A personal mode of discourse is central to Latter-day Saint culture. This mode is both pervasive throughout the culture and significant within it. Two specific genres-the personal experience narrative and the personal testimony-illustrate the importance of this discourse mode in LDS culture. Understanding the LDS personal mode of discourse is essential to properly understanding Mormonism. The personal orientation in LDS discourse mirrors a tendency towards personal expression which has become common throughout Western culture. This tendency has important roots in the Protestant religious movement. In particular, Puritanism represents a significant point of origin for American personal expression. Such expression has been further encouraged by the democratic climate of America and has become an important part of American religious discourse. However, LDS personal discourse cannot be explained by merely reducing the Latter-day Saint tradition to outside influences. Latter-day Saints, while deriving influence from many points, have fashioned a tradition of using personal expression in their religious discourse which deserves independent consideration. Within Latter-day Saint culture, the LDS tradition of personal discourse has special significance because it draws upon a host of doctrinal and cultural associations that are religiously significant to Latter-day Saints. LDS doctrines about the necessity of personal revelation and the importance of pragmatic action legitimate a religious focus on personal experience. Likewise, cultural encouragements towards personal religious involvement and spiritual expression foster a culture of personal expression. Because of these philosophies and commitments, LDS audiences respond powerfully to personal discourse. A personal style of discourse is important in mediating authority in the LDS religion. Personal expression is a means through which official LDS doctrine is conveyed. This mode of expression also allows individual Latter-day Saints to locate their identities within the structure of the LDS religion. Culturally-encouraged genres of personal expression allow LDS speakers to enact their religious beliefs. These genres reinforce fundamental LDS doctrines and serve an acculturating function in LDS culture. They teach Latter-day Saints how to experience, interpret, and speak about the world in ways consistent with the Latter-day Saint community's doctrines and commitments.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Smith, C. Julianne, "A Seal of Living Reality: The Role of Personal Expression in Latter-day Saint Discourse" (2006). Theses and Dissertations. 1301.
Mormonism, rhetoric, personal expression, discourse, Latter-day Saint, speaking, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, Mormon history, Puritanism, acculturation, preaching