As I’ve been re-reading talks from the latest general conference, something keeps standing out to me: the exclamation points. General authorities these days don’t shout when they give their talks. Had I been transcribing these talks when I listened to them last April, I wouldn’t have used many exclamation points. But reviewing the written talks, I see so many, and that made me wonder whether this is a new thing. Are general conference talks including more exclamation points than they have in the past? Of course, I don’t have to wonder. BYU linguistics professor Mark Davies has created a tool that allows anyone to answer questions like this for themselves. As this very blog reported in 2011, the Corpus of LDS General Conference Talks built by Professor Davies collects over 10,000 conference talks and makes them searchable. This tool can show you how often a word or phrase has been used in talks over time, charting the changes decade by decade and even year by year. The tool works for punctuation marks, too. Here’s what it shows: It turns out that my sense that the use of exclamation points in conference talks had shot up in recent years was incorrect. Talks certainly have more exclamation points now than they did a hundred years ago, but they’ve had a relatively high number of exclamation points since the 1980s. In the 2010s, we have 1,133.77 per million words; in the 1980s, we…
As I watched the first General Women’s Session of conference (at least the first not retroactively declared as such) last night, I was once again taken aback by the vocal styling of the female speakers. As much as I love hearing women speak, almost every time I hear one in a general church meeting it requires extraordinary effort to focus on the message while ignoring the twinge in the back of my jaw at the awkward, stilted speech patterns. I respect and admire these women, but I much prefer to read their words than listen to them. As soon as the first woman had uttered two sentences, I became apprehensive about all the social media posts that would refer to the “Primary voice.” Women are always accused of assuming a strange, forced lilt , as if all those listening are mentally handicapped and need special accommodation in order to understand the message. While thinking about it again this morning, it occurred to me for the first time (I know, I’m slow—and thus probably do need the Primary voice…) that the women aren’t using a “Primary voice” at all. They are, generally speaking, emulating the male “General Conference authority voice.” We are accustomed to hearing men speak in the old-style oratory voice, with the odd, mid-sentence pauses, and the plodding emphasis. But hearing the same speaking style in a higher range is far less common. Being so unfamiliar, it puts us back in a place of openly…
No one comes to General Conference for the jokes. And yet, some of the conference moments I remember most clearly involve laughter. In 1997, after Elder Nelson gave a laudatory talk about President Hinckley, President Hinckley took the stand and said, “I thought we were conducting General Conference. It’s turned out to be a funeral.” He went on to challenge Elder Nelson to a duel in the basement of the Tabernacle. Later in the session, he postponed the duel. It was a fabulous moment in conference history. What does humor in General Conference do? First, the spiritual tide of General Conference can feel overwhelming at times and humor can break it up, making it easier to be attentive to the rest of the counsel we’re receiving. Second, it can teach a subtle lesson, as with the humility implicit in President Hinckley’s embarrassment at being praised. Third, it can make a story that teaches a lesson more memorable, as when President Tad Callister, at the most recent conference, recounted [and all the links in this post go straight to the laugh-inducing moment, so click with caution] the time his aged mother told him she was delivering food to the elderly, to which Brother Callister thought, “Mother, you are the elderly.” The joke makes the story – fundamentally about lifelong service – stand out more. With that (limited) justification, I propose the General Conference Mirth Index (yes, it’s the GCMI). To construct…
The Twitters tell me that 80 years ago today, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus ending Prohibition.
Whatever you think about Prohibition, it’s probably worth noting the Pres. Grant was not a fan of its end. In fact, he addressed the end of Prohibition—and Utah’s role in ending it—at General Conference in 1934. Here’s an (annotated by me) excerpt of what he said:
President Uchtdorf conducted the Sunday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Holland, Elder Cook, Elder Neilson, Elder Renlund, Elder Ringwood, Elder Sitati, and Elder Christofferson, followed by closing remarks from President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.
President Monson conducted the Sunday morning session, featuring talks by President Eyring, Elder Perry, Elder Burton, Sister Dibb, Elder Nelson, and President Monson. Direct quotations (based on our notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are our summary of the remarks given.
President Uchtdorf conducted the Priesthood session, featuring talks by Elder Ballard, Elder Gonzalez, Elder Choi, Elder Uchtdorf, Elder Eyring and President Monson. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.
Meet Joseph Wafula Sitati, introduced today as a new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He is the first [black] African General Authority and only the second black General Authority (the first being Helvécio Martins, a Brazilian who served five years in the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1990 to 1995). (Joseph and Gladys Sitati)
Times and Seasons has historically hosted an open thread for comments on each session of conference as that session was being broadcast. We’re trying something new this year. I’m posting this as a bit of notice to our readers, and in an unofficial attempt to explain.