Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Final Exam Essays: Jared Larsen

Religion and Rhetoric

Rhetoric and Religion's relationship historically resembles that of Ross and Rachel: Constantly breaking up and getting back together for varying, petty reasons. Anciently, in the Pre-Socratic eras, Philosophy and Rhetoric were actually created to spite the predominate religion of mythological gods and goddesses, putting the two at odds from birth.

As Christianity gained popularity, it brought with it yet another point of tension: While Roman views on humility didn't contend with popular virtue, Christianity's inherent focus on the private righteousness of the individual greatly contrasted the general view of rhetoric's fundamentally public function: "For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam 16:7).

It really wasn't until Saint Augustine, born of the very romanized city of Hippo, attempted to combine them that the two truly enriched each other.  Having a background in the progymnasmata and other rhetorical training, he was initially dissuaded from the religion by the lack of eloquence he saw in its preachers and teachers.  After a spiritually revelatory experience, he "pick[ed] up and read" the bible, and discovered the vast amounts of rhetoric the Jews and others had used in its creation.
Augustine then wrote De Doctrina Christiana, or "On Christian Teaching," wherein he postulated that an understanding of rhetoric is necessary in order to interpret the bible:  Without an understanding of things like figurative language, someone reading "follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" could be easily confused or mislead.

The world has certainly come a long way since then.  While there remains tension based on common association between the word "rhetoric" and those of "politics" and law," Augustine's views seem to be generally accepted in that rhetoric, while of secular origin, can be used to enhance the teaching and learning of religion.  Our own apostles are "guilty" of its use within their General Conference Addresses, as noted by prior blog posts.

In general, rhetoric can be used as a means of enlightenment, and if "that which is of God is light" (D&C 50:24), then that which brings light is likely of God as well.

Rhetorical Analysis of Jacob 2-3

Jacob, while greatly remembered as a man of God and terrific prophet, lived his life in the shadow of his brother, Nephi- and it's greatly apparent he felt Nephi superior in many ways, evidenced greatly by Jacob's vocalized decision to call his own people, the Jacobites, after the name of Nephi (Jacob 1:14).  He wouldn't even have his calling as a priest or teacher if it weren't for the hand of Nephi (Jacob 1:18).  And yet, Nephi is dead, and the filling of his grave left an emptiness in the leadership of both the people and the church, and, with the plates falling to Jacob, so too does the responsibility for the people.  It is under this kairos that he goes to give his first post-Nephi sermon to a wicked, apostatized people.

All in all, this sermon is replete with rhetorical devices.  To begin, he reminds the people that he's been diligent in fulfilling his callings thus far, and that he isn't alone: He's got the all-powerful Creator on his side, and he can read minds.  All of this goes to build his Ethos.  He then introduces a major theme of Pathos, discussing in congery form the general feeling of pain and suffering by using words like "grieveth... tender... delicate... healeth the wounded... burdeneth... enlarge the wounds... daggers placed to pierce their sould and wound their delicate minds."  The general feeling in these words impresses the true weight of what Jacob plans on discussing, and he creates his own kairos to overlay anything else that might already have existed at the temple that day.

However, what I think Jacob is most well-known for is his exuscitatio: Stirring others by one's own feelings.  He constantly reminds his audience how much he dreads preaching to them on this matter, telling them "I am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety... which sin appeareth very abominable unto me... it grieveth me and causeth me to shrink with shame... it burdeneth my soul... and were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you."  This enforces Jacob's position as a link between God and his people, giving the people a third-party perspective from someone whom they know truly understands their ways.  It also tells the people how they should feel about their own crimes, facilitating change.

The most interesting device to me, however, is the permutatio by argument Jacob makes regarding the people's choice to take multiple wives.  He could have compared them to numerous people in religious history who chose the same, but the two he picks are David and Solomon.  Whilst Abraham and Jacob were "guilty" in this same manner, there were obvious distinctions in kairos that separate these two groups.  By alluding to the prior group, Jacob shows further his condemnation of his people, assimilating them with the sin of some of the most wicked men in religious history.

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