Ex-Mormons give their take on "The Book of Mormon" musical - 8 News NOW

Ex-Mormons give their take on "The Book of Mormon" musical

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LAS VEGAS -- The hit musical "The Book of Mormon" now playing at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts downtown, had a special group in its audience this weekend.

They call themselves "The post-Mo's", meaning, post-Mormons, people who have left the church for one reason or another.

More than 80 post-Mo's made the trip from heavily-Mormon Utah to see the production in a city that isn't exactly known for its restraint or modesty.

The post-Mo's say they weren't trying to make a statement by seeing the show in a city known for its tolerance of so-called sin. Their primary mission was to have fun and to be with like-minded people.

But the theme of the musical has a special resonance for them because of what most of them endured when they decided to split with the church. Las Vegas, it turns out, proved to be a soothing balm for wounds that are still open.

“The Book of Mormon” has been a smash hit everywhere it's played. It tells the story of two young Mormons sent on a soul-saving mission to Uganda, which is the set-up for a brutal skewering of Mormon teachings that has been described as vulgar, blasphemous, and gut-busting hilarious.

“We bought the sound track when we were still believers,” Tom and Kristen Evans said.

For several dozen Utah residents, the show was the central impetus for a bus trip to Mordor, or rather, Las Vegas. They call themselves the Post-Mo's and wear T-shirts to prove it.

Note the logo with a bite out of the apple. The post-Mo's did what other tourists do here, they danced in clubs, jumped off the Stratosphere, smoked cigars, took photos with Penn and Teller, but the focus of the trip was the musical at the Smith Center.

“It is representative of what we used to be,” post-Mo Doug Saderfield said.

“I left because I don't believe it anymore and can make a happier life for my family outside of it,” post-Mo Rachel Goss said.

The LDS church is the fastest growing religion in the world, and in Utah, it is omnipresent in family life, employment and government. Leaving the church is tough to do.

“Lonely, ostracized. And you don't want to talk to family about it. It's like coming out if you're gay. You don't know how your family will react,” post-Mo coordinator Josh Kaggie said.

“Family relations are very hard because your siblings don't want you around their kids for fear you might corrupt them with your ideas of the world,” post-Mo member Stuart Lindsay said.

Brothers Zed and Kyle Griffiths are now both post-Mo's. Zed left five years before Kyle.

“When he left the church, I was one of the siblings trying to get him to come back,” Kyle Griffiths said.

“The church isn't just church. It's also social and family and it can be employment,” Zed Griffiths said.

For a Utah Mormon to leave the church is comparable to entering the witness protection program, Newsweek wrote, which explains why a post-Mormon website created just a few years ago now gets 10 million hits per month.

The bus trip post-Mo's used a Facebook page to coordinate and celebrate their Las Vegas jaunt. It is where they posted photos taken inside the Smith Center, which tolerates no photos at all.

Religion in general takes it on the chin in the show, but the lyrics that got the post-Mo's laughing hardest were Mormon-specific.

“We sure were laughing at the little things you catch,” post-Mo member Steve Holbrook said.

“It is incredibly insidious, like the worst song for Mormonism is ‘I Believe.’ You don’t realize it because it's so happy,” Kaggie said.

Church honchos in Utah are not fans of the show but have reacted with restraint and savvy. They've spent millions to market their message to fans of the musical, including three full-page ads in the program here, with the line: “You've seen the show--now read the book.”

Whether it is the jungles of Africa or the hot streets of Las Vegas, Mormon missionaries endure much for their faith. These post-Mo's can relate because they once did it too. They describe their own split with the church as being more like a relationship that simply didn't work out rather than an ugly divorce.

“The play gives a nod to everyone--believers, doubters,” one post-Mo said.

“It's a great message: Everyone can be who they want to be and create the world a better place,” post-Mo John Goss said.

The organizers of the bus trip say they initially figured they would have to come to Las Vegas to see the show because there is no way it would ever be allowed to play in Salt Lake City, a city which is almost a character in the musical.

However, it turns out; “The Book of Mormon” will land in Utah next year. It continues at the Smith Center through July 6 but tickets are scarce.

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