'Book of Mormon' opens in Salt Lake City to a sold-out crowd and fair coverage by AP

My wife and I saw "The Book of Mormon" musical when it came to Oklahoma City last year.

I had heard songs on the soundtrack and read news stories about the production, so I was curious.

I laughed a lot and squirmed a lot, too: Going in, I probably was naive. I'm one who tends to avoid even R-rated movies, so the extreme crudeness — language, sex objects, etc. — caught me off guard.

"The Book of Mormon" is back in the headlines this week, which is no surprise given where it's being staged:

The Associated Press reports:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The biting satirical musical that mocks Mormons received a rousing reception Tuesday in its first-ever showing in the heart of Mormonlandia, kicking off a sold-out, two-week run at a Salt Lake City theater.
The audience cheered wildly as the Tony Award-winning "The Book of Mormon" began, with the show's gleefully naive missionaries singing in front of a backdrop of the Salt Lake City skyline and Mormon temple that resembles the real one just two blocks away.
They laughed loudly as the jokes played out, many touching on Mormon lingo and culture that is intimately familiar in Utah. Some of the most raucous applause came during a scene when an African character sings, "Salt Lake City, the most perfect place on Earth." At the conclusion, attendees at the Capitol Theater crowd gave the actors a standing ovation.
Despite the jokes and jabs that create a caricature of Mormon beliefs, there were no protests outside and no mass walkouts during opening night. The playbill did include three advertisements from the Mormon church, including a picture of a smiling man with the words, "You've seen the play, now read the book."

Mormonlandia? Is that AP being cutesy? Or am I just unfamiliar with that term? (This is your chance, kind GetReligion readers, to remind me that I'm clueless.)

Meanwhile, the "seen the play ... read the book" ad mentioned by AP is standard fare in those playbills, I think. I know there was such an ad here in OKC.

But let's get to the point: AP's journalistic challenge with this story is to report the news in a way that's fair, balanced and gives a voice to real Mormons.

Let's keep reading:

The audience included a cross-section of non-Mormons, ex-Mormons and some practicing Latter-day Saints like Omar Ledezma Soto, a student at Mormon-owned BYU. He drew attention by coming dressed as a missionary, wearing a white shirt, tie and the name tag he wore when he was an actual missionary. He said he knew other BYU students who were planning to attend other showings.
"The humor is crude and offensive, but I don't think it's meant to attack or belittle Mormons," said Soto. "It's just a means to talk about the silly situations we put ourselves in. That's why I think this is so funny and lethargic and freeing to me."

And later in the story:

Leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been quiet about the musical over the years, repeating a one-line statement that has now become synonymous with the show. "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," it reads.
Some curious Latter-day Saints may go to see what all the fuss is about during the run in Salt Lake City, but most will probably turn the other cheek and let the state's non-Mormons revel in the fun, said Scott Gordon, president of a volunteer organization that supports the church called FairMormon.
Gordon said he has mixed feelings about a musical. It has brought extra attention to Mormonism, and most Latter-day Saints can take some ribbing. But he said, "I just wish it didn't go so far."

So what's my verdict on AP's coverage?

Overall, the wire service does a nice job of reflecting a range of voices and reporting the story in an evenhanded manner, it seems to me.

But obviously, I'm reading the piece from the perspective of a non-Mormon. I'd love to know what Mormon readers of GetReligion think. Please share your comments below or tweet us at @GetReligion.

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