Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Perfect Balance

Elder Holland is one of the most popular speakers, for a variety of reasons. As a speaker he has the ability to completely tear down all the false pretenses we have and speak directly to our souls. The majority of the reason he is able to do this is because of his powerful words and the rhetoric he uses to address his audience.

Approaching the topic of his talk Elder Holland addresses his goal.

“I wish to speak,” he says, “to the best of my ability, on why we should be clean, on why moral discipline is such a significant matter in God's eyes. I know that may sound presumptuous, but a philosopher once said, tell me sufficiently why a thing should be done, and I will move heaven and earth to do it. Hoping you will feel the same way as he and fully recognizing my limitations, I wish to try to give at least a partial answer to ‘Why be morally clean?’”

Beginning this way, he combines both pathos and logos to appeal to the audience. The pathos comes as he quotes a philosopher and tells a story. The logos appears more as he explains and helps us understand the reasoning behind why we do (or do not) participate in certain activities.

He is, in a way, able to walk the line that so many others struggle to find. His talks are so perfectly balanced—and real—that people have to pause what they are doing to listen.

That is ultimately the reason why Elder Holland is such a powerful speaker. He approaches with enough love to make us want to listen, but then his argument is so incredibly forceful and accurate that we can’t stop listening. 

Clear and Important

“Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments,” was delivered by Jeffery R. Holland to Brigham Young University. He uses speech that is virtuous and lofty. He is clear, succinct and direct in the subject matter proposed. He delivered this talk with the power of the Holy Spirit, so his audience could be moved by the influence of God.

“That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord,” Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:31. Apostle Paul warns the saints against worldly words and encourages glorifying the Lord. Jeffery R. Holland follows this theme and counsel in his devotional talk delivered to students at Brigham Young University. Just as Apostle Paul is concerned for the people of Corinth years ago, Apostle Jeffery R. Holland is reaching out to the people of this time at Brigham Young University. Each Apostle lends the audience to a higher level, a spiritual level of thinking with the vocabulary and word choices. The literary devices used pull the listeners from earthly thinking to an eternal view.

Jeffrey R. Holland was clear and to the point. He had done a quick introduction that had made me feel of more importance to him as he said, “Indeed, your growth and happiness and development in the life you are now living and in the life you will be living in the days and decades ahead are the central and most compelling motivation in my daily professional life.”  Then, he approached a subject that was sensitive using direct language that could not be misunderstood. As Elder George A. Smith encouraged, “…the first thing should be plainly and simply to communicate to them the first principles that we receive, in the best possible manner” (Preach My Gospel.)

As I read Jeffery R. Hollands talk I noticed how he taught with the power of the Spirit. He used other tools such as examples in the lives of others, scripture and testimonies, but weaved into the fabric of his subject was the Spirit testifying of the truth of his words. Neal A Maxwell quoted Joseph Smith conveying, “Thus Holy Scripture and the words of living prophets occupy a privileged position; they are the key to teaching by the Spirit.” Teaching by the Spirit was imperative as the subject matter was sensitive. I feel as though my soul has been converted once again with the influence of the Spirit.

Effective and Inspiring Diction

When I was younger, I thought teaching and sharing the Gospel meant simply communicating (essentially, speaking) the doctrines and principles we believe to those around us.  I memorized the Articles of Faith and many of my favorite prophetic quotes and scripture verses.  I tried to share these bits of knowledge with my friends, but I did not have much success.  As I grew up, however, I started to realize that I needed to broaden my idea of communication to include personal testifying and heartfelt connections, not just rote memorization.  How does one effectively learn how to do this?

Instead of just reading the assigned speech by Jeffrey R. Holland, I decided to listen to the devotional while I read it.  I know that I tend to understand the content differently (and better) than if I just try to read, because I get distracted… 

One thing of literary rhetoric importance that really stuck out to me while I listened to President Holland’s speech from the 1988 BYU Devotional was his diction.  As he began his devotional, he set the mood for his serious topic by establishing a personal, private connection with his audience.  President Holland’s use of diction helps establish both ethos and pathos.  His tone, attitude, and dialect helped his listeners connect with him and realize how much he cares for them and his topic, sexual purity.

