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“The Gift of Undoing” by Katherine Cowley

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God…. To some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom. To another is given the word of knowledge… and again, to some is given the working of miracles; and to others it is given to prophesy; And to others the discerning of spirits. And to others is given the gift of undoing. —Doctrine and Covenants 46

Isobel’s mother fumbled with her three bags, the easel, and the picture as she tried opening the door to the church building.

“Could you help me, Isobel?”

Isobel groaned, just loud enough for her mom to hear it. Her mom had spent the entire week harassing her about her homework and waking up earlier for seminary. To top things off, this morning she’d gotten upset that Isobel’s things were all over the kitchen table. And now whose things were the problem?

Reluctantly, Isobel took the picture from her mom’s arms and pulled open the door. As her mom stepped inside, the easel jabbed Isobel in the arm.

“Crap! That hurt.”

“We’re in the church, Isobel. Don’t use that word.”

Once again, her mom had to criticize. And of course, she didn’t even apologize for jabbing her.

“You know what, Mom? If you spent more time working on the content of your lessons, and less time preparing all this crap, maybe your lessons would go better.”

Isobel knew she’d gone too far, but she didn’t care. She let herself savor the instant pain on her mom’s face. Of course, by the time they were halfway down the hall, her mom was crying and Isobel could not ignore the heavy lump of guilt in her stomach.

She sighed. Time to use her gift.

She sucked in a breath of air and focused. It was like there was a button in her mind, and she could press on it if she focused just right. Suddenly, things began to go backward at triple speed—they were walking backward down the hall, Isobel was insulting her mother, her mother was jabbing her with the easel, Isobel was opening the door. She took it back another ten, fifteen seconds—it was always good to give a little buffer time—and then released the focus, putting time back on track.

Undoing was kind of like pulling on a rubber band—you were just pulling on one little spot of time. When she used undoing, it only affected those within a hundred or two hundred feet of her. As long as no one else there had the gift of undoing, no one even noticed it—it was like the original time had never happened. You pulled a little on the rubber band, you got to redo a few seconds or minutes, and then your pocket of time snapped back in place, catching up with the normal temporal continuum of the world around you.

Isobel had probably undone about a minute and a half. Most days, she could manage to undo about five minutes total before she ran out, so she still had plenty to spare for the rest of the day.

“Hey, Mom, you’ve got lots of stuff,” said Isobel as they approached the church building. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Isobel took the picture and the easel from her mother. Her mom couldn’t jab her with the easel if she wasn’t carrying it.

“Can I set these up for you in the Relief Society room?” asked Isobel.

Her mom nodded. After they had set up a ridiculous number of things, her mom pulled her into an embrace. “You’re such a good daughter. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

“Thanks,” said Isobel. The weight of guilt in her stomach seemed to increase, and it didn’t go away as they sat down in the pew. The guilt didn’t go away during the opening song. It didn’t go away during the prayer, or during the sacrament song, or during the sacrament prayer.

Isobel had undone her actions, which was a little like repenting. But the doctrine was clear—the gift of undoing was not repentance. If you drank alcohol or touched a boy inappropriately and then undid it, you still had to confess your sins. Even if no one else had experienced you doing it, you had still done it.

Her mom knew she had the gift of undoing, but she wondered if her mom knew how often she had to use it on their interactions. She would probably feel hurt if she knew.

As the young men passed the sacrament, Isobel prayed for help. Please, just help me be a better person. Help me stop saying and doing stupid things.

She chewed on the bread. It was a little sour. When it was her turn, she drank the water. But the sacrament didn’t help her feel any better.

Isobel wished she didn’t have the gift of undoing. Most of the time, it was less of a gift and more of a curse.

***

As she was leaving the chapel, Isobel felt time move backwards. She began walking backwards at a rapid pace. Someone else was undoing. There were normal ebbs and flows of time in both directions, and she could sense them, but this was clearly a person using their gift.

Once she was back in her seat, time resumed. She stood again, more slowly this time. No one else in her ward—that she knew of—had the gift of undoing. At least, no one else had ever done it at church before. It was really rare, and it was one of those gifts that you normally kept quiet about—sometimes people who blabbed about it ended up being kidnapped and coerced to try to change things for others’ purposes.

Who was new? Who was visiting? There was the high councilor, sitting on the stand. And two families, one with four teenagers and the other with young children. Sometimes a child learning the gift of undoing did it accidentally. There was also an investigator with the sister missionaries. The gift of undoing was not just something that church members could do, and those outside the church—and sometimes those in the church—didn’t see it as a God-given gift.

Isobel looked to see who was behaving differently. Sometimes that could be an indication, but it wasn’t foolproof. A single changed action often had ripple effects—dozens of people ended up doing things differently.

Yet this time, she didn’t notice anything different. She had no idea who had used the gift. Regardless, though, she wouldn’t be using the gift of undoing again at church today. It was too dangerous—she didn’t want someone to find out.

***

It really was the leaders’ fault for doing a combined Young Men and Young Women lesson. That never went well. Two of the seventeen-year-old guys kept making snide remarks to try to derail the lesson, and then they started throwing balled-up post-it notes, and then one managed to hit Angelina in the eye, and then they insulted Angelina and half the class started laughing, and…

Isobel didn’t know Angelina very well, but Angelina didn’t come very often, and Isobel worried that she might not come back.

Isobel sucked in a breath of air, focused, and pulled back time. She pulled it back and back and back. She needed to get it back to before they started throwing the post-it notes, but they had thrown post-its for a long time, and soon she used up all her undoing for the day. She kept focusing, but it was like stretching out a rubber band as far as it could go—it would only stretch so far. Time didn’t move forward, and it didn’t move back, it was just suspended.

And then someone else pulled back time. Someone else—it had to be one of the four visiting teenagers—undid an extra three minutes. Isobel sighed in relief.

Time began its forward momentum again. Isobel immediately raised her hand.

“Brother Bitt,” said Isobel, “I think some people aren’t really helping this lesson.” She glared at the disruptive pair. “But some of us want to get something out of it. Could you number us into groups and maybe we could use those post-it notes to write down our own thoughts?”

“Great idea, Isobel,” said Brother Bitt.

Isobel ended up in a group with Angelina, and Isobel liked getting to know her more. She didn’t know which of the visiting teenagers had helped her with time, but maybe it didn’t matter. There was a scripture, after all, about doing good deeds in secret.

The rest of the lesson went much better. Maybe this was what the gift of undoing was really for. She’d have to ration her time a little more and try not to use too much undoing to fix her own mistakes, but she could handle that.

“Hey, Angelina,” whispered Isobel, ignoring whatever Brother Bitt was saying.

“Yeah?”

“My mom always makes interesting desserts after church. Sometimes they’re weird, but most of the time they’re pretty good. Do you want to come over?”

“Sure, sounds like fun.”

“Are you girls getting distracted?” asked Brother Bitt.

“No, not at all,” said Isobel.

“You wouldn’t want to disrupt the lesson, would you?”

“No,” said Isobel, stifling a laugh. He had no idea how much disruption his class had narrowly avoided.

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