Words of Faith: McKay Essay Contest Winners

Winners for the annual David O. McKay Essay Contest read their writings on the gospel and how it affects their lives.

PROVO, Utah (April 12, 2016) – Every year, the Center for for the Study of Christian Values in Literature sponsors the David O. McKay Essay Contest for both graduate and undergraduate students. The theme for the essay contest this year was “The Restored Gospel and Applied Christianity.”

In a reception to honor this year’s winners, the first and second place essayists from both the graduate and undergraduate contests read selections from their compositions.

Madeline Olsen, the undergraduate winner, read her essay entitled “Waiting for Death,” which addressed the constant but curious knowledge of mortality in her life:

“Perhaps the Lord threw mental illness at my head and said, deal with it. Well, I did. I do. Yet there have been days that I haven’t wanted the responsibility. Death is escape, death is sleep. But the thing is, I don’t know death anymore.”

Madeline Olsen reads her undergraduate winning essay, “Waiting for Death"

Madeline Olsen reads her undergraduate winning essay, “Waiting for Death”

The undergraduate category second place winner was Emma Croft, whose essay “Latter-Day Envy” explored appreciation for ancient Christian iconography as a modern Latter-day Saint:

“Holy works of art, living histories for those who entered. Those icons drew me close to God and the people who worshiped him long before Joseph Smith came around.”

mckay grad 2nd

Emma Croft reads her undergraduate second place essay “Latter-Day Envy”


Shamae Budd, the graduate winner, read her essay “I Am Wanting,” where she compared her search for a book in the library to a search for answers from God:

“I would like to think that the answers are there somewhere, if not in the disillusion of the library than someplace else. I want to believe that the God of my childhood is right where I left Him, like so many things, and that He is simply waiting for me to start wishing, wanting, hoping, praying once again for what is small and insignificant because perhaps, against all odds and reasonable expectations, He does care about retainers, and little spots of sunlight on gray snowy days.”

“I Am Wanting,” the graduate winning essay, is read by author Shamae Budd

“I Am Wanting,” the graduate winning essay, is read by author Shamae Budd

In the graduate category, Sophie Lefens’ essay “The Land of Spices: Innocence and Imagination in the Modern Believer” won second place. The essay focuses on the reason behind belief in God and understanding innocence is an unfair world:

“I don’t use prayer like a salve, expecting it to heal every open wound. I don’t believe in God because I think there is no other way to happiness. I am compelled towards Christ and His Father because I often feel at odds with myself and the world, and belief beyond myself comes as good news to my heart and mind.”

grad 2nd mckay

Sophie Lefens won second place in the graduate division with “The Land of Spices: Innocence and Imagination in the Modern Believer”


Congratulations to all the winners!

1st: “Waiting for Death,” Madeline Olsen
2nd: “Latter-Day Envy,” Emma Croft
3rd: “Secrets and Distance,” Tamara Pace Thomson
4th: “Finding Fathers,” Laura Schuff
Honorable Mention: “Sometimes I Am Alone,” Aimee Gerlach
Honorable Mention: “True Pilgrim,” Kelli Sumsion

1st: “I Am Wanting,” Shamae Budd
2nd: “The Land of Spices: Innocence and Imagination in the Modern Believer,” Sophie Lefens
3rd: “Baked,” ShellieRae Spotts
Honorable Mention: “Upon Killing a Bee,” Jake Clayson

-Alison Siggard (B.A. English Education ’17)

Alison covers events for the Humanities Center for the College of Humanities. She is a senior studying English teaching with a minor in music.

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