Is there any truth to the South Park episode “All About Mormons”?


3 Responses to “Is there any truth to the South Park episode “All About Morm…”

Mario Paz
2009-02-28 04:39:36
I've seen the All About Mormons South Park episode. There were some elements of truth, but the story was grossly simplified and omitted important parts of the history. For example, the story implies that only Joseph Smith saw the metal plates on which the Book of Mormon was engraven, but in reality over a dozen people saw them. It also inaccurately suggests that all Mormons believe that Israelites are the sole ancestors of Native-American peoples. It portrays Martin Harris as a simpleton, but in reality he was a decorated war veteran described as industrious, honest, sincere, shrewd in business, and devoted to civic affairs by his contemporaries. These are only a few of the many inaccuracies.

I wouldn't trust South Park as an accurate introduction to ANY religion. Mormonism is no exception.
Mario Paz
2009-03-01 21:06:02
In response to a recent correspondence:

Hi Jay. I do appreciate your respectful comments. Unfortunately, time does not allow me to get into a lot of detail here. I'll address some of your specific questions and try to point you in the right directions elsewhere. I don't think I really need to defend the idea that South Park does not accurately portray any of the religions it "spoofs." That fact is pretty self-evident. :) Exaggerating and misrepresenting things is what South Park is all about!

1. Yes, there were over a dozen people who saw the plates. Eight of them signed an affidavit. Another three signed a separate affidavit. History records that a few others likewise saw the plates (Joseph himself being one such example), bringing the total to over a dozen. A signed statement by eleven people does constitutes substantial evidence; if a defense attorney could find eleven witnesses to all testify they saw a crime, for example, he'd have a pretty solid case. That's not to say that that "proves" that the Book of Mormon is true; of course there's an element of faith in any religion. But it's also not rational to dismiss the Book of Mormon witnesses as not constituting any sort of evidence at all. What's more, even though some of these witnesses eventually left the "Mormon Church," they never denied that they had seen the Book of Mormon, even when it would have been convenient to do so.

2. I disagree re. the Native American thing. It's a solid example of how South Park was trying to make Mormons look ridiculous and, in doing so, oversimplified and misrepresented things a bit. It's hardly the only example.

3. Fair enough evaluation. I don't believe the positive description I cited was limited to fellow Mormons, but I don't have time to follow the paper trail back to the source, so I might be wrong. I'm sure one could find negative references to Martin Harris from his contemporaries as well. Regardless, South Park makes Harris out to be a complete fool, and that is at best a gross simplification, and at worst an outright lie. All these charactersÂ…Joseph Smith, Martin HarrisÂ…were complex people. You can't reduce them to a cartoon character without loosing a lot of accuracy. If you'd like more details re. Martin Harris from a Mormon viewpoint, try visiting these sites:

4. I'm not a huge fan of "proving" that the Book of Mormon (or the Bible) is true, as I think there's real value in simple faith. Nevertheless, your fourth point is not accurate. It is true that there are wars described in the Book of Mormon; it's also true that history records wars in ancient Mesoamerica, where most Mormon scholars believe the Book of Mormon took place. It's also not true that there is "absolutely no...evidence" in favor of the Book of Mormon. This very brief summary of the recent research may interest you. Again, this evidence doesn't "prove" the Book of Mormon is a true account; faith is still required. At the same time, though, it's silly to pretend like there's no evidence at all.

I do wish time would permit me to describe more about Mormon theology, which, in my opinion, is even more interesting than early Mormon history. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, entire books have been written on this subject, and it doesn't lend itself well to brief blog comments (or thirty minute T.V. shows, for that matter). If you really want to know more about my faith, feel free to browse through the pages of my website. You can even ask specific questions if you like.

If you're really hardcore, I recommend the book "Rough Stone Rolling" by Richard Bushman, the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University. That book gives a far more in-depth, less caricatured version of early Mormon history.

Best of luck to you.
Mario Paz
2009-03-02 07:40:44
More of the same correspondence. The whole correspondance can be found at "The Zen of South Park." (Warning about the language, though.)

As a fan of some of the edited episodes that appear on Fox, I couldn't disagree more with your suggestion that South Park does not misrepresent the religions it describes. I've seen the show enough to know that it misrepresents just about everything, from religion to politics. Satire and exaggeration by definition are forms of misrepresentation. That's why the show is so funny. I suppose I can't comment much on other religions, as I am not intimately familiar with them, but I can say quite definitively that South Park did not get Mormon history exactly right.

As you alluded to in your post, though, what I think the show did get right is Mormon culture and the influence for good the church has on its members. We're far from a perfect people, but I know I'm personally grateful for that influence. It's a religion that really works for some people.

I should say that overall I'm very pleased with the way Mormons are represented on South Park. The idea that only Mormons go to heaven (an idea that even Mormons do not espouse) is funny on so many levels! :)

I've sincerely appreciated the respectful exchange we've had. I hesitate to mention this, but might I invite you to revise your blog article? Referring to the ethnic history of another group as "bullsh**," regardless of whether that history is true or false, is quite offensive. It may be that more Mormons have not commented here for that very reason.

Best of luck to you! Thanks again.

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