Henry B. Eyring struggles with 20%

In November 2014, in the Synod Hall at The Vatican there was staged Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman

Let’s not beat about the bush: this colloquium was a response by religious leaders to the astonishing, sudden, almost violent railroading-through of unheralded, unmandated and unrequested legislation all over the western world to permit homosexuals to get married to each other. It was a puzzling and deeply suspect political initiative that one day I will find the time to examine in depth. Meanwhile it remains a sine qua non fashionable piety for those who seek to burnish their right-on image by being seen to adhere to such things. That is clearly what the politicians were banking on.

We have previously examined a speech from this colloquium delivered by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Today we will look at a speech by Henry B. Eyring, representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Oh dear: here we go again. Eyring is subservient to a script.

I’ve heard his first minute just a couple of times and already could shoot it from the hip with more conviction than he does here.  More importantly, so could he. He just doesn’t know he can. This is one of those times I find this blog almost insufferably frustrating to write.

Eyring goes on to read out an impassioned and emotional account of the happiness of his own marriage and family life and, to head off accusations of basing his research on a sample of one, he proceeds to spread the story much wider. In passing I do wonder how the Roman Catholic priests in his audience (remember, this is in The Vatican) are responding to this – with envy?

The entire account of his own family is chronological – probably the easiest structure that exists. If you sat him down with a cup of coffee across a table from you, and asked him simply to tell you about how he met his wife, how his family has built over the years, how it represents the bedrock of his personal well-being, I absolutely guarantee that he could speak for five minutes more fluently and with infinitely more engagement than he does reading here for five minutes. He could have done that in this speech, it would have taken care of nearly half of it, and it would have been so much better.

The remaining time would have required slightly more sophisticated structuring, but again the same truth needs shouting from the hills –

He absolutely does not need a script.

Nor does anyone else: I’ve proved it countless times. He has a powerful message to put across, and he has assembled his arguments very effectively, but in then reading the thing he has sliced away easily 80% of its persuasiveness.

At 6:20 he turns to a pronouncement, published by leaders of his church. That is a perfectly appropriate thing to read, indeed it is better to read than to learn-and-recite. Otherwise I want to tear up his script and, by showing him how to do without it, showing him how much more compelling he becomes without it, showing him how easily he can manage without it, set him free to work with 100% of the power of his message rather than the 20% he struggles with here.

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