“The Book of Mormon” is actually kind of tough for me to analyze and react to on an academic level. Sure, I have seen the show and listened to the soundtrack multiple times, but I’ve always just looked at it as a source of silly entertainment. When I saw the show back in May, I knew the writers of “South Park” wrote the show, so I was not expecting anything too deep.
Part of our analysis brought a sad realization about the character of Elder Cunningham for me. On the surface, he is there for comic relief. He constantly makes up stories and references movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Elder Cunningham uses this as an escape from reality. He has no friends, so he invents stories, using references from pop culture, to try and make friends.
“Bishop Donahue says it’s because I have no self-esteem and desperately want to fit in with my peers!” – Elder Cunningham (p. 13)
It’s not until Elder Price abandons Elder Cunningham does Elder Cunningham find self-confidence. After Elder Price left, Elder Cunningham was forced to step up. And while his methods may be a little unorthodox, they got results.
“Well, look, let’s just be happy that Elder Cunningham has people interested.” – Elder McKinley
Elder Cunningham gained the respect of his colleagues. He gained the friendship of his mission companion. He became something for the Ugandans to believe in.
When I first saw this musical, I just associated the story with themes of friendship, and I never thought deeper than that. Although it stared at me in the face throughout the entirety of the show, God is what brought Elders Cunningham and Price together. Elder Cunningham found his confidence in the name of God, and people followed him. Even with its absurdly comical elements, this play shows how religion may have a positive impact on relationships.