Kirby: A Mormon hunger strike is just a really long ‘fast Sunday’

Robert Kirby

If I had to choose between no church and no nachos, I’d go with no church. I love nachos. Church is sometimes terrible, sometimes great. Mostly it’s just OK. But nachos are always fabulous.

I definitely wouldn’t go on a hunger strike simply because my church — the Mormon one — was doing something I didn’t like, or I thought was evil, or dangerous, or just impolite.

A hunger strike works only if starving to death poses a genuine threat. It’s like holding yourself hostage, putting a gun to your head and slowly squeezing the trigger until you either get what you want — $10 million, a helicopter, a pizza, a change in church policy — or the gun goes off.

If you aren’t willing to follow through on a hunger-strike threat in earnest, then it’s really more of a diet.

“Give in to my demands, or I’m going to lose some weight! Don’t make me do it!”

Yeah, that’s more of a carnival barker looking for attention. Maybe it works. I don’t know. Never tried it. Don’t plan to. Nachos mean that much to me.

A former Latter-day Saint bishop (and perhaps soon to be former Mormon), Sam Young, thinks it worked. He’s on a campaign to get the church to make changes to its ecclesiastical interview process for young people.

I happen to agree with him. Right now, bishops can drag members of any age, gender or “ministering” level into their office, close the door and go straight to flogging, electroshock or waterboarding in order to get the misguided soul back on track spiritually.

Come we now to the real potential dangers of such one-on-one grillings: They can provide an environment for psychological or even sexual abuse.

Maybe I’m lucky. None of this ever happened to me, even when I was at my worst. I’ve always had great bishops. Sure, some were better than others, but I’ve never had one who caused me to lose any sleep.

My last bishop, Edward S. Watson, was about as severe as a bishop ever got — like the time he asked me to please stop shooting rubber bands at the back of Trapper’s head during sacrament meeting.

My current ward boss, Bishop Tom Geertsen, once stopped by the ward library and asked — ASKED — if I would stop going to the women’s Relief Society meeting. Ever the defiant one, I said "sure.”

Were my feelings hurt? No. Did I immediately start to think of ways to get around his request? Damn straight. Did I act on them? No. He’s the bishop.

That’s about as rough as ecclesiastical abuse ever got for me. This includes the time I was interviewed by a general authority to be able to serve a mission.

Elder (None of Your Business) asked me some deeply personal and embarrassing questions. I answered them. I must have passed, because his last words to me were “Good luck out there. Don’t hurt yourself.”

Look, I understand that ecclesiastical abuse occurs in the LDS Church. Some people — guys, mostly — are perverts. They will use their position to indulge their prurient interests. Everything should be done to protect vulnerable people from such behavior.

Things in that regard have changed and will continue to change. I’m just saying that hunger strikes don’t work against an organization that already requires its faithful to go without food one day each month.

Today is fast Sunday. As you read this, I’m probably in church, listening to testimonies and focusing all of my spiritual energy on trying not to think about nachos.