Winners for the Around the World in Mormon Lit Contest

We loved this contest. It has been wonderful reading the stories people sent us,  sharing the finalists, and seeing people’s reactions to these writers and their work.

Thank you to the writers, the translators, the readers, and the voters who made this such a great experience. Thanks, especially, to those who shared these stories with friends and encouraged them to help us choose a winner. It was wonderful to see so many people from around the world voting.

We have two $100 awards to give. The Grand Prize goes to the piece with the most votes from readers. We also have a Judges’ Choice Award to recognize great writing in other pieces.

Grand Prize

After counting all the votes, the top stories were:

5. “Victor” by David Hurtado

4. “La Muralla del Tiempo” (“The Wall of Time“) by Camila Andrea Fernández

3. “Duas Missões” (“Two Missions”)  by Andreza Castro

2. “O Amigo Secreto” (“The Secret Friend”) by Amanda Araújo de Castro

and the winner is….

1. “Um Domingo na Laginha” (“A Sunday at Laginha”)  by César Augusto Medina Fortes


Judges’ Awards 

As judges, we also wanted to recognize three pieces for their contributions to the contest.

Honorable Mention:
Anexo documental I” (“Documentary Appendix 1”) by Gabriel González Núñez
Judges’ Statement:
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that God gives us eternal truths in ways that reflect our own language and understanding. In this alternate history, Gabriel González Núñez uses striking imagery to help us to reach toward the eternal in the restoration by imagining the same truths unfolding in a different time and place. A vital contribution to Mormon literature–and the Mormon imagination.

Honorable Mention:
創造教室」 (“The Creation Workshop”) by Mitsushige Takaki
Judges’ Statement:
Mitsushige Takaki’s “Creation Workshop” stood out to us for receiving an even amount of votes from each language votes were cast in. By helping us imagine how our different personalities in the premortal existence might be reflected in the beautiful diversity of the natural world, Takaki gave us a story that resonated around the world and gave voice to the contest’s theme.

Judges’ Award Winner:
TIEMPO una partícula” (“TIME a particle”) by Citlalli H. Xochitiotzin
Judges’ Statement:
Christ’s Atonement is beyond the scope of human imagination, but Citlalli H. Xochitiotzin uses lyrical language to help us draw closer to this most vital of all moments. We feel nature cry out, sense time collapsing around its meridian, see the tendrils of empathy extending through centuries and around the world from a central point in the Garden before being snapped back into the moment, locked once again into the rhythm of each step as events fall forward toward Golgotha.

Reminder: Next Chance to Submit

If you enjoyed this contest, we’d love for you to submit to, or encourage others to submit to, our next contest, the 8th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz. Stories, essays, poems or other written works under 1,000 words are welcome. Email up to three entries to

“The Sound of Water”

Read the original Japanese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“The Sound of Water”

written by Tokuzawa Aiko, translated by Andrew Hall

For the last twenty years I have been going to help clean at an old-age nursing home once a month. There are days when I am too busy to volunteer, but when I have a chance, I try to go, taking the opportunity learn and prepare for my own oncoming old age.

Today was one of the rare sunny winter days in the Hokuriku region, a nice day to do service. My husband and I worked together to clean a long corridor, me swinging a dusty mop, my husband sweeping. We are an elderly couple ourselves, and our turn to live in this nursing home may begin at any moment. So, while we are still healthy, it is a happiness to be able to clean up.

A sprightly-looking grandmother came towards us down the hallway. I called out to her, “You’re looking good today!” She came over and took both my hands in hers in a friendly greeting. But then she covered her face with both hands, and started sobbing. I was surprised–all I could think to do was to repeat my greeting and pat her on the shoulder. Then she planted an intense kiss on the back of my hand.

Oh, how lonely she was, how hungry for love. The pain of aging pierced my heart.

I remembered the haiku by Santōka, “Unescapable death, the sound of water.” In this world, there are many things we don’t understand until we age. Declining bodies, declining vigor, forgetfulness, and death itself are all moving towards us, and it breaks my heart. At that instant, I could hear with my spiritual ears the sound of water within her. It was like the drip-drip sound of water seeping out of a tap in a midnight-dark kitchen, enveloped in deep loneliness.

「 水音」徳沢愛子著

二十年ほど前から月一回老人ホームのお掃除に行っている。用事があって行けない日も あるが、そうでなければ自分の老後の学びの機会として、喜んで出かける。勿論ボランテ ィアである。

今日は北陸には珍しい冬晴れであった。奉仕活動するには良い日だった。夫と二人で出 かけた。長い廊下をモップがけする。埃がついたモップを払うと、夫がほうきで掃く。我々 老夫婦もいつ何時老人ホームにお世話になるかもしれない。元気のある今、お掃除できるしあわせ。 元気そうなおばあさんが廊下の向こうからやって来られた。「お元気ですねェ」、そう声をかけると、親しげに私の両手を握られた。次の瞬間、両手で顔を覆い、「くくっ」と泣か れたのである。私はびっくりした。

