The Primary Temple Trip

by Laura Hilton Craner

When they asked for a volunteer to drive the McCumber children on the Primary temple trip, Sister Miller didn’t notice hers was the only hand to go up. She hadn’t had a Primary calling or a Primary-aged child for years, but something had moved her, so she volunteered.

The Primary president sounded breathlessly surprised when she confirmed that yes, Sister Miller had actually volunteered and that this wasn’t a joke. “They don’t come to Church very often but they were there on Sunday,” she said, “and all five said they wanted to come. The youngest, Devon, is still in a booster seat but the rest, well. They won’t…um, they won’t be any trouble.” Her voice went strangely high on the word “any” and seemed to choke a little on the word “trouble.”

That Saturday morning Sister Miller woke up at 6:35 am, read her scriptures, showered and got dressed, and made sure to put on her best broach. Every trip to the temple was special.

She got in the car at 8:45 am and prayed that she would be able to drive safely and that the hearts of the McCumber children would be touched. With a whispered, “Amen,” she was off.

The McCumber children came spilling out the doorway before Sister Miller even put the car in park. She had thought there were only five of them but the way they were running around the yard made it hard to count.

The oldest—or at least the largest—a boy, sat in the front seat. “I’m only eleven,” he blurted out, “But I’m as big as a twelve year old so I can sit up here. My mom always says it’s okay.” Sister Miller thought she could smell Pepsi on his breath.

He scootched closer as a girl, almost his height but not quite, slid in next to him. “Ugh,” she said. “Matthew, you always think you get the front seat but you’re just barely eleven. I’ll be twelve next week.”

Sister Miller was going to ask about the booster seat when she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw four kids—no, three kids and a large neon yellow stuffed rabbit—squished in the back. The booster seat was in the middle and was occupied by the rabbit.

Matthew and the girl seated next to him saw it at the same time. They both turned around and started yelling. Their words were unintelligible to Sister Miller but they must have made sense because the younger ones (Sister Miller guessed they were eight, six, and maybe three years old—all boys) immediately scrambled and in minutes the smallest was in the booster seat with the stuffed rabbit belted onto his lap.

With a prayer in her heart, Sister Miller set off. Matthew and the girl fiddled with the radio, stopping on the loudest stations and arguing about every song. The younger ones whispered back and forth, occasionally poking each other. They had just reached the first stop light when a boy on one side of the booster seat asked a question, “Old lady? What’s a temple?”

Sister Miller decided to ignore the “old lady” and smiled beneficently. She knew this was one of those teaching moments that could plant a seed in a child’s heart. But before she could utter a word the boy on the other side answered, “God’s house. Duh. Where else do you think he’s gonna live? The Motel 6?”

All the kids laughed so loudly they couldn’t hear Sister Miller trying to answer. She began to think that maybe it was a good thing the ride only took about ten minutes. She could answer him when they got to the temple.

She turned left and was about to point out the spire on the temple rising just a few blocks away when another question came from behind, “Old lady? You ever been on a snipe hunt?” Without even pausing for an answer the child began to talk so fast Sister Miller could hardly catch a word, “Snipes-is-these-giant-black-birds-and-they-eat-kids-especially-the-ones-who-like-to-sleep-outside-so-you-should-never-sleep-outside-because-they-could-kill-you-faster-than-a-bear-or-a-mountain-lion-or-a-ninja-or-a-zombie-and-they’re-big-and-ugly-and-my-cousins-told-me-they-saw-one-once-when-they-were-in-Idaho-and-that-people-in-Idaho-give-their-babies-to-the-snipes-once-a-year-and-if-you-don’t-they-leave-you-in-the-forest-to-die-so-that’s-why-you-gotta-hunt-’em-but-only-at-night.”

This was punctuated by a screech of sacrilegious proportions uttered by the littlest one in the booster seat and probably instigated by the brother who hadn’t been talking but was now suspiciously gazing all-too-virtuously out the window. Sister Miller wasn’t sure how to calm the youngest since the neon yellow bunny almost completely hid him.

