The girl jerks awake as her head does a sudden nose dive toward the floor. She rubs the back of her neck and looks up at the speaker. “Nodding off in church again?” her father inquires. “You know bishop will give you a hard time about this” he says with a small chuckle.
This young girl was me. I just couldn’t seem to stay awake during church. I am not the only person who has this, “sleeping disorder” when it comes to church talks. Most people have been this girl, most people have struggled to find the real meaning in the words being spoken, most have struggled to stay entertained while listening to a sermon.
Augustine one of the greatest Christian exemplars was too one of these people. At first he didn’t believe that Christian speakers were very good, and maybe in some cases he was correct. Often in the LDS and Christian culture we say “let the spirit guide what you say” without saying “use some rhetoric to make your talk interesting”. In doing this some of these rhetorical skills are put on the back burner instead of being used to change lives.
Augustine’s life was changed when he finally saw the rhetoric in Christian speaking. Augustine would then go on to write about the amazing rhetorical tools used in the Bible.
In Christianity, there is an argument about the ethicality of using rhetoric to persuade people to believe in Christ. To this it could be said, is it ethical to use comet to clean your tube while others have to use elbow grease? While this argument is diverse and valid, Why not use rhetoric skills when they are available? Perhaps then the little girl wouldn’t be asleep on the front row of the chapel.
As one Book Of Mormon prophets explains, he did remember the words of his father concerning Jesus the Christ and I did cry unto the father for forgiveness. This remembering perhaps came because of his father’s rhetoric. Augustine too had a similar experience.
In opposition, the ancient Greeks looked at rhetoric as something that controlled someone, this thought pattern is exemplified in ‘The Encomium of Helen’. Modern belief is that rhetoric is a tool used to persuade. Why not use this tool to help persuade “men to do good” (Ether 4:11). Quintilian agreed when he defined and orator as, “a good man speaking well”. You too can be this orator by persuade others to do good.
Short Rhetorical Analysis
Seemingly scared to death Jacob goes to the temple to speak boldly to his people about their sins (Jacob 2). Think of when you had to correct someone’s behavior. Like talking to your roommate about leaving the milk out. This can be a daunting task. With this task at hand Jacob speaks boldly and with rhetoric.
This sermon takes place not long after Nephi dies. At this time Jacob probably feels the pressure to lead the people in righteousness. This speech also has Kairos because people are looking for leadership and guidance as their leader has just passed away. Death is also generally a time for life reflection, so the audience being the Nephite people, are probably more open to change.
To accomplish Gods purpose Jacob (speaker) uses a very structured arrangement. Firstly he discusses why he is talking to the people. In this introduction he establishes ethos by saying that he is there to declare “the word of God” and that God commanded him to say these things (Jacob 2:2). This claim caused the people to listen. He also increases this ethos as he later quotes the lord (Jacob 2: 28- 32). He even states, “here me, and harken unto the word of the Lord” meaning that he is speaking the words of the lord (Jacob 2:27).
After the introduction, in Jacob 2:12, Jacob clearly states what he will be discussing then later in Jacob 2:22 he states that he is going to change subjects and talk about another topic. This can be related to when a speaker numbers what they are going to talk about and is used as a great memory tool. This talk had a clear and concise arrangement to help the audience understand and remember what is being said.
Jacob also uses many figures of speech to emphasize Gods message. As in common in scripture, he uses parallelism but he also uses personification (Jacob 2:13), alliterations, and an ellipsis (Jacob 3:2). His alliteration plays two roles, first it is a memory tool and second, it is used to add pathos. He states “it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame” this alliteration adds an emotional appeal to his plea (Jacob 2:6).
The additional figurative language helps the audience remember his words but also makes his speech flow and gets his point across. For example when he uses personification it helps the audience relate to his words and visualize. This gives his speech more ethos and adds imagery.
He also uses the topics of invention compare/contrast, supernatural and cause/effect. He uses compare/contrast to compare his people to the Lamanites. This helps them understand what they will become if they don’t change (cause/effect). This analogy really hits home because of the strong hatred the Nephites have for the Lamanites.
With the use of figurative language, consistent topics of invention and exceptional Kairos, Jacobs sermon is bold, beautiful and persuasive.