Phrasing connotation
© 16 Sep 2015 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Comparing “‍failure in the home‍” and “‍intentional parenting‍”.


David O. McKay once said “‍No other success can compensate for failure in the home.‍” Russell M. Nelson once said “‍No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!‍” Both are statements of relative priority. Both assert that the work of a parent is paramount, unsurpassed, important. Both were stated by religious leaders of the same faith in the same venue Both were annual general conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but McKay spoke at the 105th (in 1935) and Nelson eighty years later in the 185th (in 2015). in an effort to refocus the flock on tending the home. Denotatively they are quite similar, though not identical.

However, they have very different connotations.

Consider the viewpoint of a parent who feels they are failing In my observation, all parents feel this at least sometimes. No child is perfect and no parent knows that their child’s faults could not have been reduced with different parenting. . One message reads “‍since you have failed in this, there is no hope for you; nothing else can compensate for that failure.‍” It is a message likely to instil despair and depression. The other message instead suggests a more forward-thinking, hopeful attitude: “‍you are still a parent; be intentional and as good as you can and move forward.‍”

Conversely, consider the viewpoint of a parent who is trying to decide between spending time with a child and spending the same time in some other worthwhile activity. Both messages assert the same priority, but with different utility in this moment. “‍I’m being intentional about my parenting,‍” one might think, “‍I’m just not intentionally being a parent right now.‍” The other message leaves no such excuse: “‍Might this choice contribute to failure in the home? If so nothing else can compensate.‍”

As a person whose profession and favorite leisure activities all involve communicating, I enjoy analysing the communications of others. As in so many other things, communication often involves tradeoffs as the perfect message that creates the ideal impression in every hearer’s mind simply does not exist. I particularly enjoy the messages of apostles and prophets in part because they tend to be good at communicating, but also because their motivations are positive and pure; they are trying to motivate positive action, encourage hope, and mitigate the negative aspects of their communication. They may not be the ideal models for the would-be spin-doctor, but for my simpler objective of communicating clearly and kindly they are very helpful.

As such, I treasure pairings like this: two memorable messages on the same topic with radically different rhetorical designs. How did they chose as they did, and how can I use those principles myself? Examples to ponder.

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