「お元気ですね」と声をかけ、肩に手をかけた、ただそれだけのことなのに。そうして 私の右手をとって、手の甲に強烈なチュッをしたのである。

ああ、そのおばあさんはこんなにも人恋しかったのだ。愛に飢えているのだ。老いるこ との切なさが私の胸にジンと迫った。

<みんな死んでしまうことの水音>山頭火の句を私は思い出した。世の中には、老いて みなければ、わからないことがいっぱいある。衰えていく肉体のこと、気力のこと、物忘 れのこと、近づく死のことなど、惻惻と迫ってくる。私はその時、霊の耳に彼女の心の水 音を聞いたのである。それは真夜中、暗い台所でぽとりぽとりと水道から漏れ落ちる水音 のような、深い孤独を纏っていた。

“The Creation Workshop” by Mitsushige Takaki

Read the original Japanese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“The Creation Workshop”

written by Misushige Takaki, translated by Andrew Hall


Peta saw a flock of birds flying, and her eye focused on one that was particularly beautiful and strong.  Peta thought that the view this bird had of the world must be wonderful; the deep orange of the sky and the expansive earth beneath.

“Wow” she thought.

“Life is truly beautiful!”



“…and we will end class there for today.”

As Ms. Acacia spoke, the students left their daydreams and their surroundings reverted back to the white washed classroom they had been in when the class began.  Each of her students, from their own points of view, had experienced their own worlds during that class.  The teacher began to announce their homework.

“Please conjure a new creature.” she said.

They were to take one of the insects, fish or birds they had studied in class and think of a new, similar, but different creature.  Peta’s notebook was always full of drawings like this.

The problem is, she said to just come up with one new creature, one new life. But, of all of my animals, this one, that one, they are all so cuddly.  …and I can only pick one?  I can’t choose!  So…  Maybe, I’ll just put two of them together; a bird and a mole?  I like birds the most, so I’ll give it the head of a bird.  Maybe a hawk, or an eagle?  The rest of their body… the chest, abdomen, legs and feet will be from a mole.  Why a mole though?  Because they are cute and tough!  But, when I try putting them together, its head comes to too much of a point.  It looks strange.  Maybe if the bird’s beak was rounder and thicker?  The wings would be too weird though.  I’ll skip the wings?  Wait a second, then it can’t fly!  I guess I better go with an ordinary bird.

Peta took out her notebook to check again, when a small but distinct voice called out to her.

“I want to live!”


Is there already an animal alive here?

Peta looked at the drawing of her flightless bird.  This thing is already alive.  But it’s a bird that can’t fly?  Maybe, it’s not even a bird at all?

“Please make me fly!” the drawing said.

I can hear its voice!  It sounds like a baby!  I’ll make it so it can swim through water.  Yeah, that’s like flying.  I’ll give it thick legs and feet like an otter.  No, even thicker and stronger than that.  I’ll give it webbed feet, too.  …and the head of a duck!  His beak has to be stouter though, wider than an actual duck’s.  This thing is weird, but I like it!  It’s stronger than it looks.  And it’s beautiful.

There, it’s done.



Peta’s classmates erupted in a roar of laughter when they saw her creation on the classroom board.  Michael, one of the class presidents, was wiping away tears of laughter.

“Is this a mole?  A duck?  Some kind of bird?  Tell me it’s not an otter, right?  It looks like all of them, but it isn’t any of them!” he jeered.

“Look, everyone else was able to do what they were assigned.” Michael said, pointing to the other students.  Peta saw that everyone else had indeed drawn animals that were easily distinguished; like white mice, or butterflies.  Some came up and proudly showed their drawings.  Others came up and simply gawked at Peta’s work.  A girl named Mel said, “That’s weird.”  There is no way a creature like that could exist.”

Most of the classmates were nodding along.  Then, Dan piped up.  “I can’t believe that something that ugly could live on this beautiful world” while pointing to the world globe that floated in the middle of the room.

The school where Peta and the other students sat was a place where worlds were created, the globe that Dan was pointing at was a new world that the students would help create.  This new world would be called Earth.  Once the students had grown up, they would be going there to live and experience life.  Besides people, there would be all kinds of other living things there as well.  Adults worked to create the new planet, as well as all the living things that would be on it.  But the children also got a chance to help.  Their homework was to create designs, some of which would be chosen and then created for the Earth.

“I worked so hard at making it!  It is sweet and beautiful and I tried to make it strong!” Peta said.

She lifted up her face.

“It’s NOT ugly and it’s NOT weird!  It’s beautiful and it will be able to live and thrive.  I could see and feel it as I designed her.  It’ll swim through water as though it were flying.”

But, everyone continued to mock her, so she turned away from them silently.


Ms. Acacia announced, “Class is done for the day, kids. I will show everyone’s hard work to the principal.”

She then turned to Peta.

“So what do you want to do?  If you want to change it, I can ask if the principal will give you another day.”

Peta silently handed her work to the teacher and she received it.



Their very last science class was about to begin.  After this next hour, they would be moving up to the next level school.  But before they could leave, their creations would have to be evaluated. Both Ms. Acacia and the principal, Mr. Erumi, were there. Mr. Erumi himself would be teaching their class this day. He stood in the center of a ring of seated students.