The definition of diction is, “the distinctive tone or tenor of an author’s writings… Diction is usually judged with reference to the prevailing standards of proper writing and speech and is seen as the mark of quality of the writing.” (http://literary-devices.com/content/diction)  When I read this, I realized that Holland’s diction and tone are a mark of the quality and importance of his words.  His style of speaking shines through in his writing, and leaves a distinct feeling of awe and respect towards Holland and his prophetic instruction.

I was very inspired by listening to this devotional.  I would strongly advise that everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) listen to President Holland’s original audio of this BYU Devotional!!

Ascribing Divine Authority

In Mormon rhetorical theory, it is common for the speaker to call attention to the listener to not attribute the thoughts and feelings that they are having to themselves, but rather, to Deity Himself. Elder Neal A Maxwell when speaking about teaching quoted Brigham Young who said, “Anything besides that influence (the Holy Spirit), will fail to convince any person of the truth of the Gospel of salvation.” It is this focus of Mormon rhetoric that becomes so powerful. The turning of the audience towards the Godhead itself allows each individual to connect what they are thinking and feeling as divinely appointed.

Photo from: sites.lib.byu.edu

In 1989, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke in a BYU devotional address he entitled, “Of Souls, Sacraments, and Symbols”. In this address, Elder Holland spoke to the student body about a difficult topic that most speakers usually avoid. During this address he specifically follows the Mormon rhetoric tradition of focusing on the Holy Spirit as a source of support as well as a source of authority.

Elder Holland opens his address by humbly stating, “I always need the help and sustaining Spirit of the Lord to succeed at such times, but I especially feel the need for that spiritual help today.” What are the effects of such a statement? Here is an example of reference to deity to help him with the subject he is about to speak on. The rhetoric behind this is powerful because it is humble in the sense that he admits inadequacy and his reliance on God, but at the same time connects that if he is speaking with the help of God, he is speaking with God’s divine stamp of approval.

Near the end of his talk, Elder Holland again focuses on deity, saying, “That we may ‘come unto Christ’ for the fullness of soul and symbol and sacrament he offers us, I pray

So here is one source behind the power of his narrative. His entire purpose of the subject is to lead us to God and for his speech to have divine support. It speaks to the listener that his thoughts and feelings that are from God. The premise behind this is a powerful one. After listening to him speak, the question is, is this true? Are you drawing closer to God with his words? The answer is for the listener to decide. 

Can one be both clear and complex?

Rhetorical clarity and simplicity has been considered one of the most important characteristics to great Mormon public speaking. Paul, an Apostle who was known as having the roar of a Lion, seems to endorse a more simple form of speaking. In first Corinthians he seems to imply that speaking or preaching with complex rhetorical form diminishes God’s ability to work through an individual. There seems to be a “GET OUT OF THE WAY” theme in Paul’s teachings. Say a few simple words and the spirit will do the rest.

This sentiment continues in the Church today. We are taught to share briefly and from the heart like Elder Smith mentioned in his article. We are taught to be clear in our discussions, teachings, and preaching’s. I believe that this is right.

Can one be both clear and complex? As I have read through Elder Hollands and Elder Maxwells sermons, I feel like they do just that. These Apostles speak and write with a spiritual clarity but have obvious rhetorical complexities. As professor Burton mentions, it is those complexities that makes demands on the listener and engages with them. Elder Holland and Elder Maxwell have found a way to create complex rhetorical form to illustrate gospel principles clearly. Understand the principles with great clarity is the main purpose. The simplicity of the writing should be irrelevant if it is easy to understand.

Elder Holland’s insight on “Sacraments” is one that is not commonly discussed within the church. He describes Sacraments as more than the just the ordinance of the Lord’s Super. “The Sacrament is only one of many such moments when we formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power.” This doctrinal complexity is taught clearly and in a way one can understand. Elder Holland was able to dive into technical insights and symbolism that allowed the reader and listener to be engaged in a personal way. Being able to influence the listener in an engaging way shows its level of clarity and power.

The Speakers Credibility

One of the most important rhetorical devices an orator can use to captivate their audience is ethos. Simply put ethos is a means of setting ethical appeal, or developing your character before you begin your speech. Developing your ethos is a time where you convince your audience that you are worth listening to. Elder Holland is one of my favorite speakers to listen to and the reason why is because he develops his credibility with his sincerity and kindness before he begins his message.

In the talk Souls, Symbols, and Sacrament Elder Holland begins his talk by saying “This responsibility to speak to you never gets any easier”. Right off the bat he starts developing ethos by explaining that, not only is it his responsibility to speak to the audience but it is also a very difficult thing. This helps the audience have trust in him because it reminds us that he is in a position of leadership but also because he has experience in talking of matters that are difficult to hear. His comment also helps us feel compassion for him because it is his obligation to speak of difficult things. By setting this stage the audience is captivated and ready to listen.

The next step Elder Holland takes in developing his ethos is by helping the audience feels like they are loved and cared for by him. He says “Your hopes and dreams become ever more important to me the longer I am at BYU. Indeed, your growth and happiness and development in the life you are living…. Are most compelling motivation in my daily professional life”. It is obvious by his rhetoric that he loves his audience and spends much time in thought and prayer over their current circumstance.  The audience knows that it is their growth and happiness that motivate him.

He continues developing his credibility through the rest of his talk by talking of his love for them, and his desire that they follow his counsel in following the law of chastity and remaining sexually pure. I think that this is why Elder Holland is such an amazing speaker, he is a man we can trust, a man that has developed credibility (ethos) by the long hours of praying an thinking about those that he addresses. When he speaks, we listen because through all of his years of being an Apostle we have come to trust in him and leader.  

Best Lesson Is a Conversation

“Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” A speech given by now Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1988, then acting as President of Brigham Young University,  is a plea and cry for to students to find it within themselves to stay pure in all forms of sexuality. Elder Holland is known for his eloquence and vibrant ability to show an increase in love towards you as he lovingly rebukes and belittles you for the sins that grasp us each day. 

He brings the essence of a great coach that as he has mentioned before in conference talks is to get in your face a little and singe your eyebrows. Yet at the same time showing a sense of faith in us that we can overcome our daily struggles and short comings. 

Elder Holland makes it a point in this speech to teach us the “why” behind being sexually pure and not the specific dos and don’ts  of church doctrine. He presents through his speaking a personal desire within each of us to be better. He acknowledges the fact that we are human beings and we fall short. He expresses his understanding of where we may be currently in regards to his current subject matter.  

His ability to allow you to feel as if he is speaking to you directly is truly an art and gift. As if you were sitting face to face with him in a personal interview. Scared out of your mind because of the intensity and passion he posses, and knowing that its all because he sincerely wants you to be successful. Some how and someway he finds a way to have a conversation with you. Its far from the feeling of being lectured to. Rather he involves you into feeling that you are apart of something bigger. 

Elder Holland may appear to be speaking and giving a lecture, but he has master the ability to do so and simultaneously help us feel we are apart of a great conversation. 

Making a whole offering...

Our greatest gift given is who we are.
The fact that God created us, His children, to be just like Him.

In Elder Jeffrey R. Hollands, " Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacramets," he speaks and addresses the young adults of the world, specifically those of the LDS belief, because of the dramatic impact that this body of people can have on the world, and in their life.

Holland addresses to us, because of how the subject appeals directly to the decisions we are forced to make. Above all, Holland focuses on our souls and the sacrament. Two very intimate, important, and sacred elements of our life.

The doctrine of Jesus Christ teaches us of the sanctity of sexual relationships within the bonds of marriage. This was taught from Adam and Eve, to our day in 2014. Holland wanted to explain this very point, how this act, which is so very sacred and holy is related to the sacrament.

