind of a relief for you?

  10. Joel–Good question. In the end, I’d have to say that it comes down to (for Mormons) the whole “Gods ways are not our ways” idea. A good comparison would be the Word of Wisdom (the Mormon “health law” that prohibits Mormons from smoking, drinking alcohol, and drinking coffee and tea). Most people get the whole “no alcohol or cigarettes” bit of it, but they get thrown for a loop by the prohibition on coffee and tea, citing a lack of scientific evidence that those things are bad for you. (As well as numerous studies that show things like a glass of wine a day being good for you).

    But the point about the Word of Wisdom isn’t to reconfirm scientific health studies of our day. If science suddenly discovered drinking two cups of coffee each day prolonged your life by a decade, I wouldn’t head to the local java joint. I don’t drink coffee because I want to be obedient to what I see as a commandment from God–not because I want to live 10 years longer. Does that make sense?

    Now, I realize racism doesn’t equate to coffee drinking, but it’s the principle behind it–obedience to God, whose advice/commandments don’t always line up with mankind’s. Why did God wait so long to change this stance? I don’t know. Maybe if it had changed sooner, the church would have fallen apart. Even in 1978, the change upset many people in the church, as much as it saddens me to admit that.

    I believe the church’s teachings are true, but I also believe that Mormons have the same flaws and weaknesses of any human. In the end, I’m just glad the stance did change.

    I hope that sort of answers your question.

  11. Bonnie–thanks for the comment. As to whether I feel relieved now that all this is out in the open, I’d have to say “not really.” I never really felt like it was something that was that hidden to begin with. And it didn’t need to be hidden. The “crazy” things listed to the in the song are things that I actually do believe–just taken out of context and over-simplified. I welcome the chance to discuss these beliefs with people, and I’d done so frequently in the past.

    Still, with the musical getting such attention, I think it does help to “clear the air” some. Like I said in my post, most of these beliefs aren’t central to Mormonism. They’re not founding tenets or anything. And so what would often happen as a missionary is I’d teach people about the basic Mormon beliefs, only to have someone else come tell that person (the next day or week or whatever), “Oh–Mormons don’t believe that. They believe they’re going to get their own planet.” And then I’d have to do a lot more teaching and explaining. If more people know the more strange beliefs of Mormonism, it’ll certainly make having a conversation about the core beliefs easier.

    Does that make sense?

  12. I was looking for the lyrics to this song and your blog was the first website that came up with lyrics. I think you did a great job dissecting this.

    I think laughing at this musical is akin to laughing at actors in black face.

  13. I just wanted to say that I thought this analysis was great – well written and informative. Thanks.

    One thing I wanted to ask about were the lines right before the line about God living on Kolob. I was surprised you said you were fine with these, the third line in particular: “But you must ask Him without any doubt”. It seems to be a little jab implying that Mormons aren’t supposed to seriously question their beliefs. Just thought I’d ask about your thoughts.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  14. Thanks, Matt. As for the “ask without any doubt,” that line seems (to me) to refer to James 1:5-6–“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”

    That’s the scripture Joseph Smith read that inspired him to ask God which church was true, and which subsequently led to God and Christ appear to Smith and telling him that none of the churches were true.

    Since the story is so fundamental to Mormonism, the potential to interpret that line from the song sort of just sailed right past me. I could see it being read either way. Good catch.

  15. I was curious what was said in the “I Believe” song. I was happy to read this commentary including the comments. Bryce does a good job explaining our belief in a thoughtful and straightforward manner. I really like the comments too.

    As far as the song goes, it seems like it is calculated to distract as much as possible from the main beliefs of mormonism which are centered in Jesus Christ and the plan of happiness. It really doesn’t do us justice.

  16. You do realize, don’t you, that the basic story of the Book of Mormon – that ancient Israelites made boats and came to the Americas — is utterly contradicted by linguistics, archaelogy, and genetics, right?

  17. Two points, grammartroll. First off, I can just as easily say science has utterly contradicted the resurrection, the Garden of Eden, water into wine, walking on water, the parting of the Red Sea, burning bushes, feeding the 5,000–and whatever other part of religion I choose to. Of course, using science to explain everything in the universe only really works if science is infallible. Which of course it isn’t. Science itself has proven that time and time again.

    Be that as it may, my second point is that I think your claim is complete rubbish, particularly because you threw it out there with no sort of support. Just a general wave in a direction of an argument. Are you an expert in all three sciences? How much study have you done on the subjects? I’ve read many many articles on both sides of the fence in all three areas. Unless, of course, you mean by “utterly contradicted” that you can cherry pick some arguments together to disprove the Book of Mormon using science. In which case, refer to my first point.

