The LiteratureThe Book Of Mormon's claim that all or even part of the Amerindian population is of Jewish descent is incorrect, there is no archaeological evidence of the great agricultural civilisations which the book describes (at length) ever having existed, and there are no accounts of the plants and animals which they are said to have brought with from the Old Worldnote existing upon their actual introduction in the 16th and 17th centuries by European settlers. Moreover, no non-believer has ever seen the 'Golden Plates' and The Book Of Mormon does not read like the text it is supposed to be - a perfectly/divinely-translated, eloquent and concise history of several great civilisations - so much as it does the text non-believers suppose it to be - an improvisation by a man with a vivid imagination but a limited education (it has the most meaningless/'filler' phrases as a percentage of its total word-count of any religious text to date, the phrase '(and) so it came to pass' being used 1298 times). Its also important to note the environment in which the book was printed and Mr Smith's religion was founded. While some may wonder at Mr Smith's use of a 'seeing-stone' and 'second-sight' to read the Golden Plates of legend, Mr Smith and many of his contemporaries genuinely believed in what they thought to be 'magic'. The Book Of Mormon was written at a time of flourishing religious and magical orders and (secret) societiesnote . These new (splinter-)groups were a side-effect of the massive upswell in religious observance and participation throughout the English-speaking world at the time, a movement which resulted from the feelings of alienation and displacement that came with industrialisation and urbanisation. This uspswell crashed hard in the mid-latter 19th Century when the theory of Evolution was first proposed, disseminated, and determined to contradict the first chapter of the Bible ('Genesis'). That said, Mormon believers like sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card have made some very heart-felt claims that the text is not a product of its time (or Mr Smith), Mr Card's argument essentially being that The Book Of Mormon book doesn't read like an average 19th century magical/religious-text (of which there were many, though almost all of them have since faded into obscurity).
The Broadway Show
The Book of Mormon, faith, and moralityKevin Price is a devout Mormon. He's the very picture of faith and devotion. He's smart, polite, confident, and charismatic, and he believes in his religion and his God absolutely and unconditionally, as he demonstrates in "I Believe". He has a powerful conviction and strength of belief; however, instead of thinking about others, he's focused on gaining glory for himself. He's more interested in doing "something incredible" than in actually helping people. Kevin's belief is strong, but blind; he knows what he's been taught, but he doesn't truly understand it.
Heavenly Father, why do you let bad things happen?Arnold Cunningham is more or less the opposite. He's shy and socially awkward—a follower, not a leader. He hasn't even read his own holy text, and he isn't totally clear on a lot of it: he frequently gets it confused with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and he thinks "latter day" means "tomorrow". However, Arnold is genuinely kind and caring, and always puts himself last. He takes a Broad Strokes approach to his religion: he may not be able to quote chapter and verse, but he's pretty sure that God doesn't want you to rape babies.
More to the point, why do you let bad things happen to me?
I know you don't think I'm a flake
But you've clearly made a mistake
I'm going where you need me most: Orlando!
Elder Cunningham: ...And it came to pass that they did have in this same year a number of battles, in which the Nephites did beat the Lamanites and did slay many of them!
Ugandan woman: So what the fuck does that mean?
Elder Cunningham: Uh...that means...you know...you should...be nice to each other, or something.This explains why Elder Cunningham succeeds at converting the Ugandans where Elder Price fails. Elder Price thinks all he has to do is believe hard enough and everyone will line up to follow him, but his evangelizing is rigid, unfiltered, and, ultimately, irrelevant to his audience. If your strategy is to read The Bible out loud, cover to cover, it doesn't matter how loudly you shout it or how hard you believe in it...you're not going to convert anyone. In contrast, Elder Cunningham blatantly makes things up, and as a result, his preachings are flexible and holistically appealing to his audience. It doesn't matter that his preachings aren't, technically, accurate—he's lifting their spirits and helping them to become better people. Elder Price understands the letter of Christ's teachings, but it's Elder Cunningham who understands the spirit. In the end, Arnold's loose interpretation of his religion converts the villagers, defeats the warlord, and makes everyone better off than they were before, proving for all involved that what matters isn't whether or not you believe the stories are true—it's whether believing in them makes you a better person. —Troacctid