Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Final Exam Essays: Alexis Inouye

Short Essay

Since the beginning of time, rhetoric has been a vital aspect of religion. Ancient Greeks and Romans spoke about the powers of the Gods to persuade people to fall in love or go to war. For instance, Odysseus and other characters in Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey were very much controlled by the actions of the Gods. These religious stories are what compelled members of society to maintain different societal traditions that separated societies.

St. Augustine—who was not always religious—took notice of Christian literature from a more academic angle. In Of Christian Doctrine, he takes on topics such as the danger of taking figurative concepts literally and teaches that all things interpreted must promote the love of God and man in order to be valid. This was an important concept because of many religious leaders’ focus on the literal meaning of texts to the point of insult or injury to individuals rather than focusing on the purpose of Christianity—to foster a love of Christ.

Final Exam Essays: Ally Miyazaki

Short Essay
A friend on Facebook recently posted a cartoon with three panels.  The first depicts a Hindu deity saying “Love your enemies.”  On the opposite side a man says in reaction, “How wise!”  The second panel has Buddha saying “Love your enemies.”  The same man says to this, “How profound!”  The third and final panel is almost identical to the other two, except now Jesus Christ is displayed saying “Love your enemies.”  However, the man’s reaction does not follow the previous trend; instead he says “Ew! Religion!”  Though the words never changed, the man’s reaction changed drastically when he was faced with Jesus Christ.  The general appeal of religion is affected by many different aspects, but the rhetorical appeals, including who says what and how they say it, can make a world of a difference.

The year was 386 A.D., and Christianity was an up and coming thing.  However, its spread was stagnated by the delivery of the treasured ideas of the faith, as Christians were known for their literacy, but not for their speaking techniques.  A simple list of beliefs is hard pressed to convince anyone.  Enter Augustine, a man that had been teaching rhetoric for over a decade, and a man who was about to change the face of Christianity.  Though he, too, tolerated the Christians' preaching, it was in this year that he heard a divine voice tell him to “take up and read” the Bible.  His conversion and combination of rhetoric and religion allowed him to preach the Christian beliefs in a new manner.  He encouraged a delivery focused on teaching, moving, and delighting those around him, with eloquence and imagery if need be.  I think that in addition to his more appealing form of preaching, it was also his ethos and background that allowed him to become a more esteemed part of the Church, as an educated man that became a religious man can hold more merit in the eyes of the world than an uneducated man doing the same thing.

This same concept can hold true today.  Hailing from Miami, Florida, I have seen my share of both religious and nonreligious people.  When people found out I was LDS, I sometimes received confused looks, and once the comment “You’re too smart to be a Mormon!”  However, as time has passed and the false notion that I am LDS only because of my parents has dissipated, my friends are more interested in what I have to say about my faith when they acknowledge the educated background I come from.  As part of using rhetoric in religion, our personal backgrounds can have an effect on the people we are trying to persuade.

Short Rhetorical Analysis
Jacob chapters 2-3 make Jacob sound like a jittery man, preaching to the people with anxious love for them and the welfare of their souls.  In a roundabout way, this has a sort of ethical appeal: as the people come to an understanding of his genuine care for them, then they are more likely to give heed to his message.  In addition to this, he consistently appeals to his responsibility and calling from God to give such a message, though he would prefer not to.  This can be an appeal to the supernatural, and subsequently also can increase the persuasion of the message that he clearly does not want to give, but has been commanded by God to do so, therefore it must be important.

Jacob emphasizes that because of their sins he must give such a message, displaying the contraries in "admonish[ing]...your crimes" and "enlarg[ing] the wounds" against "consoling and healing" and "feasting upon the pleasing word of God" (2:9).  His statement is meant to brought about guilt from the sinners who have indirectly taken away the time for such healing from those who are pure in heart.  This small accusation builds and builds in degrees as Jacob brings to light worse and worse sins that are being committed, from pride to adultery to contrasting them to be worse than the wicked Lamanites.  In the famous scripture mastery phrase (2:18), he uses repetition to align "riches" with "the kingdom of God" to better illustrate which one his audience should be seeking out.  His additional repetition of "remember" and exclamations of "O!" throughout the passage allow the reader to keep track of Jacob's supporting evidence and instructions, respectively.

