Robert Kirby: When I was a kid, good behavior in LDS Primary was secondary

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

The Primary sang in my Latter-day Saint ward a few weeks ago. As these programs tend to go, it was rather enjoyable.

No kid was dragged away for misbehaving, the songs were easily recognized as hymns rather than tavern choruses bellowed by inebriated hobbits, and most of the youngsters actually participated.

For those unfamiliar with Mormon doings, the Primary is the church’s program for small kids. After sacrament meeting, everyone under age 12 is packed off to indoctrination.

Wrangling these kids is the toughest job in a Latter-day Saint congregation. The last thing these nippers want — after an hour of being bored out of their gourds by music and talks they wouldn’t understand even if they listened — is another hour on a ham press.

Theoretically, Primary teachers receive blessings for trying to instill valuable gospel lessons into children they are not allowed to slap around. Blessings are nice, but most Primary teachers would settle for a little PTSD counseling.

I’ve been a Primary teacher (until leaders caught on) several times during my sojourn as a Mormon. It was horrible until I figured out a way to get the kids to be quiet for just five minutes.

One Primary president noticed the good manners of my class and complimented them.

Her • “My, you sure are reverent boys and girls. You must love Brother Kirby.”

Kid • “H-he-he’ll cut our lips off if we talk or don’t sit still.”

The Primary president just laughed and moved on. She didn’t know that my first Sunday teaching these little monsters, I brought two pieces of raw liver in a plastic bag and had them pass it around.

“I sliced those lips off a kid last year. Remember Landen Adams? Yep. That’s why he doesn’t come to church anymore. ”

With the rule established, we had a lesson on how much Jesus loves us and how difficult it is to eat Froot Loops without lips.

Wiser heads prevailed, and I was moved to a class where the course of study consisted of trying not to go to the bathroom in ones pants. No, not high priests. The ward nursery. I was there for years. Loved. Every. Minute. Of. It.

I have fond memories of Primary, both as a child and now as an adult. As a kid, I made two teachers quit and another became an atheist. It got so bad that the Old Man began listening at the door. If I started acting inappropriately, he would bash open the door and drag me out to the car.

I don’t see what the big deal was back then. I was just a normal kid with severe ADD and no impulse control. This is what happens when you bore such a boy.

So, when the entire Primary comes together in front of the congregation, I always look for me in the mob. That one kid. He’s in there somewhere. The kid I used to be.

He’ll be the one sullenly mouthing the words of the song, rolling his eyes, and elbowing the do-gooders next to him. All because he was forced to perform without compensation.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t excommunicated at age 9, so Primary must have done something right.

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