Just as his wailing, and Sister Miller’s racing mind, reached a fever pitch an acrid stench filled the car. All the children started gagging and pointing fingers.

“Michael! What did you eat for breakfast?” came from the front seat.

“It wasn’t me! The smeller’s the feller, Emmeline!” was the retort.

“I’m gonna barf,” came another voice from the back seat. “That smells like cow—!”

Sister Miller’s jaw dropped and through her burning ears she focused on the sound of her own voice singing, “Let us oft speak kind words to each other. . . .” Just as they pulled through the temple gates a chorus of voices called out, “I’m telling, Mom!!” and “Jeez, Andrew!” and “You said a potty word! You said a potty word!” and “Why you gonna tell Mom? She says that all the time!”

Sister Miller wasn’t sure who said what because she was quite distracted by the sound of the youngest who, no longer crying, was jubilantly singing his own song— a simple song made up of only one word. One incredibly inappropriate, Holy-Ghost-offending word.

She parked the car and all the kids tumbled out just as fast as they had climbed in, paying no heed to the temple landscaping—except for the preschooler who reached sticky hands out from behind the bunny.

As Sister Miller lifted him and the bunny out of the car, he leaned in close and whispered in her ear, “Thanks, Old Lady.” Then, pointing at the temple and nuzzling his rabbit into her neck he added, “Jesus loves you.”

20/20

by Lindsay Denton

I first realized there might be something wrong with my vision in sixth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, had switched up the seating chart, and I ended up on the back row next to a black-haired boy named Alan. Boys still had cooties in those days, but I had to breach the taboo when I noticed something odd. Mrs. Bullock was standing at the chalkboard, her wrist moving smoothly, producing her signature curlicue script, except…

“Is the chalk broken?” I hissed. Alan looked at me blankly. “The chalk!” I said. “There’s nothing coming out of it!” Alan continued to stare. Looking back, I’m not sure if he was afraid of my cooties or if he just thought I was stupid.

Finally, he said, “Uh, the chalk is fine.” He turned towards the front with an eye-roll. I followed suit, staring intently at the blank green board and wondering if I was the victim of an elaborate prank the rest of the class was somehow in on.

I waited for the teacher to sit at her desk before timidly making my way to the front of the room. Several rows up, thin white lines appeared on the board. A few steps further and the lines twisted themselves into legible script. I was unnerved. Moments later, an understanding Mrs. Bullock switched me to the front row.

I didn’t think much of the incident until a couple weeks later when it was time for school-wide vision screening. I was nervous as I stood in line waiting for my turn to read off the pyramid of letters. I took the proffered cardboard circle, held it over my right eye, toed the line and said, “E.”

“Good,” the man said. “How far down can you go?”

I hesitated, my eye trying to make sense of the fuzzy tangle of black shapes. “Well, the next line looks like P and… S?”

He frowned.

Next thing I knew, I was at the end of another line–the line for the kids who failed the screening. I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I watched the rest of my peers troop back to the classroom.

A few weeks later, my mom set up an eye appointment for me. I still remember trying on my glasses for the first time. I stood in the optometrist’s office and glanced out the window at an adjacent empty lot.

“There are clods of dirt and tiny little rocks all over the ground!” I exclaimed. “And individual leaves on the trees!” It was surreal–I’d had no idea what I was missing. There was a whole new layer of definition to the world that I’d been completely ignorant of.

#

There are times when I take off my glasses at night as my husband drives. Every light we pass is a swollen, twelve-pointed sphere with the symmetry of a snowflake. I’m surrounded by colorful globes springing from taillights, stoplights, and streetlights. I feel blind, but warmed.

I love sharp, crisp lines of black and white – to see things as they are. But sometimes, surrounded by starkness, I miss the seamlessness of blurred outlines and swirling shades of grey.

One of my favorite things each holiday season is to take out my contacts and sit in the dark in front of our lit Christmas tree. Each tiny colored bulb swells into a large, brilliant orb, the ethereal spheres hung like ornaments in the air. There is something transcendently beautiful about the softness of it.

