By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
I glanced behind me and found my mother in the next row. She was fiddling with her ensemble, trying to adjust the extra articles of clothing that by now we were all wearing. In addition to the aprons, we were swathed in "robes" of white pleated material that wrapped around our trunks diagonally, as though they were very bulky beauty pageant sashes. Over my flowing wedding gown, these additions made me look as padded as a little kid trussed into a ski parka. My mother was looking puffy, too, and she was trying to bring herself into better alignment, but when I caught her eye, her face leaped into a smile so filled with love for me and confidence in these rituals that I was able to believe there was something flawed in the way I was perceiving the action going on up front. I looked over for Monty, too, wanting him because he would steady me if he could. But instead of finding him, I intercepted a glance of pure hunger and heat being dispatched by the husband-to-be of the lovesick girl next to me. As their eyes met, their need was a laser beam in the room. My envy ached in my joints.
I was relieved to be distracted at last by the parting of the curtains. Behind the stage, the drapes disappeared and revealed what seemed to be a very long bedsheet suspended from the ceiling. It has deep slits cut into it that were about the same height as an average man--slits that matched the markings of the temple garments except that they were much longer and larger.
I saw Monty then because he was also looking for me and grinning as though something important was coming--perhaps something that would make these rococo temple rites make sense. As I moved with the others toward the bedsheet, we were told that it symbolized the veil that separates this life from the next. A handful of male temple workers had taken their place on the other side of it and thrust their arms through the slits, and one by one the audience members were reaching their own arms through to embrace the workers they couldn't see, who in their positions in the "afterlife" represented God. When my turn came, the routine altered a little: The person who took his place on the other side of the veil was Monty. It was he would usher me into heaven. It always happened this way for brides, who unlike the men had made their temple covenants not to God but to their own husbands.
This embrace through the veil was by far the most intimate thing Monty and I had ever done together; our furtive premarital groping sessions could not compare with it. In fact, the idea of sharing the secrets that join the dimensions with a man to whom I'd never been able to tell the deepest secrets of my heart made me shy as I approached the veil. Coaxed into it by another one of those kindly female temple workers, who had appeared to stand beside me, I slipped my arms beneath Monty's and then around him. I moved in close so that through the sheet our bodies were touching as though we were dancing.
The temple worker now asked that we touch at the "five points of fellowship": foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear.
And then, when Monty made the Sign of the Nail into my hand and asked me to identify this "token" and its "penalty," I realized disbelievingly that this was a test. The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I'd been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn't heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life.
No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo jumbo. God must never have gotten past that carefree period of mortal development when he'd formed a club with little pals and refused to let them into the tree fort without a password. The mysteries of the world were fraternity rituals. A wild, bewildered giggle was forming in my throat.
What in the world was everyone doing? Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament?
Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion, and yet my turn at the veil was nothing like a full-blown awakening. The tiny flames of anger licked through me and then went out, just another of the brief savage caprices of my wedding day. I quickly began concentrating, trying to believe my fiance's muffled incantations were scriptural truth.
I reviewed with him all the "tokens' and "penalties" I'd just learned, and I came to know at last the purpose of my "new name" when Monty asked me to reveal it to him. "Sarah," I said directly into his ear. It was the secret, magic password that would identify me to Monty at death so that he could pull me through to the other side. Without Monty, I learned in that moment, I wasn't going to get into heaven at all. That's how the system worked for women, although I would never know Monty's "new name." Apparently God himself ushered in the men.