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“As A Musician Would His Violin”: The Oratory Of The Great Basin Prophets

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Chapter Summary

This chapter situates the oratorical culture of Mormon leadership in the context of the centuries-old debate about the roles of preacher and Spirit in the act of the sermon. It relies on insights from linguistic anthropology to articulate what is called "the rhetoric of the invisible", the act of religious speech influenced by assumptions about supernatural forces at work beyond rhetoric, the classical art of persuasion through human artifice. It could be argued that by mid-century, the bulk of American Protestant preachers had settled on an Augustinian middle road in which the inspiration of the Holy Ghost is wed with classical rhetoric to "make truth palatable", as Henry Ward Beecher put it.

Keywords: American Protestant preachers; basin prophets



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