“I really enjoyed reviewing all of your science projects. However there was this one of them…”

He flattened out the rolled piece of paper in front of her chest so that everyone could see it.  Peta stopped breathing.  It was her picture.  Tiny clouds of laughter spread out through the classroom. She then thought she heard someone say, “Oh. we’re starting with the worst.”

“Eww.  It’s so weird.  Look at it!” another said.

Mr. Erumi looked at Peta and continued.

“So, I’ve decided that this should be the first one to be made.” he said and snapped his fingers.

Suddenly the white room turned aqua blue.  From the distance they could see a black dot, which began to come closer.  The point became a shadow, which sped towards and past the students.  Several startled children tried to jump out of the way of the speeding object.  The black shadow came back around and nabbed an unsuspecting fish.

“That was my fish… ” someone said.

Peta was so fascinated that she forgot to breathe.

“It’s alive!  It’s swimming.  No, it’s flying!” she said.

The image changed. Now the creature was at the water’s edge. It was not as fast, but it had a kind of elegance and the other students couldn’t help but start to like it.

Mr. Erumi was looking at Peta with a glimmer in his eyes.

“It doesn’t have a name yet. May I name it, Peta?” he asked.

Peta nodded in reply.

“Well, because it has bill like a duck (kamo no kuchibashi), lets abbreviate it and call it a kamo no hashi (platypus)!”

Peta thought that it deserved a cuter name, but Mr. Erumi looked very pleased with himself.

“So, it appears that we have come to a decision.” she said.

Ms. Acacia gave a wry smile as Ms. Erumi continued.

“Everyone else’s work was wonderful as well, but there was nothing surprising about them. The platypus surprised us. We adults have been creating new worlds for quite a while now. We’ve seen it all, we are hardly ever surprised anymore. But you students are different, your naiveté gives you potential. I thought you might do something surprising. Take this opportunity to learn from this experience, and use your fresh, new ideas. Even as you go on to higher tiers of education, please do not forget this occasion.”

The class came to an end.


Mr. Erumi spoke to Peta privately outside the classroom.

“Ms. Acacia told me about your many ideas for animals. We have an idea I think you’ll like. We’d like you to make more unique creatures for us. Don’t be afraid to surprise us. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.”



Peta did not go on to the higher school with her classmates. Instead, she was given a position in the divine studio, working with the adults. She worked with them for a very long time. But, one day that work also came to an end; their planet had been created, and now she would be born onto it as living person. Peta was excited to go onto this planet and touch her creations, especially the platypus. She was sad though that she wouldn’t be able to meet another one of her creations, the saber-toothed tiger.


Before she left, she had to leave it up to her principal to put the finishing touches on her platypus. While she didn’t much like the venomous needle the principal gave it, she was happy with how it would lay eggs despite being a mammal.

Then, all of a sudden, she started to feel sleepy.

“While I go to the new world, the me-I-know will be asleep. Good-bye. I’ll be back…and when I do, I will make even more amazing things.” she thought to herself as she drifted off into mortality.



Akimi opened her eyes at the laboratory.  She realized that she had fallen asleep at her desk.  She felt as though she had just had a dream that she had had once before, a very long time ago.

“What was this dream about? Oh. I can’t remember it now.” she thought to herself.

She was an adult, but you couldn’t tell it from how she was scratching her head with the tip of her pen while slurping cold coffee. She had fallen asleep while she was trying to write up a paper about her recent trip to Australia. As a biologist, Akimi had decided to study quirky and mysterious animals. She was particularly interested in the platypus. The males, despite looking cute and cuddly, hid poisonous spurs on their back legs. This always seemed a little off to Akimi.

She had studied the platypus for a long time. But, while her research hadn’t turned up anything new, she couldn’t tell her boss that. So, instead, she was going to dig a little deeper and find something new soon.

She happily looked at her life-sized figurine of her beloved platypus. She then looked at her picture of a tardigrade (or “water bear”) on the wall. She was fascinated by the way they moved. She had a wide variety of figurines, including a ridiculously large saber-tooth tiger and a rare kiwi bird. She enshrined them all over her area in the lab. Some even encroached into her colleagues’ work spaces. She even had some figures of paranormal creatures, like a kappa and a skyfish. There was also a traditional painting of a Nue, a Japanese mythical creature with the face of a monkey, the legs of a tiger, the body of a Japanese raccoon dog and the front half of a snake.

In other words, there were some weirds things here.


“You haven’t changed a bit, have you Peta.” said a familiar voice.

Akimi, startled, turned in her chair.  There was no one there.

「創造教室」 高木光茂

 なんでもぐらかって? かわいくて強そうでしょ?
 えっ待って? それじゃあ飛べないじゃないの。
「これはモグラなのかい? 鴨?というか鳥なのかい? かわうそじゃないよね? そのどれかみたいだけど、どれでもない」
「この作品はどうする? 直すつもりなら特別に校長先生にお願いして、明日まで提出を伸ばしてもらいます」

“Shaken” by Jhasmin De Castro

Read the original Tagalog version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.


by Jhasmin De Castro
translated by Joar Guitierrez

“Doctor, will my daughter be okay?” asked the woman, the worry in her voice obvious.

