Robert Kirby: Brawled to serve — the inner fight over whether to go on an LDS mission

(Courtesy photo) Elder Robert Kirby during his mission.

Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my entire life, I found that Mom and the Old Man placed enormous expectations on me.

At times, it was suffocating.

Under no circumstances was I ever to murder someone. It’s true. They were equally strict when it came to armed robbery, stealing cars and worshipping Satan.

This may sound overly repressive, but it worked. For the most part. There was that motorcycle thing, but nobody is perfect.

Looking back, I think my parents got it right. They were more focused on keeping me out of prison than whether I would make it to the Celestial Kingdom.

One thing never came up. Not once did they ever suggest, insist or demand that I serve a church mission, which at the time was regarded as a “commandment” for young male Latter-day Saints.

Serving a mission was considered every bit as natural in the Mormon maturation process as growing hair in strange places and a noticeable change in voice. Woe unto any LDS boy who opted out.

While the expectation for serving a mission has relaxed since those days, some still put it on par with one of the Ten Commandments.

For instance, a 49-year-old Ogden man allegedly assaulted his 18-year-old son recently when the latter announced that he wasn’t going on a mission.

The declaration — which likely entailed other concerns as well — resulted in the equivalent of a Mormon honor beating.

The son ended up injured and the father in jail. The Celestial Kingdom will have to wait.

When I reached the right age, I told my parents that serving a church mission was not in the cards for a guy like me. I was far too attached to my personal freedom. Any spirituality I needed could be found in the right kind of drugs.

Besides, God would probably kill me if I even applied to serve a mission. It seemed likely. I’d been to enough church by then to know that it didn’t take much to provoke a loving Heavenly Father.

To their credit, my parents never attempted to dissuade me from the path I had chosen. All they ever said were things like, “It’s your decision, son. Just don’t murder anyone.”

Ironically, I ended up serving a mission. What? Yes, the entire two years.

The important thing is that when the time was right, I made the decision to go — not my parents, not church leaders and certainly not some girl who promised to wait.

This in no way implies that a mission is something you should do as well; only that it worked for me.

Does this mean I’m on the right path now? Well, yeah. But it’s the right path for me. I understand that it isn’t the right path for others.

Am I now destined for the Celestial Kingdom? Hell, no. I can’t think of a single reason why I would want to go there. For now.

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