My Temple of Doom: Part Two (and Three)

Hey guys. Nice to see you again. If you haven't already, go ahead and read Part One before reading this. It will make you moderately less confused.

“Eh, what was that?” I said with a start as I jerked my aged head back from where it slumbered on chest. My glasses slipped from my nose and fell into the mound of mashed potatoes on the plate in front of me. Though blurry, I could see the faces of my progeny, like floating specters, arranged around the table and staring at me intently.

 “Grandpa, are you okay?” Jill or LaJean says to me. “You kinda dozed off there.”

 “I…how long was I asleep,” I say through a dry and raspy old man’s throat.

“You just nodded off for a few minutes.”

“It seemed like I’ve been asleep for three years,” I manage to say with a voice eliciting concern. Laughter softly spread around the table as slight worry gave way to the realization that old men will be old men.

“The year was ’99, in the old century…”

“No grandpa, you already said that part,” some other kid said, obviously disrespectful of his elders. 

“Eh? Well, where was I then?”

“Um…I think you were saying something about a minotaur.”

“Ah yes…the minotaur…”

As we made our way down the hall, the kindly translucent matron asked me if I was endowed. A little bit more explanation for you non-LDS folk, those we like to call “Investigators.” The term “endowed” simply means that you have gone to the temple to take part in one of the worship ceremonies. It is not really that simple, but let’s go ahead and make it that simple. Also, once you are endowed, you wear that special Mormon underwear you’ve been hearing so much about.

And, it is because of that special Mormon underwear that the matron was asking me if I was endowed. If so, they would offer me some loaner special Mormon underwear along with a stylish white jumpsuit so as not to get my own special Mormon underwear wet. If not, they would kindly offer me a pair of regular, incredibly unspecial tighty whiteies to go under the suit.

I answered that I had not been endowed (as that would come for me a few months later) and Tina and I were taken to another kindly matron at the clothing distribution area. She as well asked me if I was endowed because these elderly temple workers are nothing if not real sticklers for the underwear rules. I responded in the negative and was offered a white jumpsuit that looked like a deflated blow-up sumo wrestling suit and a pair of white briefs that looked like they were meant for a seven-year-old Mormon boy.

In the locker room, arranged just to the side of the baptisimal font, I put on my loaner clothing. I attached the safety pin hook of my locker key to the zipper of my jumpsuit and made my way into the font. By then, Tina was already there and we went into the font together. There is usually a volunteer worker who performs the baptisms, but as I was planning on performing the baptisms myself, he graciously stepped aside and let me do my thing. Bro knew I was on a date after all.

Each person that is baptized for the dead typically does so for about ten names, meaning they go down in and back up out of the water ten different times as proxy for a deceased person. I had managed to find my rhythm and baptize Tina about five or six times before a frantic temple worker came out of the locker room and to the edge of the water. He pointed his boney finger down directly at me. “J’accuse!” he would have said, had his mission to France not been sixty years earlier and he would have still remembered what it meant.

Now, I invite you to imagine something that you have done wrong in your life. Maybe it was being caught in a lie or stealing a candy bar from the 7-11. Perhaps it was taking that swing of alcohol (or coffee, or tea, or Coke—you know, the devil’s beverages). No matter the guilt or shame you may have felt at that time, I can promise that when you feel the shame of an old man accusing you for having violated the most sacred of rites, even unknowingly, it feels worse.

Wilford Brimley has the diabeetus as well as a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  
I suddenly realized that all of those people asking me if I was endowed only had a little to do with the options of underwear I had. You see, any member with a recommend can be baptized for the dead (get dunked) but only endowed members can perform the baptisms (do the dunking). Imagine making a bologna sandwich out of communion wafers, or playing “Born This Way” on the shofar at Temple. Yeah, kind of like that. But worse.

My apologies for not having been told this somehow basic principle and tenet of our faith fell upon deaf ears, probably literally. I slunk to a corner of the font while the temple volunteer, with just one shake of his head to signify his disapproval of this whole scenario, came in to redo the baptisms I had profaned. Tina then exited the font, no worse for the blasphemous wear, and the volunteer motioned to me to then be baptized. I hadn’t planned on doing this, obviously, and was worried that my slightly tweaked back would not allow me to go under the water the requisite number of times. But, I knew that if anyone needed his sins washed away, it was totally me.

I am the worst at getting baptized. The bad back and the panic of drowning kept me from being fully immersed. No matter the force with which the worker tried to push me down, I bobbed to the surface like a loose water wing. They got me under officially a couple of times and then decided that they would close up shop for the day and save some of the saving for people who might actually know what they were doing tomorrow. I entered the empty dressing room with depression and guilt all swirling around me. I got in the shower to wash the chlorine off and thought about how not only had I messed up the whole date at such an early hour, but I had probably messed up whatever I had going for me into eternity as well. I exited the shower, thinking that Satan probably wouldn’t even want somebody that couldn’t shovel coal into the right wheelbarrow or whatever task he had in store for one of my caliber. I wrapped a small towel around myself, committing to try to make the best of this horrible situation, trying to convince myself that the date was not lost, even if my soul very well might be. There was a glimmer of hope in my heart as I dropped my wet jumpsuit down the laundry shoot and into the basement, just as I saw the placard above the chute saying, in engraved, extra bold letters “REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR LOCKER KEY.”


I did not remember to keep my locker key.

My locker key was safety-pinned to the zipper of my jumpsuit and now lay in a pile of other jumpsuits in the inaccessible basement of the House of the Lord. I stood there staring at the placard for a long while and made several reassessments about that bit of hope I had felt only moments earlier. After stifling words that at this point were merely icing on the cake of my eternal damnation, I finally began to think through my options.