“Yes, Mrs. Mendoza, she’ll be okay within in a week. We just need to observe her condition for now.” the doctor replied.

After checking the young woman’s condition, the doctor went out. The woman held her daughter’s hand and caressed it. “My daughter, I’m sorry,” the woman choked out through her tears. “Sorry if we neglected you. Your dad and I were always busy—that’s why we can’t care for you. Sorry, my daughter, if you ever felt that you were unloved and alone.”

In a little while, Vlaire woke up and saw her mother crying while holding her hand. For a moment, she just looked at her mother and wondered why she was crying—until Vlaire remembered what she had done.

Blank. That was all she felt when she did it. She didn’t feel anything. She didn’t feel even the slightest pain. She was thinking: why did her life end this way?
Why, instead of feeling happy that her mother is by her side, can’t she feel anything now? Is this how it is when you are used to being sick? To the point that…you just think to commit suicide or slash your own wrist just to feel something?

Every time she remembers that part, she feels like she’s waking up from a nightmare. She can remember all the painful memories: sadness and pain. Feeling like she lost the drive to live. When her parents started working so much and started having all their problems, she slowly changed. She slowly became melancholic and avoided her friends. But she kept all her problems to herself and never told anybody.

Depressed. That’s what she was feeling during those times. She grew sad, grew secretive and kept the pain tucked tight to herself. But was she right with her decision? To keep everything to herself—everything she was feeling even though it was hurting so much?

Vlaire thought of all these things while staring out into nothingness. After a while, her mother said she would go out of the room while the nurse brought in food. Vlaire was still staring into nothingness. She didn’t know what she would do. After the nurse set down the food, Vlaire could hear her mother asking the nurse questions outside the door.

The nurse came back and looked at the wounds in Vlaire’s wrists…while Vlaire remembered those nights.

Someone was knocking on her door. “
Ate…” Her sibling was calling to her.

Ate, please eat now…” Her sibling was saying, but she didn’t pay attention.
She was just crying that night while she slowly cutting herself. Nothing. She did not feel anything.

A little later, her friends came in to the hospital room and asked how she was doing. Even though she was not responding, her friends kept on telling her stories about what was happening in school. After a while, they all said goodbye.

That’s what her life was like for a week. Eat, sleep, be visited and asked how she’s been doing—by her friends or sometimes by her younger siblings with her mama and papa.

As soon as she looked okay, the doctors discharged her and sent her back home. One doctor advised her to consult a psychiatrist to help her with her condition. As soon as they arrived home, she went straight to her room to be by herself and locked herself in. She silently lay down while staring at the ceiling: she didn’t know what to do and so she started crying again. She couldn’t tell if she’d been happy when her friends visited her, because all she knew was that right now she was so sad and felt so lost.

A little later, she heard someone knock on her door. She wiped her tears away and opened it.

“The missionaries are downstairs and are asking how you are doing,” her mother said.

“Okay, I’ll come down. Just give me a minute,” she said and went to the bathroom to wash her face and comb her hair.

Eventually, she went down and asked how the missionaries were doing. That afternoon, they had family home evening and had dinner together with the missionaries.

“So, Sister, are you already okay?” asked Sister Casas. Vlaire nodded her head in reply.

“Sister, just pray and do not lose hope,” Sister Casas’ companion, Sister Mac, said. “A lot of people love you.”

Vlaire just smiled even though she knew her smile was fake.

After the dinner with the missionaries was over, the missionaries said goodbye.

“Okay sisters, take care!’ said Vlaire’s sister Xiara as she waved.

“Take care,” Vlaire’s father said while shaking hands. “Thank you for visiting us.”

Before the missionaries left, Sister Mac handed her a letter. Vlaire wondered what it was, but the missionary sister just smiled at her and walked away with her companion. When the missionaries left, she went up to her room and read Sister Mac’s letter.

Dear Sister Vlaire,

I know you are suffering and feel like you are alone. I know how you feel because I’ve experienced that as well…I used to be bullied in my school and I was a loner: I didn’t have friends and my classmates didn’t like me either. Every lunch time, I sat in the corner and ate by myself. Until one day…I gave up, and I tried to kill myself.

I was so depressed then—but with the help of the missionaries and my family, I was able to endure this trial. But only because of their help and because of one missionary who took time for me and told me to pray—and do you know what finally happened? I felt happy and at peace. I was amazed and that time my testimony grew because of that experience.

Sister Vlaire, I know that you are not alone and that Heavenly Father is there to ease your burdens. Keep praying and have faith.


Sister Mac

That time, Vlaire prayed and at last, she felt happiness and peace. Even though she felt shaken with her testimony before, she was glad to know that she wasn’t alone, and that Heavenly Father is always there for her.

Now that she’s going to serve her mission, she is happy that she didn’t lose her testimony and she is happy to serve God.

“Shaken” Jhasmin De Castro

Read the English translation here.


Jhasmin De Castro

“Doc, magiging okey lang ba ang anak ko?” tanong nung babae na kita ang pag-alala sa kanyang pagsasalita.

