Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
Dialogue Foundation, P.O. Box 658, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110-0658
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Peterson, F. Ross ; Peterson, Mary Kay
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The Mormon Conference Talk as Patriarchal Discourse
The Mormon Conference Talk as Patriarchal Discourse Dorice Williams Elliott Everything means something. When I write a list of food names on a long, narrow sheet of paper, not only the words themselves but the form in which they are written indicate this is a grocery shopping list. I can tell at a glance my grocery list from the notes I've been taking for a seminar paper. By the time I've read half a sentence, I can distinguish a newspaper article from a romantic novel. Merely from the tone of voice of a radio announcer, I can distinguish a public radio station from a "top 40" station. And if I should happen to turn my radio or TV set to a general conference broadcast, it takes only about thirty seconds to identify it -— even if I'm not listening carefully to what is being said. As a literary critic and a Latter-day Saint, I often find myself sitting in Church meetings listening not only to the content of a talk, but also the message conveyed by the form itself. And, as a feminist, I am often aware that many of the forms we use to communicate with each other in the Church inherently reinforce and reproduce patriarchal relationships. Of all the unique Mormon genres — testimony bearing, two-and-a-half minute talks, public prayers, etc. — undoubtedly the most distinctive and authoritative is the conference talk, delivered by a General Authority at a general conference, our most public meeting. Along with its various broadcasting conventions (the set time limit, the plexiglass square in front of the speaker, the frequent glances at the teleprompter, etc.), the talk itself has a predictable pattern. It often begins with a personal address to the audience ("My dear brothers and sisters . . .") or with a humble admission of the awesomeness of the occasion ("It is a humbling experience to speak before you today"). The DORICE WILLIAMS ELLIOTT holds a master's degree in English literature from the University of Utah. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in nineteenth-century English literature and feminist theory at Johns Hopkins University. She and her husband, Robert F. Elliott, live in Towson, Maryland, with their three children. This paper was presented at the 1986 Sunstone Theological Symposium in Salt Lake City as part of a panel on "Feminist Approaches to Mormon Culture."