Our "local" LDS Bookshop (about 50 miles away) has started sending me regular emails about the special offers available, and the new releases now available instore and online. They've got some tempting offers, and it's the only place in the UK you can buy root beer, so I called there a couple of weeks ago.
The bookshop is in the gorgeous village of Godstone, near the London Temple (there's business acumen for you) but the downside of being an LDS bookstore in the UK is that everything you stock has to be imported from the USA, which makes it all extremely expensive, even with the tempting offers. So I usually salivate over the stock (Paper and stickers for a baptism scrapbook! Family Home Evening plaques on which you can hang the names of each family member! Salt Lake Temple tea light reflectors!) and plan what I will fill my spare suitcase with next time I visit the USA (April 2010).
I found, on visiting the shop, that there are only five small shelves dedicated to LDS fiction. It's not a big shop, and they have all those other lovely things to stock, but I still couldn't help wishing there were a few more titles.
I can see the reasoning; inspirational, spiritual and scholarly works are probably bigger sellers, and Church members can't get those anywhere else. Whereas, fans of fiction can go into any supermarket and pick up several really well-written (and much cheaper) novels. After all, a novel is a novel; surely it makes no difference whether or not one of the characters happens to be LDS?
I happen to believe it is very important. Speaking as a convert living in a place where few people have even heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it can feel like a lifeline reading about other members, even fictional ones, and the lives they live in far-off places where others don't view them as an oddity. What's more they are people who go through challenges and trials, romance and adventure, whilst staying true to what they believe. They set a good example, and they can inspire as much as anything in the more cerebral works. And fiction is so much easier and more fun to read!
Yes, the market is awash with secular fiction, and much of it is wonderful. But much of it, too, contains scenes which, if in a movie, would be given an 18 (R) rating, and unlike movies books don't show the rating on the cover. The characters often behave badly, make wrong choices without suffering consequences, and hold views which are contrary to the gospel. Whilst there is a great deal of very good literature out there (most of it over 50 years old) there is also plenty that offends the spirit. The discerning LDS reader might prefer to relax with a good good book.
I haven't read much LDS fiction (see note above about bookshop not stocking it) but what I have read has been every bit as good as anything by any bestselling author stocked in my local (1 mile away) supermarket.That is basically why I will be taking advantage of those special offers and buying at least one LDS fiction book every time I got to the LDS bookshop at Godstone (that's every month, when I go to the Temple). I want them to know just how popular well-written LDS fiction is. And when I go to Florida next year, I'll be taking an extra suitcase with me so that I can visit Boyd's LDS Books in Orlando and take home an entire case of LDS fiction.