Religion and Rhetoric
While many Christians claim their conviction comes from divine sources, rhetoric has and continues to influence their faith and beliefs.
In the early days of the Christian Church, for example, preachers such as Paul and Peter frequently claimed they lacked eloquence, which to them offered proof of their divine calling. This initially discouraged many rhetoricians from exploring Christianity, especially St Augustine. However, even St Augustine grew to recognize the rhetorical sophistication found in the Bible and began to preach that good Gospel preaching required good rhetorical skills.
During the dark ages, rhetoric manipulated religion to protect the Feudalistic social order. Fear of damnation and hell prevented peasants from rebelling. Clerics and nobles mingled rhetoric and scripture to justify oppression and sin. The crusades, for example, were justified as "holy conquests" to reclaim the holy land.They demonstrated the pride and greed of the church more than anything.
Even today, the LDS church sees how rhetoric plays a large role in the faith of its members. Church leaders use different mediums such as conferences, videos, and magazine articles to teach. Leaders who incorporate more engaging rhetorical techniques, such as stories, connect more with the members and can better fulfill their purposes.
Rhetoric within the LDS church has evolved over time as well. We now a see a growing reliance on social media to preach and propagate church doctrine. Elder Bednar, for example, encouraged members to make better use of tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Even the doctrine preached by church leaders is presented in a more tolerant and progressive way as religious freedom becomes a growing concern.
Rhetoric is a crucial religious tool that has been used to both manipulate and promote faith.
Rhetorical Analysis of Jacob 2-3Jacob addresses the Nephites to show how they wrongly justify their sins and strives to persuade them to repent. As any good orator should do, he begins by building his ethos. He explains he is particularly concerned with their welfare and is only speaking so directly because their salvation depends on it. Jacob clearly shows he is addressing his people deliberatively, as he not only exposes their sins, but warns of the consequences of their disobedience and wants them to make the right choice.
Throughout his discourse, Jacob attempts to make his message more personal through the use of rhetorical questions. For example, Jacob challenges them to reconsider their sin through God's eyes: "Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh " (2:14)? The Nephites (and the reader) can't help but reflect on their decisions, noticing that perhaps they have been justifying their sins and that repentance is necessary.
To close his speech, Jacob cleverly compares and contrasts the Nephites with the Lamanites. Traditionally, the Lamanites were viewed as a filthy and wicked people. However, Jacob points out that the Lamanites practice strong family values such as love and fidelity, which the Nephites currently lack (3:7). He asks them to ponder how much better the Nephites really could be if the Lamanites were living a better standard.
Jacob's most dynamic and arguably powerful tool is his audience. Obviously, he is addressing the Nephites. However, Jacob purposefully includes this discourse in the Book of Mormon to address our day. He knows that we as saints will also struggle with justifying our sins. He knows that we too wrongly compare ourselves and rationalize our pride through our faith. Jacob subtly uses Past Fact/ Future Fact to show that what happened with the Nephites will happen to us as well. But just as the Nephites were able to repent and become more humble, we too can follow a prophet's advice and repent.