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The topic of last Sunday's talks in my LDS ward was proper conduct in Sacrament meeting. At least I think it was. I had a hard time paying attention.

I was reading a book on my Kindle. I was also not wearing a tie or a white shirt. What else? Chewing gum, dozing ... oh, and periodically finding myself distracted by an impure or unkind thought wandering through my head.

It's not that I'm proud of being eccentric or a rebel; it's just me. I've tried being what other people wanted me to be before — school, mission, army, police department — and it was a #%@*! disaster.

Took me a long time to become comfortable being myself in church. Sure, I have to accept the consequences that come with it, but it's surprising how many of them turn out to be, well, inconsequential.

Not wearing a suit and tie in church gets me out of a lot of work. People who dress and act like me don't get called to the High Council or some other donkey job. I have no idea why my feelings aren't hurt.

It takes work to make a place for yourself where people are more than happy to give you a piece of the Lord's mind. Most people who don't fit in just give up. It's sad given that they don't have to.

Me, I work hard at keeping things in their proper perspective — for me. This means finding my own form of worship and spirituality, which makes it easier to attend church. In fact, I like church a whole lot better than I did when it was a place where I measured myself against others.

A good example of this was the counsel last Sunday about the way a faithful Latter-day Saint should dress and behave in preparation for Sacrament meeting.

In fairness, the speaker made it clear that he wasn't trying to single out anyone who wasn't currently attired appropriately (like me). We should dress for church the way we would want to be dressed if we were standing next to the Lord.

Analogies like this fail to register on Mormons like me. If I were suddenly standing alongside the Lord, I'd fully expect to be on fire. I fail to see how a Mr. Mac suit would change that.

There was more. In church, we should pay attention to the counsel we are being given by putting away our books, magazines and electronic devices. Seems fair enough, but that logic should cut both ways.

If you think I should put away my electronic device and listen to you speak, then I think it's your responsibility to be more intellectually stimulating than a game of solitaire. If you can't do that, then maybe you should put away that electronic device called a microphone.

Being spiritually dim, I'm probably not the best person to listen to about this sort of thing. But I have to wonder how many people would still be part of a congregation if there were less emphasis on conformity and more on self-improvement.

This isn't all about being defiant. OK, maybe it is a little. Frankly, I rather enjoy being a pain to the sort of people who've driven others away because custom is more important than love.

For me, church is about becoming a better person than your current self. And you won't get that by comparing yourself to people who've gotten it in their heads that they already are.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or