In his concluding remarks, Jacob gives little advice compared to the amount of sin he has pointed out, but what he does say is said powerfully.  He uses strong action verbs such as "hearken," "arouse," "shake," and "loose" (3:11).  His preaching to the people has escalated from painting a picture of their unrighteousness to a culmination of simplistic recommendations towards a more divine life.  Though he may have seemed nervous throughout his speech, his words were guided rhetorically and spiritually as he spoke to the people of Nephi.

Final Exam Essays: Kapri Beus

Short Essay

As a missionary serving in Brazil, rhetoric and religion surrounded me.  I was often pushed away as I heard the yells of a preacher, calling down hell-fire to the congregation while crying repentance to the people.  The persuasion in his voice spoke louder than the doctrine of the scripture.  For a time I didn’t believe in rhetoric and persuasion in religion, because I’d seen it carried out to the extreme.  

The tension between religion and rhetoric is an issue that has existed for thousands of years.  Through ancient religious leaders, as well as modern, I have come to realize that if used correctly, religion and rhetoric can not only coexist, but can serve to build each other.    

In book four of On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine explored the relationship between Christian truth and rhetoric.  Before his time, many would separate rhetoric and religion, holding to one or the other.  Augustine didn’t condemn the use of rhetoric in scripture, but recommended the authors of the scriptures as some of the best models of eloquence; that they were better than many of the other rhetoricians, using the best form of wisdom and rhetoric.  He wrote of how men ought to study the scriptures and learn them well, being diligent in studying, along with turning to God for direction in prayer.  This produces the best form of writing and teaching.

Isaiah, one of the most profound rhetoricians in the bible, was quoted by Jesus Christ himself, who exuded the people to study and learn from his teachings.  What makes Isaiah so powerful is his ability to speak with such persuasion and fire while spiritually expounding the revelations of God. He proves that it works.     

Today, missionaries, teachers and pastors alike have the responsibility and privilege to combine religion and rhetoric.  In LDS General Conference, listeners are more likely to pay attention to those speakers who are well versed in the art of speaking, capturing their attention, and then showering them with the spirit.  An audience likes to be audibly pleased, as well as spiritually filled.       

Short Rhetorical Analysis

Jacob is a rhetorical scripture power house.  It is obvious to see that he understands many different types of persuasion.  He organizes his “speech” to the people in such a precise way as to cut to the core of the hearts of the people.  

A common set-up is to have a strong ethos, but Jacob digs deep to show his sincere desire to reach out and touch the hearts of the people.  In the beginning, he reminds the people of his responsibility from God, as well as his anxiety for the welfare of his brethren.  “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” (Theodore Roosevelt).

Branches of Oratory: Epideictic Oratory
Jacob is speaking in the moment of here and now.  His “speech” to the people clearly displays the blame they hold.  His words in the first few verses he powerfully states the seriousness of what they are doing at that time.  He “admonishes [them] according to [their] crimes, which are continually occurring.  According to Aristotle’s conception of Epideictic Oratory, “The present is the most important; for all speakers praise or blame in regard to existing qualities, but they often make use of other things, both reminding [the audience] of the past and projecting the course of the future.”  (Aristotle Rh 1358b).  Jacob uses reminders of the past and talks about the children (the future) to magnify the importance of recognizing what is going on now, and how it must change.

Topics of Invention: Degree
Throughout these two chapters, Jacob uses degree to compare these people, the Nephites, to their brethren, the Lamanites.  What makes this so powerful is the wicked reputation of the Lamanites.  The Lamanites are usually known as the most sinful, animal like people that exist, and yet Jacob is saying that “Ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, [their] brethren…”  Again in verse 5 he continues saying “the Lamanites… are more righteous than you”.  The comparison and degree really pushes them to recognize just how wicked they have become.

Schemes: Anadiplosis
In chapter 3 verse 7 Jacob, in speaking of the love within the Lamanite families, uses anadiplosis to demonstrate a point.  He states,  “their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children”.  The repetition of using the last word to begin the new phrase allows the reader to recognize the ordering of the phrase.  First, husbands need to love their wives, and wives will naturally love their husbands.  He is speaking first and foremost to the husbands.  As husbands love their wives, their wives will love them, and then they will both love their children.  First wife, then children.  Loving their wife solves the problem.  His whole speech is based on having one wife.  It’s powerful that the answer to their problems can be shown in such simple rhetoric.

Final Essay: Nathan Brown

As Oliver Cromwell prepared his army to pursue the Irish across a river, he gave some advice.  “Put your trust in God,” he entreated, “but mind you, keep your powder dry.”  Both before and after Cromwell’s time, faithful people have faced the paradox of both trusting in the Divine and valuing the secular.  One of the most common areas we see this is in rhetoric.  How much artistic license do we have to make God’s word not only divinely inspired, but also aesthetically pleasing? 

Looking from the Judeo-Christian perspective, rhetoric and religion have always been intertwined.  The Hebrews frequently used poetry, chiasmus, and other literary devices in their sacred texts.  This may have been because of divine direction, but it was also easier in an oral culture for people to remember religious texts if parallelisms, metaphors, and other literary tools were employed. 

Unfortunately, some would use their eloquence to impress others instead of for spiritual enlightenment.  This practice became so common that Jesus warned, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matt. 6:5).  Unfortunately, many Christians today interpret this to mean that we should eschew any rhetorical style, focusing only on content.  However, Jesus himself was rhetorically eloquent, as evidenced by his famous parables.  Christ would have agreed with the fourth century A.D. Christian, St. Augustine, when Augustine wrote, “A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently.”  Many early Apostles and Christians followed Christ’s lead, producing a wonderfully rich New Testament from which we constantly draw sources of inspiration.

Today, it is difficult to strike a balance.  Street-corner preachers catch the attention, but don’t inspire the heart.  Yet, sermons shouldn’t be boring.  Personally, I struggled with this issue.  I loved giving verbose talks in church, but sometimes I did it for the wrong reason so I began to focus solely on content.  During one religion class, my professor began to preach robustly and truthfully.  I realized that if God had given me the gift of speech, then I would be burying my talent if I didn’t use it.  Drawing largely on Christ’s style of teaching, I realized that we can be rhetorically expressive if our aim is to inspire others to worship God more faithfully. 

Final Exam Essays: Benjamin Cope

Short Essay:
While one would like to believe that the most convincing word can be the word of faith and truth from that speaker of religious devotion, history suggests that maybe that isn't so realistic. Over the conflict between what we would like to hear and what we need to hear, what is spoken the prettiest is often the one that we cling to.

In Alma 30, the scriptures introduce a man named Korihor. This man, exercising his adept skill with words, leads away the hearts of a good portion of the people. But when he attempted to spread his teaching to the people of Ammon, he was kicked out of their country, because they saw that his words weren't of God. Two different groups of people were affected in two different ways by his deceitful words: the ones that heard what they liked to hear and the ones that were listening for what they needed to hear.

Nietzsche, speaking of contemporary society, stated that "God is dead. God remains dead. And we killed him." This doesn't that God died, in a literal sense. It means that people had rejected God as a credible source for moral principles. We as a people have rejected the words that we needed to hear, the Sunday sermons that so many people gave up long ago, to hear the words that we wanted to hear, the words that told us we could do what we want and live like we wanted.

Surrounded by other people who do not believe in a God, it becomes difficult to hear what we need to hear. Often, the words of faith and truth are drowned out by the words that are beautiful. Don't misunderstand. I don't mean to say that the words of faith and truth aren't beautiful. We just need to be like the people of Ammon and wade through the rhetoric to get to the religion that we need.

Short Rhetorical Analysis:
Despite my seeming condemnation of the wily use of rhetoric in the essay above, there are many benevolent uses of persuasion as well. Jacob, in Jacob 2-3, gives a speech attempting to persuade his people to depart from their corrupted ways and return to the fold of God. However, he employs some sage methods of achieving this end, since the truth isn't always as easy to believe as the lie we want to hear.

