Who is (or was) the most insightful observer of Mormonism and LDS doctrine? Is it Richard Bushman? Is it Terryl Givens? Is it Elder Dallin Oaks? Was it Elder Bruce McConkie? Is it Jan Shipps? Is it Michael Quinn? Was it President Joseph Fielding Smith or Boyd Packer? Where do I look for spiritual and intellectual guidance?
Robert Kirby, that’s who. For those who don’t live along the Wasatch Front, Kirby is a humorist for the Salt Lake Tribune. Every Saturday he pens a religion (mostly Mormon) column. And his opinions and lampoons are almost always right on the money. He regularly skewers the self-righteous and thin-skinned members of his faith. But more importantly, he has inspired opinions on LDS policy and doctrine, either pro or con.
His observations are always very insightful. Here are five examples.
On a recent Saturday, he discussed Mormonism racist past.
The LDS Church will spend until Kingdom Come living down our past discrimination toward black people. We earned the finger-pointing and the hypersensitivity, thanks to our past behavior.
We can prove that we’re trying to get past it by being more careful when it comes to the color pallet we use for sin.
In the past, on the subject of his LDS temple marriage, Kirby expressed concern that many of his friends and family were excluded from his nuptials.
It seemed a great irony that my church–with all that emphasis on families being forever–was also patently divisive when it came to excluding families from gathering together on a momentous day.
He is also worried about possible boredom in celestial kingdom:
It was a beautiful day when we got married but also vaguely troubling. Looking around the sealing room in the temple, I realized just how much the celestial kingdom was going to suck if I had to spend it without the company of some of the people I loved the most.
Kirby has also made suggestions about how tithing should be handled?
Technically, the entire world belongs to our Creator (yes, even if said creator is a series of random events), but it’s still your choice to pay tithing on what and to whom you think you should.
And commented on the subject of prayer:
Prayer is important, but it doesn’t always have to be done in a groveling manner. Prayer can also be couched every bit effectively as an argument, a demand, or even akin to hostage negotiation. Just keep the line of communication open.
He also has an opinion about the absolute nature of dogma and doctrine:
What most people call the will of God is actually a bit of gospel or dogma processed through the filters of our own personalities. That’s why God’s will changes from person to person, even in the same faith.
If you’re obsessively dogmatic, so too will be the manner of your worship.
Fortunately, Kirby is not a biblical literalist. But is a firm believer in evolution, and an eloquent defender of Darwin:
While evolution is generally regarded by the deeply religious as the primary province of scientists/atheists, I’ve always taken great spiritual comfort in it.
I love the echoes of time found in rocks and museums. There is something about the evidence of a billion years of life at work.
There’s cosmic beauty in the millennial march of creatures that keep their place in a rising order. They lived and died, taking only what they needed and surrendering everything to those yet to come.
In his theological observations and opinions, Kirby is almost never wrong.
Kirby has explained why he is the way he is (argumentative, cynical, hyper-observant, theologically gifted, and funny all at the same time):
It’s my brain. It tries to think both sides of an issue at the same time. It’s a noisy process that generates a lot of internal discussion about the nature of God and the cosmos and the meaning of life.
The LDS Church needs more Robert Kirbys. More members who will frankly express their opinions. More insightful humorist to keep us humble. More clear thinking theologians. As one historian pointed out: Mormons don’t have a theology, they have a history.