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Baptisms For The Dead

Updated on April 24, 2013

I grew up immersed in two completely different religions. My dad and his side of the family were Catholic. My mom’s side of the family were Mormon.

At about the age of 12 my mom somehow convinced my dad to become a Mormon, I don’t know how. I guess the pervasive power of Mother Church cannot compete with the persuasive power of mother and wife.

We were Catholic before this point. I thought the Catholics were weird and found all the pomp and ceremony tiresome and hard on the knees. I also thought the priest should be wearing plastic gloves while he placed Jesus Pieces on our tongues. Quite unsanitary, but that's a Health Department matter.

I found the Mormon church to be far stranger. They put me in a Sunday school-like class. I was told not to ask too many questions one Sunday. I had asked a few questions, things relating to the odd beliefs about the natives of America and other things.

I then asked about Joseph Smith looking into a hat to decipher God’s word and why God would all of a sudden tell these things to some guy and why they were not in the bible already. Then I stated that God had said he wouldn’t show himself anymore and people had to have faith, so why did God prove himself to some guy in the 1800‘s? It wasn’t fair.

I was told to be quiet so God could come into my heart and mind and answer my questions. Hearts and minds.

Later I had to get prepared to do something called baptisms for the dead. I had no idea what it was but I knew I was going to get to go to Los Angeles and see some big giant temple. All the other 12 to 13 year olds who were going were so excited to see this temple.

First we had to have an interview with the Bishop. I have had some uncomfortable job interviews in my time in which I was not prepared to answer a question (once I went to an interview with a black eye and wearing a suit I had slept in), but this interview set the bar pretty high. I never again have felt like I did beneath the gaze of that man’s eyes.

The questions he asked were questions I was quite unprepared for at the age of 12. One of them was “Do you...uh...touch yourself down there,” He pointed down to his lap area. I had looked up at him not knowing what to say.

I knew what he meant, and I hadn’t started doing that yet but I was so embarrassed by the question my tongue had dried to the roof of my mouth. He had taken my hesitation as incomprehension. “Do you masturbate son? Do you think of other people sexually in your mind and then act on it? Remember, God is listening so you need to tell me the truth.” I ended up shaking my head no and managed a feeble and quiet “No sir.”

He had asked many other odd questions as well, some related to my sexual activities, and others just as completely pointless.

The trip to LA was pretty fun, taking a road trip with all these kids. When we stopped at a place to eat outside the temple, I looked up and saw the magnificence of the great Los Angeles temple.

I could see the gold statue of Moroni with the horn at the tippy top of temple, seeming to be trumpeting into the clouds. It made me feel so good inside, and I could feel God with me at that very moment. That was when I looked down from the blazing beauty of the temple at the streets around it.

There was dirty nasty looking streets with a couple of bums laying against a warehouse building half passed out. I was disgusted by these people and this city, its horrific ugliness encroaching upon the perfectness of the well kept grounds and the sky soaring temple with puffy white clouds seeming to hover only over the temple property.

Inside we walked through the giant halls filled with all manner of glory to God. It seemed like an imperial palace or a beautiful museum to me at the time. I began to wonder why they didn’t just spread this brilliance into the surrounding streets.

We waited in an antechamber for a little while before being sent through a door. The door led to a walkway which ran around the inside wall of a great chamber. It probably seemed so much bigger to me at that age than it would now. In my memory it was an immense cavernous room. In the center were oxen arranged in some sort of circle. They were gold looking and on their back was a giant golden bowl with water in it. It looked like the whole thing was just floating in darkness as I couldn’t see the bottom of the oxen’s feet.

As we walked around the walkway in a line I could see other kids in white jump-suits in a line on a walkway stretching out to the bowl. In the bowl I could see a man in a white suit dunking kids under water while looking up at a computer screen. At the time the whole scene reminded me of something out of one of the many sci-fi movies I loved.

The walkway we were on ended at a door in which there was a huge locker room on the other side. Inside we were given a net bag and a key for a locker. We had to change our clothes and put on one of the white zip up jump-suits. I felt like I was zipping up for a trip to the moon. As we stepped out onto the catwalk to the bowl, I felt a little apprehension.

I could hear a man’s voice echoing faintly from the bowl. I would hear snatches as we inched closer. “....Martinez, I baptize you....of...saints.” Then as I passed a person on a little seat off to the side of the catwalk at a console looking like an air traffic controller or something, I knew it was my turn.

I stepped down into the lukewarm water and the man grabbed me and said comfortingly, “Just let me guide you down each time, okay?” I nodded and he proceeded to baptize fifty dead people, with me as proxy vessel. I remember trying to see each of the names on the screen as I came up for air but it was all I could do to catch my breath and blink the water out of my eyes each time. Every time I came up I would see images. Kid’s faces, all staring at me with scared anticipatory looks, the air traffic controller lady with a creepy smile, the man’s face dunking me under who looked like the guy from Fantasy Island (wearing a white suit no less).

