About those church ads in ‘The Book of Mormon’ playbill...

Anyone who goes to see “The Book of Mormon” during its run in Charlotte this winter will discover an ironic surprise if they open the playbill for the musical: Three ads promoting the faith.

The satirical musical, of course, does anything but.

Written by the creators of TV’s “South Park,” it uses comedy to eviscerate and savagely ridicule the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – as well as those of other religions. (In her review for the Observer this week, Lynn Trenning wrote, “ ‘Mormon’ is crass, offensive and wonderful.”)

Meanwhile, the ads in the program feature the faces of a smiling people with slogans like “I’ve read the book,” “The book is always better” and “You’ve seen the play... now read the book.” They also contain the URL thebookofmormon.org (which takes you to an official site for the church), along with a call to “Text BOOK to 33733.”

For the record, this marketing approach is nothing new; the Mormon Church has actually been taking out identical ads in various cities hosting the traveling Broadway tour since the summer of 2012.

A spokesperson for Blumenthal Performing Arts, which hosts the show, said the church took out similar ads when the show did its first run here in December of 2013.

But it remainsa unique and wildly counterintuitive strategy – perhaps like the North American Vegetarian Society buying an ad in Chima’s menu.

Does the strategy work? The Mormon Church won’t say. When we asked for a comment, it gave the same statement it’s been giving for the past 3 1/2 years:

“Patrons of the musical aren’t likely to leave the theater with a better understanding of the Book of Mormon. Our message in the playbill invites the audience to seek a more complete perspective on the book, its Christ-centered message and its place in Mormon belief.”

The musical runs through March 6 at Belk Theater (details: www.blumenthalarts.org). It’s currently one of the hotter tickets in town...