    In the end, all religion is about faith. Not science. Those who have faith won’t be persuaded otherwise by science’s claims, and those who put their complete trust in science will hardly be persuaded by religion’s arguments. But as a thinking, rational person, I have taken the time to read through the arguments in all three of those areas (linguistics, archaeology and genetics), and I have yet to find anything that utterly contradicts anything. But that’s the topic for a different blog post, and one I don’t have time to get into today.

  18. thanks for writing this! you are so objective of yourself, understanding of others, faithful, and have a great sense of humor! i love this song and can’t stop singing it. although, i couldn’t remember the words 🙂 so i googled it and was excited to read your perspective. i’m not mormon myself, but i went to high school with lots of mormons and my high school sweet heart of 3 years was mormon and his family was wonderful! i’m grateful for any religious or non religious person who has a good heart and tries their best to spread love and joy. just wanted to say thanks for sharing with an open mind and heart!

  19. I never thought of God living on a planet…who says its a planet? Maybe he created those just for us… I don’t know. But I don’t like the idea of having my own planet…I’d get lonely!! These points of doctrine are not clear to us, so tacking on definite names like that, I think, could be inaccurate. We don’t know where Heavenly Father lives. It is past the star kholob, but we don’t know if it is a planet or a star or a treehouse. And honestly,I don’t feel a burning need to know. God gives me personal reveleation and help for what I’ve got to get through for now. All I know about where I will live if i endure this life is that it will be with my family and my God and I will be happy…that’s enough for me.

    …and I agree, I dislike the “just believes” part of the song…we don’t. we believe, we question, we ponder, we pray, we recieve personal revelation, we endure, we love others, and when we have nothing left, we put our fate in god’s hands and have faith that he knows us, loves us, and will do what is best for us LONG TERM, which may not be the most fun thing short term.

    thanks for the blog post. it irritated me and made me laugh and made me glad to be a mormon.

    p.s. I’m Rachael Decker’s little sister Rosalind

  20. You answered my comment a few days ago about if it’s good to get all this out there… yes that makes total sense! I’m listening to the soundtrack for the zillionth time and I wanted to let you know this makes me like Mormons more than I ever have. The message of it seems to be the same as in the “All about Mormons” SP episode (which I assume you’ve seen) – that sure these beliefs seem silly to us, but because of it Mormons are good people who lead loving and fulfilling lives. I mentioned I worked for a Bishop – well he was a racist ass of the first order, except when he was around other Mormons, then he was all nice and people looked up to him. That left me with a really bad feeling towards Mormons, because seriously, this jerk phony is someone high up in the Mormon church?? So for years after I’d be all rude to Mormons who came to my door because of that. But now I can’t wait til the next Mormons come so I can invite them in! It really changed my innermost visceral feeling towards you guys from cold and dismissive to warm and loving, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hope you can see it the way I see it, and apparently the way all the reviewers saw it; as a joyous celebration of what’s silly AND beautiful about your religion.

  21. Bonnie–Glad to hear your perceptions have changed. It’s a sad fact that there are idiots of every creed in this world. I’ve met some bonehead bishops myself, and heard horror stories of others. But if people could all treat the Mormon missionaries a bit kinder, that would be fantastic. Having been there and done that, I know there were some pretty down days, when it feels like everyone hates you through no fault of your own. (Though of course there are some bonehead missionaries, too . . .) 🙂

  22. Thanks for doing this commentary. After the performance, my (non-Mormon) family agreed that the song was very fair and very moving. Like you said, it took some of the more “out there” beliefs, but you could do that with any belief system and it would sound just as ridiculous:

    “I believe that this bread and wine will become the body and blood of Jesus”
    “..that when the Ram’s horn blows the fate of my soul will be written in the Book of Life”
    “..that this universe just appeared on it’s own and evolved with no outside guidance.”

  23. Also, I’d love to see a similar commentary on “Turn it Off”.

    It seemed to work, except that the drunk, wife-beating Mormon dad doesn’t sound realistic.

    -Paul P

  24. Paul–good comment. As far as the “Turn It Off” song is concerned, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I know some Mormons and ex-Mormons who really feel like this is the approach endorsed by church members as a whole. Ignore problems, and they’ll go away. A drunken, abusive Mormon father? I’m certain they’re out there, unfortunately. And I’m also certain that this “turn it off” approach is used by some to deal with that situation. It’s incredibly sad, but it is what it is.

