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Modes of Leader Rhetoric in the Institutional Development of Mormonism

Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd
Sociological Analysis
Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer, 1986), pp. 125-136
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/3711457
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3711457
Page Count: 12
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Modes of Leader Rhetoric in the Institutional Development of Mormonism
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Abstract

This study analyzes variation in the expressive modes of official religious rhetoric by Mormon leaders during a 150 year span of Mormon history. Rhetorical modes-identified through content analysis of a comprehensive sample of Mormon general conference addresses-include categories of: (1) exposition (i.e., explanation, justification, repudiation, narration), and (2) admonition (i.e., prescription, proscription, chastisement). Findings include: consistent preference for expository rhetoric over admonition; within expository rhetoric, a shift towards more explanation and repudiation but less narration and justification; general predominance of prescriptive over proscriptive and chastisement rhetorical modes within the category of admonition; but variations in admonitory modes relative to different audiences (e.g., members vs. non-members, men vs. women, adults vs. youth). The theoretical and historical implications of these findings are discussed in relationship to the social transformation of Mormonism from its initial cult-sect beginnings to its modern state of rapid growth and public acceptance.

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