Short Essay: Religion and Rhetoric
Nowadays, rhetoric typically has a negative connotation. Mostly because of reporters and other media users calling out politicians for their 'political rhetoric' which usually just means blatant lies hidden by tricky speeches. But rhetoric hasn't always had a negative connotation; in fact, there was a time when rhetoric was taught and employed in Christian churches. One of the first to introduce the study of rhetoric to Christianity was Augustine.
Augustine lived late in the Roman period and was not born a Christian. He was a rhetorician by training and imperfect by birth. As he learned more of the Christians he said that they lacked eloquence and would not join them for that reason. But when he learned about the forgiveness that Christ offers, he was converted. Fortunately, Augustine didn't throw out everything he had learned about rhetoric; instead, Augustine applied rhetoric in Christianity becoming a pioneer of good people speaking well.
Augustine taught a few things in de doctrina christiana that are ring true to Christians everywhere, even in our day. 1) He taught that the bible teaches us through figurative and literal speech. If the literal interpretation is not correct, then the figurative must be. 2) He taught what an incorrect interpretation of scripture is: Any interpretation that does not lead toward the love of God or fellow man is incorrect. 3) He taught that every preacher has three functions: to teach, delight, and move; these functions are an adaptation of classical rhetoric. Now, how are these three lessons being employed in our day?
General conference is a great way to see how these three lessons have influenced Christian speaking in our day. We hear church leaders teach delight and move at least once every six months. Consider the meme to the right. The bible calls us to 'fear God' and yet Elder Bednar teaches that fear turns to love. Clearly, Elder Bednar understands that the bible may teach figuratively and literally and that we must interpret in such a way to increase our love of God and fellow man.
Short Essay #2: Rhetorical Analysis of Jacob 2-3
Jacob talks to the people of Nephi by way of commandment. Here in these two chapters he chastens them and attempts to bring them unto repentance. He knows that some have committed grievous sins and that they need to hear his words, but he grieves at the thought of the innocent hearing his piercing words.
Just as Aristotle would approve of Jacob begins his sermon by strengthening his ethos. And he does it through metonymy. Jacob speaks to his audience and refers to his garments as himself as if to say that if his 'garments' are clean so is he. Jacob also uses other means to build his ethos in the beginning of his sermon like reminding them of his true diligence in serving them. Jacob's style throughout the sermon calls often on emotional appeals (pathos).
In looking at the style of strictly chapter 2 verse 9, we can learn much of the type of preacher Jacob is. With the metaphor of his words being daggers that pierce the hearts of the people and the delicate minds, Jacob shows his ability to feel what the audience feels and to have compassion on them. He understands that not everyone in the audience is guilty, so feels for those that are innocent. He feels for those who have come to 'feast upon the words of God.' This shows his attitude toward preaching and his attitude toward whom he serves.
Jacob uses his speech to move the souls of those there. He does so with a speech that seems both epideictic and deliberative. Jacob speaks of virtue and vice throughout the entire speech to give the listeners an understanding of where the fine line of sin is. Jacob strengthens his oration toward epideictic by blaming the fathers of the lamanites for the color of their skin. But Jacob also speaks of what the people must do to 'awake from their slumber' and by doing this he moves closer to a deliberative speech using references to the future and what the people should do now to deserve a better future.
Clearly, Jacob understands his audience and helps them a long the journey through the emotional appeals (pathos) and many figures of speech(rhetorical figures). This oration shows just how true to the faith he was as he builds his ethos and as he expresses his ideas in such artistic ways (style).