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Kirby: Getting held back by church report cards

Robert Kirby

Excommunication. That would do it. Years of intensive self-examination convinced me that being officially cut off is the only thing that would force me from being a member in fair standing with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s different for other people. There are hosts of reasons for getting fed up with a particular faith or religion in general and announcing, “The hell with it. I’m done.”

I’ve been close a time or two myself. Here are the top three reasons I ever considered leaving the faith for good. None of them has anything to do with “truth.” For me, it’s all about annoyance generated by:

• Rhetorical lessons.

• Pontificating leaders.

• Doctrinal smugness.

Note: I don’t count murder. Had I killed a certain missionary companion, leaving the church wouldn’t have been up to me.

So, for my entire life I have been Mormon in a wide variety of standings — ranging from downright pathetic to the dizzying heights (at least for me) of just average. That’s OK because it was all up to me. Or so I thought.

I received a letter from my sister Monday. On a Post-it was written, “Very important paper I came across.” The paper was old and creased. I thought maybe a draft notice, traffic ticket, bail receipt or something shameful.

When I unfolded it, I discovered my “1968-69 Barstow, California. LDS Seminary” report card, a very telling document.

In a year (four terms) of early morning seminary — which was not my idea but rather that of my parents — I received the final letter grade of C.

I had forgotten that “middle-of-the-night” seminary was graded by a report card, which Mom signed because the Old Man was in Korea and would have killed me if he’d seen it.

According to Brother Ellsworth Merrell (a good guy), I cut seminary 20 times, was in desperate need of paying attention better in class, had been caught on the roof of the chapel twice, and couldn’t manage to pull my interest in the gospel above a C.

I blame God. If he’d wanted me to pay attention more, he would have revealed certain legally prescribed psychotropic drugs sooner instead of letting me find out about illegal alternatives on my own.

The only positive marks I got for “oh-dark-thirty” seminary were for punctuality, which I can’t claim any credit for because my sister and I were picked up every morning by Brother Merrell himself.

How I still managed to work in 20 absences despite that fact still remains a point of pride.

Who knew that theological report cards were even a thing outside of “release time” seminary in Utah? More important, why haven’t report cards caught on in regular church?

Instead, we have worthiness interviews to help determine whether we are passing or failing.

I’m not entirely sure what grade the bishop would give me in the following subjects: attendance, comportment, participation, reverence, dress code, financial contributions and tardiness.

My guess? C, C-minus, D-plus, D, F, F, B.

But that’s what Bishop Geertsen would give me if he were being fair. I suspect my grades would be worse if my efforts were judged by those with sterner dominions, like, oh, say, the church public affairs office.

Chances are I’d have to repeat mortal life. That’s OK. I earned it. Hell, I only graduated from premortal life by the skin of my teeth.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.

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