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Kirby: Holiness not measured by hours spent in church

Published October 25, 2012 4:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Robert Kirby had the day off. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

Recently, I mentioned having a problem with the three-hour block of worship Mormons do every Sunday. By my calculations, it's at least an hour longer than it needs to be. Some Sundays, anything over 10 minutes is too long.

One annoyed reader lectured me on the theology behind the block, specifically that there was almost certainly an eternal principle at play in the choice of three hours.

"It's no accident that we're asked to worship three hours on Sunday," she wrote. "Think about it. Three hours represents the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Ghost — 1 2 3. Get it? If you don't have a testimony of that, just leave."

Thanks, I will. I go to church. I even sit and listen. Sometimes I snooze. But when I've had enough church — like when I start hearing that three-hour God blockhead stuff — I leave.

I have scriptural basis for this behavior. It says right in the Book of Mormon, "All is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men."

So, if God really doesn't concern himself with time, he isn't going to stress overly much about me giving church the full three hours.

I had far less agency as a kid because time was definitely measured unto the old man. During the prelude music every Sunday, he would search me for contraband and then stick me against a wall at the far end of a pew.

Trapped, I had to endure every minute of speakers solemn enough to provoke road rage in a turtle. When you're 10, sacrament meeting lasts the better part of a month.

Eventually I got around to the math. Either there was no God and sitting in church didn't matter, or there was a God and he was entirely flexible about the amount of church a person needed in order to get the point.

I no longer believe such heresy. Today, I understand that Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically.

Some people need more church than others do. Some don't need any at all. I'm OK with that. I'm not OK with the idea that everyone needs the same amount. On average, I need 74 minutes.

There's no organization, including church, where everyone's precise needs are met. If you don't think so, next Sunday count how many people are actually paying attention.

Orthodox believers might argue that no one with a real testimony would object to sitting in church for the entire three hours. They'd change their minds if the three hours started at 2 a.m. We're all a little time sensitive. It's just a matter of measuring when.

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