Mormonism and the English Language

Each election season, I make a point of re-reading George Orwell’s brilliant, cranky little essay Politics and the English Language. It is useful for reminding me to pay closer attention to what people say and mean, and less attention to the sound of their words. I am easily beguiled by pretty words, and so I need this reminder at least annually. It is also, more painfully, a necessary invitation to self-criticism: weighing my speech and my writing against the standard Orwell sets out, I always find my prose froofy and my thinking lazy.

Since many of the things that I think and write about are Mormon-ish, I’ve been trying to translate Orwell’s critique from political speech to Mormon speech, thinking about the characteristic ways in which Mormons obscure, rather than communicate, their thoughts, and the ways in which we use language to avoid thinking at all.

It’s hard to pick out favorite points from Orwell’s essay; it’s really all good. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll borrow his four major headings:

1) Dying Metaphors: One of the things I noticed this time through is how time-specific it is–many of the metaphors he cites as being so overused as to be meaningless seem perfectly fresh to me. It would be interesting to try to figure out how long an image has to be out of general circulation before it regains its power. I was wondering, for instance, if some of the language I love in early Mormon women’s writings seems potent to me partly (or even mostly) because the imagery is striking now in a way it would not have been in its own time. [Had I not just reread Orwell, I would have said "temporal context" just then. Heh.] Smirkily, I wonder if ERS’s bad poetry would have been even worse in 1880. But I also wonder about Joseph’s letters to Emma that we read recently for Priesthood and Relief Society lessons–some of the language I judge to be truly elegant and powerful, but I wonder how much of the air of profundity comes from the language being merely old [caught myself again--wanted to say "arcane"].

I’m sure we can come up with lots of examples of dying metaphors in Mormon church-speak: shadow of doubt, fiber of my being, lover of my soul (can you imagine the horror if dear old Sister Sorenson were actually thinking about a lover during the singing of a hymn??).

I’m also interested in the ones we try to revivify at regular intervals by teaching about their origins–I thought particularly of the “keystone” metaphor for the Book of Mormon, which seems to require the quadrennial drawing of a Romanesque arch on chalkboards around the world. “Watchmen on the tower” might also fall into this category; it is not uncommon for a speaker to call attention to it by adding descriptive elements or expanding it into a slightly larger narrative.

2) Operators or Verbal False Limbs: these are phrases that pad sentences to make them longer or more euphonious or, in the Mormon vernacular, more like General Conference talks. Mormons use the passive voice for this a lot–“hearts were touched, lives were saved,”–but also, notably, the subjunctive–“that they might,” “if we would be,” “if it be his will.” Other operators might be “even” as an intensifier, “in the name of Thy Son” (its automaticity marked by the fact that people use it in situations where they are not speaking of the son of anyone present), “by the same sign”, “with a vote of thanks,” “I would be ungrateful if,” “harm or accident,” “nourish and strengthen,” (alt. “do us the good we need”), “dear, kind and gracious,” and “so very.”

3) Pretentious Diction: I don’t think Mormons are terribly guilty of this–there’s a populist strain in our rhetorical style that discourages anything that sounds too erudite. If we’re pompous, it tends to come out in archaic prayer language or faux-stentorian [Orwell just rolled over in his grave] General Authority-style diction and syntax, rather than in overblown vocabulary. The exception to this rule, being, alas, the Bloggernacle, where we toss around words like orthoprax, soteriology, and hermeneutics with varying degrees of understanding. There was a very funny piece in Sunstone several years ago–a chart with columns of interchangeable elements of sentences from which one could cobble together completely meaningless but very erudite-sounding Mormon Studies globs of syntax. [cobble together globs? gotcha] Kiskilili’s recent parody of a Sunstone program was a witty send-up of this mode of pretension.

