Robert Kirby: The who, why, what and where of LDS General Conference

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

It happens after every General Conference. Even before the sacred dust has settled, the questions start. Most are emails or texts from nonmembers or people perplexed as to why Mormons do certain things.

I ignore the rude or patently insensitive ones. I can and do come up with those on my own. But if someone seems genuinely curious and wants to understand why we behave in such peculiar ways, I don’t mind trying to answer.

For example, Ron wrote to ask why Mormon conferences always have what looks like a really bad salad bar behind the red seats where the general authorities sit?

“Is this some Mormon religious thing? Flowers we could understand . . . but these look like rejects from the ‘Second Chance’ Food for the Poor program somewhere.”

Good point, Ron. I have no idea. In truth, I’ve never noticed the plant life when watching conference. But if it seems wilted, my best guess is that the power of the Holy Ghost makes vegetation shrink.

More likely it’s a deliberate attempt to keep the brilliance of floral arrangements from refracting off so many bald heads. The entire First Presidency is bald, and a number of the apostles. Hey, there’s always a lot of flowers at women’s conferences.

Next up is a question from Dana in California, who wrote to ask why my hoped-for calling of a woman as an apostle didn’t pan out. I said it’s not up to me. I suggested a few names, but I guess they didn’t make the cut.

Ron also wanted to know why general authorities today have initials formally included in their names, as in Russell M. Nelson, Henry B. Eyring and Filbert D. Anklesore.

I made up that last one, but Ron nevertheless has a point. What’s the thing with church authorities and overly formalized names?

It’s probably just an upper-management thing. In the Rose Summit Ward, my bishop is just Tom Geertsen. It’s not J. Thomas, or Thomas Z. or even Thomas Oswald. It’s just “Hey, Bishop” or, when necessary, “Hey, Bishop Geertsen.”

It wasn’t always like this. Early church authorities were just Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Korihor Kirby, Porter Rockwell, Lorenzo Snow. And let’s not forget that it was even more informal in the olden days, as in Jesus, Nephi, Alma, Judas, Peter, Paul and Mary.

Ed from Nevada wants to know about all the hankies being waved. “Kirb, what’s up with you Mormons shaking out sneeze rags in church?”

I wrote back and told Ed it had something to do with the early practice of worshipping on Palm Sunday. Only we use handkerchiefs instead of actual (or even fake) palm fronds.

Ed responded with: “Really? You guys are crazier than I thought.”

Maybe Ed has a point. Now that we’re going to have a temple in mainland China, perhaps we’ll start celebrating important Latter-day Saint religious occasions according to local customs — like shooting off fireworks.

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