Booking The Book of Mormon, or Do Population Demographics Have Anything to Do with This Tour Taking Three or Four Years to Get Here?
Innocent questions that arise naturally, especially in the minds of people of all types who live in areas with a nice, large, healthy proportion of residents who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, include the following:
Joan Marcus The first North American tour cast of The Book of Mormon, making the world a better place sometime last year
1. Just how many Mormons live in my stomping grounds?
2. If it's a lot, does that have anything to do with why I haven't been able to see The Book of Mormon yet without taking a road trip that, for a neurotypical person, would involve at least one overnight stay or, at least, sleeping and driving in shifts? (Don't fly to L.A. or Las Vegas unless you're staying at least three days. You will spend more time getting to and from the airport than it took to drive or, if you're supa-green, to ride Amtrak or a bus.)
There are several ways to look at this, statistically. Let's start with monumental sacred architecture. The state of Arizona is now tied with Idaho (also very Utah-adjacent) and Texas (very populous) with a working total of four Mormon temples (and Tucson and Phoenix are on deck), a number exceeded only by California's seven (California, in case you haven't heard of it, is another extremely populous state) and 14 in Utah, the state where the LDS church -- the fourth largest Christian denomination in the United States -- is headquartered (not counting two Utah temples still under construction, but counting the Ogden location, which is currently closed for renovations).
Speaking of temples, I'm not sure why a church needs three palatial houses of worship (for lack of a better term) all of which could be viewed between breakfast and lunch (I'm talking to you, Phoenix, Mesa, and Gilbert) -- because the temple is not the place Mormons hang out for routine churchgoing and activities -- but the things I know, let alone understand, about most denominations of any organized religion could fit in Chip the teacup boy from Beauty and the Beast with room for cream and sugar. I present as a person whose relatively neutral point of view comes from widespread, equitable ignorance (I'm unchurched, descended from tedious Nothern European Protestants who sometimes convert to marry a hottie), because the alternative, learning a whole lot about a bunch of religions, is time-consuming. Just so you know.
The church reported in 2012 that Arizona is 6.26 percent Mormon. Other than the states with more temples than Arizona, only Wyoming and Nevada exceed that proportion. (By comparison, 31 percent of Arizonans are vaguely Roman Catholic, but it's a much easier religion in which to be vague.) The U.S. Census agrees that we hover between 5 and 10 percent LDS.
Maricopa County itself (where I'm sitting right now) is neither the most nor the least proportionally Mormon county in Arizona, despite containing the cities and towns that are home to three of the temples, including Mesa, a city literally founded by members of the church, and Gilbert, a relatively recently developed hotbed of LDS membership (13 percent). Is that a lot? You tell me:
Chart by Wikipedia user Newb4243, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License A 2000 county-by-county breakdown of United States LDS membership (reported by the church) as a proportion of overall population (reported by the U.S. Census)
Percentages aside, Arizona is also home to the fourth-highest sheer headcount of LDS church members of any state. Living among a lot of Mormons is neither inherently good nor bad. New Times has written a ton about this, including that Mormons are typically happy and nice, sometimes creepily so, unless they are gay, which is so cognitively dissonant that gay Mormons tend to kill themselves, but it's getting better -- and it's scarcely the only denomination that has issues with homosexuality. They're also super-musical, singing and playing instruments from an early age, and that makes a musical like The Book of Mormon kind of a natural.
Growing up in Mesa in the '60s and '70s, when about 40 percent of Mesans were LDS, meant that far more than 40 percent of public school kids were LDS (because church members usually have large families), and my civil rights were routinely violated during the school day, mostly in the form of public prayers to Heavenly Father at the beginnings of assemblies and concerts. But that's all in the past, and it was hardly something that only Mormons inflicted on us little hippies.