Giving talks in sacrament meeting can be intimidating. For some reason I have always looked forward to giving talks…up until about three days before I have to speak that is. When those last few days come around I begin to second guess my thoughts and start wondering if they are my own words and not the Lord’s. I really start feeling the anxiety and importance of the situation; so many people get their needed dose of the spirit from these talks, most of the people in the ward are a lot more righteous than I am, and just the desire for my words to be welcomed and received well. I know many other people fear speaking in public, and even though that particular fear isn’t as deep with me I think the anxiety is common for many of us. This time in all honesty I started getting despondent. My friend Tony commented to me the night before that he hadn’t seen me like that in a long time and asked me what was wrong. I told him I was just really thinking about my talk. Knowing this about myself, I have developed a process that helps me. I wanted to share it and my talk and hope it helps someone.
The first thing I have made a habit of is to fast the day of the talk. This brings me some clarity and peace as I get ready for the talk. The main reason I do it however, is because I have confidence that somehow through fasting the Lord will help me overcome my weaknesses when I speak and things will turn out for someone’s benefit. Fasting gets me focused on the Lord and brings me some level of humility and single mindedness and also I hope it gives the Lord confidence to work through me as well.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” Alma 17:3
Ever since I was a missionary I have always used outlines for the basis of my talks. This is mostly so that I can establish the flow of things I would like to say in terms of main ideas, secondary ideas, and supporting ideas. Giving the priority to the ideas allows for me to prayerfully consider the importance of the ideas and how they work together, also it gives me the flexibility during the talk to expand or contract the talk to fit the time that is allowed to me. Lastly, the outline allows for me to, as the spirit dictates, move away from the talk completely at times and then come back to it at any point if necessary. Sometimes my outline is bullet points, and other times I fill in a lot more information that can be read if it is something I am not as comfortable using my own words on. I generally try to incorporate scriptures from the Savior, but I also like to have all kinds of scripture references as well. This helps me develop a solid understanding of the topic from the scriptures, but most importantly, I always want to share personal experiences from my life or from people I love. The preparation is genuinely my favorite part of giving a talk.
Once Sacrament Meeting begins, especially if I am the last speaker, I try to focus as much as I can on the words of the Hymns, the words of the sacrament prayer, and try to thank the Lord for his help and the blessings in my life. I have learned that listening intently and trying to learn from the other speakers helps me feel the spirit, calms my nerves and as I learn from them my anxiety subsides. In fact, some of the most wonderful sacrament meeting talks to me have been from the speakers I have been speaking with – most likely because I am so tuned into what they are saying. I try to congratulate each speaker when they finish and let them know what I liked about their talks. It such a vulnerable moment when finishing a talk and it is always great to know someone actually listened to what you said. Then the time comes and I look at my outline again while the last speaker concludes, or the rest hymn or musical number concludes.
As I walk methodically to the podium I am no longer anxious, I feel the congregation looking at me, and I feel (whether real or not) them wondering what I am going to say. Their expectant looks give me the confidence to begin. I find that especially if there were youth speakers it puts me at ease and gets me into the speaking rhythm if I point out and encourage the congregation to listen and apply the points made by earlier speakers calling them by name. This usually helps me feel the spirit and then I jump right into the flow of the talk. The first thing my mind is doing as I begin is to determine the amount of time I have available. I am a firm believer of ending talks on time and letting the meeting end when it should. So at that point I know whether I need to shorten up, or prepare for a discourse. From there each talk always takes its own journey and although I do have some preferences (no jokes but some self-deprecating comments, asking the congregation to follow along on scripture readings, and reading word for word things as little as possible), the main thing is I try not to force anything and just say and go through my outline how feels best at the time.
I am an emotional person, and I will always get emotional when I give a talk, but for the benefit of the audience I try not to cry or let it get the best of me. However, I don’t force it away if it comes because I want to be real. Every talk I give I have the intention that the listeners and I are wanting to get closer to Jesus afterward and I always try to finish with my testimony of my relationship with the Savior. I always feel the spirit so strong when I complete the talk, and while the closing hymn is playing I am just so relieved that it is over and keep asking myself why I was so excited in the first place. Then probably the hardest part of giving a talk comes for me. Wishing I would have said things that I didn’t. I look at my outline and there is anywhere from 25% to 100% of it that I didn’t even use.
Now, let me be clear, I am confident that the Lord is helping me and guiding my words when I speak and so I am never upset or frustrated that I didn’t use certain parts, but I also look at my talk and think there were many things I could have done better. So I begin stewing about it for a few hours, but then as time goes on I recognize that what is really happening to me is that I am learning the doctrine and revelations that I have been given and I need to learn them better. So now I tend to embrace those feelings as my mind and spirit put the puzzle together better. I spend weeks and sometimes months and years afterward editing and updating my talk outline. Sometimes they become lesson guides for teaching in quorums or Sunday School or FHE, and sometimes they just become better foundations for my learning of other doctrines, but in the end they become prized possessions that I value very much.
I find that with any sacrament talk, people will come to you and let you know that they enjoyed the talk. I think some of that is the formal niceties that we observe, and they are very uplifting and I appreciate them very much, but occasionally you have someone come up and really express their feelings to you about the talk and they open up and you can really tell that you helped them. These moments are so special and make me thankful to a loving God who helped me through the preparation process, the anxiety of speaking, and then the 15-20 minutes of bearing my soul. I will feel satisfied about speaking for a while, but at some point down the road I will start to feel the need to speak again, and I will go through the process and anxiety again, but I know it will help me and someone and that is definitely worth looking forward to.
I asked myself why I was posting this. I think it might help those who really have a hard time giving talks, and also maybe give some ideas to those who don’t have a hard time. Below is my outline, with my comments. Hopefully it stirs some thoughts, but it was therapeutic for me. The talk was supposed to be on Fulfilling Duties as Parents. Bold text are my comments or things I changed from the outline during the talk or afterward. Underlined items were emphasis points.
Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers. They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ. And now because of their unbelief they could not understandthe word of God; and their hearts were hardened. And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.
So let’s back up around 24 years before we continue and read a few verses about the experience the parents of these children,who were present at King Benjamin’s address, had:
- Keep in mind a few key points :These were good people who came to the Temple to listen to their righteous King.
- They were diligently waiting in their tents to read his words since most could not hear.
- (In other words these people were very comparable to us)
And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them. And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
hey had fallen to the ground for the fear of the Lord. They viewed themselves in their carnal state They cried out to Jesus Christ to have mercy and let the atonement purify them They received the spirit of the Lord, they were filled with Joy, received a remission of their sins and peace of conscience They had exceeding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
So what happened to this rising generation? Here I spent time explaining that I was looking for the cause of why the children went astray and therefore the something we, as parents could focus on to help our children.
keep reading go back to Mosiah 26:2-4
- They did not believe what had been said about the resurrection of Christ, