I watched the Sunday afternoon session of LDS general conference yesterday while I was folding laundry. From an outsider’s perspective, there wasn’t much of interest. Church members are abuzz about the announcement of a temple in Rome, Italy, but I wonder how they will possibly fill even one of the tiny mini-temples in a country with so few Mormons. For whatever reason, no one is excited about the new temple to be built in “greater Kansas City.” If you think about it, what is located in greater Kansas City? That’s right, Independence, Missouri, future site of the New Jerusalem. Could this temple announcement be the harbinger of the end times? Enquiring minds want to know.
But what struck me most of all is the strange, lilting cadence of conference-speak. You know what I mean. It’s almost as if someone were reading a bedtime story to a child. The most pronounced conference-speakers are Thomas Monson and Russell Nelson. Monson was in full c-speak mode even when talking about the “owners and operators of satellite and cable systems.” Nelson issued a forceful defense of the church’s stand on same-sex marriage that was somewhat muted by the dulcet tones of his voice.
I’m not pointing this out to be critical, but I started wondering about how this particular method of public speaking came about. I don’t think it originated with the early leaders of the LDS church. I somehow can’t imagine that Joseph Smith’s daring, almost boastful, discourses were given in conference-speak. Nor would Brigham Young have spoken so softly in proclaiming such doctrines as Adam-God and Blood Atonement.
But somehow, somewhere, this weird speech pattern crept in, and we’re left with Keith McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric, a strained smile on his face, speaking of a miracle that took place in a “HHHAHH-spit-hull.”