4) Meaningless Words: Many of the examples I can think of have to do with gender roles: patriarchy, preside, nurture, feminist (this one is clearly not just a Mormon problem), even “gender,” by which we most often mean biological sex, but sometimes really do mean gender. The endless parsing of some sections of the Proclamation on the Family, and the possibility of defending sometimes precisely opposite positions with reference to it, suggest that it is a prime example of the sort of “meaninglessness” Orwell is talking about. (I suspect there are good reasons for this–it speaks to contemporary issues that we are still figuring out, but also needs to be durable enough to make sense in other eras, so some degree of vagueness is necessary).

Predictably (perhaps inevitably), our attempts to describe “spiritual experiences” also contain a fair number of words that convey tribal association more than they explain what we have felt or seen or heard. “Spiritual” gets used in a lot of vague ways–sometimes it means emotional, sometimes it means religious (as opposed to secular, or “temporal”), occasionally we use it to describe an event or experience that feels transcendent, an encounter with divinity (small or large D). “Sacred” is similarly abused. “Special” and “choice” still come up occasionally. A new one that seems to be gaining currency is borrowed from Elder Bednar’s talk about “tender mercies.” I hear the phrase invoked to mean virtually any serendipitous event or any accident in which one might suspect divine intervention on whatever scale.

And Mormons have more words for problems (very few other denominations have ALL the verses of “How Firm a Foundation”–two verses worth of “fiery trials” suffices most Christians, apparently. We need seven!) and manage to actually communicate their pain less than most people I know. We “experience trials,” “face adversity,” “endure affliction,” “are tested by the adversary,” but we rarely (to hear us talk about it) are angry, frustrated, despondent, enraged, hurt, jealous, frightened, sad, or just having a !&*@!y day.

I mean this criticism (if it is that) affectionately. I am guilty of all of these things–I once accidentally blessed the food in Sacrament Meeting! The application of Orwell’s essay has limits when speaking of a particular subculture. This language may not be terribly precise or perfectly illuminating, but it does serve as an important group boundary marker. I worry about it only insofar as it makes it harder for us to speak to each other about the things that matter most deeply to us. And, as someone who struggles to have an inner life rich in feeling and not just full of thinking and words, I need my fellow saints to tell me, in small words and vivid images, how they do it. Ultimate truths may be ineffable, but the proximate ones, expressed in precise and lively words, may help us approach it.

————
Two notes on comments: 1) I know I am a hopeless snob and pedant, but please consider reading or re-reading the entire essay before you comment. It’s short, and you might learn or remember something that will make the opinion you are about to offer even more concise, elegant, and brilliant than it already is.

2) I’m well aware that there are plenty of ways in which this applies to discussions of recent ballot initiatives which will not be named or numbered, but this is not the place to discuss them. We are tired. I will ruthlessly delete comments that bring up that which we are not discussing.

Comments

  1. How about prayers that start with “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven” or “Our Dear Heavenly Father” or “Our Father in Heaven”? Whatever was wrong with just starting a prayer with “Heavenly Father?”

    (I did inwardly chuckle once in a BYU ward with a prayer that started, “Oh Dear God…”.)

  2. My sister and I created Relief Society phrase bingo cards for our BYU singles ward. Included are phrases such as “so grateful” (with the Utah accent and r-rolling, of course) and “anecdotes that don’t really fit with the topic.” Some are uniquely Mormon, since our convert roommate from Chicago adopts this strange accent and phraseology whenever she talks about anything that has to do with the church.

  3. In Down and Out in Paris and London, Orwell described running into two LDS missionaries and listening to their street preaching for twenty minutes. If only he’d written an essay on the encounter …

  4. heteronormity. Found strewn Awesome word that George Orwell would have understood behind its slightly obscure latinate roots as “Hate the Gay,” only in an Orwellian fashion. Absolutely. All (sexual identities) are created equal, only some are created more equal than others.

    They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
    Love and desire and hate;
    I think they have no portion in us after
    We pass the gate.

    They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
    Out of a misty dream
    Our path emerges for a while, then closes
    Within a dream.

