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Mormon Ghost Stories

White Shirts

Cover Image for White Shirts
Sister Polly Gamy
By: Sister Polly Gamy

Before the meeting started, the bishop invited any attending deacons who were worthy and properly dressed to participate in the passing of the sacrament. An adequate number, dressed in white shirts and ties, came forward to receive instructions on how to handle such a large congregation. The ordinance was administered reverently and efficiently. As I observed the congregation, I saw that many were deeply moved by the spirit of the meeting.

Elder L. Tom Perry, 2006

“Mom! I don’t have any clean shirts to wear! MOM!”, Thomas yelled from the top of the stairs. It was his first Sunday as an official Deacon at church and he knew it was going to be special.

The Sunday before had been an exciting day for Thomas - he had been waiting his whole life (or at least the last three years) for when his uncle would put his hands on Thomas’ head and give him a gift - a gift that not everyone would get. He was given the Priesthood. Thomas didn’t really get how it worked, but he was brought into a room at the church building and his Uncle Robert, the Bishop, his young mens’ leader, and a few other leaders all stood around him and put their hands on his head to give him the Priesthood. He mostly remembers the weight of their hands and his forehead getting sticky from sweat pooling around their fingers. Uncle Robert had said some nice things but then officially gave him the Aaronic Priesthood. When the prayer ended, he stood up and shook all their hands, trying a little harder to be firm in his handshakes - like it had transformed him into more of a man.

Girls were lucky because they had the honor of being Mothers (and they didn’t even have to do anything!), but boys…Boys were given God’s true power on Earth. He felt like it was a superpower and in the last week he had felt more spiritual than ever. He was waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal to read his scriptures every morning without complaining; he wouldn’t admit that he would fall asleep again within a few verses. He told himself it was the thought that counted. He tried to be as obedient as he could and followed all the rules. And there were a LOT of rules.

One of the jobs of a new Priesthood holder was to pass out the bread and water every week for the Sacrament. The Sacrament was the most important part of any Sunday - the bread and water was a reminder of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It was something to help you remember all the promises you made to Jesus. He didn’t really get the blood and body part, but on Fast Sunday he was always excited for any bit of food. Maybe it was all in his head, but that little nugget of bread always tasted better on Fast Sunday.

Thomas would soon be standing in front of the whole congregation with Darren, one of his best friends, and they would hand little trays of smushed up bread to everybody in the audience. He’d been paying special attention to how his friends and their older brothers would take turns passing or collecting the trays at the end of each row; he wanted to make sure he didn’t mess it up and somehow have to carry two trays to the front of the room when it was over. It always looked like they didn’t do it right when someone went up empty handed.

No, Thomas was going to do this perfectly. He just wished his mom or dad could be there to watch him do it. They didn’t go to the same church as him - his uncle and cousins had started asking him to come with them when he was 9 and even though his mom wasn’t super excited, she wanted him to make his own choices.

One time he overheard his mom and uncle get into a fight about some things regarding the church, but she never stopped him from going. Thomas thought she liked having a few hours on Sunday to watch her stories and not have to entertain him.

He’d been going to church with his Uncle Robert for three years now. He couldn’t believe it. He’d been baptized for two and been able to do so many things -go camping and rafting and learn how to build a fire and play basketball with his friends almost every week.

Yes, there were lots of fun things (minus the snakes), but Thomas truly was most excited to have the Priesthood. Maybe one day he’d even be a bishop.

“MOM! Where is my white shirt! I need it to pass the sacrament!” His uncle would be there in 10 minutes to pick him up for church!

His mom looked at him a little confused and asked him if he had brought his clothes down to be washed since last Sunday. Fear struck his eyes.

Last week after his uncle gave him the priesthood, he had invited Thomas over to their house for dinner…and dessert. Thomas remembered now. He had spilled the celebratory chocolate ice cream all over his only white shirt. It was still crumpled at the bottom of his hamper.

“Mom, I can’t go without a white shirt! All the boys wear them!” His mom didn’t understand everything that happened in the church, and she didn’t want to. Her brother had been convincing when it came to Thomas, but she was hoping he’d grow out of it.

