Latter-day Cipher excerpt

I am so excited!  My editor at Moody has given me permission to post the first section of my novel, The Latter-day Cipher, which Moody will publish in April.  It is a literary suspense in which the clues are written in the Deseret Alphabet, which was originally devised in the 1800’s at the behest of Brigham Young.  

Ready to read??   Let’s go!!!!  And PLEASE leave a comment telling me what you think!

Chapter One

There on the damp pine needles Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood. The dark irises of her bloodshot eyes stared unseeing into the branches above her. The sun had burst through the clouds after the sudden downpour and now blazed above the canopy of conifers and aspens in Provo Canyon. Deep in its recesses, the light filtered down in vertical sheets of champagne dust that played across the body.

Her skin, once the faintest of olive, now was pale as churned cream, mottled  in the dark pooling of what everyone called her hot Italian blood. An angry oval bruise, dark as a plum, marked the side of her forehead.

The slit in her throat cut deep. There were hesitation marks on each side of her neck like those a suicide makes, trying to summon the courage to complete the act. The final cut had been made deeply on the right side, curling almost to her left.

Her left arm lay loosely at her side, still bearing at the wrist the friction marks from the plastic rope that had bound her. Her right arm crossed her chest, with the elbow supported by a rock underneath the triceps so the arm stayed in place. Her fingers curled slightly around her own shoulder, as if she gave herself a final hug in death. The tip of her thumb touched, delicately, the edge of the open wound under her left ear.

The scene on the forest floor was meant to set things aright.

No, no, she wasn”‘t Ophelia at all, he thought. She was Eve, temptress and sinner cast from the garden of Utah, wearing a hasty apron of cottonwood leaves heaped around and across her plump belly, from just below the navel to mid-thigh. Tiny rivulets of blood snaked down through the leaves.  

The other four wounds, the little ones, were postmortem, made after she”‘d already bled out.

On the right side of her chest, incised with surgical precision, the first cut penetrated deep, a backwards L. It depicted a carpenter”‘s square: the straightedge, true-maker, indispensable for right angles. The desired angularity could not, alas, be achieved on the soft roundness of this still-warm flesh.

Nor could the second, the compass. On the left side, a chevron gaped open with edges that wanted to lose their definition, a tiny V on this day of defeats and victories.

 A third inch-long slit carefully cut into the muscle just above the knee that would never again bow.

A final slit traversed her stomach just above the navel, a sign of nourishment for a body that would never again eat; of health for one who would only decay.

They were all symbols only the initiated would understand.

 But below her navel mark, Kirsten harbored her own tiny secret, one that held the seed of her killer”‘s downfall, her own unwitting fleshly vengeance.

In the sheeting light, her murderer stood above her like the angel guarding Eden, the knife-sword flashing this way and that in his gloved hand. He had brought along a plain white sheet he”‘d bought at a garage sale and kept stored in a plastic bag. But he changed his mind about putting it over her. She was beyond the veil now.

His shoulders sagged beneath the once-white jumpsuit. The leaves embroidered on the green cloth apron he wore were speckled as a measles plant. The Exacto knife lay at his feet and he picked it up and threw it and the sheet into the stream. Then he laid the note carefully on the ground, its edge secured by a rock.

The white cap still contained his close-cropped hair but it had lost its starched definition. It, too, sagged as he backed away from Kirsten, brushing over with a fallen pine branch the near-invisible footprints they both had made when they came to this, his sacred grove.

His breathing was heavy as he recited. They”‘d said it was “the pure Adamic language” he”‘d learned that first time, at age nineteen, scared half to death by all the temple vows and disembodied voices behind the veils: 

Pay lay ale. Pay lay ale. Pay lay ale.” 

He swallowed hard.

“Oh Lord, hear the words of my mouth.”


Chapter Two


The man who discovered Kirsten Young, the one everyone thought was the first murder victim, found her quite by chance: He nearly tripped over the body after stumbling through the underbrush seeking a secluded place to relieve himself.

Terrence Jensen, Dr. Jensen to his students but Terry to his family, jogged every day now, after his doctor told him that the stress of holding too much inside was going to kill him. Jensen had squelched a retort””how would you like the faith of 12.8 million followers on your shoulders, he”‘d wanted to ask””and thanked the doctor meekly for the free pedometer.

Always one to take such a warning from an authority figure most literally, Jensen dutifully took up running to reduce his thickening waist and his stress level, and found that as his stamina increased so did his enjoyment. But reticent by nature, he would drive miles from his off-campus home to the new trails in the mountains northeast of Provo to run in solitude, this place where he could jog and talk to himself without anyone commenting.

Later, he wondered if his secret sin of drinking a cola drink ““ forbidden on the Brigham Young University campus ““ had been what had made his bladder so urgent that he”‘d had to veer off the rain-slicked path. On other runs he”‘d occasionally encountered other hikers and runners, so he had to be careful. When he caught sight of what could have been a police car on the distant winding road he hid even from that.  