    That said, I personally don’t agree with the “turn it off” sentiment. Mormons believe in eternal progression–always improving yourself. I don’t think you improve yourself by ignoring or squelching a part of who you are. Obviously this is made particularly complex when part of who you are is homosexual, which is what the song seems focused at exploring. I don’t pretend to know God’s will for all His children, and I don’t understand how homosexuality fits into the greater scheme of things. I’m glad I don’t have to make official church statements on the subject, and I certainly won’t get into it on a blog post. My feelings and opinions are far too complex, and the waters are much too murky. If I were to write a “turn it off” post, that’s where it would end up, and I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet.

    Maybe some more mulling it over will get me closer . . .

  25. I am surprised you are so open about believing the “crazy” parts of your religion, but then again you are right – they are not much more incredible than what Catholics or Muslims or Buddhist or Hindus believe.
    For me the big question that remains is WHY?
    There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for any of that. So why take the giant leap of faith? Isn’t life wonderful and curious enough without fairy tales?
    Don’t want to sound hostile, I hope I don’t. I just wonder how is that possible. I have never believed a single superstition in my whole life and all of that stuff sounds bought intriguing and, well, hilarious.

  26. Thanks for the comment, John–I didn’t take it as hostile. I think the “why” is an excellent question. It’s probably different for each person, and I can’t claim to speak for other Mormons, but for me, I think it all boils down to a few points. First off, I firmly believe there are things in this world for which science has no adequate explanation. If you start from the assumption that humans at this point know and can prove anything worth knowing, then yes–religion as a whole would be pointless. If, on the other hand, you agree that there is much we don’t know, then that opens up a lot of possibilities.

    Second, I have personally prayed about this. I firmly believe God exists, and that He isn’t a made up fairy tale. Through my prayers, I have received confirmation that this is all true. But beyond that, I have seen the effects of my faith and belief in my daily life. I have seen first hand the happiness and joy living this religion can bring–that sort of evidence can’t be argued, sort of like how someone can’t tell me whether I feel sad or grumpy or in love or not. It’s a personal call.

    Yes, life is plenty crazy and intriguing without fairy tales. But I don’t believe this is a fairy tale at all. I literally believe God exists, we are His children, and He has a plan for us to become like him. If you take that as a possibility, then the rest isn’t a big stretch, in my opinion.

    If you start from the stance that it’s ludicrous to believe in God, then it all becomes futile to debate. Does that make sense?

  27. To tack on to Bryce’s excellent response:

    To me, the belief that there is no God is just as ridiculous. That this universe just appeared and evolved to it’s current state with nothing to set it in motion (continued guidance, intelligent design, or not) – that’s more unfathomable than anything any religion believes.

  28. Thanks, Carmen–I appreciate it.

    Paul–good point, but at the same time, I kind of cringe whenever any beliefs are called ridiculous. I think we all have personal beliefs, and treating each other’s beliefs respectfully is something polite society just ought to do. There are certainly times when I don’t understand someone else’s beliefs, or I find them hard to accept–but the great thing about them is that I don’t have to believe them myself. I can see why atheists would doubt the existence of God. I understand the argument. I disagree with it, but it isn’t ridiculous.

    Not meaning to split hairs here, but I also didn’t want this to devolve into a back and forth on which belief system is right or wrong. I’ve been really impressed with the polite nature of almost all the comments so far (except for the first one, which I deleted)–and I hope it keeps trending that way. Really, these comments have restored my faith in the general internet population.
    Respectful observations, with hardly any trolls. Thanks, everybody!

  29. Bryce, you’re right, and I apologize for using the term “ridiculous”. I couldn’t read John F’s post while responding from my phone; I thought he said ridiculous, and was just quoting it back. But he said hilarious, not ridiculous.

    The point is that any belief system (including atheism) is taken on faith by its adherents, and sounds “out there” to anyone else. As they say in Book of Mormon, “that’s kind of what God is going for.”

  30. Me again… this is such a great conversation! Isn’t the real only “proof” of anything spiritual the feeling you have inside? When I became a Christian that was my proof. Things that happen in your life and the feeling you have inside. Even in I Believe he says, “And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it.” That’s why I think Richard Dawkins needs to take peyote or something, then maybe he’d get the whole “transcendent” concept that seems to escape him.

  31. Bonnie–It’s true that feelings provide an essential basis for faith. At the same time, I don’t think they provide the sole basis. I do believe in miracles and the power of prayer, for example. I have seen things happen in my life for which I have no adequate explanation other than religious. God does intervene in our lives–not always in the form of a burning bush or angelic visitations (not to me, at least–I’ve never seen anything like that). I guess that falls under the “things that happen in your life” that you mentioned. Because these experiences are personal and not often shared, they’re impossible to use as “proof” to other people–particularly skeptics. In the end, faith is something that happens on an individual level. Two people can have the same experience. In one, it will inspire them to greater faith, in the other, to greater skepticism.

  32. Bryce, I was so happy to find this post, which I found after doing a google search for “a Mormon just believes.” I must be living under a rock, because just today I saw the Tony award video.

    I appreciate your humor and honesty, and the fact that you don’t get all huffy over this musical. (I’m a former Catholic who’s always laughed like crazy at the “Inquisition” number in Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part I, so I like people who can laugh at themselves.)

    Good luck to you!

  33. The thing about this really rather inspiring ballad that jumped out at me as I listened was the title itself. In all my 40 years in the church, I rarely heard fellow mormons say “I believe.” It was nearly always “I know.”

    I ‘know’ the church is true… I ‘know’ that Joseph Smith was a prophet… I ‘know’ the prophet is called of God… I ‘know’ that when I die I’ll be with (fill in the blank family member) again…

    It has always been a pet peeve of mine that members of the church insist they ‘know’ things that they can’t know – but that they fervently believe. So I felt the song was especially kind in that regard…

    Though maybe it was because “I believe” translates into a far more singable lyric than “I know” 🙂

  34. Good comment, Allison. I’ve noticed the same thing about the “believe” vs. “know” thing. I think in the end it’s a usage issue, with Mormons meaning one thing by “know,” and the rest of the world meaning another thing. It doesn’t bug me much, but I can see how it would be off-putting to some.

  35. Intereresting thoughts, Bryce, but (and this is not intended as a slight) I’m wondering if you’ve actually had a chance to see The Book of Mormon, or just heard the song. It doesn’t seem like you really have an issue with “I Believe” for the most part, but you take exception to the singer characterizing his faith as blind, unquestioning, and maybe a little naieve. I could see where this might bother me if I heard it all on its own, but in context, I think it’s pretty clear it’s the character’s personality that’s meant to be on display here more than the nature of Mormonism. Elder Price is supposed to be a sheltered 19-year-old True Believer who’s a little smug in his own self-righteousness; there are other characters Mormon characters in the play, and Price is not presented as being typical of them. The line “a Mormon just believes” is treated as a kind of bittersweet punchline not because it’s supposed to be true, but because that’s what Price thinks faith is, and he’s wrong in a particularly touching way.

    Utimately, the play is more about faith than Mormonism. Notice that the Mormonism-specific beliefs in the song are right along side basic Christian beliefs that everyone in America is familiar with? I think that’s meant to draw attention to the human experience of faith and away from the specifics of one religion vs another.

  36. Bryce, that was a really nice explanation of the song in how it relates to Mormonism. Really enjoyed reading it.

    Love the musical, not a very religious man, but liked hearing someone explain what I (like many others, I”m sure) see as the loopy parts.

    Humor is always found at the extremes, or out of context.

    If your faith gives you hope and comfort, then that is indeed beautiful

    Thanks again

  37. Anon–Sorry it took me so long to publish your comment. I haven’t seen the musical in person, though I’ve listened to the cast recording in its entirety. I have no doubt that the song plays differently in the actual musical, but at the same time, this post was in direct response to the Tony Award performance of this one number, where it was presented in isolation. Undoubtedly a lot of the subtleties of the musical were lost in the transition, but at the same time, that’s why I felt it was important to write a response/reaction to the number from an active/believing Mormon viewpoint. In any event, thanks for the comment and insights.

    Kyle–Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  38. I appreciated your comments on “I Believe” but I just wanted to say that in my opinion Mormons are not encouraged to question their beliefs. I grew up in the Mormon church and when I would ask difficult questions in Sunday School people would laugh as if I was joking or stare at me awkwardly. Nobody ever said to me that it was good to ask questions. The general message was that asking questions leads to apostasy and it did in my case and for a lot of others so I can understand why they didn’t want me asking difficult questions.

  39. Eric–Glad you found the post interesting. I definitely see your point, although I personally have never felt that way. I’ve asked (and been asked) many difficult questions about Mormonism, and each time, I’ve found answers that have put my mind at ease.