By about a dozen names I was feeling panicked, and I just couldn’t wait until it was over. My anxiety was screaming through my pores. Going backwards into the water was like that trust exercise of falling and being caught, except knowing that you would be dropped everytime. I was so glad when it was over and never wanted to do it again.

My family soon stopped going to the Mormon church. By the time I was 14 we had quit the church entirely.

They however, did not quit us. They hounded us day and night. Calls and surprise doorbell ringings, they would not leave our family alone. I would see a man standing on the corner when I was walking to the school bus and I would be scared he was a Mormon, watching and waiting for his chance to snatch me up and make me do baptisms for the dead for 5000 corpses.

I even had a nightmare once, days after the baptisms, in which Ricardo Montalban was welcoming me to Fantasy Island while riding a golden ox. I now think back and wonder why they would put children through that kind of cult-like and scary ceremony. I am sure there are people who probably had a good ol’ time performing this ceremony and I almost have to wonder about that as well.


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    • CM Sullivan profile imageAUTHOR

      CM Sullivan 

      4 years ago from California

      Well jemoon, I was in a "Mormon" church as I stated in the article and what happened was written. You stating that the church is "all about getting answers," is subjective. Praying (talking to yourself), is subjective. How you interpret the bible: subjective. Someone else's opinion: subjective. It seems the church is really all about opinions...

    • jemoon profile image


      5 years ago

      The author of this hub, appears to have never been in a Latter Day Saint Church.

      I have Been a "Mormon" for 70 years, and have never had a question, or a feeling that some one, the scriptures, or prayer could not answer.

      From Primary to Adult Sunday School it is all about getting answers.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This was really interesting, especially given my religious background. It bothers me how they baptize children who don't really have a comprehension of what's going on, even in my own church.

    • CM Sullivan profile imageAUTHOR

      CM Sullivan 

      5 years ago from California

      I am checking out some of his stuff, he is pretty good!

    • the pink umbrella profile image

      the pink umbrella 

      6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

      hey awesome work as always. so as a writer i admire...check this new hubber out? lol personal favor?? luvs ya!!!!

    • CM Sullivan profile imageAUTHOR

      CM Sullivan 

      6 years ago from California

      Yes Jillian, I completely agree. It sometimes seems that religion can do more harm to people than good. It almost seems that the more guilt is imposed the more money leaves peoples' pockets to compensate. Through the recession religious organizations seem to still prosper, and holy rollers keep on rollin'. lol

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 

      6 years ago from California, USA

      Thank you, CM Sullivan!

      People have enough problems just getting through life, without their religions putting more pressure on them. Was just telling a friend, that as a kid growing up Catholic, the guilt over every little thing was pretty overwhelming. I just don't think that is what God intended.

      And although I have never been Mormon, I am aware of the rigidity. Either religion, in fact most, control through guilt and fear. How can you have a happy life (hard enough with just normal issues)with all the BS hanging over your head-just my opinion...

    • CM Sullivan profile imageAUTHOR

      CM Sullivan 

      6 years ago from California

      Yeah, I was just recently thinking about it when my mom was talking about so and so in my family still going strong in the Mormon church. I just felt I wanted to write about it because it just seemed like such an odd experience. The weird thing is that people tell me how happy mormons are all the time to everyone. But it is only a shell of happiness, they just project it to people. Underneath I swear so many of them have multiple issues, I have seen it first hand.

    • CM Sullivan profile imageAUTHOR

      CM Sullivan 

      6 years ago from California

      Of course you can use this as a link! Thanks for reading it, I like your articles they are very articulate, and well written hubs!

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 

      6 years ago from California, USA

      Thank you for writing this! I was raised Catholic and am now (a grandmother)very comfortable with my separation from the Church. I asked questions as a kid and was told, "You just have to have faith". Still believe in God, but I believe that if you are good to people, treat all with respect, and share what little you have with others and just plain old live a decent life, you have figured it out. Doesn't take a man-run church to figure that out...

      I am using your article as a link to my latest-hope that is alright!

    • BeyondMax profile image


      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Oh.My.God. Really... (and other string of words) That's just so overwhelmingly scary and odd. I have next to none knowledge about Mormons (except that they have quite strange family structure arrangement and some other scary stuff regarding it) but that was just really terrifying experience. Scars for life, really. I feel for ya, man. No offense to anyone out there, but it just makes me think, how much more of the artificial shizzle is flying around and invented in this world to completely screw up the unprepared naive kids minds. No wonder that every second human being was subjected to some sort of crap in their early years.


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