2017 Mormon Lit Blitz Winners

A huge thank you to all the finalists and to all our readers this year. The new work that’s produced for each contest and the audience that gets to experience it is the thing that has made six years of Lit Blitzing worthwhile.

Votes are in and this year’s winners are:

4) “Pride” by Hillary Stirling

3) “On the Death of a Child” by Merrijane Rice

2) “Celestial Accounting” by Kathy Cowley


1) “Forty Years” by Jeanna Mason Stay


We hope you’ll join us for next year’s Lit Blitz.

2017 Mormon Lit Blitz Voting Instructions

We have enjoyed all twelve finalists. But we only have one Grand Prize. Help us decide which piece wins this year’s Lit Blitz by emailing a ranking of your four favorite pieces to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com.

Voting is open from Monday, June 12th until the end of the day on Saturday, June 17th. The winner of the $100 Grand Prize will be announced on Monday, June 19th.

The twelve finalists are:

29 May: “Celestial Accounting” by Katherine Cowley
30 May: “Sonata in Three Movements” by Jeanine Bee
31 May: “Germination” by Sarah Dunster
1 June: “Pride” by Hillary Stirling
2 June: “Spurious Revelations” by Niklas Hietala
3 June: “On the Death of a Child” by Merrijane Rice

5 June: “Worthy World” Tanya Hanamaikai
6 June: “There Wrestled a Man in Parowan” by Wm Morris
7 June: “Valley 176th Ward” by Eliza Porter
8 June: “Walking Among the Legend People” by Marianne Hales Harding
9 June: “Daughters of Ishmael” by Annaliese Lemmon
10 June: “Forty Years” by Jeanna Mason Stay

Again: in order to be counted, votes must contain a ranking of the reader’s four favorite pieces and must be emailed to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com by the end of the day Saturday, June 6th. Voters should have at least skimmed all twelve pieces. We also welcome comments and feedback on the contest in vote emails.

For those who are interested, a public discussion of the pieces is taking place on the Mormon Midrashim blog. We’d love to have you share your thoughts on the contest there.

“Forty Years” by Jeanna Mason Stay

The day before my mother died, I’d planned to call her, ask how she was doing, catch up in awkward, stilted conversation. But the day passed; I was busy. Would she even notice or care? Maybe it would serve her right if I didn’t call. Maybe I’d call her tomorrow.

By the time I decided to do it, it was too late.


Six months later, I met the man I wanted to marry. We would grow old together, I thought; I could see it in the way he looked at me when he left me on my doorstep. I went inside and reached for the phone to call her, then remembered. But I could hear the conversation in my head anyway. Too young, she would have said, and she’d tell me about her old loves and how they didn’t last, and my joy would have been lost, swallowed up in her.

So I took a breath and shook her out of my head. Yes, too young, I whispered in my mind, but too bad. You don’t get a say.


Just a few months before my mother died, she missed my high school graduation. She’d missed my final recital too, and the academic awards ceremony, and the fancy parent dinner. I didn’t expect her, I told myself, and I didn’t care—but I scanned the crowds just in case.


Nearly a year after I met him, we married. A year after that, the baby. I held that child in my arms and panic flooded through me. What was I doing? I looked to my husband then back to the baby. How could I be a mother when I’d never really had one? How could I give my own child this legacy?

Was this how my mother felt? Did this terror fill her heart as she looked down at me? Was I destined to fail my own daughter as my mother failed me?

And then she squirmed and cried out. I took her hand in mine, and her tiny fingers wrapped around mine.

It was going to be okay.


She learned to sit up, then to crawl. She took her first step exactly three years after my mother died.

Another year passed, then two, then three. Her first words, her first day of school, her first crush, her everyday in-and-out. I made her cry, sometimes, this inexplicable and mysterious child who bore within her my soul’s DNA—and my mother’s, try though I might to forget it. She made me cry too. We laughed, we fought, we made up.

We grew up.

I floundered and failed so many times.

But I kept coming back to try again.


Eighteen years before my mother died, I was born. Who was she before then? I couldn’t know.

Thirteen years before she died, I heard the adults talking about her in the other room. I wasn’t meant to hear it, and neither was she—they never once said it when we were around. I had sneaked into the room to eavesdrop on conversation that was far more interesting than dolls or blocks. “She never was the same,” they said, “not after she had that baby. Something broke in her. Maybe she just wasn’t meant to be a mother.”

It was another year before I realized “that baby” was me.