Upon reading only the first few verses, it was simple to see an excellent application of the idea of ethos. While Jacob is speaking somewhat bluntly to his people about their errors, he also persistently refers to them as his "beloved brethren." This helps establish some grounds upon which he can understand them to the point of being free to chastise them, as he is one of them. The reader can also tell that Jacob takes close note of audience, as his words were spoken in the most effective way they could have been to this group of people. He was stark and honest, and because of that his words pierced cleanly and deeply into the hearts of the people he spoke to. However, maybe that approach wouldn't have been the wisest had he been talking to a different group of people, one that didn't have as serious of sins or one that didn't have the same religious background.

Reading more closely into the text, one can see that throughout his speak he refers to the message from God that he is delivering to them. This is an example of the topic of invention, The Supernatural. Of course, he is truly delivering a message from God. However, by calling upon the name of God to support his testimony, regardless of whether or not God truly supported him, the reverence that the concept inspires is more than enough to instill consideration into the audience. He employs the figure of speech metaphor towards the conclusion of his speech, comparing the sins of the people and their fate to the "lake of fire and brimstone."

While Jacob knew that the truth was the only power that could save these people from themselves, he needed to convince them of that before any change could happen. That is why he was wise in how he communicated his message to a group of people in need.

Final Exam Essays: Andrew Oakes

Short Essay: Religion and Rhetoric
For centuries, people have been wary of the use of rhetoric in religion. Persuaders can exert considerable influence on their audiences, but the journey of religion is one of personal conviction, and requires individual effort to cement true faith. All the ways and means of persuasion always boil down to individual choice. Given the free use of rhetoric to persuade people to any number of beliefs or actions, good and bad, rhetoric and religion seem opposed.
            The Crusades; medieval papal indiscretion; any time anyone invokes the name of God to serve less than godly purposes, these all stand as historical warning signs to the destructive power of mixing rhetoric and religion. But the capacity of rhetoric to empower religion for good also stands as a timeless guidepost for believers. It reminds people of religion’s true purpose: to lift, rather than to put down. Augustine of Hippo remarks on this by writing in De Doctrina Christiana that rhetoric can elevate one’s understanding of scripture. Simply knowing spoken and written tropes can help one decipher doctrine. After all, the prophets and apostles of old were eloquent men; it makes sense to figure out what they were saying, and how they were saying it.
            Religion’s primary purpose is also to promote action, because, as James puts it, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) However, promoters of evil action coexist with promoters of good action. Augustine charges teachers of Christianity to be better persuaders than teachers of falsehood.
            For Mormons, priesthood holders are only to exercise priesthood power by “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” (D&C 121:41) Persuasion, then, is a key characteristic of all members, so long as it is tempered by patience, gentleness, and sincerity. Rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is a tradition that’s been handed down to us today to bring others to the truth, with the simple caveat that it is used for good. As Quintilian has said, rhetoric is a good man, speaking well.

Short Essay #2: Rhetorical Analysis
            The prophet Jacob is a talented orator, and his written words reflect emotion and power, as if they were spoken. The strength of his message comes from his deep, and obvious, concern for the Nephite people. This epideictic oration in Jacob 2-3 publicly rebukes the sins of growing Nephite pride, and he even specifically addresses the Nephite men for their adultery. Jacob’s invective criticizes the consequences of their sins, and calls for repentance.
            One apparent figure of speech that Jacob uses in the beginning of Jacob 2 is the periodic sentence. The Nephites’ sins truly anguish the prophet. They gnaw at his soul and offend his spirit, and he is loathe even to bring them up. This is reflected in how it takes Jacob eleven verses in chapter 2 to finally articulate the pride that the Nephites have succumbed to, and another three verses until he begins criticizing them. After fourteen verses of long-winded beating around the bush, Jacob’s words breathe out like a release of pressure. In a rhetorical question, Jacob asks and answers, “And now my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.” This question acts as a shift in rhythm, an increase in tempo, a signal that the articulus has changed and Jacob is about to rain judgment on their sins. One can picture Jacob’s anguish in the beginning of the chapter changing to a fiery animation of shaking himself of their iniquities.
            Jacob also makes unflattering comparisons throughout both chapters of the Nephites to high-profile sinners: David and Solomon, in their adultery, and the Lamanites, in their comparatively chaste living. The Nephite men have taken many wives and lovers, which, like in David and Solomon’s time, “is abominable before me, saith the Lord.” Their “abominations” are even so great that their sins are greater than the Lamanites. In this instance, Jacob demonstrates a perceptive awareness of the kairos; the Nephites hate the Lamanites. The reason there are even two separate groups is because the former were more righteous than the latter. That the Nephites had sunk even lower than the Lamanites in sin would have pierced them to their core.

