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Robert Kirby: Hey, Latter-day Saints, why not a debate before our sustaining votes? All in favor?

Robert Kirby

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off last week in the final presidential bone pick of the 2020 campaign.

I didn’t watch it. I later got the key points from my wife, who did. As a citizen of another country, she feels no shame when the wannabe leaders of this one contend for office like fourth graders on a set of monkey bars.

My interest in the second debate vanished when behavior in the first one forced serious consideration of employing microphone cutoff switches, shock collars and spit guards.

I’m not against debating when it comes to leadership positions, but if this is how we ponder who is best suited for the power to blow up the entire world, it seems a bit more decorum should be required.

And not just in government, but also in church. A number of faiths hold some rudimentary form of election when it comes to choosing who’s in charge of deciding how things should be run.

Catholics have the College of Cardinals who get to elect — or at least have a say — in who is the next pope. Latter-day Saints hold sustaining votes on leaders. In some extreme fundamentalist religions, a changing of the guard can involve gunfire.

That last one seems a bit extreme, but since extreme is an essential part of the ideology, it’s bound to happen.

We vote, of sorts, in my church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The last time I raised my hand there was to support the ordination of Ethan Clegg to the office of a deacon.

Ethan is my neighbor. He’s 12. To the best of my knowledge, he is not a drug mule for a Sinaloa cartel. So I indicated my show of support at the right time. And since no one opposed his ordination, he was in.

It works the same way with bishops, stake presidents, apostles, prophets, Relief Society presidents and most other offices. Everyone with a church calling gets a sustaining vote.

So why no debates before these sustaining votes? When I was voted to be sustained as the Rose Summit First Ward librarian three years, I distinctly remember there being a debate. I can’t recall who ran against me, but I lost.
Since then, there have been a number of policy changes — two-hour meeting blocks, new general authorities, lower ages for being ordained to the priesthood. There were no debates before we voted on them.

The next time there’s an opening in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, or even a change in a ward bishopric, there should be at least a few debates before we’re asked to raise our hands.

Elder R. Martin Worthy • “Unlike my esteemed opponent, I have never called for an increase in tithing and fast offer--!”
Elder Raymond Lament • “Give us all a break, Marty. If it were up to you, kangaroos could hold the priesthood.”
Elder Worthy • “Yeah, but only the males. It was your stupid idea to allow pet sealings in the temples.”
Elder Lament • “On a trial basis. Remember? Get it right if you’re going to bring it up.”

Everyone knows that a call for a sustaining vote is more for show. For all the formality, raising our hands carries about as much weight as taking attendance. I’ve never seen anything change.

But debates? That would definitely change something. They would make church way more interesting.

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