I WAS STAYING IN OREM in order to attend the Provo Temple wedding of my older brother's youngest daughter. It was a lovely ceremony — and not just because they were two extraordinarily good, young people embarking on the great partnership.

The sealer told us that one of the Seventy, speaking to a meeting of temple sealers, had recently said, "Your job as a sealer is not to advise them about married life — they have stake presidents, bishops, parents and uncounted volunteers to provide that. I was married more than 30 years ago, and I can't remember a single word of the advice the sealer gave me. But I remember how I felt during that ceremony."

Wise words, and the result was a lovely, simple wedding that was all about the covenant.

After the wedding and the luncheon (a very good meal served at the Northampton House in American Fork), I actually had some free time. As usual when I visit Utah Valley, I soon found myself at University Mall, looking at the latest works by some of my favorite artists at Frameworks.

Then, as always, I made my way around the corner to Deseret Book.

Then I looked over a whole range of self-help books. Without mentioning titles, I was unable to resist picking up:

How to save your marriage by making sure you wash your face and clip your fingernails. (I'm sure there was more to the book than that, but I set it down after randomly opening it to that sage advice).

How to achieve spiritual fulfillment through a series of steps that didn't seem to me to be anywhere near as useful as the two-step program, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, might, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself," which is in a book I already own.

And I thought: These books are all so well-meaning. Just because I'm not keen on them does not mean there's anything wrong with them — they're simply not for me.

There have been church books that changed my life. On my mission, I read then-Apostle Spencer W. Kimball's "The Miracle of Forgiveness," which was so warm and open and real that it touched my heart and gave me great hope, as I realized that this was a part of the gospel I was in Brazil to teach.

But thinking of my mission and that book reminded me: Our mission president told us on our first night in the mission home in Sao Paulo (this was in 1972), "If you haven't read the Book of Mormon, then read that first. But after that, you are not to read anything else until you read Frank Bettger's 'How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling' and Og Mandino's 'The Greatest Salesman in the World.'"

He also forbade us from reading the Old Testament at all during our mission, since it was too long and would only confuse us and had little to do with what we would actually teach investigators.

I dutifully opened Bettger's book. It seemed designed to re-gung-ho-ify the sagging spirits of salesmen who don't really believe in their product but still have to make a living. It grieved me to the soul that my mission president was the kind of man who thought such a book had anything to do with what missionaries were giving up a significant portion of their lives to do.

Naturally, my antidote was to read the Old Testament from beginning to end.

There was another book we were forbidden to read: "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations," by Stephen R. Covey, where he explicitly talked about the difference between gospel salesmen and gospel shepherds. There is no way the Covey book and the Bettger book could coexist in the same mission.

I chose the Covey, thereby proving myself to be stiffnecked and disobedient.

But "Spiritual Roots" made me a better missionary.

Banning books only encourages people to read them in order to find out why they annoy the kind of people who ban books.

Still — just because you think of the idea doesn't mean you have to write the book.

Here are some titles I hope never to see on the shelves at Deseret Book:

"Demand Your Eternal Rights: Getting Blessings Without All That Embarrassing and Time-Consuming Repentance."

"Emma Smith, Detective."

"Your Just Reward: Faith Really Can Pay Off in Cash."

"The Mitochondria in Adam's Rib: A Mormon Geneticist Solves the Mystery."

"Decoding Your Life: Financial Ups and Downs Are God's Way of Telling You How You're Doing."

"Joseph Smith: The First Republican."

"Alluring Modesty: How to Spice Up a Celestial Marriage."

"The Servant of All: Achieving Business Success through Humility."

"Godly Submission: Young Women Prepare for Wifehood."

"Brigham Young in Space."

"The Meaning of the Comma and Semicolon in the Book of Omni."

"Kolob, Kokaubeam, and Quasars."

"Jesus Would Have Joined the NRA."

This list would be funnier if I weren't so sure that someone, somewhere, will look at each one of these titles and think that it sounds like a great idea for a book.


Orson Scott Card is a writer of nonfiction and fiction, from LDS works to popular fiction. "In the Village" appears Thursdays in the Deseret News. A longer version of this column is available in the Mormon Times section of deseretnews.com. Leave feedback for Card online at www.nauvoo.com

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