It started years ago, probably when the boys were young. I’m convinced that in the fresh-faced newlywed days we sat up in the front, chins tilted up, drinking it all in. But, it wasn’t long before the back was just a better place to make a quick escape when someone screamed, or the infant needed a diaper change, or the two-year-old just kept saying “Amen” loudly over and over half-way through the meeting in hopes that the speaker would wrap it up and we could go home.
And soon it stuck. Like Thoreau before Walden Pond. “How deep the ruts of tradition and conformity” when it comes to sacrament meeting seating, right? Continue reading “The Back Row” by Kelli Swofford Nielsen
FCC Transcript #127621-A
April 6, 2020 GMT 1300 ff
National Network Anchor: … and again, for those just tuning in, two hours ago Earth was contacted by what scientists have confirmed is an alien spacecraft. We go now to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and Dr. Hans Kepplemann, director of SETI Worldwide. Tell us, Dr. Kepplemann, have you personally spoken to the aliens? Continue reading “Golden Contact” by Lee Allred
Over spelling homework one day, my ten-year-old announced that she didn’t want to go to Hogwarts.
I remembered the lightning bolts and broomsticks doodled in her third-grade notebook margins for a year after I let her read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She had asked for a scarf in Hufflepuff colors for Christmas that year. One day, she came home crying because her best friend had pointed a backyard stick at her and screamed Crucio. All was forgiven a day later when her friend found Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans at a bookstore and shared her loot.
So when my future Quidditch player declared her intention to turn down any owl post, I was flummoxed. I couldn’t quickly tell her that Hogwarts wasn’t real because she’d been pretty okay with Santa being imaginary, but I think it would have killed her to find out that she’d never have tea with Hagrid. Continue reading “Branch 9 ¾” by Kaki Olsen
I have a gift of tongues. Unfortunately, it’s useless to me on my mission. I throw the Spanish flashcards down on the bed in our small Chilean apartment. “I’m never going to get this. Why does Spanish have to be so hard?”
My trainer, Sister Helm, puts her hand on my shoulder. “Why don’t we take a break? Would you like me to get you something to drink?”
“Sure.” I rub my forehead. A break sounds really good.
She smiles at me sympathetically, then silently leaves the room.
I flop back on the bed. Through the open window, a bird trills, its calls sounding like perfect English in my ears. “This is my tree, and I will boldly defend it from whoever wishes to challenge me.”
I glare out the window. I’ve been able to understand animals my whole life. Continue reading “The Gift of Tongues“ by Annaliese Lemmon
The bags were packed; they stood in a neat row across the entire front wall of the living room; weighed, tagged, ready to march. She’d been up until two filling them. The house had been a bustle at first, with friends bringing food and scraping hard water off bathroom faucets and staring while she tore everything out of that last suitcase to find a new way to make everything fit.
“Don’t you have pillows in America?” asked her visiting teacher as she lay breathless across that last bag and forced it to zip. Continue reading “Requiem for Those People Who Lived Briefly in Your Ward” by Rose Green
On black nights fat with dreams,
I wake in lucid spaces,
listen to the house crack and settle
while midnight traffic moans outside
like vagrant wraiths rushing
from past to future.
I used to walk with you
wrapped in my arms,
wailing bundle of promises.
Now I creak past your door
as you sleep wrapped
in solitary visions. Continue reading “Ghost” by Merrijane Rice
couldn’t have been easy. Walking away from
tangible gods, elaborate bodies. No more
wooing the throne or imposing your thirst
on the Nile’s fertility. Just wind and wilderness
between desire and your next meal. Just
the breath of your mother’s God calling
from the reeds. Now from the shepherd’s well.
Now from the backside of Sinai’s emptiness. Continue reading “Leaving Egypt” by Tyler Chadwick
My first thought upon waking each morning has been the same: Trek did nothing to prepare me for this.
I groggily open my eyes to the clear morning sky, my sister stirring next to me and my little brother burrowing into his sleeping bag. The sounds of the awakening wagon train fill my ears. The familiar anxiety settles on me, an unwelcome guest.
My dad is already up, packing the handcart. “It’s going to be a scorcher today,” he says. “We’ve got to get a move on while it’s still fairly cool.”
We dress quickly and eat a few bites, and then start moving east with the rest of the wagon train. I hate the first hours of each day, before the solar power-assist wagon wheels charge enough to provide some of the handcart’s propulsion. It has been two weeks since we set out from Salt Lake City, marching past burnt-out towns and razed fields. No pioneer stories or parades could have prepared any of us for this.
But how could they? That was all long ago, before the wars broke out, before the pandemic swept across North America, before the earthquakes ricocheted across the Wasatch Front. Before the First Presidency letter circulated from house to house, with instructions on creating lightweight handcarts and heading as wards toward Missouri.
My sister starts singing, her braids bouncing on her shoulders. “Pioneer children sang as they walked…and walked…and walked…”
My brother joins in for the final repetition: “AND walked…”
I do not sing, but set my jaw as we struggle up an incline, rocks sliding under my feet. Abigail is thirteen, still a sweet and excited Beehive. Parley is only nine. How can they be so trusting? I think. How can we even know there will be anything there? My ankle twists painfully on a rock and I stifle an agitated sigh. My dad gives me a tired smile. He has looked tired for a very long time. Continue reading “Fresh Courage Take” by Bradeigh Godfrey
I am both virgins—foolish and wise
No sooner to take one glorious step
Than slip and spill.
How can I be
Both faithless and believing in alternating breaths
Knowing what I know?
Perfection is not required at this stage
Might let me see the wedding feast.
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We have twelve stellar pieces this year–short stories, essays, and poems. Some will inspire you. Some will challenge you and your notions of Mormon literature. Some will give you insights even as they make you laugh.
In the comments to this post, we want to hear your thoughts and your reactions on the pieces. What struck you? What was interesting or original about a piece? What is the dialogue between the pieces? We invite everyone to chime in, including the authors.
And here are the pieces: