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.