Salt Lake City Krystal Pease thought she had tried everything to fix her 10-year marriage.
She and her husband spent six months in counseling. They talked about their problems. And Pease, an active Mormon who lives in Beaverton, Ore., brought home armloads of books from the religious bookstore. Nothing helped.
Then she stumbled across a new book written for Mormons with marital problems particularly in the bedroom. She insisted her husband read it with her.
"We were able to resolve about 90 percent of problems we were having in about a month's period," Pease said. "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."
"Between Husband & Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy," published in March by Covenant Books, has been a surprise best seller and is flying off the shelves in Mormon bookstores across the West. The publisher hopes that even non-Mormons will be able to see past the book's doctrine and embrace its principal message: that sex shouldn't be a source of guilt or conflict for religious couples.
The book's initial printing of 6,000 copies sold out in about two weeks, according to the MaryAnn Jones, who represents the book for Covenant. A second printing of 20,000 disappeared in 15 days, and a third round of another 20,000 books arrived earlier this month.
Those figures propelled it to the top of the best seller list at Deseret Books, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has 35 stores around the West.
On July 5, "Between Husband & Wife" briefly edged out "Standing for Something," the latest book by church President Gordon B. Hinckley. It is now in third, just behind Hinckley's book and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."
"To me the amazing part is that it was outselling Hinckley's book," Jones said. "In the LDS (Latter-day Saints) market, this is huge."
Especially for a book about sex.
Devout Mormons, well known for their chastity and self-control, eschew not just alcohol, coffee and tobacco but also any sex outside of marriage. That means Mormon couples are often ignorant about some aspects of sex and unable to discuss problems that might arise with their partners.
"We're unsure, we don't want to say the wrong thing, and we don't want to stir interest inappropriately," said Dr. Stephen Lamb, a Salt Lake City gynecologist and active church member. Those fears pushed him to write "Between Husband & Wife," along with co-author Douglas Brinley, a marriage counselor and religion professor at Brigham Young University.
"In the past, when I had patients with problems and they said, 'Where should I turn?' I would suggest the local bookstore," Lamb said. "But for those with fairly conservative values, as most Latter-day Saints have, those kinds of texts are often offensive. Where does one draw the line between a sex manual and pornography?"
No one could mistake "Between Husband & Wife" for erotica. The book tastefully covered with a photo of calla lilies and devoid of pictures or diagrams sprinkles quotes from Mormon general authorities among textbook descriptions of human anatomy and general marital advice.
One theme runs throughout: intimacy should be an outgrowth of a healthy, trusting relationship. If there's something wrong with your sex life, the authors suggest, something may be wrong with your marriage. And without a good marriage, sex isn't worth much.
On the Net: Covenant Books: www.covenant-lds.com