SALT LAKE CITY — The internationalization of the LDS Church continued Monday with news that will change the sound of its semi-annual general conferences.
“Speakers at the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose primary language is not English now have the choice to deliver their talks in their native tongue," church spokesman Dale Jones said in a statement.
"In those cases, English subtitles will be shown on screens in the Conference Center and a live English interpretation will be provided for all other English-language broadcasts including satellite, cable, television, and the Internet.”
The announcement immediately drew widespread interest and praise.
"I'd rather hear them speak in Portuguese," Roberta Loftus, who moved to the United States from Rio in 2000, said of Brazilian church authorities who speak in conference. "The talks flow more naturally that way and the emotion comes across better."
Loftus, who lives in Provo, Utah, said another positive is that the new policy opens doors for potential church leaders gifted in spiritual matters but not in languages, since it can be difficult and intimidating to speak a second language in a public setting.
The change also provides a wrinkle for Americans accustomed to hearing English in every setting.
"Americans are not used to translations or reading subtitles," Loftus said. "It's not something that's generally done in America. It might be difficult for some to adapt."
The new policy will be implemented at the next conference, Oct. 4 and 5. It's unclear how many of the 30-35 speakers, who are not announced until they talk, will take up the invitation, but there is potential for several languages to be spoken. At the last general conference in April, for example, talks were delivered by five church leaders for whom English is an additional language.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church's First Presidency, was born in Czechoslovakia, raised in Germany and speaks German. He delivered three talks at the April conference.
Talks also were delivered by four members of the First Quorum of the Seventy who speak other languages:
— Elder Michael John U. Teh of the Philippines, past president of the Philippines Area
— Elder Carlos H. Amado of Guatemala, past president of the Central America Area Presidency
— Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis of Brazil, second counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency
The church has more than 15 million members around the world. In addition to the 595,000 households in North America that tune in for the Sunday morning session of general conference, conference sessions are broadcast to 7,000 church buildings in 96 countries.
In all, people in 197 countries and territories view conference sessions, which are translated into 94 languages with video and audio available in 70 languages.