    Then again, in the end, I believe that every testimony must rest on faith, not knowledge. We’re not going to know the answer to every little question right this instant, and I can accept that. That doesn’t mean that I stick my head in the sand and ignore something, but it does mean that some things must be taken on faith.

    I think that some Mormons (and members of other religions, as well) avoid asking difficult questions at all, from this same vein of reasoning. That’s okay–I’m not going to jam questions down other people’s throats. But asking those questions aloud in Sunday School could definitely make some people uncomfortable.

    A lot of it depends on your local congregation, as well.

    In any case, thanks for the comment!

  40. Thank you for your honest and open response to the lyrics. I wanted to make several points. I would say that, for the most part, nothing that Mormons believe is really all that more far-fetched than what any other religion believes. That is to say, they are all equal in their certainty of claims about the “truth”, without any real evidence or rational explanation. Often in complete contradiction to obvious reality. and rational evidence.

    Your pirouette about the mysteriousness of God’s will is a prime example. When something comes up that does not make sense, like God allowing his prophets to preach things that are patently wrong like bigotry, prejudice, or slavery, we say God is mysterious, and human morality and judgement is not sufficient to understand Him. But then in the next breath, use that same human morality and judgment to claim certainty about about the goodness of His will, and of the faith we believe in.

    Fact is, 9 million children under five will die this year in terror and suffering around the world. That is 24000 a day, 1000 an hour. Most of these people believe in God, and are praying at this moment to be saved. Their prayers will not be answered. Any omniscient being who allows this suffering and the suffering of their parents, either can’t do anything about it, or chooses not to. He is therefore either impotent, or evil. There is not other option. Worse if you truly believe Christian doctrine, most of these people will burn eternally for growing up in India or the Middle East, and having been raised to believe in a different name for God. So He not only let them grow up ignorant of the “true faith,” he allowed them to die in pain and agony, and then punishes them eternally for not worshipping Him the right way while they were alive. Yet we claim certainty about his goodness because our holy books say so.

    So no, Mormon beliefs are not any more far-fetched then any other religion.

  41. Jon,

    Thanks for the comment and the thought that went into it. I can certainly see your point–and it’s an argument that has been made for centuries. If God exists, why is there pain and suffering in the world?

    I don’t think that the only answers to this question is that God is either powerless or evil. From a Mormon doctrinal stance, the reason for pain and suffering is that we’re here on earth to learn–about both good and bad things. Some of the evils in the world come from other people–we believe that God has given all people the right to make choices for themselves. He won’t force us to be good. The natural consequence of that is that people do mean, awful, terrible things to each other.

    Of course, other things happen that aren’t the result of actions of people. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Again, in those instances, I’d say that those things are there to help us learn how to deal with tragedies.

    If life ends at death, then you’re right–none of this is fair. If there is an afterlife, and our actions here on earth have a direct impact on our lives hereafter, then suddenly “fair” takes on a whole new meaning. I believe much of the fairness comes later–not now.

    I don’t claim certainty that God is good because of a book I read. I claim certainty of His goodness because of my experiences with Him and His religion. However, belief in God isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card. Just look at Christ.

  42. RE: Jon Z

    Hi Bryce,

    I’m so behind the times on this. But I wanted to quickly make a comment for JON Z that might help him understand what Mormon’s believe about his statement that God is either impotent or evil. I just read the first 3 chapters of a book called “The Miracle of Forgiveness” by Spencer W. Kimball (I’m sure you’ve heard of it, Bryce), and those chapters address this concept very well, along with other hard to understand concepts about the existence of God and the purpose of Jesus Christ, as Mormons believe it. Mormons do believe in an all-powerful, yet merciful and loving God. It can be hard to understand how the all that fits together when you think about how crappy life can be. Spencer W. Kimball does a great job, in my opinion.

    I’ll leave my recommendation at that, if anyone wants to check it out. Also, mormon.org also has a lot of personal accounts from people on why and what they believe in regards to all types of Mormon doctrine. Good resource for curious people; and you nobody is knocking at your door while you do it 😉

    Thanks for all your blog posts!

  43. I appreciated this post and the following comments. I’m not going to offer an opinion on the content, but simply say that there’s so much to consider when observing a religion it’s impossible to get the answers. I can absolutely understand everyone’s opinions (within this thread) and hope to one day find out the truth of the universe.

  44. Never read every comment of any post on the web until just now. I crave these simple intelligent open discussions. Sadly, they are not so common. Thanks for the post and the willingness to respond. Found your blog through Eddie Schneider’s, a friend from NYU. I am also an active Mormon.

  45. I am surprised to see this analysis posted in the first place. This song comes from the same crew that brought us South Park lyrics like “I wanna get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus, I wanna feel his salvation all over my face”. The song is clearly intended to ridicule Mormons – and it does a pretty good job of that. Seeing an analysis of “well, we believe that, and yeah, we believe that too, and that’s worded kind of unfairly, but we sorta believe that too” makes for a chuckle.

    I am surprised that as a linguist, you’d respond to “Kolob” as “well, God lives somewhere right?, Kolob is just the name for whatever that place is”. The name Kolob came from the Book of Abraham, which Joseph Smith allegedly translated from some papyrus scrolls. Only problem for Joseph Smith is that we now know the Egyptian language used on the scrolls and we are able to decipher the real translation, and it is pretty clear that Smith’s translation is complete fantasy and bears no resemblance to the actual text on the scrolls. As a linguist, I would assume that should be pretty easy for you to understand if you’d care to do a cursory Google search. Kolob would a great word to mean “wherever God lives”, if only it didn’t come to exist by means of a joke of a hoax that has been thoroughly debunked.

  46. Trevor and Becky–Thanks!

    GK–Glad you appreciated the post. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how generally open and respectful people have been in the comments. I was prepared to have to delete a lot more posts.

    Mike–With the tremendous amount of interest in the musical around the Tonys, and the subsequent frequent questions about how accurate some of the musical’s content was, I don’t think it should be surprising at all to see a post like this. Yes, it’s from the South Park guys, but does that really matter? It raises questions for people, and I’d rather the answer to those questions come from someone who knows what he’s talking about than from Random Internet Forum #2356. Then again, I wrote it, so maybe I’m not a fair judge.

    As for the rest, I don’t see how “God needs to live somewhere” has anything to do with the way the name Kolob entered the lexicon. I could call it Snarfsville, and it would still denote the same concept. As for the debate over the Joseph Smith translation of the papyrus in question, smarter minds than mine have looked at both sides of that issue. I have no real desire to get into the debate, as it just doesn’t interest me a great deal. It quickly devolves into a squabble over history, and to me, there are plenty of “unbelievable” things in the history of Mormonism. I don’t believe or not believe because or in spite of these various accounts. I believe because I’ve prayed about it, gotten an answer, and seen firsthand the effects of this religion. I know it’s true in the same way I know I love my wife. For those interested in seeing more of a Mormon’s take on the papyrus issue, I’d recommend going here:


  47. Bryce,

    In your post, you mention that the “Mormons just believe” line “is probably the line that bugged [you] the most from the song… It makes [it] sound like Mormons believe anything they’re told. Mormons are encouraged to question–to pray about things on their own. To gain a personal testimony about the truth of Mormon doctrine. Blind faith is a no-no.”

    Then you point out that the answers to questions like whether the Book of Abraham is a fraud are not really relevant and you just trust that the smart people of the church are telling the truth, even though you’re a linguist and you ordinarily should have no problem analyzing the facts and coming to an objective conclusion on your own… quickly.

    Isn’t this blind faith? What is the difference between believing something on feelings and believing something blindly? Isn’t all blind faith based on feelings? Feelings simply don’t make things true. The very song you’re writing about has this point covered… “you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just… feel it… [I am] a Mormon, and Mormons just believe.”

    A lot of people have a problem with the idea that you can just pray to God and he’ll help you find your car keys so you’re not late for work and will grant you divine revelation just for asking, but other people (like those in Africa) suffer things like AIDS, diseases in their water, and death from infections that could be easily cured by antibiotics etc., and praying to God does nothing for them. Surely you’ve heard of KONY 2012, why doesn’t everyone just pray to God and let God take care of this problem? Why can’t God just allow people to have “feelings” to know where to find this Kony guy, or to know where to find clean water, or how to cure basic infections, or when to run to avoid the bad guys. Why does “just ask in faith” work for you and not them?

    That’s why this Book of Mormon show is right on target. It clearly and succinctly communicates that being Mormon means believing untenable things on faith alone, and it’s hilarious because it’s so true.

    (PS, background information: I am a returned missionary who has since become convinced that the LDS church, while it teaches lots of good things, is not the one true church it claims to be.)

  48. My avoidance of discussing the linguistic aspects of the Book of Breathings wasn’t because I hadn’t looked into it, nor was it because I just chose to blindly believe in the face of evidence against it. It was because it drifted off from the focus of this thread and post.