“Yes Mrs. Mendoza she’ll be okey within a week. Kailangan lang muna namin bantayan ang kanyang kondisyon sa ngayon.” sabi nung doctor.
Pagkatapos tingnan ng doctor ang kondisyon nung dalaga ay lumabas na ito. Hinawakan ng babae ang kamay ng kanyang anak at hinimas ito.
“Sorry anak…” sabi nung babae habang umiiyak.
“Sorry kung napabayaan namin kayo. Busy kasi kami ng papa mo lagi kaya ‘di namin kayo maasikaso. Sorry anak if you ever felt that you are not loved and alone.”
Maya-maya ay nagising si Vlaire at nakita ang kanyang ina na umiiyak habang hawak ang kanyang kamay. Nakatingin lamang siya dito at nagtataka kung bakit ito umiiyak nang maalala niya yung ginawa niya.
Blangko. Iyan yung naramdaman niya noong ginawa niya iyon. Wala siyang maramdaman. Kahit na katiting na sakit ay hindi niya maramdaman. Iniisip niya, kung bakit ganito ang naging hantungan ng buhay niya? Bakit imbis na maging masaya siya na nasa tabi niya ang kanyang ina ay wala siyang maramdaman? Ganito ba talaga kapag sanay ka na sa sakit? To the point na…iisipin mo nalang magpakamatay o kaya maglaslas para lang may maramdaman?
Sa tuwing maaalala niya iyon ay para siyang gumigising sa isang bangungot. Lahat ng masasakit na alaala, lungkot at sakit ay natatandaan niya. Para siyang nawalan ng gana sa buhay. Simula ng magtrabaho ang magulang niya at nagkaroon ng maraming problema ay unti-unti na siyang nagbago. Unti-unti siyang naging malungkot at umiwas sa kanyang mga kaibigan. Lahat ng problema niya ay kinimkim niya at hindi sinabi sa iba.
Depressed. Iyan yung naramdaman niya noong mga panahon na iyon. Malungkot siya, naging malihim, at kinimkim niya lahat ng sakit. Pero tama nga ba ang ginawa niyang desisyon? Na kinimkim ang lahat ng nararamdaman niya kahit masakit na ito ng sobra?
Habang nakatitig sa kawalan ay inisip niya ang lahat ng iyan. Maya-maya ay nagpaalam na lalabas ng kwarto ang kanyang ina at pumasok ang nurse dala ang pagkain niya. Nakatitig pa rin siya sa kawalan at hindi alam kung ano ang kanyang gagawin. Pagkatapos mailapag ng nurse ang pagkain niya ay tinanong ito ng ilang mga tanong at saka lumabas ng kwarto.
Umupo siya at tiningnan ang mga sugat sa pulsuhan niya…habang inaalala ang mga gabing iyon.

“Ate…” tawag sa kanya ng kapatid niya habang kumakatok.

“Ate kain na…”
 tawag sa kanya ng kapatid niya pero ‘di niya ito pinansin.

Umiiyak lang siya nung gabi na iyon habang unti-unti niyang sinusugatan ang kanyang sarili. Wala. Wala siyang maramdaman.
Maya-maya ay pumasok ang mga kaibigan niya at kinamusta siya. Kahit na ‘di siya sumasagot ay kinuwentuhan pa rin siya ng mga kaibigan niya ng mga nangyari sa school at maya-maya ay nagpaalam na aalis na sila. Ganun parati ang naging pamumuhay niya sa loob ng isang linggo. Kakain, matutulog, dadalawin at kakamustahin ng mga kaibigan niya, minsan mga kapatid niya na nakababata kasama ang mama at papa niya.
Nung okey na siya ay agad naman siyang pinalabas sa ospital at pinauwi na ng kanyang doctor. Pinayuhan rin siya ng doctor niya na magpa-psychiatry para matulungan siya sa kalagayan niya. Nang makarating na sila sa bahay nila ay agad siyang pumunta sa kwarto niya at nagkulong. Tahimik lang siyang nakahiga doon at nakatingin sa kisame, ‘di alam kung ano ang gagawin kaya naiyak na naman siya. Hindi niya alam kung masaya siya dahil dinalaw siya ng mga kaibigan niya, kasi ang alam niya lang…ay malungkot siya ngayon at pakiramdam niya ay parang nawawala siya.
Maya-maya ay narinig niyang may kumatok sa kwarto niya at agad niya namang pinunasan ang luha niya at binuksan ang pinto.
“Nasa baba ang missionaries ngayon at kinakamusta ka.” sabi ng mama niya.
“Sige po susunod po ako, mag-aayos lang po.” sabi niya at pumunta sa cr para maghilamos at magsuklay.
Maya-maya lang ay bumaba na rin siya at kinamusta siya ng mga missionaries. Nung hapon na iyon ay nagkaroon sila ng family home evening at nagdinner kasama ang missionaries.
“So sister, okey na daw po ba kayo?” tanong ni sister Casas at tumango naman si Vlaire bilang pagtugon.
“Sister, magpray lang po kayo at ‘wag kayo mawawalan ng pag-asa, madami pong nagmamahal sa inyo.” sabi nung companion ni sister Casas. Ngumiti lang si Vlaire kahit na alam niyang peke lang iyon.
Nung matapos magdinner kasama ang mga missionaries ay inihatid nila ito at nagpaalam.
“Sige po ingat po kayo sisters!” sabi ng kapatid ni Vlaire na si Xiara habang kumakaway dito.
“Ingat po kayo salamat ulit sa pagbisita sa amin.” sabi ng papa ni Vlaire habang nakikipag-shake hands dito.
Bago umalis ng tuluyan ang mga missionaries ay may inabot na letter si sister Mac kay Vlaire. Nagtaka naman si Vlaire ngunit nginitian niya lang ito at naglakad na kasama ang companion niya. Nung makaalis na ang mga missionaries ay umakyat naman siya sa kwarto niya at binasa ang letter ni sister Mac.