When we partake of the sacrament, we make an offering to God, of all that we need to give up in order to abide by His commandments. We do the same in our relationship in marriage. We make an offering, to one another, not temporally but eternally.

Each week, we renew promise that was made only once before in our life at the time of baptism, but yet are privileged to remember this in every Sunday church meeting. In the same matter, we are sealed once, but can partake in the special opportunity to do ordinance work for the dead as often as possible.

The sacrament and unity in marriage are extremely and closely related. Holland uses this metaphor to help us gain a greater appreciation for the solemnity of this covenant and commandment.

In the same sense, we can not fulfill with the commandment of the Sacrament and creating human life, alone. Holland explains that the man and the woman were created for each other, and not meant to be alone. They are very one in the sense. The two must exist together. And to complete with God's purposes to bring about life.

Just like the Sacrament, we can not complete with this sacred ordinance alone. Spiritually we renew with our Heavenly Father, but physically we do it with a priesthood holder. This is a beautiful process, as it teaches us that we must be humble, to realize we can not do all things alone, we must rely on others, and together we can complete the purposes of God.

Holland uses metaphor and symbols to teach such an intimate and infinite principle that very much so applies to our physical and spiritual being. 

Plain and Simple Logical Stories

In Jeffrey R. Holland's speech at BYU titled "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments" he plainly describes why sexual purity is critical to obey until we are married.
In trying to describe the seriousness of the sin, he uses many examples that the audience can understand. They are simple stories, which has been encouraged throughout the history of "Mormonism." He first uses this example:
"Most people, . . . as a rule do not run up to friends, put a loaded revolver
to their heads, and cavalierly pull the trigger. Furthermore,
when there is a click of the hammer rather than an explosion
of lead, and a possible tragedy seems to have been averted,
no one in such a circumstance would be so stupid as to sigh,
'Oh, good. I didn’t go all the way.'"
This quote is understandable and enables the reader to make the connections. Just because someone didn't go all the way through with the act doesn't mean they didn't "do" it. Why would someone go so far as to plan to commit the act, and then, by some circumstance, not go through with it and claim they didn't even do it?
The plainness of Holland's story is so that the audience doesn't spend time trying to figure out what he is trying to say. They know what he is saying; they are given the opportunity to ponder on their own lives and where they stand in the face of sin.
Holland uses another relatable story for Latter-Day Saints about how one should treat purity:
"Now, once again, I know of no one who would, for example,
rush into the middle of a sacramental service, grab the linen
from the tables, throw the bread the full length of the room,
tip the water trays onto the floor, and laughingly retreat from
the building to await an opportunity to do the same thing at
another worship service the next Sunday. ."
Through this, the audience can clearly draw a picture in their mind of someone completing this act. It isn't logical to do this! How can the reader know? Because Holland uses plain and simple examples to make the reader understand the seriousness and truthfulness of what he is saying. He follows the pattern to keep it simple and relatable so that the audience can be taught by the Spirit, but is still able to use logic and rhetorical devices to teach them.

In All Sincerity

In our previous discussion of Mormon rhetoric, the idea of being "simple" and "sharing pure testimony" came up as the most powerful form of teaching. It was argued that perhaps any other way might not be able to conjure up those same emotions and feelings. At the time I felt that this was simplifying the topic a little too much--there's more to a sermon than being easy to understand.

The passages given from Paul, George A. Smith, and Neal A. Maxwell go a long way to help us understand what that really means. The advice Elder Smith receives to be "short" probably doesn't mean to literally be speaking for a very short time. Rather, it likely means to "cut the fat" as they say, and to share only what is necessary for the sermon to be effective.

Elder Maxwell then tells us how to properly be influenced by the Spirit, especially when preparing and teaching, lest we waste everyone's time. In his Do's and Dont's list, he mentions several things that suggest one thing: let the doctrine speak for itself, so the Spirit can do the teaching. This means presenting it clearly, with reverence, context, and power. There's nothing about fancy words in there.

Another important point mentioned by Elder Maxwell was to truly feel your discourse before you give it. To really believe it.

In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's address at a BYU devotional in 1989, he begins by almost trying to prove to his audience--BYU students--that he cares about them and the message he's about to give. He tells them with a heavy heart that, "your hopes and dreams become evermore important to me the longer I am at BYU," and that, "your growth and happiness and development [...] are the central and most compelling motivation in my daily professional life."

Much like Jacob did before sharing a topic that grieveth him so, President Holland then went on to discuss sexual purity and the importance of staying chaste before and after marriage. Not once did the sermon have a feeling of a "guilt trip," where someone simply wants to make you feel bad about something. Instead, his sincerity and genuine concern for his audience and topic resulted in a sincerely heartfelt plea to follow Christ and His teachings.
important to me the longer I am at BYU

Rhetoric Should Match the Audience

Rhetorical Theory Analyzed

In his address, “Teaching by the Spirit – The Language of Inspiration,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell establishes rhetorical theories LDS speakers and teachers can utilize to effectively inspire their audiences. One of those theories is the need to base one’s remarks around the intended listeners, and to do so with authentic care for their wellbeing:

“…If we already care deeply about those to be taught, it is so much easier for the Lord to inspire us to give customized counsel and emphasis to those we teach,” Maxwell said.

The notion of customized counsel for the intended audience is a powerful form of rhetoric. The most changing and memorable sermons of my lifetime were all ones where I felt the message was directed to me; that the speaker prayed specifically to know what I needed to hear, to know what I needed to be instructed to do. Because I knew the speaker had spent time seeking inspiration on my behalf and cared if I actually followed it, I was much more likely to take he or she’s words to heart.

Rhetorical Device Analyzed

Elder Holland’s address, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” employs many rhetorical devices to capture the listeners’ attention and maintain the level of reverence such a sacred topic requires. What stood out most to me came before he got to the heart of his message, however. The way he introduced his topic and cautioned the listener had me studying the first paragraph of Human Intimacy, especially these lines:

“It would be better not to address the topic at all than to damage it with casualness or carelessness. Indeed, it is against such casualness and carelessness that I wish to speak.”

Elder Holland’s use of repetition with the words “casualness” and “carelessness” evokes a powerful call to action in listeners. By stressing both of them twice in his introduction, Elder Holland alerts his listeners to the importance of his topic and gently but definitively demands their attention.

If he were to have demanded, “listen to me” or “don’t act immaturely because I’m talking about sex,” the feeling in the Marriott Center would have been entirely different. Instead, his intentional use of simple words with repeated endings lulls listeners into a spirit of reverence akin to that of which such a topic necessitates.

Lovingly Blatant

Almost all Mormon oratory has a tendency to be organized and delivered in the simplest of ways.  It is custom to try to make principles and doctrines as clear and applicable as possible. 

In this aspect, Jeffrey R. Holland did not break the mold in his address “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.”  He followed a simple outline: an analytical introduction, three main points that make up the body, and a powerful conclusion to drive the point home.  However, in his rhetoric, his style and tone, he was beautifully himself; unique.

The tone of this speech was as passionate, persistent, and intense as most people would imagine a discourse from Jeffrey R. Holland to be.  But more than that, his tone was also one of motivational support, love, and encouragement.  Several times during his address, he would say things such as, “I care very much about you now and forever,” or “I love you for wanting to be on the right side of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Holland here tactically creates an ambiance, with which the audience will be more receptive to, and accepting of, seemingly harsh or direct statements.  He appeals specifically to that audience, many of which, had “hastily and guiltily and surrept
itiously share[d] intimacy in a darkened corner of a darkened hour.”

The heavy use of metaphors and comparisons to get a point across is also very prevalent in this talk, and appeals to the commonplace.  Consider the following example:

“I know of no one who would, for example rush into the middle of a sacramental service, grab the linen from the tables, throw the bread the full length of the room, tip the water trays onto the floor, and laughingly retreat from the building to await an opportunity to do the same thing at another worship service the next Sunday.”

