Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Of Mice and Pizza

Since I’ve been thinking more lately about responsible rhetoric and what my language does once it leaves my mind and my mouth, I’ve noticed a number of Mormon cultural instances in which language has been used by leaders/teachers in what I consider reckless ways. Hence this series of Airing the Rhetorical Laundry posts, which I never intended to become a series (though who knows how long it will actually last) and which have become brief explorations of moments in LDS culture where I think language has been manipulated (knowingly or not) by individuals or groups of saints in their attempts to persuade fellow laborers to greater faithfulness.

Today, I’m taking on the faulty analogies often used to convince people away from movies or books that may be good, “except for one little part.” Notice, first off, that I don’t intend to deal with the idea of keeping our entertainment clean or with the varying degrees of readerly sensitivity, i.e., individuals’ varying capacities to endure evil in the fictions they frequent. (So keep that in mind in the comments, if you will.) Rather, I’m approaching the language itself and intend to judge its merits in purely rhetorical terms–that is, I’m more concerned with what work the language is actually doing than with what it’s intended to do* or with whether or not we should watch this movie or read that book because of this steamy scene or that profane word. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Of Mice and Pizza”

Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Breaking through the Administrative Rhetoric

I’m teaching the Elders’ quorum this Sunday coming and the phrase I keep returning to in my pondering is “watch over, be with, and strengthen” (ref). In context, of course, this phrase refers to the teacher’s duty, as an ordained member of the Aaronic Priesthood, to build and sustain the Church, to help hold the body of Christ together, by keeping the senses trained on its members and by reminding the Saints, in word and deed, to do their communal duty. While this may seem a heady chore to heap onto a fourteen- to fifteen-year old boy, this principle’s use as the foundation for the home and visiting teaching programs extends its reach beyond the Aaronic Priesthood holder’s ken into a supporting fixture of full and vigilant fellowship with the Saints. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Breaking through the Administrative Rhetoric”

Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Some Thoughts On Mormon Oration and Audience

I took this out for a test run on my blog a couple of weeks ago, but thought it could bear repeating here because I’m interested in your thoughts. And I’ve got some more musings on Mormon rhetoric I’m planning to post tomorrow (due to their time sensitive nature—you’ll see), so stay tuned.

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I just finished a delightful (yes, I said “delightful”) little essay in the Spring 2006 issue of Dialogue: “Mormon Laundry List“ by Julianna Gardner Berry.* Berry speaks about what I’ve come to call the Mormon Rhetorical Problem**: Despite our expansive theological witness that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth“ and that humans are beings of eternal intelligence, co-existent with God and heirs to eternal glory, much of our language seems to betray a lack of faith in that ideal. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Some Thoughts On Mormon Oration and Audience”