God is in the details, they say, and I’ve seen the truth of that with both physical and spiritual eyes. But God is also in a blanket of muffling snow, in a muted grey sky, in the creamy bokeh behind a sharply focused image.

Becoming an adult, losing childhood naiveté, has been refreshing in some ways, like putting on a pair of glasses I didn’t know I needed. Still, though, I sometimes miss going through life in a rosy haze, seeing the world without its sharp angles or harsh contrasts, each pinprick of light something delicate, gauzy, beautiful.

2014 Mormon Lit Blitz Finalists & Schedule

We are pleased to announce the finalists in the 2014 Mormon Lit Blitz.

Finalists will be published on this blog according to the following schedule:

16 June: “20/20” by Lindsay Denton
17 June: “The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner
18 June: “In Remembrance” by Merrijane Rice
19 June: “Curelom Riders” by Annaliese Lemmon
20 June: “Slippery” by Stephen Carter
21 June: “In a Nutshell” by Doug Staker

23 June: “And Through the Woods” by Jennifer Eichelberger
24 June: “Thick and Thin” by Vilo Westwood
25 June: “Platinum Tears” by Marianne Hales Harding
26 June: “Sugar Free” by Emily Debenham
27 June: “Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales
28 June: “Yahweh: Prologue to the Temple” by Jonathon Penny

After all the finalists have been posted, readers will have the opportunity to vote for their top four pieces:

30 June: Voting Begins 5 July: Voting Ends

7 July: Announcement of Winner

After the contest, we plan to release an ebook anthology with all twenty-four semifinalists.

We hope you’ll join us for the year’s Lit Blitz, and good luck to the finalists!

2014 Mormon Lit Blitz Longlist

After a very strong response to our call for submissions, we have narrowed the field to a longlist of twenty-four pieces. By the end of this week, we will narrow this list to a shortlist of twelve finalists, to be published June 16-June 28 on this blog.

Congratulations to our semi-finalists:

“20/20” by Lindsay Denton
“70 times 7: a Therapy Session in Free Verse” by Kathryn Olsen
“The Book of Laman” by Mark Penny
“The Darkest Abyss in America” by Wm Morris
“The Choice Was Mine” by Eugenie C. Stoll
“Curelom Riders” by Annaliese Lemmon
“Every Member” by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
“Forgotten Zero” by Steven Peck
“Four Visitors” by Niklas Hietala
“In a Nutshell” by Doug Staker
“In Remembrance” by Merrijane Rice
“A Joy and a Chore” by Megan Goates
“A Laurel’s First-Night Fantasies” by Theric Jepson
“Living Scriptures” by Scott Hales
“Ministry” by Jeanine Bee
“Platinum Tears” by Marianne Hales Harding
“The Primary Temple Trip” by Laura Hilton Craner
“Riffs on Korihor’s Testimony” by Michael Andrew Ellis
“Slippery” by Stephen Carter
“Sugar Free” by Emily Debenham
“Thick and Thin” by Vilo Westwood
“Three Wishes” by Katherine Cowley
“And Through the Woods” by Jen Eichelberger
“Yahweh: Prologue to the Temple” by Jonathon Penny

2014 Mormon Lit Blitz Call for Submissions

The Mormon Lit Blitz is the world’s premier contest for Mormon Micro-Literature. Held annually, the contest has helped expose fickle online readers to engaging Mormon flash fiction, poetry, short essays, and so on for longer than most missions last. Submissions for The Third Annual Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest are due by 31 May 2014 to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. Submitted works may be in any genre so long as they are under 1,000 words and designed to resonate with an LDS audience in some way. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are acceptable. Up to three submissions are allowed per entrant.

Finalists will be posted on the Mormon Artist magazine website starting 16 June. At the conclusion of the Lit Blitz, readers will vote for their favorite pieces and a $100 prize will be given to the winner.

2012 Lit Blitz Finalists are available from here and 2013 Finalists are available here. For updates about the 2014 contest, follow the Mormon Lit Blitz Facebook page.

To facilitate the judging process, we prefer to receive submissions as .doc, .docx, or .pdf attachments with the author’s name and contact information in the body of the email but not included in the attached text. Please feel free to email everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com with any questions.

