A rhetorical analysis of the discourses of Eliza R. Snow: exemplar of womanhood in the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Hansen-Morgan, Karen M.
Donnelly, Michael, 1968-
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This study examined the discourses of Eliza Roxcy Snow, an early leader in Relief Society, the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her discourses were reconstructed using meeting minutes, journals, and other historical records from 1840 to 1887 by the Church Historian’s Press. Using an inductive methodology with generative thematic and rhetorical analysis, two research questions addressed what Snow said about the character, roles, and responsibilities of LDS women and how she responded to the situation of her day, i.e., the description of LDS women in 19th century literature and political activities surrounding the practice of polygamy. Findings revealed that her discussion of these aspects of LDS women were part of a broader message of identity, including a message of nobility as daughters of God. This message framed a rhetorical response to portrayals of Mormon women by anti-Mormon 19th century politics and literature as ethnic other, using tropes of slavery, Orientalism, subjection, and seduction. Snow’s discourses present a rich opportunity to understand history from the perspective of one who both lived in and responded to complicated religious, societal, and political issues that correspond to many of today’s equally complex issues.