Selected Photos, Art, and Poetry: Every Good Gift

by A. Jonathan Vance


We all have different gifts from our Father in Heaven. He is always pleased when we use these gifts to create things of beauty, things which bring joy to all those who see, hear, or read them. On the following pages you’ll find the sorts of gifts that enrich both the giver and the receiver. They are a reflection of the artists’ search for things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Articles of Faith, 1:13). We know you’ll enjoy these winning creations from the 1999 New Era Contest, and perhaps you’ll even be inspired to share a few gifts of your own.

Flying Out of New York at Sunset

A painted skyline wades
In pools of shimmering orange.
Only towers of steel and glass
And the sun’s residue
Remain for contemplation.
Not the filth,
Not the cold,
Not the regret.
Seen from afar,
It’s covered miraculously
By the grace of God,
And you feel a quiet awe
For the glory of it all.

[photo] The Love of Light by Niel Hayes

[illustration] Distorted Room by Danielle Salmon

Road Trip

Tight-packed.
A capsule speeding
down miles of interstate,
Checking off time zones
like items on a grocery list:
Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific,
Swallowing dashed yellow lines as ohio melts into
indiana into
illinois into
iowa.
Driving
in one direction.
Pausing
only for gas, bologna sandwiches,
bathrooms, and sleep.
Thinking as far ahead
as the next Super 8.
Everyone naps as the car streams forward.
My mother has her feet on the dashboard,
her seat tipped back touching my knees.
My father switches the stations.
Even during static, his fingers drum the wheel.
There’s a curled-up lump of a sister in the back,
wedged between suitcases, jackets, pillows, and food.
Everything I love in one car.
Tight-packed,
so dangerous,
so safe.

[illustration] Playground Kids by Angela Woolley

[photos] Urban Canvas by Robert McPhie

Prime

This is the prime of my life,
I keep telling myself.
Which is scary
Because it doesn’t feel like the prime of anything
So far.
Sometimes it just hits me.
Like when I look up at the building where I live and
I think,
Whoa!
This is me.
This is something I’m doing.
I live here.
Suddenly just walking up the steps is exciting.

A. (Is for Reminder)

The A is for my great-grandfather,
Who preached to bushes on his mission
Until the Samoan words formed in his mouth.
Who went home and came back
With his family to build a chapel
On those Pacific islands,
Because the Lord asked him to.
The A is for my father,
Who stayed up countless nights
Helping with my math,
Because algebra is hard
When your voice is still cracking.
Who loved unfailingly
And set the example for me.
The A is for me,
To remind me who I am;
To remind me of the sacrifices;
To remind me of the blessings
Of the eternal family.

[illustration] The Love of Light by Niel Hayes

Testimony

A leather-bound treasure,
her name embossed on its cover.
Stamped on her heart
is His name.
Deeply engraved
night by night,
prayer by prayer,
step by step,
tear by tear,
in the finest
gold leaf.

Life’s Gifts

Someone once said to me,
I have nothing to live for.
I said, my friend, you’re wrong;
you have everything and more.
You have the leap of your heart,
the moment you tip your canoe.
A puppy’s lick,
and Saturday-morning cartoons.
You have the smell of autumn,
a banana-nut bagel,
The wall of frost around you
as you make a snow angel.
A child’s sticky hug,
an old woman’s grateful tear,
When you’re down on your knees,
and you feel Him near.
You have the mocking and torment,
He lovingly went through.
The pain and suffering,
He did all this for you.
Someone once said to me,
I have nothing to live for.
I said, my friend, you’re wrong;
you have everything and more.

[photo] Carrying Her Load by Jessica Brinton

Of Royal Birth

To wake up at 5:00 A.M.
to get to seminary on time.
To stay home from Junior Prom
because you haven’t turned sixteen.
To turn down a position on All Stars
because the games are on Sunday.
To put school on hold
while you serve a mission.
To pay an honest tithe
out of your hard-earned income.
To be the only one at the swim party
wearing a modest bathing suit.
To know you’re of royal birth—
A child of God.

[photo] Pure Innocence by Jessica Brinton

Youth Meets Age

The old pages
perfume the basement with age,
Brown on the edges,
crumbling at the touch,
the paper holds more than calculated ink.
The water heater whistles
as I stand there staring.
Some light swims in from the underground window
and it dances with the dust particles which I breathe.
My skin erases the filmy age
when my fingertips kiss the cracked leather binding.
My eyes feast on the newfound antiquities
waiting for me in my grandfather’s basement.

A Prophet Visited

He came in company of friends,
Smiling, for love has
Extended His hands to
Africa.
The bumps of the rough roads
Make him squirm and shiver.
I saw him pass and I waved
My little flag of white and green.
He saw it and nodded,
Prosperity is come for all
We’ve waited for him all year.
And his message we hold so dear
He talked to us and the air was deep,
His voice clear as the morning
Counselled us.
I heard the prophet speak of love,
For he said that God is love
And I know he was talking to me.

Mocking Birds

artists
mimic the work of God
every face
thin pencil lines
strokes of paint
all desperate attempts
at creation
beauty
not reaching
but endless striving
poets
mimic the feelings of God
every word
rough descriptions
barely scratch
the reality
of God’s creations
never satisfied
always trying
but by trying
they stumble upon their
potential
to become like God
making their own wind to whisper poetry
creating sunlight to highlight the clouds
creating children
who learn
to stroke and draw and describe
the works of their God’s hands

To Care

Today I cried over the phone,
as she expressed her sadness.
My own mother wishing my own brother and I were friends.
I hung up feeling angry at myself but more than anything else, confused.
Why hadn’t I let him in?
Feeling sad over time wasted, I prayed.
I asked my Heavenly Father what could be done now.
I drove home and I passed the truck,
The truck I knew nothing about since he bought it.
I parked in front of the store and walked in.
He was scooping ice cream.
Feeling nervous and embarrassed,
I greeted his surprised look with a soft hello.
Where awkwardness stood,
I wished there had been friendship.
I looked into his face and his eyes
and couldn’t believe what I hadn’t before seen,
a thinner face, eyes more mature,
and a nose he’d finally grown into.
I almost cried at the amazement I felt
of finally caring enough to look at him.
Instead of seeing my unimportant little brother,
I saw a person whom I deeply cared for and loved.
We talked for the first time in a long time
as the customers drifted out the doors.
And I knew then, I would never be too caught up in myself to care.

[illustration] Snow Shak by Jolynn Jeppson