            Because of Jacob’s powerful comparisons, his speech has strong pathetic appeal. He knows his audience and what their needs are. In this case, the people need a stern talking-to. Jacob weaves in his own emotional anguish and Nephite prejudices, and he gives it to them.

Final Exam Essays: Isaac Fox

Short Essay
Religion has long since been a part of our culture, but having specifically spoken of Christianity I think it is important to acknowledge the source of Christianity. Christ was himself a person that went against the social norms of the times. People didn't like that. Thus when his followers continued to teach the things he had taught, many rejected them. Since they didn't have the resources that we do in our day, Paul, John, and other disciples of Christ wrote letters--compiled in the Bible--to different groups to tell them what they need to improve on.

These disciples were rejected, and it wasn't until 325 AD when Constantine accompanied the bishops of the time and formed the Creed of Nicea. Following that, in the 4th century AD Augustine started to create these understandings of Christianity and the Bible. He found that there was a need to understand some rhetoric to understand scripture, and that if scripture is not agreed upon you just make it figurative rather than literal. Ultimately though, Augustine believed that any interpretation was incorrect if it didn't lead to a love of God or fellow man.

This way of thinking lead to many different views of religion, and specifically Christianity, which we see in our day. I worked at the referral center in the MTC, where individuals would come onto different forms of social media and say horrifying things about our beliefs. They would present things in such a way that I don't believe anyone would have the guts to do in person. This new medium that is available in our day creates a new method of presenting ones rhetorical texts, which wasn't available ten years ago, and frankly I don't think we have enough practice yet to know how to properly use this medium, and in that way it hurts people rather than coming to some conclusion as Socrates would have hoped. As we practice we can use this medium more to help and uplift each other for our beliefs, and move away from ridicule and harshness.

Short Rhetorical Analysis
Can you imagine speaking to your people just after your brother and leader died (Kairos). The calling given to Jacob at the time Nephi died was I'm sure something he was unable to fully prepare for the death of his brother, but he quickly uses that as an opportunity to build his ethos. He does this by referring to the calling, which has been given to him by God (supernatural).

With the establishment of his ethos, Jacob presents his purpose--exordium/introduction--which is the beginning step in the arrangement of a speech. Then you would expect him to begin his narratio/statement of facts to give understanding of the subject. He calls the men out in verse five by telling them that they are laboring in sin. Obviously he wishes he could speak more of the word of God "which healeth a wounded soul" (metaphor), but since the people are living in sin it must needs be corrected. Even those who are not wounded, Jacob explains that they "instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds" (metaphor). This is when he returns to the subject of why he is speaking to the people. He tells them that they are getting caught up too much in their gold, silver, and fine things (statement of facts). 

As Jacob continues he starts to employ many different rhetorical methods. Just to point out a few, in verse 16 he uses anaphora/symploce by saying "O that" at the beginning of his sentences. Then in verse 18 he applies anaphora again, but this time in a more cause and effect as he leads into verse 19. He goes on but leads into a deeper argument, which seems to be a sort of judicial defense of women, in which he implores the progymanasmata of defending a law of God. This is a very difficult law, that people misunderstand often, and Jacob is very brave for talking about it, but he must have felt it was necessary enough to address.

What is nice about the way Jacob gives his speech is that he addressed his audience at the beginning of chapter two, and then he does the same in chapter three, only this time he is addressing the righteous. So he is essentially talking to two sets of people within the same speech. The decorum for each chapter is very different. His delivery that is seems more gentle in chapter three, because he is speaking to the more righteous. Even within that chapter he can't help but defend the righteous by informing the wicked of their abominations. Lets all hope we can be the ones that are the righteous, although sometimes I'm sure we need to hear hard things.