While leaving church recently, I ran into the bishop of my Latter-day Saint ward. This wouldn’t have been all that unusual if we still went to the same church.
Since the quarantine began, I’ve been attending church at the home of the Clegg family across the street. It’s great — as church goes. The five of us laugh, argue, call one another names. Nobody gets any feelings hurt.
I have no idea where Bishop Tom Geertsen goes to church. We used to go to the one down the block, but ever since Satan unleashed pestilence on the world, we haven’t seen each other.
Anyway, I was just leaving the Church of Clegg as the bishop was coming up the sidewalk. I confess to being surprised.
Oddly, this time it was a happy surprise. Not “uh-oh,” followed by throwing together a hurried apology for something I hadn’t even been accused of yet.
Back when we attended the same church — where he’s the boss — the bishop would periodically counsel me with stuff like, “Stop going to Relief Society” and “Do you have the knife on you right now?”
His best advice so far has been, “Robert, please stop teaching the young men that handcuffing is an ancient priesthood ordinance.”
This time was different. The surprise I felt was based on how much I missed Bishop Geertsen, followed by the rest of the ward (including the ones who politely avoided me).
It’s understandable. Humans were social creatures long before church attendance entered into the plan. It’s in our DNA — physically and spiritually — to rub shoulders until we love and/or despise one another. In short, we’re herd animals.
And it doesn’t take long before herd instinct becomes such a part of our lives that we actually need it. This isn’t just about Latter-day Saints. It also exists in book clubs, bowling leagues, sewing circles, even armed conflicts.
For example, I miss my ward kids, the ones who pile into the meetinghouse library right after sacrament services to score candy before their parents and teachers come by and yank them away.
I also miss my ward friends. By this, I mean real friends, the kind who, if I showed up at their house with a bullet hole, wouldn’t automatically call the police. They’d wait until I had at least shared my testimony about what happened.
Since seeing the bishop and talking to him, I’ve been missing church more. It’s odd how humans express our feelings with our faces — so much so that it’s possible to tell if people need help even if they haven’t said anything.
So even though I never thought I’d say it, I actually miss church. Not because of church stuff but rather because of the tribal bond that naturally forms when groups of easily overwrought creatures come together for the common good.
Word has started to creep about the neighborhood that we may be returning to the pews. I hope it’s true, although I’m not really happy about wearing a mask and maintaining the proper distance while doing so.
Hiding your face and not being able to hug or shake hands rather defeat the purpose of belonging to a group.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.