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.
Furthermore, even Christ used rhetoric to communicate. One example is his use of anaphora in The Sermon on the Mount. This made the Beatitudes easier to remember while using a pathetic appeal to draw the people in to the gospel. However, tension was built between Christ and jealous political and religious leaders because of the ethos he used to teach the people that he was the son of God and a spiritual king.
Similar things happen in religious rhetoric today. In the LDS church, prophets often use rhetoric to make certain doctrinal concepts more relatable. However, tension comes into play when members of the church try to make certain truths less harsh at the expense of spreading the wrong connotation and sometimes false doctrine. An example of this would be that of same-sex attraction. Some members try to compromise the idea of accepting to the point of encouraging same-sex relationships while riding on the concept of loving everyone for what God made them to be. Through this example, we see the pattern of pathos on the verge of trumping logos in an attempt to establish ethos as a societal conformist, yet a religious rebel.
Overall, rhetoric is essential to religion, despite its rocky history. When it comes down to it, it must be used knowledgably, consciously and cautiously to be truly effective.
Short Rhetorical Analysis
Jacob 2 and 3 begin with a clear explanation of who, what, when, where and why. Firstly, it is established that his message is kairotic, ethical and logical because it is delivered by “the brother of Nephi, unto the people of Nephi, after the death of Nephi.” From this, we can assume that Jacob and the people of Nephi (who) are in the land of Nephi (where) just after their leader, Nephi, has died (when). In the next verse, Jacob says, “I…magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.” From this, the people know that Jacob is going to preach God’s word (what) to make sure that he can’t be held accountable for the ignorance and sin of the people (why).
The reason that it’s so crucial for Jacob to outline this in a minimally emotional way is so that he can prepare this specific audience—the people of Nephi on the verge of wickedness—to understand the pathos that follows through the many rhetorical devices used. As a whole, both Jacob 2 and 3 are a vituperation that Jacob uses to chastise and persuade his people to abstain from evil. To achieve this, he combines pathos and ethos by employing the supernatural—relating his experiences and revelations from God to show the people that there is a higher, more powerful source that holds this expectation of righteousness for them.
Furthermore, Jacob’s account is memorable because of the way he groups the details that he wants his audience to remember most through various rhetorical techniques. For example, in making a point about realizing weakness of the self before that of others, Jacob uses parallelism and epistrophe in multiple ways when he says:
“neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness;
but ye shall remember your own filthiness,
and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.”
This is effective because it makes certain that filthiness is not attached to one kind of people, but is learned and applied to any who fall into sin.
Another technique used is that of epexegesis when Jacob says:
“And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.”
Once again he wants to be clear, yet appeal to pathos as he shows that he is relating to them something that is not only pleasing, but powerful in its ability to heal and change the individual.
Throughout Jacob 2 and 3, Jacob is able to connect with his people at a crucial time when they are more likely to take in his message at a time of emotional vulnerability. His words have strength because of the way that they are masterfully created and structured logically, emotionally and credibly.