September 28 1996 Salt Lake Temple.
We went to the temple and checked in. When they explained the washing and anointing in very generalized terms (something NOT included in the temple prep class that I took) and had me change into just the open shield, my dad looked at me with a little apologetic half smile and said something like “don’t worry”.
I knew I was going to get my garments but didn’t know the details.
Long story short I was led into the little four square booth and washed and anointed the old way with them actually touching each part of your body. The worker prefaced with a short speech outside the normal temple verbiage about this being a very ancient rite and perfectly normal.
I didn’t like how he touched me on the chest and arms. When the worker washed and anointed my “loins” he took great care to deliberately touch and rub my genitals. This shocked and repulsed me but he acted like it was no big deal. In fact he seemed to enjoy it and it creeped me out.
So I mentally detached and dissociated like you would for an unpleasant medical procedure. I was a tough 19 year old soon to be missionary. I could handle anything.
To this day I have completely blocked out his face. Cannot recall it at all.
I had no frame of reference to know that this was abnormal. I went on with the endowment, but it kept bugging me.
So on our drive home I was trying desperately to come up with ways to broach the topic. I figured I would ask a few questions and throw that in. So I asked about the significance of the miter cap and then tried to deal with my discomfort through a bit of humor.
I mentioned the “secret handshake” and I’ll never forget how my dad slammed on the brakes and admonished me for discussing things outside the temple and making light of them.
So that was the end of that conversation.
Problem is, we don’t talk about the temple INSIDE the temple either. Just go through the ceremony and try to stay awake.
So I carried this experience with me… for over 20 years.
I avoided proxy initiatories successfully until after my mission on a stake temple night. Was so nervous I puked in the bathroom beforehand. Was surprised and relieved when he ONLY touched my hip. I rationalized it still as “ah well they only touch you like that the first time”
I decided it wouldn’t bother me and kept telling myself it was normal. Until I started having flashbacks and thinking about it while having sex with my wife, losing my libido immediately and having panic attacks.
Still thought it was normal and that I was overreacting.
I was relieved when they changed the initiatory to a fully clothed symbolic washing and I tried to treat my issue through exposure to the ordinance. Twice a week for a year. Initiatories at lunch.
It helped a little.
I didn’t leave the church over this. I didn’t find out that it was wrong until months after leaving the church after a particularly bad episode with my wife. I started to do research and found that not only was it not normal but a few other people had had the same experience.
Maybe that’s why they changed it. Maybe they did another survey. I don’t know.
The truly frightening question that really messes with my head is how far I would have gone for the church. I was all in. Had I gone upstairs in the temple on my first day and found an orgy or human sacrifice was part of the ceremony would I have participated?
The worst possible answer is… maybe.