Kirby: Denson’s latest ‘assault’ claims against Mormon men don’t hold up

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby knows a thing or two about assault.

Last Sunday in church, I got up and shared my meager testimony with the rest of my Mormon ward. Nothing bad happened. It could have. After all, we’re talking about me.

I blathered something about the need to be aware of the suffering of those who tend to become invisible in the Mormon rush to conform.

As I approached the lectern, I heard the bishop say to his counselors, “We may have to shut off the mic for this one.”

Even if he’d been serious, I wouldn’t have been offended. I was still aware that I had unwittingly said something inappropriate when I spoke several weeks before.

Apparently I said, “hell” — as in “How the hell did I miss” a particular part of Mormon belief?

Note: It wasn’t until a couple of kids admitted to betting on how many inappropriate words Brother Kirby would say during his talk that I was forced to concede it probably happened.

Fast and testimony meeting has a reputation of being an open-mic opportunity, when Latter-day Saint congregants can stand and share whatever misery or happiness they’re going through.

Depending on one’s frame of mind — and who’s holding forth — the meeting can be useful or something to be endured. Nearly everyone understands the rules.

For example, you won’t be allowed to bear your testimony naked and/or drunk.

Bringing a weasel or a ferret to the stand as an object lesson is considered bad form.

Other things generally not tolerated are fireworks, musical soundtracks, dancing, bugles and the police.

It is also inappropriate to harangue the congregation with political opinions, minute details of some horrible sin, or even to read a list all of the people in the ward you currently hate and why.

Given human nature, it should come as no surprise, then, that occasionally speakers get escorted away from the mic when they cross the line.

That’s what happened last Sunday when McKenna Denson visited a Mormon ward in Arizona. She got up and called out her alleged abuser, who was seated in the congregation.

Denson’s allegations against the man — who she says raped her while she was a missionary and he was president of the Missionary Training Center — have circulated in the news so much that nearly everyone who hasn’t been living under a porch is aware of them.

I like it when big institutions — like my own government, church and even Amazon.com — get called out.

Frankly, I’m thoroughly interested in how Denson’s case shakes out, especially any protections that may be put in place. That said, I’m entertained by her attempts to sway public opinion to her cause.

As engaging as the video of Denson calling out her alleged rapist was, what I found a lot more enjoyable were the clueless statements she made when men in suits got up and tried to escort her away from the lectern.

Just as it will be when Denson’s case finally goes to trial, it’s important to get your facts straight where the law is concerned when it comes to assault.

At one point, the Mormon leaders carefully put their hands on her to get her away from the mic — to which she responded, “You’re in my personal space” and “Call the police. You’re assaulting me. You know this is assault, right?”

Sorry, that wasn’t even close to assault. I know. There was a time when I had to put my hands on the peeved for a living. I’ve also had it done to me.

Mormon meetinghouses — any churches really — are private property, even with those “visitors welcome” signs out front. Ironically, they’re just like bars and strip clubs in that respect.

It’s true. The public is invited to enter and participate, but it can also get thrown to the curb if it misbehaves. That’s why bouncers weigh more than 80 pounds.

As in every cause — whether it’s spreading the gospel, politics or accusations — it’s possible to get so carried away that you forget where you are and what you have the right to do there.