Short Essay #1: Rhetoric and Religion
In the past, rhetoric was seen as very separate from religion. In early Christianity, members of the faith were not known to be very eloquent in the way they talked or wrote. Literacy and eloquence were not seen as their talents. Augustine (4th century), someone who we know to have become very involved in Christianity, was not interested in the religion at first due to their lack of eloquence. He was studied in the art of rhetoric, and Christianity was far from it. But Augustine used his rhetorical training to apply it to Christianity. He began rhetorically analyzing Biblical text. He used figurative language to pull out meaning from the scriptures. He argued that in order to best understand scriptural text, you had to have an understanding of figural expression so that you could pull out the meaning. Reading the Bible was not about reading for an argument, it was about reading for a deeper meaning that could be better understood rhetorically. This is the first time in history we see a shift from a tension between rhetoric and religion, to a blending of the two.
Today, we still see how rhetoric can be used to lend to more understanding of religion and religious texts. We read the scriptures with understanding of metaphors, similes, comparisons, sentence structure. If one has this knowledge they can better understand what Christ is really trying to teach in his parable of the lost coin; what he really wants us to do when he tells Peter, "Feed my sheep," in John 21; and what he really means when he compares wheat to tares. Christ spoke in the scriptures using language and rhetorical tools that would help him better reach the people he was ministering to. As we read ancient scripture today, we can not feel lost and far removed from these teachings. His parables and metaphors were just as much for our day as they were for back then. We have to grow our knowledge in figurative language, as Augustine first demonstrated, to better understand the Savior's teachings.
Our own modern day prophets and leaders teach us through anecdotes, play on words, repetition - things that will capture our attention and apply teachings in a deeper way. Elder Maxwell was known for having a very organized and specific structure in his speech, using metaphors and rhetorical tools. Elder Holland uses repetition and parallel structure to prove his points. Even today, leaders have seen how rhetorical manner of speech can better reach out to an audience. If we understand how and why they are speaking in this manner, we will better be able to hear the meanings we are supposed to take to heart.
Short Essay #2: Rhetorical Analysis of Jacob 2-3
In his speech, Jacob is chastising the Nephites for their pride and sin, and is denouncing against fornication and every type of sin. To effectively get his message across, to have the people feel guilty for their sins and to become repentant, Jacob's speech overall has a large appeal to pathos. He refers back multiple times to being burdened down by heavy emotions, and to the people having broken hearts: "I this day am weighed down" (chapter 2, verse 3), "it grieveth my soul" (verse 6), "the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes" (verse 23), "the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you" (verse 35). By including so much emotional description in his speech, he is really appealing to pathos to get the people to understand how devastating it is that they have committed these sins.
Through chapter 2 of his speech, Jacob has an extended metaphor that he carries on throughout the chapter. He uses a metaphor speaking of daggers and piercing. He also talks about wounded hearts. He carries a metaphor of daggers and pain through his speech to again highlight the pain caused from these sins, and how serious it is. In verse 9, talking about their crimes Jacob says, "Instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds." Verse 10 reads, "under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God." This use of the word "piercing" gets the point across that God himself can pierce you because of the sins and wounds you have caused upon others. This is highlighted again in verse 15: "O that he would show you that he can pierce you." Jacob concludes chapter 2 again focusing on the idea of piercing: "many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds." By carrying out this extended metaphor, Jacob compares the sins to piercing daggers that wound and kill. In return, the consequence will be that God will pierce them. This extended metaphor relays the seriousness of these sins to the people.
Jacob also splashes some other rhetorical devices in his speech. In verse 6, he uses alliteration to emphasize the grievousness of the sins of the people: "causeth me to shrink with shame." He uses repetitive and parallel sentence structure in verses 15 and 16, "O that he would show you that he can pierce you......O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination.....O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands...." This repetitive and parallel form acts as a pleading to God and to the people, to repent and to make the situation right again. In verses 14 and 21, Jacob uses rhetorical questions to get the people to really ponder if God would really condone their actions. In verse 27, Jacob uses anastrophe, inverted word order when he says, "concubines they shall have none." By finishing the sentence with the word "none" instead of saying, "have no concubines," allows the audience to focus on the word "none" and what it means, instead of thinking about concubines. In talking about pride, Jacob warns against costly apparel. He uses a nice metaphor when he says, "you wear stiff necks and high heads," (verse 13). It is fitting that he used the word choice "wear" in talking about pride, because he is teaching that expensive and gaudy clothing that a person wears, can cause them to wear a stiff neck and high head. It is a clever play-on-words.
Finally, in chapter 3, Jacob uses a form of comparison to describe purity and filthiness. In verse 8 he says, "I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours." He uses metonymy to reference purity by talking about white skin, something that is symbolic and representative of that attribute. Likewise, dark skin represents filthiness when he says in verse 9, "revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness." Verse 9 is also a great example of parallelism, where Jacob clearly provides a balanced equation where he equates dark skin to filthiness.
Through this variety of rhetorical devices, and many others that can be found in the speech, Jacob effectively explains the heartache and consequences of the people's sins and calls them to repentance.