Holland uses other such comparisons and imagery (as well as the sex equals fire metaphor), to make the misuse of the sacred procreative powers seem as blatantly illogical as possible.  This prose helps people, who are not as receptive to common, Sunday meeting talks, understand the significance of self-restraint.

Lastly, a tool highly evident in Holland’s address is alliteration.  Phrases such as “most mysterious and magnificent chemistry,” or “unspeakable, unfathomable, unbroken power of procreation,” add emotion, or feeling, to stress critical ideas. 

Holland’s abundant use of metaphors, imagery, repetition, alliteration, and his overall style and tone, create a rich oratory experience in which his learning audience can be chastised, yet rewarded.

Dare to be Bold?

In Elder Holland's talk "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacrament", he is extremely bold, but remains respectful. He does this by breaking down why it is important to remain sexually pure. Many reasons are given to why we need to remain sexually pure. Some of them include: the significance, sanctity, the doctrine of the church, sacrament, damage of the soul when you do commit that sin, etc.

This talk is a fantastic talk for most college students to read. The reason why this talk is so fantastic is because he knows his audience well. He knows that most people who are listening to his talk are BYU college students. Elder Holland also knows that he is talking to people from the ages of approximately 18 to 26. This makes his talk much more personal for people that are in college and in that age range. I was able to connect to this talk more than I was able to connect to other speeches that we read because I knew that it was for my age group.

Elder Holland opens up his talk by saying that he needs Heavenly Father's guidance throughout this talk because it is a very sacred topic. I can just imagine sitting in the Marriot Center and listening to this opening. I bet the room went completely quiet at the intensity of Elder Holland's talk. He then begins his talk very bold and does not 'beat around the bush' at all. He dives straight into the material and speaks simply to ensure that EVERYONE will understand what he is saying.

To me, this is the best way to give talks at church and speeches in school. I personally hate it when people get up at the pulpit and try to impress everyone with their vocabulary and knowledge of the scriptures. I love when general authorities are bold and get straight to the point. One of my favorite talks is the talk "Be Chaste" by Elder Bednar because he is so bold and speaks plainly. So do you dare to be bold as the General Authorities are?

What Makes Jeffrey R. Holland Such a Great Speaker

In Jeffrey R. Holland’s BYU devotional address titled “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”, the language is incredibly eloquent.  Jeffrey R. Holland is my favorite speaker out of all of the apostles, and this devotional address is yet another reason why.

The message that Elder Holland gives in this address is incredible in and of itself, but the way he gives it is what really makes it special.  Elder Holland truly speaks from the heart, which is where I believe a good portion of the power of his speeches comes from.  When someone is truly sincere and speaks with such conviction, it is hard to ignore the message that he/she is giving.  It also helps support the truthfulness of the message, because usually people are very sincere about the truth, or at least about what they perceive to be the truth.

However, I wanted to mostly focus on how Elder Holland “ornaments” his speeches using powerful language.  Elder Holland uses some of the most powerful words and phrases available in the English language to teach even some of the most basic (and yet still very important) doctrines.  He uses words such as “devastated”, “merely sensational”, and “carelessness” to convey intense messages about his topic.  One of the phrases Elder Holland begins with is “If I am not careful and you are not supportive, this subject can slide quickly from the sacred into the merely sensational, and I would be devastated if that happened.”  The choice of words there conveys his meaning perfectly, and really grabs the attention of the listener or reader.

Elder Holland could have just given a simple speech about the Law of Chastity and why one should obey it.  Teaching in such a way can be alright, but it is not nearly as effective or lasting.  When one uses words and phrases and sincerity that are combined together in such an incredible way as Elder Holland did in this devotional address, the important messages are remembered and internalized much more efficiently.

I, for one, can often remember with much more clarity the doctrines and principles taught by Elder Holland very easily, and they have really meant a lot to me.  However, I have heard plenty of speeches from others that have failed to do the same, and I have mostly forgotten them.  I believe this is due to the incredible way that Elder Holland “ornaments” his speeches.