Robert Kirby: Hearing the voice of God

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

We’re running up on April General Conference next month. Millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will get the word(s) from our leaders.

This particular conference, falling as it does in the 200th anniversary year of the First Vision beheld by the Prophet Joseph Smith, will be a doozy, says a top leader.

Latter-day Saint President Russell M. Nelson didn’t actually say “doozy.” I’m paraphrasing him, which I admit is risky. Religion is a volatile subject. Not only might former and non-Mormons angrily challenge me, I could end up being sent on a proselytizing mission to a place where there are, in fact, no people.

Anyway, President Nelson has said that members should expect a memorable conference on such an auspicious anniversary. In preparation, we’ve been asked to ponder three important points:

First • “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?”

Hmm. That is a puzzlement. Although I’ve been Mormon my entire life, the best I can come up with is, “I have no idea.”

But a bit of qualifying seems in order. Does “taken away” mean that I had never heard of it, or that I had heard of it but simply forgotten having read it?

See, you can’t miss the effects of something you never experienced. It would be like asking, “Now that you’re no longer married to the Easter Bunny, how do you feel?"

My answer would be, “OK, I guess. I got arthritis and I’m partially deaf, but I don’t think I can blame that on a rabbit.”

With every other element in place, never having heard of the Book of Mormon would result in me still being me but of a different religious flavor. Or not.

Granted, doing what I do might not have worked out so well had I been born in Iran or Saudi Arabia, but I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

Second • “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?”

Of all the questions, this is perhaps the most easily answered. Most of my ancestors come from England, where they converted to a strange movement in America. Without that change, odds are we’d still be there.

Only my great-great grandfather, Korihor Kirby’s journal survives from that time.

“Wednesday, Sept. 3, 1849. Wife sez weer to moov to Zyon. Bleedin’ Mormons. Shood uv set the dogs on em when I had ta chance.”

Final question • “How do you hear Him?”

Presumably the Him referred to here is our creator, more specifically how we tune in to whatever he is saying.

This is the most complicated of the three questions. Right out of the gate, I can tell you it sure as hell isn’t by going to church.

You heard me. Going to church and actually feeling the influence of an omnipotent being can only be comparable to sitting in a beginner’s automotive class and actually driving a 1970 Dodge Challenger with a 426-cubic-inch V8 Hemi. Not even in the same universe.

The closest I’ve ever come to hearing “Him” is listening to my daughters when they were born, looking into my wife’s eyes, sunrise over Tavaputs, a gun run from a A-10 Thunderbolt, and the rustle of aspen leaves in the LaSalle Mountains.

Oh, and when blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa slides into “Driving Toward the Light.”

Hey, you asked.

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