I happened to look at Robert Kirby’s column in the Salt Lake Tribune last Saturday. I was surprised and caught off guard. He announced that it was his last column and that he was retiring. The title of the column was “Farewell, dear readers. I’m retiring. It’s been a load of laughs.”
I suspect that many of you have been familiar with or exposed to Kirby’s columns at one time or another. He’s been a humorist for a long time, besides having been a police officer in a former life. For a long time now, he has made a living by poking fun at Mormons and the “Mormon culture.”
I know that rather than saying “Mormons,” I should be saying “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” That’s the relatively recent request of the church for how references should be made. But in this case, I’m going to “Kirby’ize” the references.
I’ve heard Kirby speak in person on more than one occasion. Years ago, he was an after-dinner speaker at the annual Sanpete County Farm Bureau Banquet. I recall it being in Moroni, and if I remember right, his talk was titled, “Mormons are Crazy… And so is Everyone Else.”
By reason of being a Mormon, he has been able to take the position of “it takes one to know one.” Some have criticized him for being too hard on the church. He has taken some delight in not being afraid to kill a “Sacred Cow” or two along the way in getting his points across, and getting a laugh.
The following appeared in his column from Saturday, it shows typical Kirby behavior.
“In my early law enforcement days, I pulled over a car for clipping through a school zone. The driver was polite and respectful when I asked for his license and registration. Then he handed me his Latter-day Saint temple recommend.
Since it was the first time this had ever happened, I was confused. After a few minutes, I decided that, as a police officer and a Mormon, I had a job to do. So, I wrote him a ticket and then wrote “void” on his recommend.
The driver understandably lost his mind when I gave that back to him. It was probably the first time that had ever happened to him as well. He complained to my chief, and it cost me a day off.”
When I heard Kirby speak, he asked how many of the audience were Mormons. It was around half who raised their hands. He didn’t ask for a showing of who identified as “Jack-Mormons” (non-practicing).
Kirby pointed out that the percentage of Mormons in Utah was decreasing because “the non-Mormons are moving in faster than the Mormons can breed.” That brought a roar of laughter.
There was a serious message given that night at the banquet. It’s a concept Mormon leaders have preached about and something many of us “Utah Mormons” could probably take a lesson from.
Kirby related an experience of having a conversation with a Utah newcomer who had lived in many different areas of the country. She wondered why it was that she was lonelier in Utah than anywhere else she had lived.
Robert speculated an answer for her which centered on attempting to understand what he described as Utah/Idaho Mormon culture. First of all, he explained, you have to understand that the Mormons around you have a load of church obligations that “would cripple a Grand Canyon mule.” “The church keeps them busy to keep them out of trouble.”
Next, you have to forgive many Mormons for having forgotten how to deal socially with people who don’t believe and live just like they do. They have lived on their own for so long that they don’t know any different.
Perhaps we in Sanpete need to pause and consider this concept. I believe that Sanpete is a happy, friendly place. There aren’t enough people here to exclude anyone from our circle of friends based on anything like religion, race, or political leanings.
If anything is going to divide us, let’s let it be “big issues” like dogs barking at night and controversial calls at home plate in Little League games. We just need to think about some of our behaviors and attitudes.
Going along with the title of his speech (that Mormons are crazy and so is everyone else) Kirby said something like, “Some things make about as much sense as a kamikaze pilot wearing a helmet.”
I have ended up with a couple of autographed Kirby books. In the “Pat and Kirby Go to Hell” book, I have the following personal message from “R Kirby” — “Merrill: Satan likes you Best.” In the book, “Family Home Screaming” (a play of words on the Mormon practice of a weekly Family Home Evening), he wrote “Sometimes families just seem like forever,” — spoofing the Mormon catch phrase, “Families can be forever.”
I’ll personally miss Kirby’s columns. Some were certainly better than others. (Anyone who reads “Inside Sanpete” is very familiar with that concept)
People and columns don’t last forever. I think of Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Art Buchwald, Dan Valentine, and others. If you want to be entertained, look up any of the old stuff written by them.
If you have the time and inclination, make your way over to the Salt Lake Tribune and read Kirby’s last column (and others). If you don’t make it over there, here’s a couple of sentences from almost the end of the piece:
“You’ve given me a lot of laughs over the past 26 years, as well as support when I wrote about my wife’s cancer, my dad’s death, my brother’s suicide and the death of a friend. I can’t thank you enough” “…All my best, Kirby”
(For the record, “Inside Sanpete” had it’s 26th anniversary last September.) — Merrill