Religion has sought to be an organization that ties or connects men and women back to God. The line between oppressive persuasion through words and true conversion of the heart, however, has always a tense one. A prominent rhetorician of the 4th century was Augustine. Due to his vast education, he found little merit in the delivery of religious sermons. However, from the words of Ambrose his interest was piqued, and he began to study the Bible. One night he heard a child's voice tell him to "Take up and read" - his heart was touched and converted. He spent the rest of his life using his rhetorical capabilities to help all know Jesus' redeeming love. The writings of this Christian rhetorician contain principles that can help solve the tension of oppressive persuasion between religion and rhetoric.
In Augustine's On Christian Doctrine, he writes that the misinterpretation of scripture is immoral, and that the steps to properly interpreting scripture can be followed. The distinction between figurative and literal language in scripture is something that even today in the LDS faith can be difficult to determine. Augustine wrote that the most important part of figurative interpretation is "that no interpretation can be true which
does not promote the love of God and the love of man" (4). If this love and charity mentioned here is present in the interpretation of a tricky biblical passage, the interpretation can be true. I believe that the LDS follows this principle to the extent that the interpretation does not contradict with any other doctrine of the gospel.
In regard to orators and speakers within a religious setting, eloquence is not a bad thing. While Satan is often portrayed as a smooth talking, persuasive person full of rhetorical prowess, rhetoric has a place in modern religion. Augustine also had something to say about the offices of the teacher, or the three species of style: "the subdued, the elegant, and the majestic" (4). While each of these style has a place, they individually have specific purposes - "the first ... for instruction,
the second for praise, and the third for exhortation" (4). In the LDS church, teachers are constantly instructing, praising, and exhorting. As a mediator changes these purposes, that does not change or fabricate the truth of the message. In contrary, these purposes can help bolster the message so as to serve the audience more fully. While the tensions that existed between religion and rhetoric centuries ago may still exist today, the solutions for said tensions then work just as well for us in our day.
The book of Jacob begins by learning that Nephi has just passed away. Before his death, he consecrates his brothers Jacob and Joseph to be teachers of the people of Nephi. The purpose of this instruction is to "persuade [the people] to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God" (Jacob 1:7). Despite their good intentions, the Nephites are slipping into pride and sin. Fearing these abominations will lead the Nephites to destruction, Jacob seeks to teach his audience, all the Nephites, correct principles with boldness and brutal honesty. This deliberative oratory urges the people who are engaging in these sinful practices to immediately change their ways before God's punishment falls upon them.
This sermon follows relatively well the arrangement of classical oration, with introduction, statement of facts, division, proof, refutation and conclusion. The introduction spans verses 1-11 of chapter 2 where he establishes ethos by reaffirming his calling from God, his diligence in this calling, and his sincere concern for the spiritual welfare of the people. From here he moves to the statement of the facts, beginning first with the discussion of riches and pride. In verse 22 division is implemented as he transitions to addressing the issue of immorality. The proof and refutation is intermingled throughout all these parts of the speech as Jacob uses primarily logos and pathos to touch the hearts of those laboring in sin. The conclusion implements powerful assertions of pathos, specifically in the through the comparing and contrasting of the people to the Lamanites, their enemies. "I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skin will be whiter than yours" (Jacob 3:8).
Jacob is clearly an experienced orator, for he implements many schemes and tropes throughout the speech. I will primarily analyze chapter 2. He begins using a technique called protherapeia. Through conciliating words he acknowledges the goodness and purity of some in the audience, recognizing what will come next will not be pleasing to them. In verse 9 he then uses a metaphor to compare harsh words to daggers - daggers that pierce the souls and minds of the innocent people who are present. The deliberative nature of this sermon is strengthened through the targeting of the innocent audience members because he expresses the principle of the good and the unworthy, beginning here and continuing throughout the speech. Dialogismus is implemented consistently throughout chapter 2, in particular verses 27-33. Jacobs speaks and writes as if he were the Lord himself speaking to the people, quoting him directly. This brings an increased pathological connection to the people, heightening guilt and repentance.
Jacob uses questions in several verses to bring special emphasis to the concepts he is teaching. In verse 14 he uses anthypophora, a technique that poses a question then answers it immediately afterwards. Other rhetorical questions, or erotema, are delivered in verses 20-21. Antithesis is apparent in verse 18: "But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God" (Jac. 2:18). Following this verse the topic of invention of cause and effect is used as Jacob explains that if the Nephites obtain a hope in Christ, then they will gain riches (Jac. 2:19). In verse 29 Jacob uses anastrophe as he departs from normal word order; "cursed be the land for their sakes." Overall the use of the rhetorical techniques in Jacob's speech add power and understanding to his words,