Three years after that, we sat together on the floor as I practiced for a spelling bee. She quizzed me, word by word, as I prepared. She had such patience correcting my mistakes. I felt her absolute confidence in me wash over and surround me. I could do it.

Years later, I held this memory close and careful, like a dandelion stem whose seeds might blow away in the wind of time. She wasn’t always gone, I reminded myself. Not always.


“I met someone,” my daughter said, twenty-one years after my mother died, and I could hear from her voice that this man was different from the others she’d dated. My heart stuttered. Too soon, I thought. Far too soon.

I swallowed down my fears and smiled widely. “Tell me about him.”


Twenty-three years after my mother died, my daughter called and begged me to come.

I came.

“I can’t do this,” she whispered, gazing down at the new baby in her arms. “She needs me too much. I’m so lost.” Then she looked up at me, eyes wide and worried and wet. “I’m gonna ruin everything.”

I wrapped my arms around her, enfolding both her and my beautiful grandchild in my arms. “You won’t,” I promised her.

“Tell me what to do,” she pleaded.

I looked into eyes so like my mother’s. “You’ll fail,” I told her. “Lots. You won’t be perfect. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll wonder what’s the point of it all. But you’ll also have days that feel perfect, where you know this was the job you were meant for. Hold on to those ones for the darker days.”

She laughed through her tears. “That wasn’t much of a pep talk, you know.”

I nodded. “I know. But it’s the best one I’ve got.”


The day after my mother died was the day I began to realize I needed her more than I’d thought. It was the day I realized that despite it all, all the ways she hadn’t been there for me, I still loved her. And she had tried to love me. For good or bad, I would carry her with me wherever I went.

Sometimes I think we are all just wandering in the wilderness.

“Daughters of Ishmael” by Annaliese Lemmon

Mahalath smiled as she watched each of her sisters by the fire. Whatever the feud between Laman and Nephi, worsened with the death of Lehi, at least the daughters of Ishmael could still enjoy time together. Huldah was showing the dyes she had created from the plants and bugs she had discovered. Jerusha appraised the cloth while Elisheba examined the sample plants.

But little Adah (all right, she wasn’t so little anymore) wasn’t participating in any of it. She played with her infant, head down, not looking at anybody. Mahalath scooted closer to her. “Is something wrong?”

Adah looked up, eyes blinking rapidly. “I’m fine.”

Mahalath pursed her lips. Adah always blinked when she was upset. “Come on, you can tell me. What’s going on?”

Adah shook her head. “It’s nothing.” But as she spoke, a tear started to trickle down her cheek.

Huldah fell quiet. Elisheba crawled over to Adah’s other side. “Adah, it’s all right.”

“It’s not all right!” Adah buried her face in her infant’s body. “We’re never going to get to do this again!”

Elisheba rubbed Adah’s back. “I know it seems that way, but we convinced our stiffnecked husbands to let us get together tonight. We can do it again.”

Adah only sobbed in response.

Mahalath placed one hand on Adah’s knee and glanced at Huldah and Jerusha. Why weren’t they saying anything? Jerusha just folded Huldah’s cloth together while Huldah rubbed her fist against her mouth. Were they keeping something from them? There was no reason for the five of them couldn’t get together, unless… “Is Nephi making you leave home, again?”

Adah looked up at Mahalath, eyes wide. So, Mahalath had guessed right. They’d already left Jerusalem and Bountiful. Would Nephi never find a place to settle?

Jerusha glared at Mahalath. “Do you really think he’ll be safe if he stays?”

Mahalath shrank under her oldest sister’s gaze. True, she had already warned Jerusha twice that Laman seemed angry enough to carry out his threat to kill Nephi. Then while Jerusha had run to tell Nephi, Mahalath had hidden at Jerusha’s house in the hope that Laman wouldn’t discover that his wife had been the reason he couldn’t find Nephi. As overbearing as Nephi could be, Adah didn’t deserve to be a widow.

“So, when do you leave?” Elisheba’s voice was little more than a whisper.

Jerusha and Huldah exchanged glances. “Tonight,” Jerusha said. “If you could, try to keep Laman and Lemuel from investigating our houses. The longer it takes for them to notice that we’re gone, the less likely they’ll be able to follow us.”

“We can do that,” Elisheba said. “Though you would think that you’ve had enough traveling in the wilderness. It won’t be the same without you.”

Mahalath stared at the fire. No, it wouldn’t. While Nephi was strict and overbearing, she had never feared him like she had her husband. Where was she going to go to escape from Laman’s wrath if her sisters left? “Take me with you.”

