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Mormonism in Secular Society: Changing Patterns in Official Ecclesiastical Rhetoric

Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd
Review of Religious Research
Vol. 26, No. 1, Special Issue Co-Sponsored by the Society for the Sociological Study of Mormon Life and the Family and Demographic Institute of Brigham Young University (Sep., 1984), pp. 28-42
DOI: 10.2307/3511040
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3511040
Page Count: 15
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Mormonism in Secular Society: Changing Patterns in Official Ecclesiastical Rhetoric
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Abstract

This study documents changes in the official rhetoric of Mormon leaders over a 150 year span of Mormon history. These changes are interpreted as indicators of religious adaptation to the secularization of modern society. The study's results are based on a content analysis of a sample of 600 addresses delivered by ecclesiastical authorities at Mormon General Conference from 1830 through 1979. At General Conference (convened biannually) the highest ranking officials of the Mormon Church give instruction and guidance to the membership, interpret doctrine, announce and rationalize policies, and exhort members to strengthen their faith and comply with church programs. Indices for measuring conference topics related to such rhetorical themes as utopianism, the supernatural, eschatology, personal morality, family life, and doctrinal distinctiveness are developed. Changes in the relative emphasis given these general themes by conference speakers in five different generations of Mormon history are analyzed and their significance for the institutional development of Mormonism in modern society is considered.

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