Latest from Mormon Land: New chapter for ‘The Book of Mormon’; emeritus general authority dies

Also: A Jewish attorney is honored; The Atlantic unloads on “Under the Banner of Heaven.”

(MagicSpace/Broadway Across America) First national tour cast in "The Book of Mormon" musical. The show won the Tony for best musical 11 years ago this week and recently staged its 4,000th Broadway performance.

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Broadway blockbuster endures

Eleven years ago this past Sunday, “The Book of Mormon” ruled the Tonys, winning nine awards including best musical.

During its run, the show has been amusing and antagonizing, pleasing and profaning, inspiring and insulting crowds across the globe.

And, on Tuesday, it staged its 4,000th Broadway performance. To mark that occasion, The New York Times interviewed three cast members who have been in and around the musical from the first time Elder Price joyously sang about getting his own planet as his nerdy companion, Elder Cunningham, lovingly lied his way to convert after convert in the jungles of Uganda.

Asked if he was offended by some of the writing, John Eric Parker, who portrays an African in the show, conceded that audiences may recoil at the sometimes dirty dialogue and lewd lyrics — saying some theatergoers may say, “Whoa, that’s a little bit too much for me.”

But he said there’s a “point” to it all.

“I consider myself a person of faith, coming from a family of ministers and devotion leaders and churchy people,” Parker told The Times. “In faith, I believe, we agree that part of relationship is questioning, part of relationship is doubting, part of relationship is, ‘What am I even doing here?’ And so if you have that sort of relationship spiritually, then this show is a part of that. Because we all question, we all doubt, we all, in our own way, give it the finger.”

The show — which underwent a rewrite last year to make it more racially, if not religiously, sensitive — reportedly has grossed (and, in some cases, grossed out) more than $1 billion worldwide.

Jewish attorney lauded

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson shakes hands with former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams in the Church Administration Building on June 9, 2022.

As a former New York attorney general, Robert Abrams is no stranger to friend of the court briefs.

And he’s no stranger to friends of the church.

Apostle Quentin L. Cook, a fellow lawyer, presented Abrams with the Thomas L. Kane Award from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law Society for his efforts to improve ties between the Jewish community and Latter-day Saints.

In particular, Abrams helped mend relations after some Latter-day Saints performed proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims, angering many Jewish adherents.

“He intervened in our behalf to enhance a relationship with Ernie Michel, the chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Association, and establish a relationship with Elie Wiesel, historic Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient,” Cook said in a news release. “The goodwill that was created made it possible to formally issue a joint statement that established policies and practices to deal with core concerns that are respectful of Holocaust victims and consistent with our doctrine.”

Abrams, a Bronx-born Jewish attorney, said he is happy to be viewed as a peace broker and encouraged others to do the same.

“In the face of [increasing tribalism],” he said in the release, “there is a critical need for bridge builders, for women and men who will not allow differences of opinion — as real and important as they may be — to prevent them from understanding, respecting and working with others to better the world.”

Emeritus general authority dies

Robert Backman’s path to missionary service — and eventually a seat as a general authority — was set early in life.

At age 12, he went with his family to Cape Town, where his father oversaw the South African Mission.

Backman, who died June 3 in Murray at age 100, later would do his own proselytizing stint in the Chicago-based Northern States Mission. That service “transformed” him, according to a 1978 Ensign article, from a shy, blushing young man into a confident, outgoing “child of God.”

An attorney by profession, Backman served two terms in the Utah House in the early 1970s and as a general authority Seventy from 1978 to 1992. During those 14 years, he headed up the Young Men organization, led the Missionary Department and the church’s International Mission, and rose to the Presidency of the Seventy.

He delighted in “spending what little free time he had” with his loved ones, his family’s obituary stated, and “on the golf course at Bear Lake — where his errant drives were often accompanied by a ‘Bug juice!’ or ‘Good night, nurse!’”

The Atlantic’s take on ‘Under the Banner’

“Under the Banner of Heaven” may be resonating with audiences, but it hit more than one discordant note for The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins.

The Latter-day Saint journalist called it “one of the most openly hostile treatments of a minority religious group to appear in popular American entertainment this century.”

Viewing the show, Coppins wrote this week, “felt like seeing my religious life in a fun-house mirror, each detail — from the sacred to the mundane — twisted and stretched and distorted to appear frightening and strange.”

From The Tribune

• On this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, Oscar-winning filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, creator of the FX/Hulu series “Under the Banner of Heaven,” talks about his show, his artistic decisions, the praise and criticism he has received, and what viewers — Latter-day Saints and others — should take away from it.

Listen here.

• The theme for the church’s 12th International Art Competition may be “All Are Alike Unto God,” but the art itself isn’t all alike. It is blessedly diverse as are the global artists who created the works.

Read the story.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) "One by One," by Caylee Murdock, in the 12th International Art Competition at the LDS Church History Museum, on Thursday, June 9, 2022.

• Some Black Latter-day Saints don’t feel safe in their own wards, says Genesis Group co-founder Darius Gray, lamenting that racism is more prevalent today than during segregation.

Read the story.

• There isn’t beauty all around the beloved Latter-day Saint hymn “Love at Home” — at least when it comes to its musical roots. Turns out, it’s a product of 19th-century blackface minstrelsy.

Read the story.

• Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson hadn’t heard of “soft swinging” until last week’s “Mormon Land” podcast. See why he sees the practice as a “dangerous” path for any couple to take.

Read his column.

• Amid all the recent buzz about soft swinging, a Latter-day Saint therapist notes in that podcast that monogamous couples have the best and most sex.

Read the excerpts.

• Chocolate treats don’t usually elicit talk of bad taste, but they do if the milk chocolate version is labeled “Nephites” and the dark chocolate version is titled “Lamanites.”

Read the story.

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