The smash Broadway Musical The Book of Mormon, written by the creators of South Park, didn’t set out to endear anyone to the faith. But a few months after seeing the show, Suffolk University theater studies major Liza Morong, 21, was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Morong’s story, published in Salt Lake City’s Desert News last week, is attracting some understandable attention this week from blogs like Huffington Post and Gawker because, as she writes on her own Tumblr, “the book of Mormon musical [led] me to the Mormon church,” which should be surprising to anyone who has left that musical with something less than a religious epiphany.
You’d have to willfully misread a musical that contains the song “Turn it Off” about a gay character’s struggle with his sexuality to be running out to the conversion center afterward. But, of course, her conversion actually contained a few more steps between the musical and the baptismal waters, as the Desert News recounts. Morong, who grew up in Maine, visited Mormon.org after seeing the musical in September 2011 where she was invited to chat by a missionary, Elder Boardman. “I thought, ‘These clowns are in for a treat with me,'” Morong told the paper. “But [Boardman] was so incredibly nice. I could not be mean to him.” This led to more chatting, an invitation to read and pray over The Book of Mormon (the real one) and eventually in-person interactions and prayers with local church members. These meetings accompanied a new sense of happiness that helped push her toward the faith, she told the Desert News:
“I was riding my bike to class one morning through some side streets in an older neighborhood in Boston. I remember the light was just passing through the branches of the trees. I felt this peace that I have never felt before. I thought to myself, ‘That just came from God.’”
Though she said it was a moment that lasted only for a few seconds, it was one that stayed with her.
Long story short: by December 31, 2011, Morong was in Mapleton, Utah, waist-deep in water, being baptized. She now faces a confused mother who probably didn’t think her daughter’s interest in theater would take her in this direction. (“My mom will sometimes say, ‘I can’t believe I brought you to that show. None of this would have happened,'” Morong tells the news.) And maintains at least some love for the musical that very strangely changed her life. (“While the musical has been called irreverent and crude, some of the lyrics still have special, sentimental value.”)
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