Rhetoric and Ritual : A Deade of "Woman's Exponent" Death Poetry
Journal of Mormon History
Salt Lake City, UT
Mormon History Association
Turley examines death poetry printed in the Woman's Exponent in terms of eulogy, the "gospel of comfort" or doctrine that provides comfort, and scriptural texts. These same areas of study were the focus of Davis Bitton's work published in "Mormon Funeral Sermons in the Nineteenth Century." Turley compares her findings to those published by Bitton. Women eulogized in death poems were praised for their usefulness and for their role of mother. On the other hand, funeral sermons given by men "overwhelmingly focused on the virtues of being 'just and true'" rather than the virtues of parenthood. In addition, death poetry rarely described the relationship between a man and a woman, but more often focused on relationships between mother and child or between women. These poets were crying out for comfort and trying to reconcile "the assumption that a true testimony of life after death should stifle sorrow and the emotional devastation" that accompanies the death of a loved one. Finally, the authors of these poems often used texts from or alluded to scriptures to find comfort, hope and justification "for their deep and abiding grief." They were women of faith, as seen by their use of scripture, but faith did not erase their grief.