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Mormons become 'real people' for 'Book of Mormon' musical cast touring upstate New York

By Joseph Walker, Deseret News

Published: Fri, May 10 7:00 a.m. MDT

 The Book of Mormon was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park television fame.

The Book of Mormon was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park television fame.

(www.bookofmormonbroadway.com)

NEW YORK — Mormons became "real people" for the cast of a touring company of the Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” after touring LDS Church historical sites during a break from performances in Rochester, N.Y.

“It was amazing for us, I think because it was an opportunity for us to really discover a lot more depth to the religion and to Mormons in general,” Mark Evans, who plays Elder Price in the touring production, told the Victoria Times Colonist prior to the start of the company’s run in Toronto. “And all of a sudden these caricature characters that we play onstage suddenly had a depth and we had a wealth of knowledge, and they became real people.”

“The Book of Mormon” was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” television fame. By all accounts the show is crude, vulgar and irreverent, and is known for poking the eye of organized religion in general and the LDS Church specifically.

But Evans doesn’t see it that way.

“If anything, it celebrates Mormonism, because it’s kind of showing that it’s a good thing,” Evans said. “If believing the Book of Mormon makes your life better, then great.”

In addition to winning nine Tony Awards in 2011, “The Book of Mormon” musical has also broken box-office records on Broadway and wherever the touring companies have performed.

And as Deseret News readers know, it is also responsible for at least one baptism into the LDS Church.

For its part, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken an unruffled approach to the musical. When the show opened on Broadway, the church issued a statement: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.” The church has even been purchasing advertising space in theater playbills, urging those who have seen the musical to “read the book.”

And that’s consistent with what Evans observed as he toured the LDS historic sites in New York such as the Joseph Smith home, the Sacred Grove (where LDS founder Joseph Smith received what Mormons call “The First Vision,” which led to the establishment of the church) and the Hill Cumorah (where Joseph Smith was led to find the golden plates upon which were written the text of the Book of Mormon).

“You just see how genuinely content and happy (Mormons) are,” he said. “They really are. They are just these serene, happy people.

“And I think that’s the message of our show,” he added. “No matter who you are, what you believe in, what your religious background is, if whatever you believe in makes you happy and makes life easier, then do it.”

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1. jimliddle
Dayton, NV,
May 10, 2013

"By all accounts the show is crude, vulgar and irreverent, and is known for poking the eye of organized religion in general and the LDS Church specifically."

Actually, every account I've read emphasizes that underneath the irreverence is a palpable affection for Mormonism.

"The church has even been purchasing advertising space in theater playbills, urging those who have seen the musical to 'read the book.'"

I haven't seen the show, but now that the Church is sponsoring it, perhaps I should.

2. SantiagoL
San Diego, CA,
May 10, 2013

You mean that behind all of the mockery and crude language is a genuine affection for Mormons? I knew it. Thank you.

3. frugalfly
PULLMAN, WA,
May 10, 2013

I would challenge the makers of this play to make the same kind of play about Islam... see how that would go over. I recommend they tour it all over the middle east. It would even be more poignant if they would star in it themselves and take it into Tehran or Saudi.... I'd be interested in seeing how that would shake down. Now that would be entertainment. Watch a play that is sarcastic and irreverent at its best and deplorable and offensive at its worse about a peaceable Christian religion that takes it in stride with longsuffering? ... yawn... too predictable....watchers laugh and snicker like children looking at a dirty magazine while the offended religious persons take the high road. Too predictable for me.

4. rlsintx
Plano, TX,
May 10, 2013

I've met many people who joined the church after hearing various preachers, pamphlets and movies which sought to discredit the LDS church. The people just couldn't reconcile the nature of the members they personally knew with the image being portrayed and they came to get the LDS side of things, were impressed in some way. Friendships or better understanding ensued from it if nothing else.

5. ClarkHippo
Tooele, UT,
May 10, 2013

@frugalfly

Actually, the South Park guys readily admit they won't mock Islam for the very reasons you have pointed out.

I see the Book of Mormon Musical as a plus, rather than a negative, for the LDS Church. I don't think we will get very many converts as a result of the musical, but as popular as the show has become (just saw a video where several cast members of Downton Abbey were attending a performance of the Book of Mormon musical in London) people might actually talk more to our missionaries which in turn might break down a few of the stereotypes they may have of Latter-day Saints.