Boy, You’re going to Carry that Weight
The couple leaving my office is going through some marital problems. The wife, Sharon, is addicted to pain pills, and even though she is a stay at home mom, claims no one knows what it is like to be so bored. The husband, Gary, is addicted to pornography and can’t seem to help himself. The fight started when Sharon found a stash of raunchy, not the classy brushed-up stuff, hard-core pornography—you know the kind—glory shots, assholes with dicks in them, barely eighteen, cum in the face, and on and on it could go, should go, maybe, until one found a point to be disgusted, but I find it takes too much to shock a person who is an addict into a state resembling remorse. Yes, I told Gary about the suffering he caused himself and his wife and his two boys, and I told him he would no longer be able to exercise his priesthood, might even be excommunicated, but bishops aren’t psychiatrists, and our solutions fall short with modern man because we deny the flesh and speak only spirit, even though we, bishops and psychologists, might find a middle ground where flesh and spirit collided. Instead, we mention good old-fashioned values and punishments—duty to God, to family, vows made to a wife in the temple, guilty conscience, pangs of hell, and all that stiff stuff, but the soul of man has ventured off the straight and narrow path and onto the crooked path of self discovery. I heard one person blame Freud, another said the devil had revamped his program and made it more alluring, as if it wasn’t alluring enough already.
My appointment before the dismal couple didn’t go any better. I spoke with a twenty-year old girl. I won’t mention her name, it might have been my daughter. She told me her and her boyfriend, someone I had strict confidence in and had over to my house for dinner on several occasions, had fooled around. I didn’t want to ask any more questions, but my calling, you understand, prohibits me from, first, being her father and kicking her ass and then her boyfriend’s, but it also requires me to come to know the depth of the sin and administer the just punishment so the repentance process can begin and the atonement can be efficacious in that person’s life. Have you any idea what it is like to hear your sweet daughter explain that it started out by her sucking his dick? I looked up at the picture of Jesus—we bishops tend to have the Mormon status quo picture of Him, the one with the burly beard and the red robe draped over his muscular shoulders, and eyes that could cause coal to cry white tears. The picture told me nothing, spoke no comfort to my angry heart. What next, I asked her, trying to remain calm and wipe the sweat from my forehead at the same time. Then he wanted to rub me, you know, down below. At first, I pushed him away and we made love through our pants, sort of. He got off, anyway. After doing this a few times, it wasn’t enough for him. He blamed you for me being so prude, and I didn’t like that. It made me feel like I was denying myself of something I wanted because you are the bishop, but I also felt guilty. She paused and cast her downtrodden eyes upon me to see if I had come undone. I had nothing to say, so I proceeded. And then what? And then nothing, she said. We did it! Is that what you wanted to hear? Tears came to her eyes. We did it a lot, and it felt good. And now I am pregnant and he dumped me, and wants me to get an abortion. She became an emotional wreck at this point, exceeding even me. I hugged her as her father and reprimanded her as her bishop. I gave her a book on repentance and told her to go home and pray about this, and that I wouldn’t tell her mother, couldn’t, due to policy, and that we would talk again in a week and try to reach a resolution.
I had a few minutes before my next appointment, so I closed my office door and fell to my knees in supplication to the Lord. I needed more than guidance, I needed revelation—and quick, and not for my daughter, but for me. People tend to think that none of the burden they unload falls upon the bishop’s shoulders. They leave my office satisfied that they have announced their sins and not kept them hidden, but few realize the weight shifting onto the bishop’s shoulders as he travels the same travails of metaphysical and spiritual rockiness as them, only his cross is made not from wood, but human suffering. I am determined suffering weighs. How much I know not. I prayed to the Lord to have mercy on me, to make me able to bear the next burden placed in front of me. I felt angry, and my prayer, somewhat humble, somewhat rebellious, had little or no effect on my psyche besides making me acutely aware of how bad a state of mind I had fallen into. I arose and opened the door and sat behind my desk. I told my second counselor to send the boy in when he got there.
The boy walked in so light on his feet you would have thought the world made of an eighth-inch thick eggshell. His eyes never met mine. He took his seat and fidgeted with his hands in his lap. This sucker, this little namby-pamby bastard is the guy who stole my daughter’s virginity. I wanted to watch him suffer, but knew my duty to God required something much worse. I had to listen to him tell what had happened. How he and my daughter were just fooling around and then things got serious of their own accord. Biology, the boy said, like I didn’t have hormones because somehow bishops don’t, like I didn’t have to listen to tale after tale of unfaithfulness, like I couldn’t be tempted to take advantage of Sister Johnson and her ample breasts when she told me she suffered from nymphomania and wanted more than anything to have sex with me because of my position of authority. Oh and how she told it, so seductively and so wanting it to happen even though she had come for repentance. Don’t tell me about temptations of the flesh kid. I have seen and suffered them all ten times over, and I hadn’t succumbed. So, I listened and asked him what he proposed to do, knowing full well he would run from his problems. He told me he intended to stick by her, but needed forgiveness. He said he had felt so guilty he thought about killing himself. Well, I had to talk some sense into him, even though, deep down where the shadow lives, I felt an urge to tell him maybe he should kill himself—one less bastard in the world. I told him that forgiveness begins with admittance, and he had made the proper first step. We went over the other steps of repentance, and then I sent him on his way.
