“Apostates have nothing of value to say.”

It has been years since I posted on this blog. I could blame the COVID pandemic, or the busyness of life, or the labor intensive gardening I’ve been doing, but the truth is that I let a critic shut me down… for far too long. I believe it was my post about Dilly Bars and baptizing dead people that garnered the attention of a commenter who wrote, among other less memorable things, that I should shut up because apostates have nothing of value to say. I don’t know if the commenter was a Mormon, but the language of dismissal sounded all too familiar…

You don’t need to know about sex, your husband will know what to do.”

Girls don’t get to hold the priesthood, you get to make babies.”

You just don’t have enough faith.”

If you tell, no one will believe you.”

Photo by Rodrigo Souza on Pexels.com

All of those things (and more) were said to me by upstanding, faithful adults in the LDS church. I know these sentiments aren’t exclusive to the Mormons, but they were prevalent in my upbringing within that construct. Spiritual abuse is real and it has lasting effects. That single commenter struck a familiar fear in my heart at that time. But today I feel differently.

Today I know that I have stories worth telling- stories that are mine to tell- and I’m not interested in censoring myself to make someone else more comfortable. One of my favorite writing quotes is from Anne Lamott in her amazing book, Bird by Bird:

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Exactly.

I just baptized 30 dead people and all I got was a Dilly Bar.

 

Mormons believe that everyone deserves the chance to be a Mormon and get into Heaven, including those who died before the missionaries could knock on their doors.  There are several prerequisites for Heavenly admission, one of them being baptism by immersion (full-body dunking under water); therefore, someone has to stand in for the departed person to meet that requirement.

Who gets to stand in for the departed? Pre-teen kids, of course! Twelve-year-old Mormon boys and girls are periodically asked to visit the LDS temple in their area to participate in “baptism by proxy” or as it is most commonly called, baptism for the dead. I actually looked forward to it as a Mormon girl, primarily because of the mystery surrounding the inside of the temple itself, but also because I thought I might really be communing with the dead. It’s a little creepy, I know.

The other 12-year-olds and I were required to be interviewed by the bishop of our ward to see if each of us was worthy of a “temple recommend”, which is mandatory to be allowed inside the temple.

Basically, the bishop asked me if I masturbated and whether or not I was paying 10% of my babysitting wages to “tithing” for the church.

The evening of the temple visit, all the girls piled into somebody’s mother’s huge Suburban and the boys piled into somebody’s father’s huge Suburban and we set off to be dunked for dead people. There is a lot of ceremony involved, as you might imagine; male temple workers escort the boys to the boys dressing room and female temple workers do the same with the girls. Once in the dressing room, we were each given a baptismal suit which was (and still is) made of a starchy, coarse, polyester blend that was engineered to be impossible to see through when wet and still be white. The fabric also works as an exfoliant.

BaptismalSuit

I recall my grandpa wearing a very similar outfit, but in blue cotton, whenever he worked on his cars.

Long hair had to be tied back, preferably in a braid, because if any body part, including hair, was not completely submerged in the water for the proper duration of time, the whole baptism would have to be redone. Considering that each kid is being dunked for numerous people, time is of the essence.

You may be wondering, who are these dead people being baptized by these Mormon kids?

Mormons are well-known for their genealogy work; they are gifted at generating lists of names from death certificates and they will also accept requests. (ICYMI: the Mormon church has been in trouble in the past for baptizing Holocaust victims.) 

So, back to the baptism. There’s a large decorative tub called a “baptismal font” and in it stands a man who will be the dunker for the evening.

temple-baptismal-font

I distinctly remember standing in the lukewarm water with my arms intertwined in a strange configuration with the male stranger who was about to dunk me underwater repeatedly. Thankfully, I was allowed to pinch my nostrils closed. He recited the prayer and baptized me in the name of this woman and that woman over and over again. I kept my feet firmly planted on the floor of the font and didn’t let them float up in order to ensure complete submersion each time. It was a point of pride to get all my dunks perfect with no do-overs. (Mormon kids hassle each other about shit like that.)

Once the baptizing ended, we all headed one by one to the changing rooms to get dressed and ready for Confirmation, which is basically a “laying on of hands” prayer blessing that confirms the deceased person’s baptism and gives them the “gift of the Holy Ghost”.

Then we all went to the Dairy Queen across the street from the temple for DQ Sandwiches and Dilly Bars.

 

 

An Actual Exchange at a Winery

Man Behind Bar: I used to live in Salt Lake.
Me: Ah! I was raised Mormon.
Man Behind Bar: (Looking intently at my wine glass) Are you Jack Mormon?
Me: No, I’m an EX-Mormon.
Man Behind Bar: (Smiling widely) You’re destined for Outer Darkness!
Me: Yes I am.