No, this post is not about low baptism numbers, low retention numbers, or low commandment observance. Rather, I see a major crisis of a different kind, a crisis of rhetoric.
Once upon a time, Mormons used to preach. The talks that were delivered had content and spunk. Sadly, I don’t think that I have been alive to ever have seen this past tradition, but it is long dead. Now, talks consist mostly of quotes from general authroities and banal observations about whatever the topic happens to be. I think that some of the responsibility for this comes from the models of the general authorities, very few of whom know how to really preach. I am sure that these well-rehearsed talks that are given in front of millions of people somehow get transformed into dull, monotone speeches upon delivery, so I don’t fault them. You have to work hard to listen to them. They rarely captivate. Like the GA’s, no one who speaks in church wants to stand out, so we just get a whole lot of mediocrity. It’s not that we don’t know how to give talks, it is just that we don’t know how to give sermons, something which really inspires, motivates, teaches, and exhorts.
Contrast this to a former generation of real orators in the church. Apostles like Matthew Cowley, and even Bruce R. McConkie knew how to give a talk. You couldn’t help to listen to them. Even casually leafing through the Journal of Discourses reveals a whole range of Mormon speech that is now lost.
Now, I don’t think that we should follow some stereotype of preaching, like pounding on the pulpit or mimiking televangelists, but we should definitely do more than bore each other. Sacrament meeting should be interesting.