The pandemic has changed things in ways I never saw coming.
Quarantine, food shortages, conspiracy loons, hoarding, death (including maybe my own) — all were things I considered possible.
It’s what I didn’t expect that has me wondering what’s wrong with me and whether I’ll be able to ever fully trust myself again.
The revelation came during a phone conversation with a good friend, whose name I won’t mention because of his position in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hey, associating with the likes of me shouldn’t be held against him. He called to see how my family and I were doing.
Me • “We’ve had to make some changes, but we’re getting by.”
Him • “Robert, I never thought I would say this out loud, but I actually miss going to church.”
This is not something you’d expect to hear from a Latter-day Saint general authority, but we’ve been friends long enough that I knew what he meant. The shocking part was what I said next.
“Hell, [name], I know. It’s like finding out a whole other part of me.”
Truthfully, it’s scary. Never in my entire life did I expect to actually miss going to church, or that I would dare say it out loud.
I’ve been Mormon my entire life, and church has always been a part of it one way or another. My attendance can effectively be divided into four major groups.
• Times when I was forced to go — from birth until I grew to a size where the Old Man couldn’t make me.
• Times that I attended grudgingly, mainly when I was a cop and working the night watch and didn’t feel like running into someone I had arrested.
• Stretches when I had to go because I accepted a church job that required me to show up.
• Periods when I didn’t go at all.
But I damn sure never missed going. If people pointed out that I had missed a meeting, I’d tell them I hadn’t. Missing something was how you felt when you wanted to be there but weren’t.
Now, I do. It has been four months since I sat in church trying not to pay attention to stuff I’ve heard a million times already, just for the sake of seeing my neighbors, friends, and — best of all — my ward grandkids.
I miss the association with people I understand, including the ones who don’t like me. I miss members of the bishopric stopping by the meetinghouse library and trying to find Christ-like ways of telling me to behave.
There’s also been the loss of sitting next to 12-year-old “Evil” Clegg in sacrament meeting and making up rock ‘n' roll words to sing with worship songs until his mom gets mad enough to smack us.
And it’s been forever since I had my library assistant, 7-year-old Liv Richins, help hand out materials and run around on the countertops. Technically, her dad, Ryan, and I operate the library, but I don’t care if he shows up as long as Liv does.
It’s not a complete separation. Because this is Utah and Latter-day Saint wards are like sardines in a can, I still see members of the congregation roaming the neighborhood like confused wildlife. But it’s just not the same as seeing them in their natural settings.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.