Robert Kirby: The everlasting word isn’t so everlasting — as new LDS handbook shows

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its handbook, which outlines what is expected of its members and leaders.

Despite considerable experience with church policy, I was not consulted nor asked to help. No one wanted a manual titled “General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Badder-day Saints.”

Among the changes are instructions regarding references to the grim priesthood pillories dealing with membership.

The term “membership council” has replaced “disciplinary council,” which replaced “court of love,” which replaced “church court,” which became vogue for a time to avoid the harshness associated with “blood atonement.”

Excommunication is now referred to as “withdrawal of membership” and disfellowshipment is called “formal membership restrictions.“

These are clumsy phrases. If someone asks what happened as a result of your court of love/disciplinary council/bottom chewing, you must now say, “I was formal membership restricted” instead of “I got disfellowshipped.”

Rather than saying, “I got exed, or, “They kicked me out,” it’s now more appropriate to say, “They membership withdrawed me.”

Another big change involves sex, specifically how to deal with transgender individuals, a touchy subject, given the essential role procreation plays in the gospel plan.

My favorite line in this particular section is: “And henceforth they shall only be burned nigh unto death instead of all the way.”

OK, I made that up. Instead, members who opt for sexual reassignment surgery “will experience some church membership restrictions.”

I haven’t read the new handbook and don’t plan to, but I’m guessing that someone in a dress won’t be passing the sacrament anytime soon. It wouldn’t bother me, but then what standards I have are on the lazy side.

It’s no secret that sexual behavior is a big deal among the faithful. I don’t know how serious such interviews get today, but when I was a teenager, leaders wanted specific details.

“Robert, how many times have you abused your procreative power in the past 48 hours? Describe in detail your impure thoughts. Have you had sexual contact with another human or perhaps even a beast of the field?”

I sometimes fibbed. I figured that it was none of their business. God already knew what I’d done. Hell, he watched it happen. Shouldn’t leaders then use all that spiritual superiority inquiring of the Lord whether I was sufficiently worthy to attend Scout camp, get baptized for the dead, or serve a mission?

This deceptive practice came up during a heated debate with my least favorite mission companion. He was outraged when I mentioned that I hadn’t confessed everything to the “proper authorities.” In fact, I had deliberately held back what I considered a few relatively small things.

Him • “Great way to begin serving the Lord, Elder Kirby. With a lie.”

Me • “Get over yourself, Jack. This entire world was made possible by a lie. We wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for the lies in the Garden of Eden.”

I totally get that some rules are necessary for organizations to function. But since I can’t even obey them, I’ll never have to worry about enforcing them.

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