    I think it’s possible to oversimplify the arguments for or against “scientific proofs” that prove/disprove any aspect of Mormonism–oversimplify to the point that the other side looks foolish and ill-informed. I don’t think it’s as clear cut as you seem to. But the last thing I feel like doing is getting in an argument over it. I can see why you would believe the church’s position is wrong. I disagree, not because of blind faith, but you’re just going to have to take my word for that. (If I started saying why I believe, citing the various arguments, then suddenly that opens things up to turning this into a debate about it, and like I said–I feel no great need to get into that.)

    As for God helping me find my car keys but leaving the entire continent of Africa out to dry, I don’t think that was a very fair comparison. I never claimed to have a corner on God’s assistance. Neither does Mormonism. Prayer didn’t let me get out of my parents getting divorced. It didn’t cure my grandmother’s stroke. It didn’t save the plane that crashed and killed my uncle, or save my other uncle from dying in his sleep.

    Bad things happen to everyone. Regardless of how much or how little you pray. Bad things happen on an individual level, and on a global level. But why should any of that mean God doesn’t exist?

    I love my son. He’s going through some tough times in school. I’d like to step in and help him out, but I don’t. He needs to learn how to do that on his own. That’s part of what going to school’s all about, in my opinion.

    According to Mormon doctrine, this life isn’t here for us all to be comfy and happy. It’s here for us to learn how to be better people. God stepping in and curing all the woes of the planet–while it would make us all a lot happier, theoretically–wouldn’t bring us any closer to that goal. Indeed, I’m sure that even if you took out the floods, the AIDS, the earthquakes–anything non-man-made–we’d still have plenty to keep us miserable.

    Being Mormon doesn’t mean believing in untenable things. Not to me. But I accept that you believe that, and I can see how you might think that. I just disagree.

  49. Hi Bryce, Jon Z again. Thanks for your response to my comments earlier. I think however that many people of faith tend to miss my point. My point is that the whole idea of God and religion is based on “faith” not on any kind of real evidence. We do the rituals we do, and believe what we do, because we were born into a culture that imprinted those ideas on us at a very young age. But in the end our belief in God is not rational, it is emotional. The actual evidence for the precepts of our religions is either terrible, or non-existent.

    Bryce, your assertion that God lets bad things happen so that we might learn how to deal with tragedy and suffering, is affront to morality in the ease with which it excuses the very real suffering of millions of people around the world.

    If your son was dying of starvation, or cancer, or pinned under the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake, would you say that that was ok and you should do nothing about it because it would help other people to learn about suffering? I hope not. Yet this is the behavior of the loving heavenly father you say is out there. Sitting on Kolob, watching us die painfully and saying, ” It’s all good, it builds character.”

    I do not say God does not exist, because I obviously can’t prove that. But the evidence tends to indicate, that he is either not as good as we claim, or not as omnipotent. Because you can’t say I love you, but I am willing to let you suffer and die, when I could do something about it if I chose to. Even if you accept facts not in evidence about the existence an afterlife. To accept this suffering as reasonable is to say that torture is perfectly ok if you know that the person will survive in the end.

    So yes, that belief that God is all knowing, all powerful, snd good, is untenable given the evidence around us every day.

  50. Interesting comments, Jon. Thanks again for posting (and for keeping things respectful and open).

    Of course if my son were trapped under a car or drowning in a pool, I would do everything I could to save him. But I don’t think the comparison quite holds up, and not just because often God saving one of His children would likely result in harming another.

    I think God’ perception of pain and suffering is different than ours. This isn’t to say he doesn’t understand the horrible time we’re having at times, but . . .

    Let’s put it this way. There are times my children whine and complain about how horrible their life is. They’ve got to clean their room. Or they’re afraid of getting vaccinated. Or they can’t stand the medicine I’m giving them. Or they want more candy.

    I understand they’re not happy. But I also see a bigger picture. It’s all relative. The discomfort of shots or medicine is outweighed by the long term good they do.

    I’m not trying to say that hurricanes, wars, and famine are like shots. But dying is only the worst possible thing imaginable if there’s nothing after this life. If dying is The End, then yes, how dare God let people die. If this life is all we have, then yes, it would be terrible to let all His children live it in such poor conditions.

    But I don’t believe this life is the end. I believe from an eternal perspective, this life is about as long as a sneeze. Seen from that vantage point, suddenly the death, pain and suffering doesn’t seem as dire–to me, at least. If my son could learn a valuable lesson through some discomfort, I’d let him learn it.

