Mormon marriage manual a bestseller

A sex book for Latter-day Saints is flying off the shelves.

By Jack Boulware
Published August 3, 2000 7:41PM (EDT)

A good Mormon doesn't just say no to alcohol, drugs, coffee and tobacco. Church doctrine also forbids extramarital sex. (Those guys living out in the desert with 12 wives are not usually considered good Mormons.)

Thus, when marital problems arise in a devout Mormon bedroom, married couples are not always equipped to deal with sex. What if the Mormon dad can't achieve or sustain an erection? What if the Mormon mother is not in the mood, or cannot become properly lubricated for intercourse? What would the church advise vis-`-vis oral-genital contact? Is anal OK?

Mormons across the Western United States can now relax. Their marital questions are now being answered -- well, most of them, anyway -- with the publication of a new sex manual targeted specifically to Latter-day Saints.

"Between Husband & Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy" is flying off the shelves of Mormon bookstores. According to a spokesperson for Covenant Books, the manual's publisher, the initial print run of 6,000 copies sold out in two weeks, and a second printing of 20,000 also sold out within two weeks. The sex guide now sits at the top of the bestseller list at Deseret Books, a 35-store chain owned by the Mormon Church, and even briefly outsold the latest book by church president Gordon B. Hinckley.

"To me the amazing part is that it was outselling Hinckley's book," said the Covenant Books spokesperson. "In the LDS (Latter-day Saints) market, this is huge."

The book is a far cry from other guidebooks such as "The Joy of Sex." There are no drawings of a hippie couple fornicating in acrobatic positions, for instance. In fact, there are no illustrations or photos of any kind in "Between Husband & Wife," other than a cover image of calla lilies. So how does a how-to sex manual sell without depicting the sex act? In the Mormon world, this means textbook descriptions of human anatomy, accompanied by quotations from Mormon authority figures, who evidently know what they're talking about.

Downplaying the graphic elements seems to be working just fine. The book is currently third on the Mormon bestseller list, behind Hinckley's newest tome, and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Writing a sex book without sex imagery was a tricky job, says co-author Dr. Stephen Lamb, a Salt Lake City gynecologist and active Mormon. "We're unsure, we don't want to say the wrong thing, and we don't want to stir interest inappropriately," Lamb told the Associated Press.

Readers learn that intimacy should be an outgrowth of a healthy, trusting relationship. If your marriage is screwed up in some way, the authors suggest, your sex life will probably be screwed up as well.

One happy reader, Krystal Pease, of Beaverton, Ore., came upon the book after trying for six months to save her marriage. Counseling, religious books -- nothing seemed to be working until she found a copy of "Between Husband & Wife." She and her husband read it together, and the skies parted and the sun shone again upon their nuptial mattress.

"We were able to resolve about 90 percent of problems we were having in about a month's period," said Pease. "In fact, the counselor we were seeing saw our progress and told us we didn't need any more help. Then he bought a copy of the book."

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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