Vern G. Swanson

SPRINGVILLE — A controversial new book that claims Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and that Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is their direct descendant is finding limited space on the shelves of LDS booksellers.

A saleswoman for publisher Cedar Fort Inc. didn't offer "Dynasty of the Holy Grail, Mormonism's Sacred Bloodline" by Vern G. Swanson to Seagull Book and Tape, while Deseret Book is offering the book primarily through special order. Deseret Book is owned by the LDS Church through a holding company that also owns the Deseret Morning News.

"It wasn't a good fit for our readers," agreed Seagull Book executive vice president Jon Kofford.

But that decision came from the Cedar Fort saleswoman, not Seagull Book, which never was given a chance to offer it, Seagull spokesman David Politis said.

The Deseret Morning News obtained an e-mail in which Cedar Fort saleswoman Angie Harris tells Kofford and a book buyer, "It was one that you were not going to carry in the stores. It talks about Jesus having a son and the royal bloodline leading directly to Joseph Smith. The pictures in it are questionable; that is why I did not present it to you."

Swanson is the director of the Springville Art Museum. He illustrated the 537-page book with historic paintings, both modern and ancient. Among the full-color illustrations is a painting by 19th century French artist Gustave Moreau of a nude that may have been of Mary Magdalene. The nudity is meant to symbolize chastity and the Christian church.

That particular painting, "La Licorne," or "The Unicorn," fits the image of Mary Magdalene with her crown, symbols and robe, Swanson says. She is pictured with a white unicorn, the symbol of her tribe, Ephraim.

Deseret Book sent most of its shipment back to the publisher. Spokeswoman Mary Ann Jones said the bookstore gives authors 90 days to see how their book sells. However, the book has been out for only a month.

"It's a very expensive book, $40," Jones said. The hard-bound book is printed on heavy, high-quality paper and richly illustrated.

"We've not seen any interest," she said.

"Of course it wasn't selling," Swanson said. "How can they sell it when they keep it in the back room? ... It's content; that's why they're not marketing it."

Swanson recently had a book signing at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, where sales are brisk.

"We've sold about a dozen," said general books manager Linda Brummett. "It's a higher-priced book for students."

The bookstore received two dozen on its first order.

The book is also offered at the Springville Art Museum, where about 100 have sold, Swanson said.

Swanson had already been researching the premise that Christ was married for nearly 30 years before Dan Brown published "The Da Vinci Code" in 2003, which also makes that suggestion. During the controversy that followed, Swanson decided to complete and publish his research.

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