Kirby: Kicked out of the Mormon church? Who, me?

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published: June 15, 2014 09:37AM
Updated: June 15, 2014 10:12AM
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Robert Kirby, Tribune columnist

I heard a rumor that I might be excommunicated by the LDS Church. A member of the ward called late Tuesday afternoon and asked whether I had been contacted yet.

It so happened that Kate Kelly, founder of a Mormon feminist movement called Ordain Women, and John Dehlin, who hosts the podcast “Mormon Stories,” had both received letters from their bishops advising them that they were subjects of pending disciplinary councils.

The neighbor wanted to know if I had received my letter yet. It only made sense. Kelly and Dehlin are perhaps better Latter-day Saints than me, and I write horribly rude things about fellow Mormons all the time.

I checked in at sltrib.com and read the story by Peggy Fletcher Stack. It was true: Kelly and Dehlin are in trouble for alleged apostasy.

But there was no mention of me being disciplined, so I went out in the backyard and yelled to my bishop over the fence. He was mowing his lawn.

Me: “Bishop Short! Bish— Geoff! Are you planning to send me a disciplinary letter?”

Him: “I wish.”

We talked. The only beef the bishop has with me is that firing cannons in my backyard sometimes makes his dogs pee in the house.

My bishop and I have a close relationship. We live about 10 feet from each other and we’re both direct to the point of rudeness. If I were in trouble, he would be the first to know, followed four seconds later by me.

I feel bad for Kelly and Dehlin. Both seem like really good people (although they could be demons in disguise) and it’s a shame that they have to go through this.

I’ve never been disciplined by my church. The process might be interesting. It’s the one part of the gospel plan that I’ve never experienced. Would it be terrifying, liberating or just educational?

Other than being dragged out of meetings by my old man when I was kid, punitive transfers on my mission and being told to shut up from the pulpit (by the aforementioned bishop), I’ve never been threatened, yelled at or even snubbed.

But that could change. What if I were excommunicated for apostasy or for being in league with Satan? What if I had my membership taken from me? Would things change?

You bet they would. I wouldn’t be able to participate in any priesthood ordinances, partake of the sacrament or hold a church job. Also, I imagine some members of the ward would avoid me even more than they do now.

Would I still go to church? Hell, yes. I go now not because I’m a member but rather because that’s where I belong. Not being an official member wouldn’t change that a bit.

Would I feel a sense of shame for being excommunicated? I don’t think so, but then that’s not something I’ve ever worried about. Shame, I mean. People like me already don’t have much of that.

The real question is whether being excommunicated would have the desired effect on me. Would it make me more compliant or less compliant?

Probably less. I’d still attend church and participate to the extent I was allowed. I’d still be myself, though, only now there would be even fewer consequences for doing so.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.