The Book of Mormon Musical in Milwaukee
For the past 2 weeks, missionaries in the Milwaukee zones have been contacting theater-goers attending The Book of Mormon musical, offering them the real Book of Mormon. They were able to give out a total of 1,861 copies! The following article about our missionaries was published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on May 28th .
Theater-goers headed into the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts this week don't quite know what to make of the Mormons doling out copies of the Book of Mormon outside "The Book of Mormon."
Some eagerly accept. Others look away and laugh. Some offer a curt "no thank you," and keep on moving.
"A lot of people think we're part of the cast," said Elder Ryan Haueter, 20, of Utah, whose soft, boyish face defies the honorific bestowed on missionaries in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They are not, in fact, part of the cast. Haueter and his white-shirted friends are Mormon missionaries who see the uproariously blasphemous Tony Award-winning musical as an opportunity to spark discussions about their faith.
"I think the play is great," said 21-year-old Zac Hadlock of New Mexico, as he handed out books, , outside the Marcus Center on Wednesday night. "Whether it's accurate or inaccurate, people have questions. And it's a great chance for us to tell them what they want to know about the church and about us."
The touring production of "Book of Mormon," by the folks who brought us "South Park" and "Avenue Q," winds up a two-week engagement at the Marcus Center this weekend.
The missionaries have given out so many books — 1,300 in the first week alone, Hadlock said — that they were offering mostly app cards by Wednesday.
None of the young men owned up to seeing the show. They live a Spartan existence as missionaries — no movies, no concerts, no news media — during what is usually a two-year stint.
Except for the few hours set aside for prayer, study and meals, they are out until 9 most nights, knocking on doors in a quest for converts to Joseph Smith's uniquely American faith.
But they know enough about the show from snippets they've seen or heard, and the questions on the minds of theater-goers — "So, what's up with those 'magic' underwear and 'eternal marriage?'" — to know it's an outrageous, often vulgar sendup of Mormon theology and the angst and struggles of earnest young believers like them.
They don't appear to take offense. Though some theater-goers clearly do on their behalf.
"We hear it every day, so it's nothing new to us," said Haueter. "It's American to make parodies of things. And it's from the creators of 'South Park.' So, what do you expect?"