Though Mahalath’s voice was quiet, it drew everyone’s attention. “What about your children?” Huldah asked.

“Laman’s teaching them to beat your children, and shouts at me if I try to intervene.” Mahalath drew her knees up against her chest. “I’m so sick of it.”

Adah reached her arm around Mahalath. “Of course you can come. We’ll take care of you.”

“You’re going to leave me?” Elisheba said. “Alone?”

“You can come too.” Adah beamed through the tears still sticking to her face. “This must be why I felt like I needed to see you one last time.”

“I don’t know.” Elisheba bit her lip. “We finally have a place to call home. I can’t just leave my kids, my husband.” She looked to Mahalath.

“But you know the Lord speaks to Nephi,” Adah said. “How will you know what to do without him?”

Elisheba snarled. “Yes, how will I know what to do without Nephi criticizing us every single day?”

Mahalath held her hands out. “That’s enough.” She didn’t need reminding how frustrating Nephi could be. “Elisheba, just promise to cover for us as long as you can.”

Elisheba’s face fell. “All right.” She took a deep breath. “I’m going to miss you.”

Mahalath wiped tears from her eyes. “And we’ll miss you. Take care of my kids. Try to teach them to be kind.”

Elisheba nodded.

“Then I better go pack.” Mahalath stood, throat thick. This time tomorrow, she would be free of this feud. If only she didn’t have to trade one family for another.

“Walking Among the Legend People” by Marianne Hales Harding

In Bryce Canyon, nature’s flip book of erosion,
Hoodoos crowd the amphitheater
dripping sunset colors,
waxing and waning
(though truly always waning),
Piute Legend People
cycling through the life
of a temporary rock feature
(a scant 10,000 years).

The crowd of 7th graders pause
their quick march long enough to find
orange falcons and candy corn and chess sets crumbling
around tenacious, vanilla-scented pines
(true story—we checked).
Peering at ever-changing faces
through their own ever-changing faces.
Children waxing into adulthood
through the ruthless weathering
that no rock or child can escape.

But waning too.
Our scant 100 years more temporary
than the smallest column.
Our faces painted with our inevitable sunset.
Our Legend People a breathtaking
snapshot of one moment
in the unflinching cycle of life.

“Valley 176th Ward” by Eliza Porter

The scriptures were the motivation for a mighty change in the Valley 176th ward.  Brother Dalton wanted to protect the women and children.  He was very passionate about their safety and brought that up again and again as things were changing in the neighborhood.  As a real estate agent Brother Dalton couldn’t control everything, but he could make recommendations about home values online.  Little by little, the 4 block boundaries of the ward became more united, unified, and uniform.  There were families, yes.  There were some elderly, not so many as to become a burden on the ward.  A few married couples were able to get houses as less desirable landlords sold their property because a rash of complaints to the zoning commission.

Brother Dalton was always very friendly with prospective buyers.   Middle-class doctors and salt-of-the-earth programmers came to him with specific criteria for home and neighborhood.  If Brother Dalton felt them worthy, he might show them a listing–surprisingly under-priced–in his own area.   The anonymous ratings for the properties were, of course, very negative to discourage the general pool of buyers.

Yes, things had been changing for 10 years.  Brother Dalton was singing in the choir for Ward Conference.  He almost missed the announcement of a new Bishopric as he sent a text to a future ward member.  Bishop Jones had lost his job a few weeks ago and his family would be moving to Oklahoma.

Brother Dalton smiled as he pushed “send” on his text:

–And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

“There Wrestled a Man in Parowan” by Wm Morris

I was there the night Brigham “The Battling Bishop” Houston’s winning streak finally came to an end. It was the evening of Oct. 13, 1939. I had just been ordained a teacher the Sunday before. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in wrestling, but I had been to a match when visiting cousins in California, and so Brother Matheson decided that qualified me to sell programs in exchange for a ringside seat. Wrestling didn’t normally come to Parowan, but The Battling Bishop and his record win streak had gained such popularity in Mormon country that the promoter decided to hit the same circuit of small towns the circus made.

There was a big divide among the ward members between those who considered wrestling an acceptable entertainment and those who didn’t. It seemed strange to me that the same family that’d turn out for the circus would avoid a wrestling match, but I suppose we all have to draw the line somewhere. My parents were fine with it.

