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Kirby: What to expect when you go to church with a Mormon

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Apr 24 2014 12:52 pm • Last Updated Apr 25 2014 10:07 pm

Several weeks ago, my wife and I had dinner with a Unitarian bunch. I think that’s how you refer to Unitarians collectively — a bunch as opposed to a ward, parish, flock, congregation, etc. Anyway, they outnumbered us.

Most of the dinner discussion centered around an issue that is required by law to be discussed in Utah whenever more than one person gathers together — the LDS Church.

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It was the usual stuff: What was the church up to currently? What had we done in the past, and what could we reasonably be expected to do in the future that wouldn’t precipitate a nuclear war or, worse, additional livestock being elected to the state Legislature?

Everyone naturally had his or her own take on the matter. The group was made up of current Mormons (me), ex-Mormons, non-Mormons or people just surrounded by Mormons.

In the latter category was Harold, a college professor with a spiritual bent, who announced something about Mormons that perplexed him.

A million perplexing "somethings" came immediately to my mind, including polygamy, priesthood, women, racism, visions, tithing, gold plates, angels, pioneer massacres, welfare projects, Lamanites, home teaching, missionary service, baptism for the dead, gay marriage, temples ...

Harold said, "I’ve lived in Utah for 12 years now and have never been invited to a Mormon church service. Why is that?"

Everyone else looked at me. Of all the things I’ve heard asked about us — Did Mormon missionaries kill JFK? Does the Angel Moroni on the Salt Lake Temple have a milk chocolate center? — it was the first time I ever heard that one.

Most non/ex-Mormons actually worry about being invited to church by a Mormon. They’ll go out of their way to stay out of our way so it won’t happen.

I can’t say I blame them. Given our missionary zeal ("every member a missionary"), I totally get why people get nervous when invited to Mormon dos. It’s like they’ve suddenly become a target.

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But Harold made it sound like he wanted to go, so I invited him. I made sure he understood that it didn’t come highly recommended, though.

Inviting someone to your church is a lot like inviting them home to meet your family. There’s a certain amount of nervousness as to what they’ll think about something you love but also know is a bit crazy.

Every family has a quality of strangeness. It could be an 800-pound aunt, a demented grandparent, an unemployed brother abducted by aliens, a drunken uncle or a sister who looks like an Appalachian Bigfoot.

When I was an LDS missionary, my companion and I made the mistake of inviting a family to attend church. We forgot that it was fast-and-testimony meeting.

That was the Sunday a guy got up and expressed gratitude for the personal trial of syphilis, because while being treated for it (the second time) he met someone who introduced him to the gospel.

Right after him was a woman who said she’d been a bad witch until Joseph Smith sent the missionaries to her home. She was followed by a small child who rambled about the church being true while digging in his nose.

By the time the meeting ended, my companion and I were nearly dead from embarrassment. Stuff we never paid much attention to because of familiarity had blown back the hair on our investigators.

I haven’t heard from Harold since inviting him. We never saw the family again either. They were nice, though. Maybe the Unitarians got them.

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

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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