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.