This eighth volume in The Restored Gospel and Applied Christianity series is an even better read than its predecessors. As word has gotten out over the past decade about O. C. and Grace Tanner’s generous prize bequest to the McKay Contest, the student writing competition’s quantitative leaps in submissions have stimulated a steady increase in the quality of the best essays—these eleven were the cream of almost two hundred entries.
There’s a lot to like in this collection of student essays examining the application of the gospel to life. Matthew Kennington’s “Mud,” for example, illuminates the miracles God can work with the meanest, muddiest materials—not only with lowlifes like Matthew’s friend Frank, but with us. The essay challenges whether we can “look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands” (Alma 5:19). I, with the author and muddy Frank, would “kinda like to get cleaned up first” (70). This vivid essay sticks in the mud of my conscience with the probing persistence of those “pesky foxtails that burrowed into my socks and scratched my ankles all the way home” (76).
And that’s just one of the dishes in this smorgasbord of moral readings. “A Big Enough Umbrella for Singing in the Rain” convinces me that God’s love is “big enough to cover all his children” (67). I am moved by the moral of “Te Necesito, Sí”: “If you tell everybody else that God loves them, then He has to love you” (84). “Of Heart and Hand” focuses me vividly on the cracked and inadequate hands of a nurse that must stand in for the hands of the Savior. “Joy Trip” persuades me of its profound premise about the painful but promising costs of living fully: “The price of joy is feeling everything” (77). I resonate with the moral of “Living Leftovers”: God won’t forget us—not protagonist Gary, not the author, not any of us will remain leftovers in the great refrigerator of our Father.
Sure, there’s some unevenness, but I suspect that the determination of just which essays are most valuable will depend upon individual readers. The collection’s motley inclusiveness may turn out to be a strength for its readership: there should be something here for everyone. If you haven’t yet found something in this 1995 volume to like, you haven’t read far enough.
The volume is available through the BYU Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature, and the BYU Religious Studies Center, as well as LDS bookstores.