Sunday, February 3, 2008

Give My Regards to Broadway

I blogged previously about the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, who had been the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly thirteen years.  His successor was named today: Thomas S. Monson, pictured above.  Although he is new to the position of church president, President Monson has served for many years in various church leadership positions and has given numerous sermons in the two-day conferences held every April and October in Salt Lake City.  The proceedings of these conferences are published in the church periodical, the Ensign, so that even church members in remote locations have access to the sermons.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the church president was David O. McKay, a former schoolteacher of Scottish ancestry who was famous for peppering his sermons with quotations from the canon of western literature, particularly the works of Robert Burns.  President Monson's sermons have demonstrated a similar literary bent, with frequent quotations from Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, and a vast arsenal of poetry he is rumored to have committed to memory.  But I have noticed another, less traditional, source of material President Monson uses to illustrate the themes of his sermons: Broadway musicals.

Now, some folks might find it a bit unsettling that a prominent religious leader finds inspiration so frequently in such, er, middlebrow entertainment.  I find it refreshing.  For one thing, Broadway shows have assumed a unique place in American culture--it's remarkable how many people who gripe about paying $9.50 to see a first-run film will gladly shell out upwards of $100 to go to a Broadway show.  People seem to be utterly captivated by these productions, and I can't fault President Monson for (i) sharing that enthusiasm, and (ii) using the plot and characters from the stage to illustrate gospel principles to an audience that, by and large, can appreciate the comparison.  Anyway, wasn't Shakespeare essentially the Andrew Lloyd Webber of his era?

So, in honor of President Monson, I present you the following quiz. Match the shows (1-10) with the excerpts (A-J) he has quoted in his sermons. I've indicated the date of at least one conference in which he's used the quotation, although several are favorites that he has used more than once. I've also edited a few of them for length. Granted, some are dead giveaways, but others might require a little head-scratching.  Feel free, if you like, to leave your guesses in the comments.  I'll post the answers in a few days.

1. Fiddler on the Roof (Oct. 2004)A.  "If we don't try, we don't do; and if we don't do, why are we here?
2. Camelot (Apr. 2001) B.  "The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated."
3. The Sound of Music (Oct. 1987) C.  "I don't think any man has ever been as good as he could have been, but this one really tried."
4. The Music Man (Apr. 2003) D.  "Fight the unbeatable foe/ ...bear the unbearable sorrow/ where the brave dare not go."
5. The King and I (Apr. 1999) E.  "God on high/ Hear my prayer/ In my need/ you have always been there"
6. Man of La Mancha (Jun. 1989*) F.  "Love isn't love till you give it away."
7. My Fair Lady (Oct. 1992) G.  "Violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness."
8. Shenandoah (Apr. 1994) H.  "A sentimental song/ If it casts a magic spell/ They only hum along."
9. Monty Python's Spamalot (Apr. 2008**) I.  "You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you've collected a lot of empty yesterdays."
10. Les Miserables (Oct. 2003) J.  "In Anatevka, ... everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do."
*  In the Ensign's "First Presidency Message"
**  A guy can dream, can't he?


Byron & Michelle said...

Love the quiz, but I'll definitely need Byron's help with this one. I guess I'm not cultured enough...I gripe about the $9.50 movie, but I'm also to cheap to pay the $100 to see a fun musical!

Kristin said...

This post is genius. I love it. Okay, here are my answers:
1. J
2. C
3. F
4. I
5. A
6. D
7. B
8. G
9. H
10. E

P.S. This was tough, and I consider myself a pretty big fan. The fact that I had no idea which one went to The Sound of Music is unbelievable. I thought I had the entire show memorized.

marizasmom said...

I agree with kristin. Here are my guesses, and here's to middlebrow entertainment!

1. j
2. g
3. f
4. i
5. c
6. d
7. b
8. a
9. h
10. e

marizasmom said...

And I must really have a middlebrow mind, because the first thing I thought when I saw your blog title was, "Climb every mountain, ford every stream, unravel every riddle-- till you find your dream."

Aly said...

Here are my guesses:

Melinda said...

You had me going there for a minute with Spamalot!

1. J
2. C
3. G
4. I
5. F
6. D
7. B
8. A
9. H
10. E

Lisa said...

You're crazy! How long did it take you to find all this info? I have to admit that I was shocked to see Spamalot on there, and way to throw in asterisks, are you a lawyer or something? : )

DTR said...

Thanks for all the guesses. marizasmom got them all right, so you can check your answers against hers. It actually wasn't too hard to pull the list together: I just went to and searched the Ensign archives for "broadway" and "musical" with "Monson" in the author field. And Kristin, I'm not convinced that the quote from the Sound of Music is in the film version. A quick google search tells me it's in the reprise of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," but it's completely unfamiliar to me. And I should disclose that I've only been to New York once (almost 6 years ago now) and that I have never been to a Broadway show.

Kristin said...

I'm so ashamed. 60% ? Really?

Lincolnlogger said...

Having actually gone to Spam-a-Lot, I could give some recommendations for President Monson.