Historically there has been a interesting relationship between rhetoric and religion. The tension is embedded within the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation around the turn of the millennium. Rome representing classical rhetoric and Jerusalem representing faith. Although the two seem to clash, over the centuries they began to merge into one, for better or for worse. This is evident in the writings of Augustine who tried to remedy the seemingly opposing practices.
In our day it seems that rhetoric now is being used to promote faith and religion. This is evident in our LDS faith and especially with the leaders within. Take Elder Holland for example. He is one who uses the principles of rhetoric to help influence and move both member and non member alike. We even did a Rhetorical analysis of one of his addresses in class and found a wide variety of devices that he used that touched the heart of the listener. Elder Holland is not the only one. Each and every leader in the church uses principles of rhetoric to present the beautiful doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Even though historically there was obvious tension between religion and rhetoric, its seems that the two have molded into one and have allowed thousands to be influenced. What started out as tension formed into a perpetual machine that will continue on as long as there are inspired individuals seeking to help others come to Christ.
Short Rhetorical Analysis
Jacob is probably the most straightforward of all the book of mormon prophets. His method of delivery very much tells it how it is and does not “sugarcoat” anything he says. The words in Jacob 2-3 have an influence of both judicial and epideictic oratory embedded within his accusations of men and their sins along with the fact that it is a sermon. But as much as this is an accusation it really has elements of an encomium in the fact that it truly is a praise of women. As he condemns the men for their sins he is in reality showing how precious women are to God. This is significant because there are few references to females let alone an entire sermon devoted to the praise of women
Though we could dwell on the nature of his speech, it seems interesting that the content of his speech follow the arrangement of a classical oration. Starting with introducing his purpose in speaking with the people, stating the fact that the men in the audience were living in sin and then stating what he sermon would contain. He follows by systematically revealing the proof of his claim.
Although reference to the supernatural is thematic and even expected with ancient prophets, Jacob claims the aid of the supernatural in discerning the thoughts of the men. This would have a not only an ethical influence from the audience with recognition of the reality of Jacobs divine authority, but also quite a pathetic appeal as well. One can only imagine how vulnerable it would feel to have your thought read.It is interesting to note the rhetorical devices the ancients used. It really shows that they knew more than we think they did and that rhetoric has been used for a long time to help influence others for good.