And it came to pass that after The Sugar Beet stopped production, a Gentile publisher named Susan Vogel contacted Bigelow with the idea to turn the best of The Sugar Beet into a bound volume called The Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer (Pince-Nez Press, $14.95).
The involvement of Vogel pleased Bigelow, but didn't surprise him. "I knew that a lot of non- and semi-Mormon people enjoyed [The Sugar Beet]," he said in phone interview. "[Vogel] found it real therapeutic after growing up in this pressure cooker we have in Utah."
As for readers within the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bigelow is the first to acknowledge his satirical compilation is "definitely not for everybody. It appeals to people who really value having a sense of humor about ourselves. LDS people who enjoy 'Saturday Night Live' and 'The Simpsons' will get a kick out of it."
Not that the book contains anything to cause "lightning bolts coming down on me," Bigelow adds.
Stories in the 165-page volume range from the innocuous ("Studies Show Cheerios May Cause Restlessness and Crying") to the naughtily subversive ("Man's Addiction to Wife Destroying Relationship with Porn") to the outright strange ("Provo Temple Liftoff Successful"). But mostly, it's clean humor ("BYU Offers Scrapbooking Degree") that Bigelow hopes will elicit communal smiles and not rampant protest.
"We haven't had as many complaints as we could have had. A few people have called us irreverent, but we fed them that. Not too many have consigned us to hell," he said, noting that positive feedback outweighs the negative. "A lot of people have said, 'What a relief to be able to laugh at our foibles.' We've heard some LDS bishops have cut out certain articles and put them on their office doors."
One strategy Bigelow and his team of writers (an online assembly of Mormons in varying degrees of church activity) used to keep sacrilege to a minimum was to localize the stories. "Instead of saying the whole church is doing this crazy thing, we'd say that this particular congregation was doing it, so it's less of a general slight."
His efforts to keep the book's content somewhat soft haven't worked on the big Mormon outlets such as Deseret Book, though he remains optimistic. "We are trying, but they haven't been jumping all over it."
Meet the author
* Author Christopher Kimball Bigelow will sign copies of his satirical book The Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer, today at 2 p.m. at Borders in Murray, 132 E. Winchester. Another signing is Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Borders in Logan, 1050 N. Main.