    — Ernest Dowson, 1867-1900 –

  5. Perhaps I should just shoot myself. But you are my people.

  6. The path is suddenly clear…..

  7. decline 2 state says:

    by far the most irritating to me are the dangling participles by which we implore members to do simple things, such as:

    “If we could put away the chairs before leaving the room…”
    “If we could open the dividers…”
    “If you could all move to the center section…”

    I want to hit my head every time someone talks in this passive-aggressive, conflict-avoidance, faux-polite vernacular. how about:

    “Could you all put away a chair or two?”
    “Let’s open the dividiers.”
    “Come on over and sit in the middle section!”

  8. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’m headed to work, otherwise I’d have so much to say. This is really important stuff, since the language we think in and speak (obviously not exactly the same things) colors our experience so thoroughly. Just quickly – one thing I used to say all the time when I was acting as WML, ‘there is no need to put on missionary hat, or a testimony hat.’ We simply need to to express our actual views and experiences in language that is natural to us. Without being irreverent, of course. I’m convinced that the fear that we either should or _might_ break into testimony language while talking to our non-member friends about the church is a barrier to us talking about it at all. It is so much simpler – our actual views and experiences in the language we normally speak.

    Anway – really enjoyed this. Chuckled all the way through.

    djinn … good grief. ~

  9. I started noticing the use of the word “supernal” in General Conference several years ago. [I think its usage falls into category 2 above, but I can't rule out category 3.] When I first noticed it, I found it to be a bit distracting, but couldn’t quite figure out why. Then after a while it occurred to me that I never heard the word “supernal” anywhere but General Conference.

    Which makes me wonder, is supernal the General Conference “challenge word”?

    If so, according to my scorecard, Elder Corbridge won in October.

  10. decline2state–you’re right, of course. You’d think that a generation’s worth of MTC training in “direct will you questions” would have helped.

    Cris–I wish I’d thought of “supernal”!

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, elsewhere I think we’ve discussed the use of the term “even”, which is a big one.

    Wonderful post. There are a lot of Mormon shibboleths out there. Some are cringe-worthy but others kind of make me feel happy, like part of the community.

  12. I haven’t read the essay yet, but I just wanted to say . . .

    :P

  13. My pet peeve is the clunky (but somehow, recently, nearly obligatory) replacement of the simple “Christ” with the treacly and cursory iambic tetrameter “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

  14. Aaron Brown says:

    Every time I say “nourish and strengthen” during a prayer, I kick myself for doing it. But then I go and do it again. Probably always will.

    The Sunstone chart you refer to is one of my favorite Sunstone bits ever! I think J. Edgar Voros was the author. Back in the day, I used to drop casual references in conversation to “Joseph Smith’s incipient eco-spirituality” and other inane gobbledygook from that piece, just to piss off LDS friends and neighbors. Good times.

    AB

  15. please consider reading or re-reading the entire essay before you comment. It’s short, and you might learn or remember something that will make the opinion you are about to offer even more concise, elegant, and brilliant than it already is.

    Is “ugh” concise, elegant and brilliant enough?

  16. Surely the resurrection of Orwell’s shopworn article deserves mention of another classic: “Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”

  17. I’m not sure which category this would fit into, but what about “I had the opportunity,” as in, “My family had the opportunity to visit Nauvoo last week”? It seems to have elements of 2, 3, and 4 in it.

  18. I cannot say that I have ever heard anyone use the term “lover of my soul” in an ecclesiastical setting. Even so, Neo-Palagian perspectives indicate that the essential irreducibility of the human spirit can, indeed must, be cast in ironic counterpoint to Mormonism’s radical soteriology.

  19. Sorry, all. I have a chronic illness which explains all my time at the keyboard, I didn’t feel very good last night, didn’t need to take it out (and out of context) on you good people. Though any excuse, no matter how bad, to post a Dowson poem, ….

  20. I enjoyed your Dowson poem, djinn. All the best to you.

  21. How about this one? “I’d like to thank all of you for coming today” It makes me want to say “OK, go ahead!”

  22. You’d think that a generation’s worth of MTC training in “direct will you questions” would have helped.

    1. Do we *really* want to run the Church like the MTC?

    2. Leaders encounter the problem of cynical/lazy RMs who know the commitment pattern and easily deflect it. So they default to the passive method of asking “If we can go to the temple this next week…”, because they haven’t come up with a “Commitment Pattern for Skilled Commitment Pattern Deflectors”.

  23. My father-in-law gave me this one a long time ago: “Can I ask you a question?” Yes, you just did.

    He hated this particularly when he was an MP; he’d often respond “no” to missionaries who asked that.

    There’s also a lexicon he hates hearing attorneys use…

  24. Just go through every hymnbook and see the phrases we’ve messed up (OK, now I have a lunchtime project), or the concepts we’ve butchered.

    Last I checked, there are no firm mountains around us in Texas, unless you count silicon at the Mavericks game…

  25. I’ve noticed the use of ‘indeed’ as an intensifier: ‘The worth of souls is, indeed, great,’ ‘He is a prophet, a seer, indeed the very mouthpiece of the Lord.’

  26. But how do I say anything now? I’ve grown fearful and self conscious. As I face the fire of adversity in this, the bloggernacle, yea even, the bloggernacle of the one true blog, I take it upon myself to inquire as to how I will I stand before you, my brothers and sisters, and know how to silence the demons of distrust, or tackle the tendrils of titillating and salacious sanctimonious mis-readings of the witness that I bear this day? Where will I find hope for the hopeless and rest for the weary if not here? I offer this writings with a thankful heart and with sunshine in my soul and if now I must walk alone along the beach with only one set of footprints and must be judged faithless how will I look up and live? Please, as I do my duty and offer up these my words with a heart full of song, do not judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.

  27. GBH had a habit of saying, “I would submit that”. I always associated that phrasing with him … until it started cropping up in the language of bishops and stake presidents I’d not heard say that before…

  28. I’m guessing the Mormon platitudes are the 1) metaphors?, but those are what drive me crazy. They used to drive me crazy because people would say them, these deep, profound little phrases, and I would get what they meant but they never made me feel better, so then I would feel bad, like why can’t I be comforted by inspiring language? Now they just drive me crazy, no guilt associated.

    It seems like I hear this one at least 3 times a week lately: remember that the gospel is perfect but the members are not!

    (see, it turns out to not make you really feel better and what does it really mean?)

  29. I wasn’t even going to comment today, but my heart started beating and I knew I needed to comment. I don’t even know what I’m going to say, but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my daughter who said she would comment if I did. These last couple of weeks have been really trying. As we were traveling…

  30. 26:

    do not judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.

    This is sound advice, for I shall be a mile away and you will be barefoot when the stinging rebuke of my judgment arrives.

    7:

    I want to hit my head every time someone talks in this passive-aggressive, conflict-avoidance, faux-polite vernacular.

    22:

    So they default to the passive method of asking “If we can go to the temple this next week…”,

    Ahh, we have sort of a problem here

  31. We’d like to welcome you to sacrament meeting today.”

    We’d like to acknowledge President So-and-so seated on the stand with us.”

    We’d like to thank all of you for taking time to read this blog entry today.”

    So do it already.

  32. Great post, Kristine. My favorite line in that essay–or at least the one I’ve always remembered–is “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” I would cross-stitch that and put it on a pillow, if I cross-stitched. Even so, it is burned in my brain. It flares up every time I have difficulty writing what I mean.

  33. Clay Whipkey says:

    My most consistent cringe-inducer is the use of “in the name of Thy Son” while people are speaking to a congregation.

    Pretentious Diction: I don’t think Mormons are terribly guilty of this–there’s a populist strain in our rhetorical style that discourages anything that sounds too erudite. If we’re pompous, it tends to come out in archaic prayer language or faux-stentorian [Orwell just rolled over in his grave] General Authority-style diction and syntax, rather than in overblown vocabulary. The exception to this rule, being, alas, the Bloggernacle, where we toss around words like orthoprax, soteriology, and hermeneutics with varying degrees of understanding.

    This paragraph, nested in this post, would generate an infinite loop if it were a computer program. ;-)

    But don’t get me wrong, I loved – even that love which is to thoroughly enjoy – this post.

  34. Interestingly, I was able to attend the re-dedication of the Mexico City Temple broadcast on Sunday evening. Pres. Monson had a great turn of phrase that I had not heard before:

    “Please bless the youth, as they are saturated by the sophistry of Satan.”

    Not bad, huh?! Unfortunately, it did not come at all close in the translation.

  35. I would be very ungrateful if I didn’t tell Kristine that she totally scooped a post I was going to make over at Mormon Mentality. Yea, verily, yours is better, so it’s all good.

    Clay, “In the name of thy son” is one of my favorites, but for me the all-time champion is “return missionary.” What does that mean anyway? The consumer (mission president) found him defective so he sent him back to the manufacturer (home)?

    Okay, okay, it doesn’t really fit any of the categories Kristine outlined… I just make it a personal crusade of mine own to help keep the lack of an “-ed” from ossifying in the very vernacular of our beings.

  36. I see “flawed logic” as a bigger problem than language. That is — Scripture says A therefore we should do/think B. (is this discussing the recent ballot initiative?)

    After that, I would describe “word definition” as another huge problem. For example, use a word like “God” and it seems that everyone instantly projects their own “positive” values into him and then we quickly move back to the “flawed logic” problem described above (as people then insist that some perspective or action is implied.)

    I can easily overlook all the platitudes and pretentious diction. (Well, maybe not always that easily…)

  37. Not sure exactly where this fits in, but I cringe when I hear a bishopric member thank in a robotic fashion the “members of the Aaronic Priesthood” for their service at the sacrament, and there’s an Elder or High Priest standing there. Alter the script once in awhile, OK?

  38. And, really, “members” isn’t quite right–it probably ought to be “appendages.” ;)

  39. I’ve been trying to put together a coherent statement without using some bad examples of what this post is about, so let me just say,

    “Great Post!”

    Actually, I think there are two factors that I can see here. First, we have a “language of prayer” that is different from our normal church-speak, which is also different from our normal voice. The prayer voice and the normal voice both bleed over into the middle space, making it very interesting indeed. (Dang, did it anyway!).

    Also, testimony bearing becomes a means of validating our community status as members who belong to the group. New convert’s testimonies are always interesting to me because they haven’t yet converted to church-speak. You can almost always track their progress by how their church language changes over the months. The rest of us bearing testimonies rarely speak in our normal voices, and the converts begin to emulate us, even as we emulate each other (isn’t emulate another mormomspeak?).

  40. we have a “language of prayer” that is different from our normal church-speak, which is also different from our normal voice.

    I’ve found that praying in my normal voice is the only way I can have sincere prayer. Which means, I think, that I’ve never offered a sincere prayer in church. But I never speak in church if I can possibly help it.

  41. Last Lemming says:

    Everybody likes to gripe about stuff in category #2, but at least everybody understands the intended meaning of those phrases. Not so stuff in category #4. The imprecise use of such words as “spiritual” and “gender” (mentioned by Kristine) as well as “salvation,” “eternal,” and “valiant” (to mention just a few more) is the source of some real misunderstanding in the Church. Instead of mocking Saintspeak, better to start a campaign for greater precision in our theological discourse.

    As for “tender mercies,” my interpretation of Elder Bednar’s talk leads me to think that he fully intended the phenomenon that Kristine observes.

  42. X (Adam Greenwood, his mark) says:

    Dear KHH,
    you are an infernal snob. Your little bracketed self-criticisms are hopelessly affected. And you make a distinct point about metaphors going in cycles. One reason to read stuff from non-Mormons is that you aren’t used to how they talk about spiritual experience yet.

  43. Hi, Adam–nice to see you!

  44. StillConfused says:

    I went with a friend to a dreadful art show on Sunday. One of the artists there was reading from his journal aloud. It was all in church-speak drivel. I couldn’t stand it and had to walk away. My non-LDS friend was sooooo captivated by his words. She just needs to go to a couple of fast-n-testimony meetings, I guess.

  45. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE: 9 and 11,

    I have recently begun using “supernal,” and appositive phrases beginning with “even,” dozens of times after church on Sundays just to annoy my family. My parents think that it amounts to “mocking the brethren” which (they ought to know) only serves as encouragement. “Today, I taught a lesson out of a church manual. A supernal manual, even the Valiant 11 manual” etc…

    A very interesting post Kristine. Thanks!

  46. re: nourish and strengthen

    This reminds me of an experience I had when I was six years old.

    My dad asked me to give the prayer for the food at a family gathering at my uncle’s. He gave me a good ten minutes’ warning, so I thought through my words ahead of time.

    When I was thinking about how to explicitly ask for a blessing on the food, I considering using the phrase “nourish and strengthen our bodies,” but decided against it, because I figured that it would sound too pretentious coming out of my six-year-old mouth.

    It was then that I invented the phrase “please bless this food to make our bodies healthy and strong.” I thought it was brilliant, because it paralleled the exact meaning of the other phrase, but in simpler language.

    And that phrase continues today throughout the church. It stands as the first successful meme that I take credit for.

  47. “…and please help us apply these things in our daily lives…”

    “I wanted to know what _____ meant so I looked it up in the dictionary and Webster says…”

    “Elder ____ said it better than I ever could so I will just read his words…”

    “I had prepared a talk but as I was sitting here on the stand I felt impressed to say…”

  48. What gets my goat are, inter alia, the following:

    “the”

    “be”

    “to”

    “of”

    “and”

    I mean, can you get more hackneyed and trite?

  49. Peter, it’s not good to let your goats get inter alia–they eat everything.

  50. RE 37:
    We recently got word that we were no longer to thank and dismiss the Aaronic Priesthood as part of sacrament meeting, but wereencouraged to thank them on our own time.

    I’d thought it was a church wide thing, maybe it’s just local..

  51. As sound a piece of advice as any I’ve heard, Kristine. 8)

  52. Really nice, Kristine. I think a good indicator of both the attraction and boredom of familiar terms is the constant search for new familiar terms (from authoritative sources of course), such as “tender mercies” and “supernal.” If I hear tender mercies again at church I might pass out.

    More substantively, I like the comments referring to familiar language as boundary markers, or marking membership in the community or tribe. But to recognize this is not to agree that it’s a good thing. Not only do clichés or familiar language stop thinking and obviously exclude outsiders, but they allow insiders to identify one another in what are essentially superficial and even spiritually meaningless ways. I see an essential part of Christ’s message in the New Testament as the elimination of tribalism (signified through birth, appearance, association, etc.) and the establishment of a new standard for belonging: the broken heart. Thus the elimination of clichés is more than the fetish of grammatical or literary purists. It’s about putting meaning where it ought to be. The use of words whose only meaning is making others feel comfortable and letting them know you’re “okay,” isn’t very meaningful at all. Try bearing your testimony some time without saying bearing your testimony, or any of the usual phrases, and watch most people’s faces grow puzzled. They don’t know what to make of you because you’re not sending off the usual signals. I’ve long wanted to start a movement of giving talks or bearing testimonies without using one familiar church phrase, because I think it would help shift meaning to something more meaningful than boundary markers.

