Quick, how many books are included in the Standard Works? You probably mentioned the obvious four; Bible, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Book Of Mormon. Did you forget, however, the fifth apocryphal book and possibly most quoted of all?
It has been estimated that every Sunday during sacrament services around the world, nearly 1,744 talks begin with the words “Webster’s (college, unabridged, new world) Dictionary defines (righteousness, charity, purity, etc.) as…”. For the interested observer, it is an important tenet of Mormon culture that those who give talks in Sacrament Meeting start out with the basic premise that their audience has achieved no higher than a fifth grade education, and has never once paid attention in all their years of Sunday School.
The inclusion of this perfunctory introduction to 75.2% of all talks given (even sometimes, those given in Primary) is several fold. First, and possibly most important, is the fact that this takes up time. In preparing talks, the most important aspect is not necessarily spiritual edification, but rather to make sure that one has plenty to say in their allotted time. There is no idea in the LDS church, not even Outer Darkness, which is more horrifying than running out of things to say during a Sacrament talk or leaving the following speaker with too much time. A dramatic reading of this introduction can take 2-3 minutes, with opening anecdotes, chit chat, and the speaker’s own reflection on what the definition means.
This ritual also follows the tried and true format for Sacrament talks by staying true to the LDS hierarchy of sources, which is as follows:
Ensign/New Era/Friend articles (depending on need)
A friend’s experiences
Something that probably happened to someone, somewhere (see future entry for Paul H. Dunn)
What happened at Girl’s Camp/Scout camp for youth speakers
Finally, this format offers great comfort to the intended audience as well. Once the recitation of the definition begins, members of the congregation can settle in for some nice, non-threatening, non-apostate doctrine while they play on their PDAs, wrangle children, fall asleep while appearing awake, or occasionally, paying attention and learning something.