You are in the bishop’s office. The carpet is green and freshly vacuumed. His papers are stacked straight and true. His shelves are full of hardbound books, both mundane and divine. You’ve been halfway apostate for years, not attending church but faithful at home and studious. You’ve read the great tome, Jesus the Christ, Joseph Smith’s blue bound Articles of Faith, all of the scriptures, and as much of the arcane Temple and Cosmos as you can stand. But you need the church now, so you brave it on a Wednesday night and, while the other young adults play hallway bowling in the basement, you lay your great black depression on the bishop. It is not a sin. You tell him you know that. It is a slippery mental condition much harder to fight than demons. He blesses you anyway. He lays his hands on your head. He anoints you with oil. He calls the Holy Spirit to comfort you, to give you peace and wisdom.
When the blessing is over, he sits back in his chair and says, “I feel like the Lord has blessed you. I feel like he would bless you more if you came to church.”
You chuckle a little. Sly devil, you think, and wonder how he hides his conniving horns so well under his curly silver mane, Lion of the Lord and apostate wrangler that he is.
You look down at your folded hands and say, “Maybe you’re right.”
You tell him about your suffering. You tell him how, in your echoey apartment, during the long, suffocating July nights, you do not, cannot feel God. You tell him you feel profoundly alone. “Alone,” you repeat. “Alone.”
He leans forward and puts his elbows on his desk. He says, “I think you mean ‘abandoned.’”
You want to leap across the desk like a feral cat and rip his throat out because how dare he correct your word choice. Because your stupid twenty-something writer’s pride is one good thing you have left. Instead, you look down at your folded hands and say, “Maybe you’re right.”
You tell him how you’ve never wanted to kill yourself, but you caught yourself the other day twisting the tip of a steak knife against your finger while you mindlessly watched reruns of Beverly Hills 90210. It scared you because you have never been a cutter. Was this a new level of darkness?
He tells you that, if the psychotherapy you’ve been going through hasn’t helped, perhaps you ought to consider a “more intense, residential intervention.”
Sylvia Plath, The Snake Pit, electroshock, and your sister’s miserable teen years spent bouncing from mental hospital to mental hospital come screaming to mind. “No,” you say. “No. I won’t do that.”
You and he go twenty rounds. You hold your ground. Finally, in a great burst of exasperation he roars, “What if I were to tell you that because I am your bishop and because I hold the priesthood, you should do what I say?”
You look up from your hands, look past his sly throat that you wish, especially now, you had torn out, and you meet his eyes. You gather up all your un-churched religious scholarship and you say, “In the Book of Mormon, it says to test the veracity of the scriptures by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will tell you if they are true. If we are to test the very scriptures by that method, who are you, priesthood holder or not, to tell me to go against what the Holy Spirit is telling me now: that I must not to go away, that I must fight this thing here.”
You do not tell him this, but it also whispers that mental hospitals for female writers are not the romance nor rite of passage they’ve been made out to be. It whispers, “Hang on to your freedom, Woman. Hang on to your self by your bloody cat claws.”
He gives up. He asks you if you’d like to take the sacrament.
“Yes,” you say.
From some mysterious priesthood room, he produces a loaf of generic bread and a paper cup of drinking fountain water. You fold your hands again and bow your head. He begins, “O God, The Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread…”