It wasn’t a sell out, but we mostly filled the rickety wooden stands under the big top, and I managed to unload all of my programs and get to my ringside seat for the undercard, which featured some hastily recruited local boys. The crowd quickly got into the spirit of things and were soon cheering and booing and throwing popcorn. I wasn’t much interested in the local boys. Even with my limited experience, I knew they were trying to get too cute and fancy with their moves.

The middleweight bout was much better. I don’t think the audience quite appreciated the speed at which Hindu Joe and Miklos Lukacs wrestled, but I was fascinated by the acrobatic way they hurled each other across the ring. Hindu Joe took the first two falls, but Lukacs fought back and won the match by scoring three falls in the final two rounds.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Everyone suddenly stood and applauded as Brother Houston entered the tent. He raised his arms high towards the big top as he strutted in and then stopped to allow a few of the sisters present to run their hands through his massive beard. He stepped under the ropes and made a circuit of the ring to show off his satin cape embroidered with a brace of crossed pistols set over a large beehive.

I’m not sure who started it (I think it may have been me), but before long the crowd was chanting “Bish-op! Bish-op! Bish-op!” Brother Houston ate up the attention. He bowed and flexed and pointed and danced a little jig. Every movement he made was met with cheers and whistles. This went on for a good ten minutes. Finally, the crowd settled down.

The promoter took to the ring–a worried look on his face–and announced. “I’m sorry to disappoint you fine ladies and gentlemen but our challenger for the evening hasn’t showed up.”

This was met with boos and hisses. The promoter quieted the crowd back down. Just as he was about to say something, a man stood up in the middle of the stands, and said, “Yes, he has.”

Now, all my friends say that this was just part of the showmanship. But I swear that when that man stood up I was looking right at the promoter (and remember I was there on the front row), and he was as surprised as the rest of us–genuinely surprised because there was a reluctance to his acceptance of the challenge that I don’t think was faked.

Well, the challenger entered the ring to much confusion on the part of the crowd. Partly because of the unexpected introduction, partly because he was an older man with shoulder-length white hair and a short white beard. But then he took off his shirt, and the crowd gasped. While not as tall or heavy as The Battling Bishop, the challenger was quite muscled. Not with the fake bulges you see nowadays. Nope. His muscles were well-defined and ropy, like a sailor or a cowboy.

The referee glanced at the promoter a couple of times, but he just shrugged, so the referee brought the two wrestlers together and started the match.

Now, I have seen some pretty good professional wrestling matches since then but none that can hold a candle to that one. Those two worked the ring with both power and grace, matching acrobatics with raw athleticism as they fluidly moved among a succession of flying kicks, a bevy of clotheslines, all manner of elbows, strikes and chops, and a multitude of drops.

They kept the match close, exchanging takedown for takedown. But in the final moments of the final round, the challenger simply picked the champion up, slammed him down, and pinned him to the mat. The referee glanced at the promoter, who shrugged. The referee counted out the pinfall, and just like that The Battling Bishop’s win streak came to an end.

The crowd murmured and grumbled as they left, but I was ecstatic. What a match! The Battling Bishop had been magnificent. But the challenger had been otherworldly. There was a joy and vitality to him–almost a glow–that I have never seen in any other person over the years. Not in the most accomplished professional athletes or the most charismatic actors or even any of the brethren, a few of whom I have been privileged to meet. You know, the first time I saw Arnold Friberg’s painting of the prophet Abinadi in King Noah’s court, I stopped dead in my tracks. Abinadi looked just like the old man who brought The Battling Bishop’s win streak to an end.

There’s more to the story, though. It was hard to hear what with all the crowd noise, but I’m quite certain that right after he got pinned, I heard Brother Houston’s raspy voice croak, “Thank you, brother. It’s good to see you again.”

“Worthy World” by Tanya Hanamaikai

What Earth! This masterpiece of creatures–
His medium: the breath of life.
See, by the talent of His hand,
falling leaf, falling water, or fallen man.

What Worth! This satisfaction of soul–
His word: That it was good.
Feel, by the strength of His arm,
breaking waves, breaking mountains or broken hearts.

Praise the Great and Terrible,
the Mighty and the Merciful,
the Maker of Worlds–
big and small.

Worship Him who Descended below them all.

“On the Death of a Child,” by Merrijane Rice

Being a mother also,
I know I can’t uproot
the pain planted in your chest,
or untangle your frayed thoughts.
I can’t sweep the darkness
from under your sheltered edges
or smooth peace over you
like a clean sheet.

But I’ll try anyway—
weep with you and mourn awhile,
caress calm into your spent heart,

and remember with you
how David howled for Absalom,
and how when the Lord wept,
all eternity shook.

