Eli McCann: We’re thankful for the ‘mois-chur.’ You don’t say? Well, in Utah we do.

Let’s talk about our DNA dialect.

If you asked me to close my eyes and picture my most representative childhood memory, I’d see it immediately.

There I am, age 6, slouched over my mother’s lap on a long bench, only half-conscious, a clip-on bow tie digging into my neck. I’m staring at a green hymnbook, a foot in front of my face, poking out of a wooden box attached to the bench in front of us. A woman with a permed mullet I had last seen the week before when she scolded me and my friends for riding our bikes over her carefully manicured lawn has just stepped up to a podium at the front of the room. She folds her arms and closes her eyes. After a two-second pause, she breathes into the microphone in earnestness: “Our dear, kind, gracious Heavenly Father, we are thankful for the mois-chur that we have been receivun’.”

Three decades later, I made the mistake of telling my husband about this phrase just after he moved to Utah and began to learn our language.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I knew once he heard this, it would become a household saying whether I liked it or not. He had already picked up a lot of our cultural colloquialisms from other people who told him these phrases in secret as a prank on me, like someone who has taught a toddler to swear.

“Return with honor,” he shouted one day as I left the house for work.

I stopped, dead in my tracks, and instantly felt a twitch run through my right eye. “What did you just say?”

It’s part of our DNA dialect

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The family welcomes home a Latter-day Saint missionary in 2020. "Return with honor" is a phrase commonly associated with returning missionaries in Latter-day Saint culture.

The next Monday he texted me out of the blue: “Remember who you are and what you stand for.”

Soon afterward, he asked me to help him dig out a rosebush in our backyard. After nearly an hour of hard labor, I collapsed into a chair on our patio, sweating and panting. He placed one sympathetic hand on my shoulder and whispered, “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.”

Since he apparently had been picking these up from somewhere to assault me on occasion, I figured he might as well learn my personal favorite, and that’s when I told him about being thankful for the moisture.

“Why not just call it ‘rain’ or ‘snow’ or, I don’t know, ‘precipitation’ if you’re feeling fancy?” he asked. “Why ‘moisture’?”

I told him I couldn’t possibly give him an answer to this. No one could. It was one of those sayings that came from nowhere and became a part of our DNA. Utahns don’t even hear themselves when they mutter it. It comes out as naturally as the breath that carries it. I was pretty sure the last time someone said it consciously, prophets were growing beards instead of condemning them.

Utah prayers

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Austin Bingham clears his family's driveway in Mountain Green on Monday, April 3, 2023.

“We’re thankful for the moisture” is hardly the only of these prayer pleas that have turned into robotic mindless chants over time. It falls right up there with blessing the “refreshments and all the hands that prepared them” or bowing heads over the dinner table to ask that the food “will nourish and strengthen our bodies.” These entreaties can be eliminated from one’s vocabulary but only through hypnosis — and perhaps with the assistance of certain essential oils.

Once I told my husband about the “moisture,” he became obsessed with this phrase, sometimes saying it in front of people who didn’t know he was being facetious.

“We’re sure thankful for the moisture!” he shouted to a neighbor one day. The neighbor politely nodded. I made a note to go over to that house later to explain.

“You need to stop worrying so much,” he told me when I begged him to please not say this to people anymore for fear they might think he’s making fun of them, or worse, that he’s being earnest. “This kind of cultural stuff is fun and wholesome. I think it makes Mormons more endearing.”

He’s sincere when he says he finds this all delightful. Every time he learns a new harmless quirk about the culture around my childhood religion, he perks up.

He has shouted “we’re thankful for the moisture” at me for several years now whenever it rained or snowed. When I complain about him saying this, he shakes his head and whispers, “the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.”

I don’t know who taught him that one.

The big dig

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People clear sidewalks after a late-season storm brought more snow to the Salt Lake Valley on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

In March, we arose one morning to yet another massive snowstorm. This very publication had already spent the winter reporting on our record-breaking season, and I was finding myself more and more often waking up in a bad mood.

With a groan, I pulled on my boots and trudged out to our wintry tundra to begin my painful descent down the driveway with a plastic snow shovel. An hour later, I retreated inside to warm up. My husband was sitting next to the fireplace, a steaming cup of tea in his hands, grinning ear to ear.

I glared at him. “What?”

“We’re thankful for the moisture,” he said.

“Are you?” I vented, shaking snow from my hair.

“Yes,” he responded. “With every fiber of my being.”

(Pat Bagley) Eli McCann, Salt Lake Tribune guest columnist.

Eli McCann is an attorney, writer and podcaster in Salt Lake City, where he lives with his husband and their two naughty (yet worshipped) dogs. You can find Eli on Twitter at @EliMcCann or at his personal website, www.itjustgetsstranger.com, where he tries to keep the swearing to a minimum so as not to upset his mother.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.