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The Rhetoric of Revelation: Examining Religious Rhetoric on Secularism through an Ethnographic Content Analysis of Mormon Leadership Discourse

The Rhetoric of Revelation: Examining Religious Rhetoric on Secularism through an Ethnographic Content Analysis of Mormon Leadership Discourse

Jesse M. Smith

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Western Michigan University. https://jessemaxsmith.com

Email: jesse.smith@wmich.edu

 

ABSTRACT

This study examines the rhetorical practices of conservative Christian leadership in the United States over time through a case study of Mormonism. Using data drawn from their semi-annual General Conference and other church-produced documents from 1903 to the present, I examine how Mormon leaders have responded, through discourse, to secular forces over the course of more than a century. I accomplish this by employing the techniques of ethnographic content analysis consistent with the inductive logic of a constructionist grounded theory. Combing elements of rhetorical theory with a sociological view of religious movement and marketplace, I identify the major themes and evolving narrative of this American religion in relation to secular historical and cultural conditions. The data suggest the rhetorical strategies revealed in Mormon leaders’ discourse on the secular is a part of the way it negotiates relationships within its organization and to the public, and is important to its success in contemporary American society. This case study will be useful to future research in drawing connections between the discursive response of American conservative Christianity broadly, and modern secular forces. I also argue sociologists of religion should investigate more directly religious leaders’ rhetoric to better understand the relationship between religious and secular spheres.
 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

August

Vol. 50, Iss. 4, Pages 1199-1600

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