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A reason to believe: a rhetorical analysis of Mormon missionary films




Anderson, Sky L., author
Burgchardt, Carl, advisor
Aoki, Eric, committee member
Kiefer, Kathleen, committee member

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In this analysis, I examine Mormon cinema and how it functions on a rhetorical level. I specifically focus on missionary films, or movies that are framed by LDS missionary narratives. Through an analysis of two LDS missionary films, namely Richard Dutcher's God's Army (2000) and Mitch Davis' The Other Side of Heaven (2001), I uncover two rhetorical approaches to fostering spirituality. In my first analysis, I argue that God's Army presents two pathways to spirituality: one which produces positive consequences for the characters, and the other which produces negative consequences. I call these pathways, respectively, ascending and descending spirituality, and I explore the rhetorical implications of this framing. In my second analysis, I contend that The Other Side of Heaven creates a rhetorical space wherein the audience may transform. Specifically, the film constructs a "Zion," or a heaven on earth, with three necessary components, which coincide perfectly with established LDS teachings: God, people, and place. These three elements invite the audience to accept that they are imperfect, yet they can improve if they so desire. Ultimately, by comparing my findings from both films, I argue that the films' rhetorical strategies are well constructed to potentially reinforce beliefs for Mormon audiences, and they also may invite non-Mormons to think more positively about LDS teachings.


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