This week, the No. 2 book on Deseret Book's best-seller list -- tucked between a volume about Marjorie Hinckley and another about LDS sunshine -- is Max Lucado's little gem for children, "You Are Special."
Across town at the Baptist-owned LifeWay bookstore, Lucado is also No. 2, but with an adult book: "Just Like Jesus."Lucado, it seems, is the toast of Christian publishing today. He has had a book on the national Christian Book best-seller list every month for eight years now.
Still, seeing him among the Mormons is a surprise, calling to mind Robert Smith's LDS novel, "Baptists at Our Barbecue."
Even Ben Blasingame, store manager at LifeWay, is surprised.
Surprised, yet pleased.
"Max Lucado is a great writer," Blasingame says. "His books are practical. You don't need a degree in theology to read them. He takes things that are hard to grasp and helps readers get their minds around them."
Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and others have been saying such things for years. Now Mormons are getting their first inkling of the famous "Lucado touch."
A Church of Christ minister in San Antonio, Lucado seems to be a pleasant soul. He has a devout wife, three devoted daughters and a useless dog.
And for a decade now his star has been on the rise.
Today he has almost 20 books in print, including Blasingame's own favorite, "In the Grip of Grace."
Apart from "You Are Special" I've read one other Lucado book -- "The Great House of God." In that book Lucado visits the various rooms of a home (kitchen, study, furnace room, etc.) and draws spiritual parallels with the "heavenly mansion" God wants us to inhabit.
He finds more than a few similarities.
I don't have the statistics, but Lucado could well be the best-loved author in Christendom. Borders Books in the Crossroads Mall has six Lucado titles alone.
As for that Deseret Book best seller "You Are Special," it only takes a few pages to see why LDS readers take to it. The book is an allegory for children about the redeeming love of God.
In the book, Eli, a carpenter, fashions a city of small wooden people called Wemmicks. And the Wemmicks fashion some rather odd traditions for themselves.
In one rite, for example, each Wemmick gets a gold star stuck to him when he does something worthwhile but is plastered with a gray dot when he doesn't measure up.
And Punchinello the Wemmick has gray dots head to toe.
Eventually Punchinello visits Eli for some answers. Eli tells him when he finally learns that "the carpenter's" opinion matters more than any other, then his ugly dots will fall away.
Punchinello listens, learns and begins losing dots.
It's a simple, but engaging fable. And Deseret Book has to work to meet the demand for it.
"A lot of women use 'You Are Special' in Young Women's classes about individual worth," says Rose Powell, assistant manager at the downtown store. "In fact, the story of how we got the book is interesting in itself. One of our supervisors went to Relief Society and the teacher read the book as part of her lesson. The supervisor came back to the store and said, 'We have to get that book.' So we ordered it. Just the fact it's on our Top 10 list means we've sold a bunch."
As for Lucado, he continues to preach in Texas. And his books continue to jump from the shelves. He's at a point now where he could hang out a Golden Arch printed with the words "More than five million sold" on it.
Few match his record.
In fact, only one writer comes immediately to mind -- that best-selling "Lucado" of LDS publishing, James E. Talmage.
Talmage's two volumes with Deseret Book -- "Jesus the Christ" and "The Articles of Faith" -- have sold five million copies each.