It’s General Conference time in Zion. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tune in to get the latest news from our leaders.
Unfortunately, it won’t be in person. Attendance has been canceled for health reasons. Even now, ministering agents of church security are setting up blockades to Temple Square.
We should all count ourselves lucky. It’s been promised that lives will be changed this weekend. It’s the 200th anniversary of the “First Vision” by church founder Joseph Smith, and we’ve been told to expect exciting things.
Originally, I planned to keep my expectations low. Long experience has taught me that when it comes to church, excitement is relative. For some, exciting would be the opening of a new temple on Pitcairn Island or the creation of the Greenland-Ittoqqortoormiit Mission.
But for Telestial spirits such as myself, exciting would have to be something along the lines of aerial fireworks inside the Conference Center or the reinstitution of Old Testament wrath.
I do have an idea of what at least one change could have been — at least before the Conference Center was closed.
There was a time when people were called on missions right out of the congregation. Some poor guy would be minding his own business, trying to stay awake when suddenly his life took a turn into the strange.
Brigham Young • “Brother Hamhock, the Lord has called you to preach the restored gospel to the people of the Sandwich Islands.”
Brother Hamhock • “I shall go where the Lord commands, Brother Brigham!” [Meh. Better than digging another hole for a temple.]
Sister Hamhock • [To herself] “And here’s me carrying our 10th child in nine years.”
Conference would be a lot more interesting — and terrifying — if the seats were numbered and callings were publicly issued via random selection. Guided by the Spirit, of course.
“Seat 327-B, Second Row, Upper Tier, you are hereby called to serve in the Rutabaga Cannery Mission.”
“Occupant of Seat 115-B is called to sell all his or her property and donate the proceeds to the church’s Emergency Pennywhistle Fund.”
“Seat 19-E, Section 4. For reasons known only to the Lord, your liver is immediately required. Please follow the ministering security personnel.”
And so on until the sounds of weeping become intrusive.
Now THAT’S what I call exciting. A great deal of faith would be required to follow through with this type of calling, especially if the occupant of a seat chosen for the Cow Birthing Mission were only 4 years old.
You can call this crazy, but it’s not far off the mark. Publicly proclaimed excommunications were common back in the day. Not only were they announced in open meeting, but they also were published in newspapers.
Here’s how it would work under the new seat-calling program:
Occupant of Seat 1042-AA, Lower Level • “Not only no but hell no. I’m not going to the Septic Tank Refurbishing Service Mission.”
“Seat 1042-AA, Lower Level, your membership is hereby withdrawn.”
Conference attendance might get a little thin with a program like this, but for the truly faithful, there is no escape. Every member has a number.
“Called to serve in various places are all those whose membership numbers begin with 7.”
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.