Sacrament Meeting came later that afternoon, and while the priests blessed the bread, I dissected my week. I’d been far from perfect, but fortunately I’d confessed my sins to Mom that morning. I wondered if I might have done something in the interim that I’d forgotten, but reasoned that because I’d been at church it was unlikely. Satisfied, I offered a quick prayer seeking forgiveness, and prepared myself to partake.
A 12-year-old deacon carried the Sacrament from row to row. When he got to our family’s pew, he stopped beside me and extended the tray. I reached out to take the morsel in my right hand. From the corner of my eye I saw the bishop seated behind the pulpit, his eyes closed in prayer.
In an instant, an image of him, naked and heaving on top his wife’s body, flashed through my mind.
Surprise shocked me, and my hand flickered back from above the tray. The deacon’s blank expression broke with curiosity. I dismissed the thought with a determined blink and extended my hand again, but the image returned, this time more clearly than before. Trembling, I took the tray from the deacon and passed it quickly to Neal, careful not to make eye contact with anyone who might wonder why I had refused.
For three weeks in a row, I was haunted by the image of my bishop’s large, pulsating backside. When I walked to church, I vowed it wouldn’t overtake me. I begged Heavenly Father to bless me with clean thoughts. And for the first couple of hours, I was safe. I belted out children’s songs, participated in lessons. But the moment we gathered in the chapel and the priests knelt behind the ordinance table to bless the bread and water, all I could see was the bishop’s white flesh rolling like a thundercloud across his wife’s receptive bosom.
The fourth time I refused, my father grabbed my hand before I passed the tray, his grip hard. “What’s going on?” he whispered.
I shook my head. “I can’t talk about it.”
He looked at me with bewilderment. “You are sorting this out after church with your mother,” he said. “We need to know what’s happening.”
I nodded miserably. Although I usually confessed everything to Mom, there was something about this that was so shameful I hadn’t dared mention it even to her.
The moment we got home, Mom whisked me away to her room and sat me down on the bed. She hovered above me, blue eyes cloudy with concern. “Katie, whatever it is, you can tell me,” she said. “I’m here for you.”
I slumped, my head in my hands. “It’s bad,” I said. “Really, really bad.”
She held her breath. “It’s okay, sweetie. I can take it.”
I glanced up. Her face had the look of a hospital patient who expected terrible news but had summoned just enough courage to conceal the full depth of her concern. She half-smiled. I cringed. I knew I would have to tell her. If not now, then soon, and the faster I spat it out, the faster this would all be over. Before I could talk myself out of it, I blurted as quickly as I could, “Ikeepthinkingdirtythoughtsaboutthebishop.”
The confession hung in the air like a withering balloon.
She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry?” she said. “Can you say that again?”
“I said, ‘I keep thinking dirty thoughts about the bishop.’”
“That’s what I thought you said.”
There was a long pause. I watched her anxiously through my fingertips. For the briefest moment I thought she might burst out laughing: a sudden lightness danced in her eyes, but it evaporated in an instant, and I wondered if I had imagined it. When she spoke again, her voice was solemn and careful. “I can imagine that would be very…disturbing.”
“But, you know, it happens to everyone.”
My head snapped up. “It does?”
“Oh, sure,” she said. “I’ve even had moments when I’ve been in the temple and started thinking weird things.”
Mom sighed. “Honey, you’re growing up. You’re going to start thinking about these things from time to time. But when you stopped taking the Sacrament, we thought something really serious had happened.”
My curiosity was piqued—what could be more serious than picturing my priesthood leader naked? “Like what?” I demanded.
She opened her mouth to respond, but in a flash of pure grace, closed it again. “You know,” she said, “I don’t think I need to give you anything more to worry about.”
She held me close, and I felt safe and warm inside her softness. When the Sacrament came the next week, I took it, and the image of my bishop’s fat, flowing ass faded to the edges of my consciousness. It did not torment me again.
Praise for Sealed
“This is a beautiful memoir-both for its honest vulnerability and theological profundity. As unique as Katie Langston’s story is, it is also familiar: most of us can relate to the fear that we are unworthy, the hope and alienation that can come from changing perspectives, and how our questions can both paralyze and open us. I’m not sure what I loved most: the intimate particularity of Langston’s story, or the remarkable clarity with which she articulates the sweeping inclusivity of the grace of God.”
—Debbie Blue, author of Sensual Orthodoxy and Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to the Birds of the Bible
“Langston’s powerful and deeply theological memoir speaks to the steep costs of religious perfectionism. It will resonate with anyone who has never quite belonged and longs for what she has found on the other side: the grace of a loving God for whom she was already, always, more than enough.”
—Jana Riess, author of The Next Mormons and Flunking Sainthood
“Langston is a dazzling writer with an ear that is perfectly tuned to the Gospel’s chords. Most importantly, the familiar voice of the Shepherd is in this moving memoir, beckoning readers to a deeper experience of Christ’s love.”
—Michael Chan, author of Exploring the Bible and host of the Gospel Beautiful podcast
“Katie Langston is coming for your very soul: with fearless honesty, vulnerability, and a full-bodied faith. As her ancestors were, she is a rebel too-a Mormon girl out to find Jesus in a way that makes sense to her troubled heart. Let her story inspire you to live your purpose.”
—Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith
“Katie Langston uses exquisite, edge-of-the-sword honesty and elevated prose in Sealed, a lovely memoir that chronicles her difficult struggle to find peace with God. It was agonizingly painful to read of her experiences as a young girl, lost in her mind with endless questions about her worthiness-and I exulted in the respite she found in the love that can succor us all. It opened my eyes in new ways, and I saw so much of my own journey in it. Sharing stories is a divine gesture.”
—Phyllis Barber, author of How I Got Cultured and To the Mountain: One Mormon Woman’s Search for Spirit
About the Author
Katie Langston is a doubter by nature and a believer by grace. She is the director of digital strategy for Luther Seminary’s innovation team, where she oversees digital projects aimed at cultivating vibrant Christian spirituality in a postmodern, post-Christian cultural context. She writes and speaks to Christian audiences about Mormonism, and to Mormon audiences about Christianity, and is a popular blogger, podcast guest, and preacher. A pastoral intern preparing for ordination the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Katie lives in the greater Twin Cities area with her husband, two daughters, and dog Buffy (named, of course, after the Vampire Slayer).