  53. Thanks, Craig. I wish I’d said it that well.

    Another thing I wonder about is whether using ready-made tribal language might actually change the quality of our spiritual experience over time. I recently went back to visit a ward where I had been Beehive advisor for a long time. It happened that several of “my” girls were home from BYU and the bishop asked them to bear their testimonies. Not surprisingly, they sounded somewhat similar and I felt like I understood very little of what they had experienced spiritually during their time at school. It was a painful contrast to the way they had spoken of their growing (or not) testimonies as 12- and 13-year-olds. In one way, they had grown up exactly as we would have hoped they would–they were beautiful young Mormon women and were clearly developing the kind of faith and loyalty which would sustain them; their use of linguistic markers of Mormonness was a sincere expression of something that had become important to them. But it was somehow a little sad to see the differences between the girl who had said sometimes she felt like God was moving her foot to hit the soccer ball just right and the girl who said she thought she had only ever gotten one answer to a prayer and she didn’t understand it get smoothed over into “proper” testimonies. I couldn’t tell anymore how the content of their experiences differed, how their temperaments informed their sense of God, or how their interactions with holiness could show me something I couldn’t learn from mine. And I wonder if the actual experience gets diluted somehow as we learn to interpret it in testimony-meeting shorthand.

  54. Perfect examples, Kristine; it reminded me of when my kids were little, and I’d help them write a primary talk, but I would mostly merely help them write down what they wanted to say, rather than direct the content. And I loved their talks, because they were so from the heart and full of kid concerns and topics, even though the right phrases were usually missing. Of course this led to one of my son’s noting during his mission farewell that he had felt his big moment of conversion while listening, in a not so terrific place, to an Aerosmith song. After a brief moment of embarrassment, I thought, wait a minute, that’s exactly how I’ve always hoped he would respond and talk, and then I could chuckle. As one of my friends said afterward, probably Aerosmith’s first conversion.

  55. For several years we lived in a ward, about 20% of which had joined the Church in the preceding year, many of whom were from west Africa. It was a pleasure to hear the wonderful talks from newer members who had not yet adopted LDS jargon. Somehow it seemed more authentic. I served in the bishopric at the time, and made it a point to be sure newer members were frequently asked to offer prayers and talks in Sacrament meeting. It was a little jarring, but refreshing, when a few, before offering their prayers, would look at the congregation, and say “Let us pray”, before bowing and commencing. (We could not as a bishopric find anything in the handbook against this custom, so we said nothing. I also believe President Monson said “Let us pray” before offering an invocation at the special service following 9-11). Some times I would sweat a little when a speaker I had invited would veer off in unexpected, unorthodox directions. I recall one talk in particular, though, which was wonderful in ever way, and as the speaker wrapped up, I began to relax, but then he closed his talk “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” (Nothing in the handbook about that either!)

  56. X (Adam Greenwood, his mark) says:

    I don’t see that anti-tribalism message in the New Testament at all. Instead, I see the redemption of tribalism by making the tribe accessible in principle to all and by using the tribe to point to something other than the tribe.

  57. StillConfused says:

    Hebrew for “tender mercies” is “Rachamim”. I thought Mormons owned the tender mercies phrase.

  58. How am I going to expand my vocabulary if the bloggernacle starts communicating like normal folks do? I had never even seen the word “hermeneutics” until I started reading BCC.

  59. Kristine, I stumbled upon you by accident while reading through some of my newfound favorite blogs. I’m afraid I’m nowhere near as well-spoken as you (though I aspire to someday be), so I’m not going to comment on your entry other than to say, like djinn, “you are my people”- but I’ve known that since I first moved into your ward the summer before 7th grade and you quickly became my new best friend. I’d love to be in touch again.
    Megan
    Sorry if this qualifies as a threadjack- I’m not much of a blogger, more of a lurker, so I’m afraid my etiquette probably stinks.

  60. MEG! E-mail me. kristine dot haglund at gmail

  61. This may not count, but I always cringe at the descrpition of musical “numbers” and “selections”. I always feel like I’m in a cheap night club. “For my next number…..”

    I also laugh when someone in the bishopric says that “we have some really good speakers today” (as opposed to the bad ones we had last week)!!!

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