Dear sister Vlaire,

Alam ko na nahihirapan ka ngayon at nararamdaman mong parang mag-isa ka lang ngayon. Alam ko yung nararamdaman mo dahil naranasan ko rin iyan. I used to be bullied in my school before and I was a loner, I don’t have friends and my classmates don’t like me either. Kaya kapag lunch namin noon, parati akong mag-isa kumain at lagi akong nasa isang sulok. Hanggang sa nung isang araw, I gave up and I tried to kill myself. I was depressed before but with the help of the missionaries and my family, I was able to endure this trial. Pero hindi lang dahil doon, kundi dahil sa sinabi rin sa akin ng isang missionary noon na magpray lang ako at humingi ng tulong sa Diyos. That time I prayed, even though I can’t feel anything, I still prayed and do you know what happened? I felt happy and at peace. I was amaze and that time my testimony grew because of that experience. Sister Vlaire, alam ko na hindi ka mag-isa at nandiyan parati si Heavenly Father para i-ease yung burdens mo. Just pray and have faith.


Sister Mac

That time ay nagpray si Vlaire at sa wakas ay nakaramdam siya ng happiness at peace. Even though she felt shaken with her testimony before, she was glad to know that she is not alone and that Heavenly Father is always there for her.Ngayon na magse-serve na siya sa mission ay masaya siya dahil hindi nawala ang testimony niya at masaya siyang maglilingkod sa Diyos.

“The Journey” and “Lucifer’s Monologue” by Aivar Lembit

Read the original Estonian version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

“The Journey”

written by Aivar Lembit
translated by James Goldberg

We are on a journey.
We are pure:
flowing waters
cannot remain

In a blue jug,
wounded feelings settle
like poison on our table:
let’s go
before we fill up,
let’s escape
the lull of the everyday.

We are real.
We are free:
blacksmiths forging
our own destiny.

We are strong.
We are alone:
on a path
pressed between
the steps of the soul.

On a wonderful expedition
into the eternal everyday:
toward the western sunset
and a Kingdom worn ragged
by our rhymes.

“Lucifer’s Monologue”

written by Aivar Lembit
translated by James Goldberg

This morning, Joy packed
her bag, pulled on some
frayed, faded, fashionable
jeans. She laughed
and waved—
then along came Sorrow,
who watched me reproachfully,
and sneaked in a few tears
that felt like a horse’s bit in
my mouth.

At night, I heard someone
fumbling at the door.
There were no thieves there,
just Joy, returned from a
worldwide journey
with wide eyes.
Sorrow saw it;
I let them in and locked the door.
We were three:
I fed them with the blades
found in the depths of my soul,
dropped into their hearts
the germs of envy.

Joy put Sorrow into song,
Sorrow put Joy back in the picture.

No one touched me
I was just a soul,
Accuser in court,
reporting before the Father.

I wrote down their every mistake,
liberating them from their
angel-souls with shining,
virtuous bodies.
I taught them
the world’s wisdom:
hard-working obedience,
obedient hard work,
and they praised me.

We became more and more alike:
Joy became Sorrow and Sorrow, Joy.
Life became beautiful.
Order was happiness
and it was everywhere:
order in the house,
order in the sauna.
Your own river
and your own mountain…

what else could you want?
Life always up and down,
like a roller coaster?
Heights and depths
like in American mountains?

“Läheme Rändama” ja “Lutsiferi Monoloog,” Aivar Lembit

Read the English translation here.

“Läheme Rändama”

Aivar Lembit

läheme rändama
oleme puhtad
voolav vesi ei saa
jääda saastunuks
sinisesse kannu
settivad haavatud tunded
mürk meie toidulaual
laseme jalga
enne kui täitub
laseme jalga
igavast igapäevast
oleme tõelised
oleme vabad
sepad iseenda saatusele
oleme tugevad
oleme üksi
iseenda juures
seespool piiri
hingetreppide vahele
surutud teerajal
imelisel avastusretkel
igavesse igapäeva
õhtumaa öös
riimidest räsitud kuningriiki

“Lutsiferi Monoloog”