I sent my counselors home for the night and stayed in my office with only my lamp on. I picked up my scriptures but found the absence of comfort in them. I prayed again, this time with the fervor necessary to receive an answer or comfort but felt the absence of comfort. I turned to the picture of Jesus. His face glistened in the glow of the lamp light. He appeared serene and judgmental all in one, an amalgamated Yin and Yang of love and peace, and hate and war. The picture has always prompted the question in my mind: “What side are you on?” I punched a hole through his heart, and felt remorse but more anger as the picture, frame and all, fell to the ground. Sidney Rigdon, in the church history books, and as an apostate, is quoted as saying, and I paraphrase, “No one has ever suffered as I have suffered, not even Christ.” Sometimes this part of me, even though the church casts stones at him for saying such blasphemy, agrees with him. I take my forty-five ACP out of my top drawer and put it in my mouth then I put it away, turn out the lights and walk home. My daughter is at the table with the rest of the family, but I feel too ashamed to enter the living room. I tell my wife I am exhausted and am going to bed early.
I am woken by a knock at the door. Officer Grady doesn’t tell me what he is there for, just says I need to go with him. He takes me to the precinct and lets me know, he is my first counselor after all, I am not under arrest, but he has some questions for me. He shows me the gun. It is a forty-five ACP. It appears exactly like mine—only—only I notice a difference. Look familiar, he asks me. I tell him I have a gun just like it. I hold nothing back because I have nothing to hide, and have little idea what charade brother, or Officer Grady is up to. We found it at the scene of the crime. Crime? What Crime? I ask. Grady appears tentative to continue, and he got near my ear then whispered, “Can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same if I were in your shoes.” This comment perplexes me, and I ask Grady, What Crime. He walks around the table and sits down across from me, the gun serving as a vicious centerpiece, like we are partakers in the last supper from hell, and bullets not bread bring salvation. “Don’t play dumb with me, Bishop. The whole town knows that boy came to see you tonight, and everyone knows that he impregnated, excuse my language, your daughter.” I breathed through my nose wildly, like a horse in full strut. “The whole town knows this? How?” Officer Grady leans forward and trying to be kind yet do his job, he says, “This is too small of a town for secrets. Everybody knows everybody’s business. I don’t blame you for doing what you did.” I leaned forward so that our faces were close enough that I could smell the onion on his breath, and feel the presence of the gun beneath our faces. “What did I do?” Officer Grady can’t hold the gaze. He withdraws and then puts his hands on his lap and looks at his wedding ring. “Well, you killed him, didn’t you? It’s your gun. The boy leaves your office after telling you about his intimacy, pardon my phrasing, with your daughter, and turns up dead down by the river four hours later. The gun was just sitting there like you threw it there on purpose so we would know it was you. I just figured you took vengeance into your own hands instead of heeding the scripture that talks about vengeance being the Lord’s. I don’t blame you, honestly.” I slapped myself in the face to make sure I demonstrated the proper shock, and I didn’t do it on purpose. “I will tell you and only you this, brother Grady. That isn’t my gun, and I can prove it. Take me to my house first, and then to my office.”
When we got home, the family had heard the news, and my wife screamed, “Is it true?” While my daughter screamed, “How could you? You monster.” Officer Grady had them wait outside while I escorted him downstairs and to the gun cabinet. I felt reluctant to open the cabinet, knowing he would understand some things about me, skeletons some people call them. I call them ransom. I showed him my shotgun and asked him if he noticed anything unusual. “No. Not particularly,” he said turning the gun over in his hands to look at both sides. “Near the top, next to the bead, what do you see on the barrel?” He examined it closer then said, “I see a couple of dents with a little bit of rust in them. That’s all.” I showed him my pre-sixty four Model Seventy Winchester 30-06. “Notice anything?” He lifted it to his shoulder like he were preparing to down a deer, and said, “Yeah, this is a beautiful rifle.” I took the rifle from his hands and showed him the same size dents with about the same amount of rust. “I see it. I see it,” he said. I went through my entire twelve guns, rifles, and pistols and showed him the same markings. “What is your point?” he finally asked. I felt foolish, I mean here I was, the town’s spiritual leader, and I had to explain to my first counselor that I have suicidal thoughts, even me, especially me. Apologies for switching to past tense, back to the present. He doesn’t respond at first, seems taken aback. “Well, so what,” he mutters. “It’s not like you were really going to do it.” I don’t answer him, just let his eyes probe mine long enough until he gets his answer.
When we get to the church, my second counselor is there with the keys. Rumors do spread fast. He unlocks the door and enters with us. Churches always feel eerie when they are empty, and that is how this one felt with only the one light on and the echo of the halls playing tricks on our ears. We move into my office and I pull the forty-five out of my drawer. “As you can see, my gun is right here.”
“And the markings? Are there markings on the gun you keep at church?”
“The deepest of them all,” I say then add, “Probably as deep as Sidney Rigdon’s,” showing brother Grady the gun. “What do you mean by markings and Sidney Rigdon?” my second Counselor asks. “Never mind,” says brother Grady. “You wouldn’t understand. I sure as hell don’t. Pardon my language, bishop.”