SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – It’s one thing for Mormons to laugh about their religion when they read about it from the safety of their computer.
But will they do it when the spoof newspaper The Sugar Beet is delivered to their home, where a hard-copy edition could be spotted by a spouse, parent, child, neighbor or church elder?
”We’re going to mail it in plain, brown envelopes,” joked Associate Editor Chris Bigelow. ”And people can keep it under their mattresses if they want.”
The spoof newspaper is a ”guilty pleasure” for many Mormons, Bigelow said.
In what started as a way to coax button-down Mormons into laughing at themselves, editors of The Sugar Beet say it now attracts about 11,000 people monthly to http://www.thesugarbeet.com.
Now, after 25 editions, the Beet goes on.
Recent Web editions carried ”scoops” about the Mormon religion, with such headlines as ”Seagulls attack Main Street Plaza protesters,” ”Deseret Book schedules ‘book burning” and ”Gold plates discovered on Titanic wreckage.”
There’s even stories about Elvis’ posthumous baptism, Walt Disney’s honorary sainthood, an elderly couple’s mission to Crossroads Plaza, and word that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has patented ”Holy Ghost.”
The Beet’s first print edition comes out in January, and readers can subscribe at $19.95 for six editions a year.
Editor Todd Petersen, an English professor at Southern Utah University, said the magazine is just the first step of what could become a line of Sugar Beet products. The next project is The Sugar Beet Guide to Mormons, a Mormonism for Dummies-type book, Petersen said.
LDS Church officials declined to comment on the Beet, but editors say no one associated with the site has been called on the carpet.
”Only a couple people have told us we’re blithering idiots,” Petersen said.
Even though it’s tongue-in-cheek, some topics remain taboo.
Editors don’t jest about LDS leaders or about deeply rooted Mormon doctrine, they say, because the Beet is not about cynicism but rather the sometimes-comical LDS culture.
”There’s only one thing you can do if you live in Utah: You can be funny or you can be a nerd,” Petersen says. ”We’re funny nerds.”
Editors say they hope the magazine will make enough to cover expenses, and subscriptions already are flowing in.
Editors also hope to snag readers at newsstands – if they can find willing sellers.