Narratives of Personal Revelation Among Latter-day Saints
Dr. Tom Mould
Western Folklore, 2009
Vol. 68, Issue 4: 431-80
This study explores the social, functional and aesthetic dimensions of narratives of personal revelation shared among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. Stories of personal revelation comprise one of the most widespread genres of narrative among Latter-day Saints and are regularly recounted and reflected upon for a variety of spiritual, social and personal reasons. Yet despite the breadth and relevance of these narratives, the bulk of folklore scholarship on Mormon narrative has focused on legends. Ethnographic fieldwork, coupled with close textual analysis of narratives of personal revelation reveals a complex narrative tradition deeply embedded in LDS religion and culture. Structural distinctions within the genre of personal revelation narratives reveal an indigenous interpretive system that is foregrounded in performance and provides a blueprint for how narrators interpret their experiences. This interpretive system often parallels the narrative demands of storytelling to create dramatic tension, highlighting the economy of the genre to meet narrative, intellectual, religious and cultural demands simultaneously. Mapping this interpretive system also highlights what the narrative genre excludes, revealing a gap between the experience of personal revelation and its subsequent narrative performance. This study provides a model for the analysis of personal experience narratives that addresses the varying demands levied by narrative form, personal experience, and social and cultural norms. The benefits of this approach are 1) meaning is derived emically, 2) narrative components are understood functionally as well as aesthetically in the context of performance, and 3) distinction between the experience and the narrative of that experience is maintained, clarifying how genre can shape interpretation.
Cacophony or Coherence: Ethnographic Writing and Competing Claims to Ritual and Textual Authority
Amy L. Allocco
Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 2009
Vol. 21: 3-14
This essay describes the challenges to ethnographic writing that are raised by multiplicity, contradiction, and conflicting narratives in the fieldwork process. Specifically, the essay examines multiple and sometimes opposing articulations of the causes for, and ritual treatments of, a malignant horoscopic condition called naga do?am (snake blemish) in contemporary South India. This examination raises questions about the relationships between textual knowledge and ritual performance, as well as the nature of competing claims to ritual and textual authority. At the heart of these interpretive questions lies the issue of representation, or how best to characterize such multiplicity and inconsistency in the ethnographic texts which grow from our field research. Drawing on excerpts from fieldwork interviews with two Brahmin religious specialists, this essay considers how best to evoke the realities of the Tamil ritual field without simply inscribing these power dynamics on the ethnographic text.