RadioWest Interview: Mormonism and Pop Culture (Featuring South Park)

I love Doug Fabrizio (met him at Sunstone last week). I really enjoyed this interview w/ Mark Pinsky and Dennis Potter. It includes some interview footage w/ Southpark creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on Mormons and Mormonism. This was a *really* enjoyable listen for me. Check it out here.

“Religion and the media have frequently had an uneasy relationship, and the LDS Church is no exception. Mormons are recognizable enough in mainstream culture to be depicted and even ridiculed in TV and film. With help from UVSC professor Dennis Potter and religion writer Mark Pinsky, Doug looks at the South Park episode “All about the Mormons?” In it, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone take on some of the most sacred accounts of the Church’s origins. But beyond the caricature, what does the episode say about belief, faith and how outsiders understand the Church?

Mark Pinsky and Dennis Potter will discuss “The Americanization of Mormonism Reflected in Popular Culture” as part of the 2006 Sunstone Symposium on Mormonism and Pop Culture.

Visit Comedy Central’s South Park.

The episode featured in the interview can be found in the 3 clips below (I will acknowledge up front that some LDS folk may find these videos offensive. On the other hand, I think it’s super important that we become familiar with how we are being portrayed in the popular culture):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


  1. In case no one knows Trey Parker is an exmormon who was in a film called Orgazmo (1997) about a Mormon missionary who is recruited to act in porn movies. This video wouldn’t be so shocking if the church was more open about the seer stone in the hat. As you say in your “whytheyleave” video (clip 9, 21-22) John, the peep stone in a hat is not mentioned openly and honestly by the church. I created my webpage discussing the peep stone in a hat (at before you created your page here: We need more LDS friendly sites like yours John. Why isn’t there a page on the seer stone like yours at,, and!???

  2. I’ve had many fellow Mormon friends after watching this episdose tell me: “Haha! that was funny. They even got most things right. Except the hat. That was dumb.” The institutional church has doctored its own history and beliefs now that its own members think its real history is ‘dumb.’ Dennis’s paper at Sunstone was fantastic.

    Orgazmo is hilarious. It raised a lot of questions about the rating systems when it came out. It received an NC-17 even though there was no nudity, no graphic sex, and very little swearing.

    Oh. And I liked your SS presentantion John.

  3. For those of you who think that the Church is hiding information about the method of translation of The Book of Mormon, just go to and do a search. You’ll find Ensign articles by Russell M. Nelson and Richard Lloyd Anderson, to start with.

  4. Trevor, it’s true that Nelson’s talk appeared in the Ensign where he mentioned the stone in the hat, but the great majority of church materials that cover the translation do not mention it. The pictures in the Gospel Art Kit present a false impression that Joseph had the plates in front of him while he translated. The newest Joseph Smith movie and the DVD the church released in the last couple years also do not mention the peepstone in the hat. My son was in Seminary this year and when the subject came up he mentioned that the translation was performed with the stone in the hat. He was accused by the class of reading anti-Mormon materials–no one, including the teacher, knew what he was talking about. Looking over the letters to the editor and letters PBS received from true-believing Mormons, it is clear that many faithful saints are unaware of the stone-in-hat translation story. Some even accused PBS of putting up an anti-Mormon Islamic Studdies professor to smear Joseph Smith with the telling of that story (it was church apologist Daniel C. Peterson).

    The church has the seerstone in its possession (actually, more than one). But it never displays them in any of its museums or facilities where other historical items are put on display. Why is that? Think about it–the church has the actual magic stone that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon and it keeps it hidden in a vault somewhere. Kind of strange.

  5. I thought that Princeton University had the seer stone, at least there is one pictured in Quinn’s Magic World View that references Princeton as its location.

    I remember a missionary in my mission who talked about the stone in the hat translation. We all (meaning the entire zone, mission president and mission president’s wife) castigated the guy for 1. reading anti literature and 2. raising it in the chapel. I still feel bad for ridiculing the guy.

    I don’t know when R. Nelson’s talk was but this incident took place in 1996. My wife, who is deeply devoted heard about it through Bushman’s Mormon Stories interview and was shocked – and she has been in the church in Utah, as a missionary and had never heard even a hint of the story.

    The seer stone story is definitely not on the heavy rotation in Sunday school lessons.

  6. I just want to make it clear that the person who posted comment #6 is *not* the person who has been regularly posting as “Trevor” on this blog.

  7. From the Mormon Think website (

    “Wilford Woodruff, as new president of the church in 1888, dedicated the Manti, Utah temple. While there, Woodruff had the stone upon the alter: “Before leaving I Consecrated upon the Altar the seers Stone that Joseph Smith found by Revelation some 30 feet under the Earth [and] Carried By him through life” (Wilford Woodruff’s journal, 18 May, 1888)

    Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the LDS church: “The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is now in the possession of the church.” (Doctrines of Salvation,Vol. 3, p. 225)

    In about 1982, a descendent of Brigham Young, Mary Brown Firmage was told by the First Presidency’s secretary that there were 3 seer stones in First Presidency’s vault. She was allowed to see one when she visited that office. She reported: “The stone was not chocolate brown but rather the color of brown sugar. It was 3-4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and had a hump in the middle which made it perhaps 2 inches thick at the thickest point. It was fiat on the bottom and had three black, concentric circles on the top 1/2 inch. Below the circles were many small black circles. The stone was not transparent.”
    (Mary Brown Firmage interview with Richard S. Van Wagoner, 11 Aug 1986. Van Wagoner papers, Marriott Library)

    In more recent years, Grant Palmer [three-time director of LDS Institutes of Religion in California and Utah] was “shown by Earl Olson” the three “seer stones in First Presidency Vault.” The first was “milk chocolate [in color], like a baseball [in shape, with] no stripes.” Different from the descriptions of the founding prophet’s dark-colored Book of Mormon seer stone, this first stone’s origin and chain-of-ownership are unknown (at least outside the LDS Presidency’s office). The second was “shiny or polished stone, [with] stripes, dark brown [—] size between egg and handball.” . . .The only description Palmer gave for the third was that it was a “small stone.” The brown and white stones are the only seer stones Joseph Smith definitely used, yet he acquired others as church president. Young told the apostles in 1855 that Smith had five seer stones. . . .

    Young’s statement makes it clear that Smith did not regard his seer stones simply as relics of his youth. Rather, as church president Smith continued to discover new seer stones (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, p. 245‑ 246). Salt Lake City Messenger Issue No. 105″

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