As you may recall, I supported (Dec. 15, 2012) the "Pants to Church" movement. It earned me the enmity of those who believe that pants on women is something for Heavenly Father to decide, not uppity women and smart aleck newspaper columnists.
I supported the pants movement because it's personal; I wear pants to church. And I think everybody should. It's a privilege that I don't want to lose until such time as my mind goes.
Unlike pants, prayer is something I deliberately try to get out of at church. When they call for prayer volunteers in my LDS ward, I get small in my seat. If nobody volunteers then they just pick somebody.
Teacher: "Brother Kirby, would you offer the closing prayer?"
Me: "OK, but it was your idea."
I don't think just anybody should be able to pray on behalf of and in front of a congregation. It should be someone you can trust.
I say this because Bammer's wife once gave a prayer in Sunday school in which she mentioned me by name. I wasn't there, but he told me later that I wouldn't have been flattered.
My biggest concern about who gets to pray has more to do with the length of the prayer. Women generally tend to be more spiritual than men. The risk of them going long in prayer is greater.
This isn't such a big deal with invocations (opening prayers). They can be as long as the person praying feels like making them. Use the entire meeting if you like.
Conversely closing prayers (benedictions) should be short and to the point because by then everyone just wants to go home. They're only waiting for you to shut up.
If women want to pray in General Conference, I think we should ease them into the job the way we do at church by letting them help children pray.
When a kid is asked to pray in a Mormon ward, it's always mom (rather than dad) who escorts them to the lectern and whispers what to say in their ear.
That's why we get stuff like, "bless the bishop" and "help us to be reverent" rather than some weepy appeal for the health of a hamster named Barney.
Maybe kids should pray in General Conference. Kids give excellent prayers because they're short, to the point and they don't use lofty words.
Years ago and far away, I was a Primary teacher for about a month. One Sunday a 9-year-old kid got up and soloed his prayer. I can't remember all of it, but I do remember this part:
"And please help there not be another flood that kills us."
Now that's the kind of prayer everyone at General Conference including me can get behind. Amen.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.