Title: Keeping the Sacred: Silence, Taboo, and Power in LDS Discourse.
Date: September 19, at 11 am, room 206c of the Sorensen Student Center on the Utah Valley University campus in Orem, Utah.
Description: Much of the ethnographic literature on verbal and discursive taboo focuses on its semantic and cultural content—on what kinds of things, topics, categories, experiences, etc, tend to be subjected to the constraints of socially enforced unmentionability—and on the strategies speakers use for evading, undermining, challenging, and circumventing taboo. Less attention is paid to how taboo (and its evasion) shapes social relationships, differences, and power. Drawing on more recent analytical trends in linguistic anthropology, this paper examines temple language in mormonism—not language within the temple so much as language about the temple (including language about temple language) outside of the temple. By looking closely at the norms governing how mormons do and do not talk about temple worship (and how we talk about those norms), I argue that elliptical talk about the temple and the structured patterns that organize it not only protect its sanctity but help create, sustain, reinforce, and augment its sanctity in a way that safely channels the holiness of the temple out into the sphere of extra-temple LDS worship, makes the sacred gravity of the temple present and palpable outside its walls, and imbues social and ecclesiastical relationships and differences with its power.
Brad Kramer is a candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan. He holds a masters degree in american history from the University of Utah, and has conducted historical and ethnographic research on various branches of Mormonism. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and five children, and is a regular contributor at the LDS blog By Common Consent.