“Spurious Revelations,” by Niklas Hietala

May 15, 1933
Brigham City, Utah

Dear Samuel,

It is usually a pleasure to receive a letter from you, but the news you sent has made me worry. As soon as I read your account of the bronze head, I took it to your uncle John for his opinion. He, too, is concerned. Though the sources he is aware of concerning the head in Joseph Smith’s day are all second-hand, he says your description of its reappearance matches those accounts.

If John Widtsoe is right—your mother and I pray he is not, though we fear that he is—it seems that it once again has found an individual whom it can raise to power. It is a wicked thing. It tells its owner appealing half-truths. It can give knowledge and tell things that are true and useful, but at the same time it tells lies and corrupts him who listens to it. If only Joseph Smith could have destroyed it!

You asked about a talk Joseph F. Smith gave shortly before his death. I could not recall it, but John knew it. Like you, he thinks that President Smith was prophesying. What President Smith says, however, is quite vague. He says only, “I have a feeling that the time is close when we will see the bronze head again.” But then, in the same talk he says that revelation might come just as a feeling. President Smith spoke it in October 5, 1918 and it is on page 57 of Conference Report. Let me enclose an excerpt:

I have described how revelation may come through the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost, either in silent inspiration or as an audible voice. I also discussed revelation through dreams, visions, and the visitations of angelic ministers. I wish to say something of one more category of revelation. That is that through holy instruments. God talked to Moses through the ark of the covenant; Lehi’s family found their way in the desert with the aid of the Liahona; Oliver Cowdery received revelations through his rod.

The saints have sustained me, my counselors, and the twelve as seers. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Mosiah, a seer is defined as someone who looks into a seer stone. I wish you all had a seer stone, since it says in the 17th verse of that chapter that through seer stones things can be made known which otherwise could not be known.

The value of seer stones became clear early in the Restoration. When Moroni first visited Joseph Smith, a vision opened for him through his seer stone, so that he could see the exact location where the plates were buried (JS-Hist 42).

But let me add some words of caution. Instruments, such as seer stones, may be very helpful in receiving revelation. However, there are great risks in relying only on mechanical revelation. If one trusts solely on an instrument, it is easy to be deceived. 

In Section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, when the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to use his rod, the Lord explained he would speak to Oliver’s heart and mind. Mechanical revelation must be coupled with the whispers of the Holy Ghost. Because Oliver struggled with this, he failed in his attempt to translate a portion of the Book of Mormon.

Early in the restoration, Satan, the great Counterfeit, provided a dark parallel to the experience of Joseph Smith using his seer stone to find the gold plates. Hiram Page received a false revelation through his black seer stone. Satan led him to find a bronze head that talked to him. He received many revelations from this head. In these revelations, truths were mixed with lies. This has been Lucifer’s way of misleading us since the beginning. 

I will add that since you first wrote, Uncle John has researched the history of the bronze head. He believes many rulers and religious leaders consulted it through the ages, but it is only briefly mentioned here and there. The most direct descriptions come from several medieval scholars, whom it helped to gain great scientific knowledge. Among those who seem to have possessed the head are Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus and Gerbert of Aurillac, who became the Pope Sylvester II with its help.

The earliest of the scholars who claimed to possess it is Virgil. According to legends, however, the bronze head was already ancient by his time. Uncle John believes that it was forged by Tubal Cain himself.  Somehow it always escapes attempts to be destroyed. It is told that Thomas Aquinas tried to destroy it when Albertus Magnus had it. This pattern is reflected in what President Smith told in the talk:

Because Hiram Page’s spurious revelations were not compatible with the revelations Joseph Smith had received, Joseph inquired of God and received the revelation we now have as Section 28. The Lord told Joseph the things Hiram had written from the bronze head were not appointed of Him. Joseph was told to destroy the head. However, this never happened. Even though Hiram Page did repent, he had already lost the head. What happened to the head is not known.

Later in Nauvoo, Joseph received word that the bronze head had been seen in the office of the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing shop, but the head was nowhere to be found. Eyewitnesses later wrote that they heard Joseph pronounce that the head would appear again and when it will, there will be great turmoil all over the world. I have a feeling that the time is close when we see the bronze head spreading its lies again. 

Son, be diligent in your labor. Dark times are ahead. Amidst this rising darkness, your German brothers and sisters need the light the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring into their lives more than ever. God bless you!


Wilhelm Fredriksen