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The South Park Episode and Respect for Mormons

November 29, 2006

Blogger Dean Barnett complains that Andrew Sullivan disrepsectfully linked to a disrespectful video on on Mormonism:

Andrew “I mean no disrespect” Sullivan has declared it “Mormon week on the Dish!” To help his audience understand the tenets of the Mormon faith, Andrew has linked to a video done by the highly respected and highly respectful auteurs behind South Park.

I’m assuming a lot of sarcasm in that.

You might be surprised to learn that some of the Mormon persuasion believe that the South Park episode was in some important ways very respectful.

From KUER FM90 RadioWest Interview: Mormonism and Pop Culture (Featuring South Park) (MP3) :

David from Salt Lake: “… I don’t think it’s disrepectful. I think it’s really intelligent criticism. It’s one thing for people to come on and say, you know, I just don’t like Mormons. It’s another thing for people to come along and say, here’s some things about their history, and the things about what they believe, and what’s wrong that… I think it’s really intelligent criticism, and what’s wrong with bringing up this history? I learned more in that twenty-minute episode… than I did in sixteen years growing up Mormon in Utah…

Host: … We should say, Dennis Potter, what do you make of the telling of the story… Does this surprise some people like David, who grew up in Mormonism and didn’t sort of get the view that the creators of South Park have given from the outside of that? I guess we should say that it’s a fairly accurate…

Dennis Potter (UVSC professor, Mormon): It’s as accurate as you can get a in a twenty-minute episode… They did a really good job… I think they did a very good job in telling the story. And I would say it is a respectful criticism. It’s not disrepsectful at all to the religion. But of course, I know some Mormons who felt like it was disrespectful. Some of my students for example are kind of offended by it…

Mark (Mormon): … I just want to say that if we can’t take any kind of criticism or sarcasm or spoofing on TV then we don’t deserve to be a religion. I think it’s great that we’re being at least taken seriously enough to be spoofed by a national TV show. I’m at least pleased they got the facts right. Even though they may have been a little bit irreverent, at least they gave us the respect in doing that. And I just figure that if anything it’ll help, at least, people understand, and especially helps us see what we take for granted…

When examined, the video is a largely accurate portrayal of early Mormon events. John Dehlin, a Mormon, writes that South Park is a “place where many Mormons first learn about the historically-supported mechanics of the Book of Mormon translation process” (>>). Why? Because the Mormon Church refuses to depict the Book of Mormon translation process in a manner that is consistent with the historical evidence, evidence that even Mormon apologists now affirm.

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