Kirby: Assigning Latter-day Saints to boost political involvement could ‘spin’ out of control

Robert Kirby

As a lifelong Mormon, I’ve held lots of church callings — Cub Scout leader, missionary, elders quorum president, home teacher and nursery leader.

For those unfamiliar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a “calling” is how we refer to a formal request for church service.

I call them “jobs” because that’s what they are. The word “calling” is, I suppose, intended to give the impression that the request originates with God, but it usually comes from the bishop of a congregation.

Today, I’m the ward librarian. It’s the perfect job for someone with an aberrant personality. I’m confined to a single room and have only minimal contact with other parishioners.

The needs of a Latter-day Saint congregation are fairly simple, which is why new callings don’t come along all that often. Some callings have stopped altogether. It’s been ages since there was a ward hem-and-sleeve monitor, although some still try to keep this going.

Recently, this newspaper reported that Latter-day Saint leaders in Utah will be assigning members to serve as civic affairs “specialists” — helping/reminding members to register to vote, informing them of party caucuses, telling them about community meetings, and even directing their efforts to better support LGBTQ issues.

Yeah, I made up that last one. I was going to say “better support private ownership of tripod-mounted machine guns” but decided that was so close to the true desires of some readers it might be taken seriously.

This new civic affairs task makes it sound like God wants his people to be more politically involved. It’s happened before — like the time Joseph Smith ran for president — and look how well that worked out.

Ever since the Prop 8 mess in California, I’m extremely leery of mixing politics with piety. Exactly what would this civic affairs specialist be encouraged to do?

This is of particular concern, given that the church’s membership is heavily weighted toward one particular party. The red one.

Hold it right there. This is not an invitation for pointless political debate. I respect all political opinions as long as they’re mine. I don’t care about yours.

Color me skeptical, but I worry about whether a civic affairs specialist can refrain from putting his or her own political spin on this assignment.

For example, I can’t think of many in my ward who would be helping members register as Democrats or Libertarians or reminding them not to miss the next pro-choice or legalize-marijuana rally.

Maybe I’m making something out of nothing. It could well be that such efforts will be entirely nonpartisan and free of divisive issues that cause the Holy Ghost headaches.

It all depends on the person doing the job, in which case it’s about picking the right person for it. That can be the most difficult part of extending a church assignment.

In my ward, they should have thought about that before the library began stocking copies of Guns & Ammo and Rolling Stone.

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