As with almost all things Mormon, this all started in church. I was
behind the pulpit, delivering the final talk of Sacrament Meeting when I
saw her: young, maybe seventeen, possibly sixteen, wearing a soft white
blouse and a bright pink short skirt, her ash blonde hair worn in a
flip. She wore iri- descent aqua-toned glasses, and she smiled at me
with perfect white teeth. Sitting on the aisle, her legs were crossed,
her shoes the same shade of pink as the skirt.
I stuttered and played with my bow tie as I tried to find my breath
On the other side of the sanctuary, my best friend, Jesse, silently
laughed at me. In a middle pew, Karen, the raven-haired girl with whom
I had been involved for about a year, stared at me, her mouth open. Both
saw where my eyes were focused. Karen shook her head, folded her arms
and stared at thewall.
Yeah, I guess it was that obvious.
It’s dangerous to have teenage boys, even eighteen-year-olds,deliver
sermons, and yet it happens every Sunday in Latter-day Saint meetings.
Mormons have no paid clergy—not in the local wards anyway—and the
members take turns each week. Fear of public speaking being what it is,
there were many Saturday night illnesses amongst the speakers. It’s
the bishop’s job to find someone to fill in on the spur of the moment.
Jesse, a couple of others, and I could do this, so about once a month,
one or the other of us found ourselves behind the pulpit filling time
and sometimes we’d even find something good to say. So it happened
early that Sunday
morning—duringwhatInowknowtobeintheseasonofLentin1975— that Bishop
Tanzer snagged me in the hallway before Sacrament Meeting and told me I
was giving the fifteen-minutetalk.
The “Amens” said, Karen stood up, glared at me coldly, and left the
sanctuary. I started after her, but realized if I wanted to meet the new
girl, my window of opportunity would not be open long.
I made my way to her pew before she could even gather her things and
stand up. I stumbled over my first few words toher—”Hey, I’mChris.
You new here? Or on vacation?”—And stopped.
“I know your name. Remember, you gave the fifteen-minute talk.”
I nodded and agreed with her, waiting, hoping she would tell me her
Her mother’s outfit was out of place, not only in a Mormon ward, but
also probably the state of Iowa itself: an Yves Saint Laurent maroon
knit skirt and knit mid-thigh sweater cinched at the waist with a
butterfly clasp. Probably every woman in the sanctuary was sizing her
up. Her hair was light blonde and pulled back into a tight bun. And she
was impatient. With a child grasping each of her hands, she frowned and,
glancing my way, said, “Please let us by. We take little ones to rest
room.” Her accent said foreign, Eastern Europe, maybe, and had some
force, some harshness, to it.
After I stepped aside, the mother said, “Svetlana, please, come with.
I need help. Is inconvenient.”
Svetlana walked past me, trailing her fingers along my arm as she went.
She smiled, pushed her glasses back on her nose, and walked away. I
waited outside the women’s restroom. Weird, I admit, but a guy’s
gotta do what a guy’s gotta do, and there is no end to what a guy will
do when a female takes away his breath. I told Jesse to hit the road. He
was an almost dead-ringer for David Cassidy, and when new girls saw him,
it could be difficult keeping their interest.
“Please, call me Lana,” Svetlana said when she slipped out of the
restroom and leaned against the cool wall. “We just moved here. Until
the new house is ready, we live in a little house out near Northeast
I knew the location. “So you’ll be around,” was all I could man-
age, my tongue suddenly thick and my mouth dry. I leaned over the water
fountain and took a long drink, thinking it couldn’t get any more
awkward. Then I saw her long, shapely, well-toned legs. She caught me
studiously gazing at them. I blushed, but kept drinking, hoping for
something, anything, good to happen.
She smiled and took off herglasses,waiting for me to continue, but I got
lost in her penetrating ice-green eyes, and, unable to find anything to
say, leaned against the opposite wall and waited. For what, I
Her mother came out, saw me and frowned as if she read the less-
than-noble thoughts in mymind. “Svetlana,we go now,” she said.
“Papa is waiting.This is not proper. ”She stepped back and ordered,
To Lana, I said, “I’ll stop by in a couple of hours, OK?”
“But you don’t know where we live.”
“See ya, OK?”
She nodded and walked off to her mother’s call of “Svetlana
Mikhailovna, now.” I guess middle names are middle names no matter the
As a kid, sometimes we would go to Northeast Lake in West Lake Park for
lazy days of swimming and grilling hamburgers and firefly catching. I
drove around slowly, not wanting to raise the dust on the dirt roads and
By sundown, Lana and I were together on their porch drinking the root
beers her mother provided, but not before I got what might easilybe
called the third degree from her parents.
Excerpted from "Losing Deseret" by Brice Bogle. Copyright © 2016 by Brice Bogle. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.