Last week, our bishop got up in sacrament meeting and read a letter to the congregation from church headquarters. It was about money.
The letter cautioned members against doing business with those "who use relationships of trust to promote risky or even fraudulent investment and business schemes."
Unspiritual translation: If your Elder's Quorum president or home teacher wants you to invest in some property he has on the moon, it's probably a good idea to refuse.
I'm paraphrasing, of course. The truth is I only started listening halfway through the letter when I caught the words "business schemes" and thought it was specifically about me getting some of my money back.
Oh, there's no risk of me being bilked out of real money by some swindling fellow Mormon. I work for a newspaper. I don't have any real money.
I'm also cynical to the point of it being a mental illness. I don't completely trust anyone, and this goes double for anyone at church.
You can holler about that all you want, but if I don't trust my grandchildren in my own home (and I don't), why would I trust you at church?
Incidentally, my skepticism isn't about Mormons or any other faith in particular. It's about environment, namely that church is the ideal place to pretend to be something you're not in order to get something you shouldn't from other people.
Think about it. The people capable of hurting us the most are precisely the people who we think won't -- i.e., people we trust enough to be willing to lower our guard.
Assuming that you go to church, you probably don't go thinking someone there is out to victimize you. It's church. There's a general expectation that fellow parishioners will be on the same page about being good.
Makes sense. Church is a place of community support. That's the idea, anyway. It's where you should be able to be vulnerable without fear of being eaten by your own. So you relax.
The predators recognize this as well. Church isn't the place where they go to be spiritually edified. It's just the watering hole where they lie in wait.
Still, they can't take advantage of you if they can't get you to lower your guard. At a bar or a party, they'd use tequila. At church, image and position can have the same effect.
You have to keep your wits about you even at church, where a statement such as "I used to be a bishop" can sometimes be a disguise for, "Psst, buddy. Check this out."
This is not to say that all business opportunities at church are deliberately evil. Since moving into the ward 10 years ago, my wife and I have shelled out countless dollars to various crazy-sounding business schemes.
But it isn't nefarious business types getting our money.
It works like this. The doorbell rings and it's some kid from the ward. He or she will smile shyly and say, "Brother Kirby, can you be a sponsor for my school punchathon? It only costs 50 cents a punch."
Later you discover that whatever it was got punched 825 times. And so it goes: Friends of Scouting, football fundraising, muscular dystrophy walkathon, Save the Snakes, car wash sponsorships -- they keep showing up and working me.
Last time it was the bishop's daughter Adyson who wanted me to invest money in her charity trip to build a house in Mexico. She promised double my investment back in blessings if I got in on the ground floor.
No wonder I don't have any money. I fall for this sort of scheme every time.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.