Preach My Gospel : A Metaphoric Analysis of Mormon Missionary Rhetoric
Oregon State University
The rhetorical significance of Mormonism stems from its history and its success--this success being measured by its consistent increase in membership. The total membership of the Mormon Church has grown from 6 members in 1830 to just over 14 million in just over 180 years. A consistently high rate of conversion points to missionary work as a contributing factor to this success. Yet, despite the social implications of this growing new faith, little research has been done on the rhetoric of Mormon missionary work, none outside the church. This thesis attempts to analyze the rhetoric of the current Mormon missionary training manual, Preach My Gospel. Training manuals ought to be viewed as persuasive discourses because ideological justification and advocacy are inherent to instruction. A training manual directs or commands the values, beliefs, or actions of its readers by telling them what to do and by inclining perspective. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach at the intersection of rhetoric, language, and culture, this thesis analyzes the metaphorical framework of Preach My Gospel to discover the mindset best suited for this rhetoric as an enactment of Edwin Black's method of rhetorical criticism. The findings of this study indicate that the ideal mindset for the rhetoric of Preach My Gospel is characterized by an intolerance to insecurity. The metaphoric world of Preach My Gospel has the potential to resonate in the mindset seeking an alternate perspective to the objectivist view of reality. The rhetoric of Preach My Gospel offers an alternative reality through the metaphorically constructed myth of "The Plan of Salvation." This myth offers a perfectionist ideology that appeals to a mindset uncomfortable with the uncertainties implicit in imperfection and seeking empowerment by subscribing to a view of perfection as an obtainable condition of the soul.