In a news release entirely invented for the purposes of this column (meaning that there is not a shred of truth in it, even though some of you will believe it anyhow and wind yourselves into whiny snits), the faith’s governing First Presidency announced:
“We are concerned that the recent quarantine may result in otherwise valiant members opting to cease church activity altogether. It should be remembered that the COVID-19 pandemic is a tool of the adversary intended to beguile the slothful and contrary of nature, like certain newspaper columnists we know. One in particular.”
The actual news release stressed that there will be no headlong rush back to the pews. Instead, local leaders will take into account the health concerns of their respective areas before deciding how best to resume congregating.
All church meetings will be cautiously phased in. According to directions, the following points should be taken into consideration when rallying the faithful.
RESPECT YOUR ELDERS • Congregants of an advanced age and/or poor health should be administered to from afar. Really, really afar.
NO UNCLEAN THING • Not only are lepers not welcome in Mormon meetinghouses, but also anyone displaying signs of illness should stay home or risk a laying on of highly sanitized hands and being dragged from the building.
HANDS OFF • Social distancing — known by Mormons as the law of chastity — will be strictly enforced. Members who attend meetings must refrain from getting too close. No sacrament meeting back rubs or nuzzling will be tolerated.
RENDER UNTO CAESAR • All government regulations pertaining to public gatherings should be adhered to, including size, frequency and duration. Those drawing out a meeting because they can’t shut up and sit down will be reported to the authorities.
COME, COME, BACK, YE SAINTS • But slowly. Where technology permits, meetings should be conducted via the internet. For in-person gatherings, priority should be given to meetings where ordinances are performed — like the sacrament, baptisms, excommunications and witch burnings.
Personally, I don’t plan to rush things. In fact, I’ve even considered not going back at all. I’m old, suffering from minor health issues and highly irreverent. None of these is the perfect mix for all concerned.
More than likely, I’ll go back to my job as ward librarian when the bishop says so. After all, I agreed to the calling in the first place.
I’m testing the water right now. Two weeks ago, I was invited back to church by neighbors Ben and Kelly Clegg and their sons Ryan and Ethan.
The meeting was held at their house. Only five people showed up. Them and me. A lesson of actual interest and tolerable duration was presented, followed by the sacrament. In all, a satisfying experience in less than an hour.
As church meetings go, it was the best one I’ve been to in years, including the time a kid pulled the fire alarm during a fast and testimony meeting.
If I think about it long enough, I miss parts of church. I miss my friends, catching up on things in the neighborhood, and occasionally getting some counsel of genuine worth. It’ll be good for me.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.