Option 1: Wait for someone else to come into the locker room and save me. However, I had been the last baptism of the day, meaning that nobody would be coming back into this locker room until the font opened back up again on Tuesday morning. Option One was out.

Option 2: Wait it out until Tina sends someone to look for me. I cared for Tina dearly, but it might have taken her until Tuesday morning to do something like that anyway.

Option 3: Try to bust my way into the lockers. I found my way to the locker that held my coveted clothing. I first thought that, this being the temple, perhaps the members could be trusted enough that all the keys worked for every locker. I took the key out of the neighboring locker and soon found that the Mormons are not as utopian a society as one would have you believe. I then thought I would Fonzie the thing open with my fist. Again, this was not a possibility. If I had a hanger or a credit card or something, I could maybe try to jimmy my way in. But I didn’t have those things. What I did have was a towel the size of dinner napkin and an ever-increasing sense of doom.

Option 4: Let’s go fishin’ for a jumpsuit. I could see down the chute and the large bin where lay the literal key to my salvation. It was right there, just one story below. The chute was too narrow to fit my not-too-narrow body. However, I found a supply closet next to the chute that had a long pool-cleaning net, as if the temple workers had to scoop up autumn leaves or rescue drowning kittens from the font. But, I saw that it would be just long enough to potentially snag my fallen jumpsuit. I tried it out, making an irreverent ruckus as the poll banged along the aluminum walls of the chute. By this time, I had abandoned the washcloth-towel, committing to the one-man Lord of the Flies scenario I was in. After several attempts, I knew I would never be able to get it out, or even come close.

Option 5: Recon. I could potentially take it upon myself to don the mini-towel once again and sneak through the halls of the temple outside of the font until I found a worker or a visitor or some unsuspecting wanderer who would hear my tale of woe and dread and save me. After all, I had already profaned the temple; why not add a little indecent exposure to the list of crimes. I could not bear to bring myself to that point and so I slunk onto a bench and offered prayers to the God I was hoping to serve that day.

I asked Him that, if it was in His wisdom to get me out of this predicament which He must have found undoubtedly hilarious, I would try to do better with my life. It wasn’t really one of those promises to repent as it was a realization that I, sitting cold and naked in a dank abandoned locker room, had been sufficiently humbled. I realized that I shouldn’t have tried to combine my worship with my pathetic attempts at wooing women. I needed to remember to keep my thoughts and my heart in the right place in both pursuits. It wasn’t that it was wrong to go to the temple with my girlfriend, but I could have gone there with the spirit of seeking out my own spiritual enlightenment as well as helping providing a service for ancestors who had passed on. It should not have been seen as an initial leg of an all-day dating marathon that hopefully ended at the finish line of Makeout City. I could strive to be a much better person and, if the Lord saw fit to transfigure me out of this horrible situation, I could work at relieving the burden of my own shortcomings by trying to lessen them.

I don’t know if I managed to say “Amen” to that pitiful prayer, but if I did, I heard the beautiful sounds of another baptism being performed just after I said “Amen.” Apparently, they allowed an even more special exception to the late baptism rule. I gathered several mini-towels, adorned myself as best as I could and sat on a bench near the curtain separating the dressing room from the baptisimal font—like a bride in an arranged marriage eagerly waiting to meet her husband on their wedding day.

The face that appeared from behind the curtain and then contorted in surprise was about what I could have been expected. We locked eyes for a few seconds before I said in a quavering voice, which I found had become quite dry and raspy too, “It seems that I left my key on my jumpsuit which is now at the bottom of the laundry chute. Could you please help me find someone to kindly retrieve it for me?” 

He did so without saying a word and, within a few minutes, the angry man that had earlier discovered my unsanctioned acts in the baptisimal font handed me the blessed key with an unsavory scowl. I wanted to kiss his old-man scowl and then joyfully dance a bit with him right there at the entrance of the locker room, but I had to take care of more pressing/naked matters.

Tina was waiting for me patiently in the lobby, only slightly curious about the Château d’If I had just endured for the past hour. Our relationship would only last a few months following that fateful day, ending while I was a Mormon missionary looking to make good on the promises I made and while she was trying to find someone who wouldn’t find himself locked up, nude, in a confined space throughout their marriage.

Since that time, I have not been baptized for the dead at the temple, though I have performed some of the baptizing, seeing as how I have now somehow been given permission to legitimately perform them. I’ve also been able to attend the temple countless other times, including to marry my beautiful wife Miranda who got tricked into spending an eternity with me. It is a place of sacred solace for me, despite the British sitcom misadventures that occurred there at one time. I feel that I have learned many lessons from this, the unquestionable most embarrassing moment of my life. Have patience. Be steadfast in your beliefs, whatever they may be. And, perhaps most important of all, please remember to keep your locker key.

Fade back to an old man, surrounded by generations of family members comforting him around the dinner table. A single tear falls down his cheek as he finishes his harrowing tale. Then, silence.

“Will someone put Grandpa's dentures back in?” McKaitlyn or MacKylysha or something says. “They fell in the mashed potatoes like an hour ago and he is just over there mumbling.”

They put them back in. I smile and bow my head. I smile because this family, all of these wonderful future generations, is part of the promises made and given at the temple. And I smile because the gravy in the future tastes pretty good.

Jacoby Ellsbury, former Boston center-fielder and current Yankee traitor, knows the song "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree."