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Baptisms for the Dead photo

We took a bus down to Dallas, TX, probably forty or fifty of us, and spent the night praying for our families in a large hotel room. The next morning we drove to the temple. We had to change into all white clothes when we got inside. There was a large dressing room. Old men of no relation changed their clothes next to teenage boys, not even attempting at modesty. We filed into a big room. The light was dim. We all sat in pews, observing the baptisms as they progressed. They seemed to go on and on well into the afternoon.

The baptismal was a large basin, about fifteen feet in diameter, elevated atop statues of oxen. Everything was white. Nothing was pure. As soon as I got into the basin and the water hit the shriveled thing I call my penis, I peed my pants. I didn’t feel too bad about it, either, like I thought I would. Then this guy read a few things about the lives of the dead—a few Jews, some Catholics, a crippled agnostic. He dunked me under the water each time he read a new name. It went on like this forever. When I finally got out, I felt like shit. I had water in my nose, inside my sinuses, and bad thoughts all shot through my head. But there I was, the obedient Mormon, newly baptized for twenty poor, dead, non-Mormon souls. Finally, somebody said, these people have been elevated to the gates of heaven.


On the bus on the way back to Wichita something in me clicked. I experienced the mind-numbing madness of depression for the first time in my life. And later that night, after getting home and telling my parents how great the trip had been, I crawled up into my bed and pulled the covers over my head, prayer-less, and fell asleep. It was a conscious decision I made, not praying, not even going through the motions. I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore, not even for the souls of the living. I didn’t feel like doing anything. But I couldn’t stop thinking about things. As I lay there, all cocooned in my bedspread, I couldn’t stop, my mind reeling through thousands of memories, thoughts, questions and questions and questions, all rapid fire, rushing, and all at once. God? God? Are you there, God? Are you listening?


image: Andromeda Veach