“Thomas, just go get one of your other shirts! You always looked best in jewel tones - why not grab that turquoise one you wore to dad’s Christmas party last year? There are no rules saying you have to wear a white shirt.”

She didn’t know it, but all the boys wore white. It’s how everyone else knew they were pure enough to pass the sacrament. He’d never seen anyone wear anything BUT white. Sometimes there were men who wore other colors when they visited, but they never stayed for very long. And he had never seen anyone in the bishopric ever wear anything but a white button down, even on Wednesdays when they did their youth nights.

He didn’t have much time. He heard Uncle Roberts' Jeep pull up in front of the house. Thomas raced upstairs and grabbed his turquoise shirt. He quickly buttoned it up, threw on his only tie, and raced outside after throwing on his winter coat. He was worried but once he was in the car, the excitement of passing the sacrament with Darren erased any uncertainties he had about his shirt.

It was freezing in the chapel when Thomas walked in, and he was glad he could keep his coat on just a little longer. The rest of the Deacons grabbed him the moment he came in and pulled him to the front of the room. They reviewed the plan - who would be in the front row and who would be in the back - and then they all sat down in the front two rows by the Sacrament table. Church was starting.

The Sacrament was always near the start of the meeting, so after the Bishop had made his announcements and they had finished singing the first hymn, the room got particularly quiet. There is always a special Sacrament hymn that happens and the older boys start breaking the bread into little bits and putting them on the trays.

Jesus the very thought of thee…”, the congregation sang slowly, almost eerily. “...with sweetness fills my breast.”

The bread started piling up on the trays and once the song was over, one of the new priests started saying the prayer.

O God, the Eternal Father…” Thomas stopped listening, his mind reviewing the route he’d be taking the bread. He felt a jab in his left rib. He opened his eyes to see Darren staring at his coat, actioning for him to remove it. Thomas nodded his head and quickly slid his arms out of the sleeves.

With an Amen, the prayer ended and Thomas opened his eyes, walking to the table just a few steps ahead of him where he was handed a tray full of the sacrament bread. He knew exactly where he needed to bring it - his job was to start in the back section where all the metal chairs were. For most of the rows, a deacon would hand the tray to the first person and they would pass it along to the next person. His path would have him carry the tray along the row, person to person.

Focusing on his route to the back row, Thomas was oblivious to the eyes pointed in his direction as he walked past each pew. Had he noticed, he would’ve seen Sister Johnson cover her mouth in discomfort, and Brother Hall blinking rapidly, as if he was trying to readjust the image he saw. Even the Bishop looked as if he was ready to jump out of his chair and tackle Thomas. Thomas, in his turquoise shirt, had no idea what kind of mistake he made.

Sister Spencer was the first person he approached. Her eyes were still closed and Thomas had to tap her shoulder to let her know he was there. Without looking up, she reached for a piece of bread and instinctively placed it in her mouth. Thomas moved to her husband to her right, but was interrupted by a screeching sound coming from Sister Spencer. It was unlike any sound he had ever heard.

“Thomas! What are you doing?”, he heard his Uncle yell from the pew in front of him. “What are you wearing?! Put that bread down and get out of here. Run!”

Thomas looked around him, feeling the room close in. He looked down at his shirt and then down at Sister Spencer, who was sprawled all over the floor, foaming at the mouth. He glanced up at Darren and the other deacons, who were inching closer to him, slowly but with purpose. Thomas didn’t know what to do, almost frozen, before trying to jump out the doors into the foyer. Before he could get there, he felt a tug at the back of his shirt. Darren was holding onto his turquoise button up from the tail, pulling him down until he was on the ground.

He turned his head to see Sister Spencers face inches from his own, lifeless. Then slowly, one by one, Darren and the rest of the deacons began ripping the shirt off Thomas’ body. Curled up in the fetal position, he thought they would stop once it was gone, but they kept going; digging what seemed like claws into his body until blood trickled from every pore.

O God, the Eternal Father…”, Thomas blinked one last time as the water was brought to the last row in the congregation.

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