Aivar Lembit

hommikul pakkis rõõm oma koti
tõmbas jalga luitunud teksad
moodsad ja kärisenud
naeris ja lehvitas
tuli kurbus
vaatas mind etteheitvalt
poetas paar pisarat
suu ümber hobuserauda
meenutav võre
vastu ööd kuulsin kedagi
ukse kallal kobistamas
ei olnud vargad
oli rõõm
kes oma maailmarännakult
tagasi saabus
suurte silmadega
tunnistas teda kurbus
lukustasin uksed
olime kolmekesti
söötsin neid oma pahelise hinge
soppidest leitud teradega
tilgutasin nende südametesse
kadeduse idusid
rõõm pani kurbuse laulu sisse
kurbus pani rõõmu pildi peale
mind ei puudutanud keegi
olin ju ainult hing
hõljuma pandud
süüdistaja kohtus
ettekandja isa ees
iga eksimuse kirjutasin üles
vabastasin nad nende inglihingedest
valgetest ja vooruslikest kehadest
õpetasin neile
maailma tarkusi
töökat kuulekust
kuulekat töökust
nemad kiitsid mind
muutusime kõik üha sarnasemaks
rõõmust sai kurbus ja kurbusest sai rõõm
elu muutus ilusaks
kord oli nüüd õnn ja seda oli kõikjal
kord majas
kord saunas
oma jõgi ja oma mägi
mida veel tahta
ikka üles ja alla
elu nagu ameerika mägedes

“Victor” by David Hurtado

To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.


written by David Hurtado

I prefer to believe that when my dad died he had seen an angel beckoning him home.  I prefer to think that as his spirit rose to leave, his stubborn body also arose from where he slept and tried to follow.  I imagine the ligaments connecting spirit and body stretched tight and then snapped like an old rubber band, his body crumpling to the hard floor, the institutional carpet marking his face and bruising his head.

I prefer to believe that as his soul shed its skin and bone, he rejoiced.  That the veil strained him apart like a sieve, allowing only the most heavenly parts to pass. That he stood, nobly, to heed the call home.

I prefer this image to the nagging thought that he just needed to pee and that being stubborn from birth he didn’t call a nurse for help.  (I had seen him do it the day before, attempting to stand on his own and pee into a urinal.  I’d had to hold him up, my arms under his arms, his hands trembling, his breathing shallow and fast.)  It’s entirely possible that this was the scenario.  That his congested heart simply couldn’t take the strain of standing to pee, so he collapsed and expired, apologetic and alone.


My dad was a sucker for the American dream. One time in Lima, I must have been about nine, he came home with a whole case of soap in his arms, from an American company. He was going to sell it on the side, and recruit others to do the same. He said we’d be better off and he wouldn’t have to work so hard anymore. He said his friend Manuel from the Mormon church was already making lots of money this way.

Mom was furious. But she calmly stubbed out her cigarette, sauntered over to Dad, and slapped him square in the face like a Peruvian Joan Crawford.  “Que ya te dije, Víctor. I warned you” she said, her lip curled, her eyes challenging. We all flinched, anticipating retribution. Dad’s eyes burned down at her and for a moment his fists clenched at his sides. But then, a calm spread over his face and down his shoulders. He simply said, “Ya veras. You’ll see”, and went back to the car for the other five boxes of soap.

This new church was strange, but Dad was a little different now. He still lost his temper from time to time, but he was clearly trying to kick the habit. For another thing, he quit smoking, a change he was more successful with. I think that Mom smoked more often around him, just to spite him. But he never smoked another cigarette.

He was the first to be baptized in our family. I didn’t really get it but I was there watching with my sisters. We made faces and exchanged carcajadas when the tall American missionary pushed Dad under the water.

In a few months the rest of us were baptized, even Mom, though I recall her lighting up on the drive home after the service. Those Elders really had something to write home about that week: five kids and their mother all dunked. I was last. The Elders had explained to us that baptism washed all our sins away, so I was surprised the water still looked clean when it was my turn.

Mom and Dad argued less violently, but more frequently. It seemed that almost anything could trigger a fight. Maybe that’s why Dad spent so much time helping the missionaries, or maybe it was the time he spent with them that made Mom so angry. Chicken or egg, I guess. In any case, he spent more and more time with church duties, driving the missionaries around, shuttling their investigators to and from church, and staying late after church on Sundays to help the leaders with paperwork.

It all came to a head the day Dad lost his job. Mom went into the bedroom and locked the door. Dad loaded my sisters and I into the car and took us to visit our Grandma and Aunt. My sisters ran in, excited to play. Dad and I went across the street to the Olivar and kicked a ball around. We pretended that the olive trees were defenders we had to pass, dribble and weave around to reach the goal. Some of those trees were over 300 years old, their misshapen trunks like giant cathedral candles still burning, and coated with centuries of dripped wax.

After playing for a while, Dad knelt and embraced me. “Carlitos”, he said, “I’m going to the United States. Elder Johnson’s parents have a job for me on their farm.”

I hugged him and cried, “No te vayas Papi! Don’t go!” He looked at me for a long time with tears in his eyes. He kissed me on the cheeks and forehead and hugged me more tightly.

“Be brave”, he whispered. “I will work very hard and come back for you as soon as possible.”