Lit Blitz Winner

Thanks first to our thirteen wonderful finalists–and for you readers, who contributed to the more than 10,000 views of their pieces. Tonight we are pleased to announce voters’ top five selections. They are

5) “Second Coming” by Emily Harris Adams

4) “Red Rock” by Marianne Hales Harding

3) “No Substitute for Chocolate” by Jeanna Mason Stay

2) “In Bulk” by Marilyn Nielsen

and our Grand Prize Winner…

1) “Stillborn” by Merrijane Rice

Congratulations! When we started the Lit Blitz, we knew there was an audience for LDS literary works, but we’ve been impressed and encouraged by how strong and supportive that audience has been. Since we were also impressed by the quality of submissions the contest received, we’ve decided to launch a new online literary venue called Everyday Mormon Writer. This week we’re featuring a poem by Lit Blitz Semi-Finalist Jake Balser and art by Nick Stephens. We will feature one work per week for the next few months as we build up a body of quality work until we are able to publish every weekday. Any works that were submitted to the Lit Blitz will be considered for publication on Everyday Mormon Writer. We also encourage you to submit other short works; details can be found on our Submissions page.

Thanks once again for your interest and support.

Scott Hales
James Goldberg
Nicole Wilkes Goldberg

Lit Blitz Voting Instructions

We have loved sharing the work of all thirteen finalists.

But we only have one Grand Prize.

The winner of the Mormon Lit Blitz will be selected by audience vote. Voters must first read (or hear, in the case of voters who are not yet literate) at least five of the Mormon Lit Blitz finalists and then rank their top five. These five ranked votes should then be emailed to mormonlitblitz@gmail.com with VOTE in the subject line. (One vote per person please, even if you have multiple email accounts.)

First place votes will be counted as five points, second as fourth, and so on. The piece with the most points by the end of March 15th will win.

Again, in order to be valid, votes must:

1) Be sent to mormonlitblitz@gmail.com with VOTE in the subject line.

2) Include five pieces ranked from 1st favorite through 5th favorite. Listing votes either by title or by author is acceptable.

Feel free to include any other feedback you have on the Mormon Lit Blitz in the body of the email below your vote list.

As a reminder, the finalists are
Marilyn Nielson’s “In Bulk,”
Wm Morris’s “The Elder Who Wouldn’t Stop,”
Jeanna Mason Stay’s “No Substitute for Chocolate,”
Emily Harris Adams’  “Second Coming,”
Sandra Tayler’s “The Road Not Taken,”
Merrijane Rice’s “Stillborn,”
Kathryn Soper’s “Oil of Gladness,”
Emily Debenham’s “The Shoe App,”
Deja Earley’s “Cada Regalo Perfecto,”
Kerry Spencer’s “The Gloaming,”
Jonathon Penny’s “Babel,”
Jeanine Bee’s “The Hearts of the Fathers,”
and Marianne Hales Harding’s “Red Rock.”

Day Thirteen: Marianne Hales Harding

Red Rock

You can’t take a picture of this.
No matter the angle, the pictures are just rocks, sky, water.
Nothing stirs in me when I look at them.
I am still caught in the swell of forgettable catastrophes, tight and hurried.
I delete every one of them. And then I take a few more. Continue reading Day Thirteen: Marianne Hales Harding

Day Eleven: Jonathon Penny

Babel

At the moment the languages were confounded, I was bent over a parchment, trying to ignore the sounds of construction that by then filled the city. I had no interest in the project myself. Indeed, I was apprehensive about its appalling hubris and the mind-boggling safety issues it presented. This was philosophical and personal. My brother oversaw construction of the balustrades that wound their way up the tower—a feat of engineering science I could never grasp, but that gripped him like a childhood fever: numbers were his, letters mine. Daring was also his: he always took on the most perilous duties himself.

I kept my misgivings to myself, however, even from him. The prophets who had spoken warnings of judgment and destruction were dead or in the quarries, Continue reading Day Eleven: Jonathon Penny