Las Vegas Sun

October 31, 2014

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Local Mormon church has fun with musical

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Joan Marcus

Denee Benton and Cody Jamison Strand in the second national tour of the nine-time Tony Award-winning “The Book of Mormon” now at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts through July 6, 2014.

Las Vegas residents are lining up to see “The Book of Mormon,” a musical roast of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In response, Nevada Mormons — who make up about 5 percent of the state population — aren’t as visibly irked as one might expect.

Religious leaders haven’t organized protests or staged a backlash. Instead, they bought ads in the production’s playbill and distributed fliers to valley church members, encouraging them to “follow the example of Jesus Christ” and “be respectful.”

The fliers closely resemble the playbill ads, which the church has distributed nationwide as the critically acclaimed musical tours.

In one flier, a woman and man smile alongside the phrases, “The book is always better” and “I’ve read the book.”

“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,” reads an official statement released by the church in 2011, when the musical first opened on Broadway.

The choice to distribute the fliers here was made at the local level. Church spokeswoman Kristen Howey said each ward or stake determines the best way to respond to the musical.

“We leave things like that up to the discretion of local leaders,” she said. “If it’s something the individual congregations feel is helpful, they can certainly address that.”

For a while, the 2011 statement was the Mormon church’s most significant response to the musical.

But as the show began to tour, the church shifted gears, using the ad campaign to direct people toward its sacred text.

The London branch of the Mormon church went even further, placing “I am a Mormon” ads on buses when the show landed there. And Danielle Tumminio, an Episcopal priest, wrote last year in the Huffington Post about missionaries proselytizing outside a venue when the show played in Boston.

“The Book of Mormon” runs through July 6 at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

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