    I guess in the end, it’s not possible for me to separate my belief in God and my belief in how this world operates. It’s a package deal. Take one away, and yes–the other seems unfair or mean. But it’s not an either/or situation.

    Lastly, I don’t think physical evidence should really amount to a whole lot of anything when it comes to proving or disproving God’s existence. It all comes down to faith, and that’s kind of the point. If God wanted to prove He existed, it wouldn’t be hard for Him to do. But by doing so, it would also rob His children of the chance to grow by faith. And so He doesn’t do it.

    Again, to me it all comes down to the reason why we’re here. If it’s to have as much fun and as little discomfort as possible, then God’s doing an awful job facilitating that. But I don’t think that’s the reason.

    I’m a Mormon not just because I’ve had an emotional response to the religion. I’ve seen time and time again that the teachings of the church are true. It teaches me to do something and I’ll be happy, and I am. I’ve seen physical, tangible results of various church teachings. I’ve experienced personal revelation. I can’t use this to prove the church’s truth to others–but I can use it to prove it to myself. Rationally.

  51. I’m still not clear on -specifically- what happened in 1978, in regard to black people, within the Church. Was there a doctrine that stated that they were not worthy of redemption? Not human? And that the Church issued a statement in 1978 rescinding this?

  52. John–the specific doctrine was that blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. The exact origin of this ban is quite murky, though the end of it in 1978 is very well-documented. For example, Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to blacks when he was alive. Sometime between then and the 1900s, that practice stopped. In 1978, the church prophet Spencer W. Kimball received revelation stating that blacks could receive the priesthood. For more information on the topic, check out this page: http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood

  53. John Thomason

    Wow you are brave to be so honest and admit you believe all those things in the song. Yes it does pretty wacky but people have to believe a lot of crazy things to help them get through the day. It’s no more goofy than Moses or other nonsense.

  54. Very interesting, thank you for taking the time to go through it.

    Just a minor point: the lines from the song ‘Oh what’s the matter with me’, ‘Why was I so scared’ and ‘What’s so scary about that?’ are an allusion to the beginning of the song ‘I have confidence’ from The Sound of Music, rather than making any sort of point about Mormonism.

  55. you know how you said that you realize how wrong people in the church were with their racist comments about black people, and you are “so glad” the church has moved on from that? well, one day, hopefully sooner than later, you and the church will realize “how wrong” you are about gay people too… same difference. Anyway.. for now, STOP attempting to take away rights that werent yours to take away to begin with. your right to freedom of religion ENDS were my right to freedom from religion and pursuit of happiness begins… duh.

  56. Hi there!

    I was looking for the lyrics to this song when I came across your page. I realize I’m incredibly late to the game, but in reading your explanations and some of the comments (I confess I didn’t read them all — there’s a lot here!) I feel like you’ve spent a lot of time having to justify your beliefs, when they are just that; beliefs, taken on faith. I honestly feel like you don’t really need anything more than that. This isn’t a scientific study, nor is it a systematic investigation. I think that’s what I actually like about the line ‘a Mormon just believes.’

    To elaborate, I can see how that might come across as singling out Mormons in some way (I mean, it technically does), but sometimes we all ‘just believe’ in things. No religion is about facts. No religion is about evidence. It’s definitely not about pulling the notes or holy books from every religion on the planet, examining them to determine which one is the most true or factual (if any of them are, though I have my doubts about that), and then moving forward as a follower of that particular faith. Religion is about faith, pure and simple. People believe not because of evidence, but because of family, tradition, group identification, culture, or because they feel the teachings are in alignment with their worldview or inner morality. Some people believe because it gives them hope. Some people believe because they like the resulting sense of community. Some people believe because religion comforts in a time of need.

    The fact that it has nothing to do with fact is useful in that most religions can be utilized in a variety of contexts to support an individual’s moral development in the way that the teacher (or priest, etc) best see fits. It’s flexible! Unfortunately, the danger of this is that it’s also relatively easy to do the opposite, using religion to support things that our conscience tells us to be wrong (but I digress, that’s not really the point I was trying to make).

    Anyhow, thanks for your analysis. I guess I was just trying to say that it always surprises me when people feel the need to justify their beliefs. It’s a BELIEF. People can believe anything they want, and sometimes those beliefs are useful.


  57. Thanks so much for this! The latest tenor Broadway anthology includes this song so I’ve started learning it. As a singer you need to understand these references in a way that you can gloss over as an audience member. You’ve addressed all those “huh?” moments in a way that really helps.

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