I appreciate that I have been given the chance to guest post a second time – on reading my first foray I have come to the conclusion that it was a little obscure, maybe unclear in parts, and somewhat indulgent – but that is what blogging is all about anyhow, isn’t it? I appreciate the comments and good discussion about the value of the novel that resulted.

Fortunately for you and me, I will keep it much simpler with no pretensions of depth – but just have a quick view of some great Mormon short stories that I love.

I don’t have much of a theory of what Mormon short stories are all about, but they can tend to fall into two categories – a faithful, inspiring story that teaches gospel values (yawn!) or a story that deals with the uncertainties and difficulties of life with no easy answers.

As you may already guess my preference falls into the latter. These following stories are the ones that I return to often, the ones that always linger in my mind long after the story has ended, ones that challenge my perceptions and worldview.
“Planetarium” by Walter Kirn

(from My Hard Bargain)

As any young boy in the church knows is the guilt and questioning that they endure about masturbation. This story is about Karl who endures all kinds of techniques and advice from his Bishop about how to stop masturbating. But a new approach is used (one I have never in my life have heard of) that seems to offer Karl the knowledge that he is not alone. It’s a funny, ironic piece that can be read several different ways, but the ending scene is one you will not soon forget.

“The Interview” by John Bennion

(from Breeding Leah and Other Stories)

So what happens when you tell your Bishop that you are a homosexual? That is what this story is all about. I think some of the best stories come out of the secrets and confessions that lurk behind the Bishop’s door – it seems to the one place where Mormons are completely honest with themselves – allowing authors to explore the real complicated lives of trying to “live the gospel.”

“The Third Nephite” by Levi Peterson

(from Night Soil)

So has your husband gone off the deep end, thinking that living the “the principal of polygamy” is a good idea? Otis Wadby in this story thinks it just might be the life for him – but on his way to work in Circleville he picks up a shaggy hitchhiker who says he is one of the three Nephites – those figures of myth and folklore that come along at the right time to steer someone in the right direction. Peterson takes that premise and tells a hilarious and touching story about small-town Utah and some the more interesting people you’ll likely run into.

“The Prophets” by Brian Evenson

(from The Wavering Knife)

So has your neighbor recently dug up Ezra Taft Benson, only to keep him in the garage in a plan to resurrect him? Well, if you want to know what would find out if they did, read this story. I originally heard this story at a reading by the author at a Sunstone Symposium – and the whole audience could not stop howling with laughter. It is seriously “out there” but one that is worth seeking out. More than the shocking premise, it’s about friendship between neighbors, and we have all had a crazy neighbor at one time or another.

Well, that a very brief selection of stories that are really worth checking out. Don’t underestimate the power of short fiction and the punch it can pack. A couple of other favorites of mine to watch for would include: “The Christianizing of Coburn Heights” by Levi Peterson, “Benediction” by Neal Chandler, and “Outsiders” by Margaret Blair Young. A good anthology I would recommend is Bright Angels and Familiars: Contemporary Mormon Stories, edited by Eugene England.

So, does anyone have a favorite short story?