by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd
From books to clothing, church-related goods are only a point-and-click away.
As more and more people turn to the Internet, there are more and more opportunities to buy church-related material without ever leaving your computer. As long as you have a handy credit card, the world is your oyster. And you may want to make sure your credit card has a big credit limit, because Mormon shopping isn't penny ante stuff. You can order church brochures for ten cents from the Salt Lake Distribution Center, but you can also find first edition copies of The Book of Mormon on the web if you know where to look. Last time we checked it out, one was going for about $45,000 -- and the auction was days from ending.
If you're looking for standard-issue Church materials from the Salt Lake Distribution Center, they can be found at http://www.ldscatalog.com. Right now that website is only available to authorized purchasers. Clark, our stake clerk, can order material from the Distribution Center website, but anything he orders is conveniently sent to our stake president instead of to him. However, you may want to watch this website. It has been hinted that eventually the Distribution Center site will open up for the use of normal human beings, and that the material you order will be sent to your own address without making a detour to the stake president's home. When that day comes, life will be sweet.
Books are always a popular online purchase. The most obvious source for LDS books is Deseret Book, which can be found at http://deseretbook.com/. The Deseret Book website will even direct computer users to other bookstores, which is a civilized policy for a website to have.
Oddly enough, although Bookcraft has been so firmly absorbed into Deseret Book that there doesn't seem to be a separate website, Shadow Mountain -- another Deseret Book imprint -- does have a website at http://shadowmountain.com/corp/. Go figure.
When looking for Church-related books, don't forget standard book websites, such as the ever-popular Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/). Amazon is a giant in the book business, and it knows how to ship books fast and in perfect condition.
White temple clothing is available online, for those women who would rather wear unique temple dresses than the standard issue Beehive Clothing Mills creations. Three such sites are http://www.dressedinwhite.com/index1.html, http://www.whiteelegance.com/, and http://www.ldcreations.com/. Before you even visit these sites, make sure you have money in your checking account. These "affordable" dresses start at about $68 (plus postage) and go up -- way up, although a couple of cheaper dresses can be found at LDCreations. It also helps if you're about a size two, because even the dresses in larger sizes were designed for small people. (As we all know, really fat women aren't following the Word of Wisdom and are thus unworthy of pretty temple dresses.) But if you have the money and are able to buy clothes off the rack, these sites may be a good option for you.
If you're a traveler who would like to travel with fellow Saints, don't despair. Go to http://www.ldstours.com/ or http://www.mcgroups.com/bookofmormon.html or http://www.cruiselady.com/lds.htm for an LDS-specific vacation, and join likeminded people on cruises or tours. Some of these trips are specific to sites that are of interest to Church members. Others are cruises aren't really Church-related except that they feature Mormon authors or celebrities. The prices on these are about standard for cruises and tours that you'd buy from non-Mormon travel agents, so if you're used to booking your vacations through travel agents, these may be just the sites for you.
If you'd like to buy Mormon products but don't know what you're looking for, there are even more options. There's a website devoted to LDS businesses. This can be found at http://www.lds.npl.com/dir/LDS_Business/, and it will lead you to websites where you can purchase everything from gizmos that knock on doors for missionaries to retirement homes. All items are either Mormon-related or are sold by Church members, and usually both. It should go without saying that the buyer should beware before purchasing from anyone -- online or off-. Although we shop almost exclusively through the Internet and have never been burned by an online purchase, others have. There are a lot of wolves who masquerade as sheep. Some of those wolves are even members of the Church.
But if you just want to buy for the sake of buying, an auction may be just the ticket for you. Our favorite auction site is eBay, which is found at http://www.ebay.com/. When we did a check for writing this column, there were 632 Mormon-related items. Here are a few of the gems you could have purchased on that particular day:
A copy of the Washington Globe, dated Jun 28, 1844. Inside the paper was a story titled "Difficulties With Mormons," which chronicled the assassination of Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail. At presstime, it was not known that the Prophet had died in the attack, but the newspaper sold for $43.66.
A Sunday School attendance book from the 1889-1890 school year, with names and attendance records written in by a diligent Sunday School secretary. A lot of prominent LDS family names were listed on the rolls, making the heirloom a bargain at $9.95.
Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, a 1952 book, was a popular item. It opened at $19.99 and was bid up to $78 by the time the auction closed.
A real gem was a copy of The Book of Mormon that had been used by Brigham Young for eleven years before he gave it to a convert in England. It was found at an estate auction in New Hampshire early this year and opened at $1,000 before being sold for $20,900.00.
Only two bidders were interested in Cleon Skousen's book, How to Pray and Stay Awake, which went for $3.25. Apparently people who visit eBay are so worried about having bid $20,900 on Brigham Young's personal scriptures that they can't sleep at night and thus don't have a problem with nodding off when they're trying to say their prayers.
We in the Church have always known we're the salt of the earth, but apparently we're the pepper of the earth as well. A metal set of salt and pepper shakers designed to look like the Salt Lake Temple and Tabernacle went for $22 after moderate bidding.
Did you know we have our own butterfly? There was a specimen of "Great Mormon butterfly," mounted and ready for doing whatever it is one does with dead insects.
Other treasures included banks, jewelry, nifty carved wooden hope chests, Mormon currency (counterfeit and legitimate), a "vintage sacrament glass" that looked like a jigger and may well have been one, a replica of the infamous "Mormon Will" of billionaire Howard Hughes, and an assortment of used books, linen postcards, and old editions of various doctrinal works.
EBay is the best of the auction sites, but it is by no means the only one. Amazon.com has a good auction area that can be found at the Amazon website. A recent check showed only 31 Mormon-related items, putting Amazon far below eBay in sheer volume of opportunities. Nevertheless, it's worth a look. And even Deseret Book has entered the auction fray, with an auction site at http://deseretbook.com/auctions/. It's still a new area, but it may have potential in the future.
Before you even visit an auction site, be warned that bidding is contagious. Kathy thought the Sunday School roll book was such a good buy that she immediately bid on it, even though she is a convert with no pioneer ancestors whose names would have been part of that book. She was more relieved than disappointed to be outbid by someone who was doubtless more qualified than she to own such a treasure.
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