His mind tangled into the greatest dilemma of his life. With what elegance of speech and imagination, he wondered, can you extract fifteen words out of one Egyptian hieroglyphic, fifteen words that have nothing to do with the hieroglyphic itself. Mnemonics? He snorted. Even he couldn”‘t believe that. And how do you sell such a translation technique for scripture to an increasingly-literate group, with access to the Internet? Everyone was depending on him, the church”‘s foremost Egyptologist, to hold the line, to keep saying that these ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics could be finessed into saying what they did not say.

  He was still panting as he unzipped. His sinuses ached and the blood chanting in his ears was almost Gregorian. His bladder was bursting. Relief was sweet.

Then he saw her.

He didn”‘t dare come near””the woman was obviously dead. But the folded piece of paper under the rock””surely, he thought, he could look at that and put it back before anyone could get here. No harm would be done. He hesitated and dialed 911, only mildly surprised when the dispatcher recognized his name and took down the facts as he dispassionately related them: female, certainly dead, trail location; and yes, he”‘d wait.

Jensen looked around for a stick but thought better of leaving fingerprints, so he took his water bottle out of his fanny pack and used it to push the rock off the piece of paper. On the outside was written in a small, neat hand the words, “THE SECOND PROOF.” Using his car keys, he coaxed the edges apart and unfolded it. It was written in a code that any student of Mormon history would have recognized at once, but few could read immediately.



But Jensen could grasp it. He read it over twice, the color draining from his pinched face. Then he stepped closer and looked at the dead woman. Anyone who lived in Salt Lake City and watched the news or read a local paper knew Kirsten Young. Anyone of the millions of Mormons who wore temple garments under their clothes would know what the cuts on her meant.

  And anyone who could read the Deseret Alphabet, taught to schoolchildren in Utah during the 1860″‘s when Brigham Young”‘s word was law, would know the connection between Kirsten Young”‘s pitiful body and the note he held in his hand.

One thing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn”‘t need right now was bad publicity, and Jensen knew that the media would alight soon after the police. Whom to tell about the note? He first resolved to look for the raised ridges of the peculiar neckline of temple garments beneath the uniforms of policemen identifying which were brother Mormons.

But he changed his mind. No. He wouldn”‘t tell anyone. He”‘d keep the note, at least for a while. He”‘d be protecting it. He”‘d be protecting everyone. He put the note into his fanny pack, squeezed into the little wallet full of gas receipts and gum wrappers, and walked back to the trail to meet them all.  




  1. Susan Scott
    Oct 20, 2008

    Hi and I’m really excited!!!!! YEEPEE!!!!

  2. Ric Roushar
    Oct 21, 2008

    I am intrigued! Having just finished reading the “Shack” I look forward to another novel that will keep my attention as well as inform me about things of which I am curious.

  3. Ready for the rest. I think the Catholics are behind it, but I think they hired Jewish mob muscle to carry out the hit.

  4. Celeste
    Oct 22, 2008

    I’m SO excited!!!!

  5. Latayne
    Oct 25, 2008

    Wow, guys! Thanks for all the enthusiastic comments! And Justin, you just might be right about who is behind it.

  6. Taylor
    Oct 26, 2008

    Very interesting hook… I like it already. Can’t wait to find out more.

  7. Karen Bagley
    Feb 1, 2010

    Hello! I just finished reading your book, “Latter-Day Cipher”. Very, very interesting. I have been a Christian since 1970, never a Mormon, but I am very interested in Mormonism because a church my family & I belonged to from 1987-1990 when we were able to escape had a lot of Mormon-like attitudes & rules. It was supposedly an independent, Charismatic church but by the time we were able to escape, which took a full year, we saw a lot of controlling, authoritarian and now what I see as Mormonisms in it. The pastor grew up in a Mormon home. His wife started a church in their home & when he was saved, she made him pastor of their church. I wonder just how deep he was into Mormonism, seeing as how he didn’t become a Christian until he was well into adulthood, & how he was able to escape Mormonism unscathed. I would be very interested in knowing how you saw the truth of what Mormonism really is and how you came to be a Christian. How did you know which was the truth? You should write a book about that, if you haven’t already. The name of the church/ministry we escaped from was Canaan Land Girls Ministry/Canaan Land Christian Academy/Living Waters Church in Marbury, Alabama. The church & school have since closed & the girls ministry has been renamed Wellspring Ministry for Women, Ed and Valeta Bush. I could write a book about that place, but we weren’t allowed to “rebel against God’s anointed” & were told that “rebellion is as witchcraft & witches go to hell; therefore, rebellion against their authority; i.e., questioning them & leaving their church, would cause us to go to hell. They were also against use of white flour, caffeine & sugar, although they did use honey. He was diabetic. I’d love to hear your comments on this. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to answer! Great book! Finished it in 2 days.

  8. admin
    Feb 5, 2010

    Hi Karen, and thank you for your compliments of my novel and for your insightful comments.

    Your description of your former church was unsettling! I discovered that all pseudo-Christian cults have a common foundation, like an archipelago. Here’s the link to something I wrote on that subject that I think you’ll find very interesting:

    Would love your reaction to the list of cultic characteristics — see which ones you’ve experienced! Blessings to you, L

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