The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to have some fun with the opening of the irreverent “Book of Mormon” musical in Salt Lake City this week.
The Tony Award-winning musical opened on Tuesday at Salt Lake City’s George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater ― in the heart of the country’s largest Mormon population.
As it’s done in the past, the Mormon church appears to have sponsored an advertisement in the musical’s program aimed at reminding theater-goers about the actual Book of Mormon.
The playful, some would say “bawdy” musical mercilessly pokes fun at the Mormon faith, a 15-million strong religion globally. The faith’s central sacred text is also named The Book of Mormon, hence the title of the show.
The musical tells the fictional story of two young missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent to Uganda to spread the message of their faith. As the show’s synopsis details: “Upon their arrival in Africa, Elders Price and Cunningham learn that in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty and violence, a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected.”
The show sets the missionaries up at “goofy” and “clueless,” and generally underprepared for the realities of the world. Some LDS members have balked at the musical’s depiction of their faith, pointing out the church’s humanitarian efforts and accomplishments.
On the whole, though, there hasn’t been large-scale outcry from U.S. Mormons over a show they could rightfully find offensive. As Michael Otterson, former Mormon church public affairs director, put it in a column on the church’s news outlet: “If we Mormons really do follow Jesus Christ in our lives and look to him as an example, then it’s hard for us to ignore the injunction to turn the other cheek.”