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Robert Kirby is off today. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

I was raised to be a good Mormon boy. My parents took me to church. I was taught to pray, take the sacrament, pay tithing and to believe that Heavenly Father would get even with me if I didn't.

For years, I never doubted the truthfulness of what I was taught. This is not surprising considering that virtually anything will make sense if it's all you know.

I was sitting outside the bishop's office one afternoon when doubt first came knocking. My place on the chair had been appointed with firmness just short of real injury by Sister Cheeser, who said there was no room in Primary for evil behavior such as mine.

I was willing to concede the point. After all, a good boy would never have brought a lizard to church. Even a bad one would have thought twice before using it to clear a restroom of several screaming girls and Sister Cheeser.

Waiting for my mom, I stewed in my evilness. Suddenly, it occurred to me, "Hey, how come I'm still alive?"

It countered everything I'd been taught in church. Lots of people had been evil — Nephites, Pharaoh's army, Sodom & Gomorrah, various apostates — and God had fixed them but good. So, why was I still breathing?

There were only two possible explanations. First, that I wasn't evil. Yeah, I laughed out loud at that one, too. I mean, really.

Second, that the consequences of evil behavior didn't work exactly the way I'd been taught in church. This seemed far more likely.

Just to be sure, I decided to put it to the test. I ditched the chair and went to Dandy Don's Market where I shoplifted some Jujubes, a root beer, and a box of Brillo pads. I didn't need or even want the pads. I was only trying to provoke a reaction.

Here's what happened: Nothing. I didn't even get whacked for not being at Primary. Mom forgot to come and get me, and so the old man didn't find out. Despite everything, I actually ended up ahead.

Doubt never completely left me after that. When I heard stuff in church or anywhere else, I stopped thinking, "Wow!" and started thinking, "Maybe, or maybe not."

I told myself that if I was going to hell, I'd rather it was for something I thought than for what someone else wanted me to think.

Thus began a life of thinking for myself. Overall, it worked out less well than I would have liked. I'm not very bright. I've thought myself stupid a lot. You can ask my wife.

Today, I reserve plenty of doubt for myself. When I start thinking something is a great idea, I tell myself, "Maybe, or maybe not."

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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