SUGAR HOUSE — The reception was warm, to say the least.
Thousands gathered Tuesday to catch a glimpse of former President Jimmy Carter, who visited the Sugar House Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his latest book.
Carter was greeted with applause from crowds of people standing along the balcony, the escalator and between rows of books on the ground floor.
"It's a wonderful welcome," Carter told reporters. "This is a surprise."
The book, "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis," debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list this week. It points to what Carter sees as a fundamentalist shift in religion and politics that he believes is threatening America's ideals, such as the separation of church and state.
Carter told the Deseret Morning News he defines extreme fundamentalism "dominant people who believe they have a unique access to God. Therefore their beliefs must be 100 percent right," Carter said. "Anyone who disagrees with them, therefore, must be wrong and inferior. . . . And there's no room in that relationship of a fundamentalist for compromise or for give and take debate or for ever admitting that you've made a mistake."
The current administration, he said, has taken a radical shift from historical policies with moves such as pre-emptive war and abandoning human rights policies, and it has in the process alienated nations that should be America's allies.
"We've lost what I would say was the unanimous support we had from nations around the world after 9/11 who wanted to join us in a concerted global effort to control terrorism," Carter said. "Now we stand almost alone."
Carter said his book isn't about partisan politics but about basic moral principles. He said his message is just as relevant in Utah, which voted for Bush with the nation's highest margin, as in a liberal state.
The former president said he considers himself a conservative and said he has a cousin in Salt Lake who is LDS.
"I know that she doesn't approve of an unjust and unnecessary war," Carter said. "I know that she doesn't approve of torturing people in prison. . . . I don't consider this to be a liberal-versus-conservative set of issues."
Before he started signing books, Carter greeted Neill Marriott, his second cousin once removed, with a hug.
"I just want to wave at him and smile," Marriott said as she waited to see Carter.
A line formed before 10 a.m. Tuesday. At least 3,000 people waited in a line that wrapped around the block, books in hand.
The bookstore had sold out of books, including a special shipment of 1,600, by 4:30 p.m., store officials said. Some people in line had bought their books elsewhere.
As she waited in line, Kaye Murdock said she wanted to meet the former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate because "he's a wonderful man. . . . He's a religious man, he has courage."