Dad stayed with his mother and sister in the house by the Olivar until the day he left. I stood on the airport observation deck with my sisters. We all waved as he walked resolutely across the tarmac and up the stairs to the plane. Just before entering, he turned and waved at us with both arms held high above his head.


Mom found a job sewing where her mother worked. We moved in with her parents. Her alcoholic father supervised my sisters and me. I learned to stay out of the house and out of sight as much as possible.  Whichever sibling was first home from school got the worst of it. But for my sisters, staying out late could be just as scary.  He treated all of us like his personal property, like Solomon’s concubines.

My friends and I used to get into all kinds of trouble.  We played a game with the discarded lids of tin cans.  We cut them around the edges like a circular saw blade, and put two holes in the center like a button.  Then we’d run a string through both holes in a big loop.  By twisting it up  and pulling on the loops from both sides, the metal blade would spin and we would challenge each other to duels, trying to cut each others strings.  This often devolved into trying to cut each other, or stray dogs, or smaller kids.

It took four years for Dad to save enough money to send for us. But he finally arranged for my sisters and I to join him in Utah. I didn’t understand, until Mom didn’t board the plane, that she wasn’t coming.

We were 5 unaccompanied minors from the slums of Lince.  We had no luggage, and even if we had, there was nothing worth putting in it.  After my dad left, the lights went out for me.  My childhood disintegrated, my innocence was terminated. Yet here I was on a plane, with stewardesses making sure I had water to drink and food to eat.  It remains my life’s most surreal experience; to fly, to land safely in Los Angeles, and there to be introduced to my Dad’s new wife, who I had no idea existed.

They took us to Disneyland.  I don’t know which was more impressive, the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Tom Sawyers Island, or the sight of people throwing away food; but that jarring juxtaposition, that suspension of disbelief that frays only at the edges, was our introduction to the United States.  From there we drove to our new home in Salt Lake City, leaving behind the Lima-like climate of Southern California, traversing deserts, vast open spaces, the perplexing anomaly of Las Vegas, and finally the snow-capped peaks of our new home.


Our stepmother was an English teacher.  She also spoke Spanish, having been a missionary in Argentina.  This came in handy, no doubt, as we acclimated to our new surroundings.  The next few years were a blur as my sisters and I learned to speak English and to present ourselves and our cultural background to our homogenous peers in a way that capitalized on the novelty and minimized the differences.

By the time I was a junior at Highland High School I had figured out where I fit in. I tried to emulate The Fonz among my peers, and Richie Cunningham in the presence of adults. I had an auto class and got the idea I could make my stepmom’s old Barracuda into a street racer. She got on my case for “tracking grease into the house,” but she let me mess with her car because she thought I was just giving it a tune-up. I told her it would help my grade.  It sounded pretty sweet with the headers and glasspacks I installed, but I wrapped it around a phone pole the next day.

Dad still struggled with his temper. He could sometimes lose it over late dinner or other minor infractions. But he usually kept his composure in major crises. Still, I wasn’t sure how he’d respond to the news that I had totaled his wife’s car.

He arrived from his first job each day with just enough time to eat dinner and put on his uniform for his evening job at the gas station. I stood and told him about the car as he was getting up from the table. Dad was furious, but he just stood and glared at me for a moment, then went to change.  My stepmom was frozen in her seat, her head bowed, her whole body shrinking.  “That went better than I expected” she said under her breath.

I awoke at about 1AM and found Dad seated at the kitchen table with two cups of hot cocoa and buttered toast . He motioned for me to join him. For a moment we sat in silence.

“I’m glad you weren’t hurt, Son,”

I poured out apologies. “I’m so sorry Dad. I’m sorry I messed up. I don’t know why I keep doing such stupid things. Why can’t I just be good? . . .”

It was one of those moments when you surprise even yourself with your grief. So much emotional baggage all suddenly unpacked itself, raw and incomprehensible.  He hugged me the way he had in the Olivar.  When I finally calmed down, he held my face in his incongruently soft, powerful hands and looked directly into my eyes.

“Son,” he said, “you are a child of God.”

“But so is everyone.” I replied.

“Son, YOU are a child of God. He doesn’t make mistakes. And in the same way an apple tree doesn’t grow peaches, you are the fruit of God’s tree. You are His child. All of eternity is for you to grow up to be like Him.”


Last weekend I sobbed the same way I did that night, as I brushed leaves and grass clippings from Dad’s headstone in a little cemetery just off of 45th South. I had gone to the temple that morning. By the third day I had fallen blissfully asleep, the same way my dad did the day he escorted me through my first endowment more than 30 years ago. I never thought I’d become so inured to that holy place.  But it isn’t born of disrespect. It’s just an awkward mixture of the miraculous and the mundane.

Either way, I woke up for the important parts, and I stood up when I was supposed to. I stood the way I’d prefer to believe that my dad did; that upon hearing a chorus of angels and ancestors he awoke and stood to join them. I’d prefer to think that he felt peace, like a long slow exhale, like water rippling on sand, like God himself had accepted all of his apologies once and for all and led him away by the hand.

That’s what I want to believe.

That’s my preference.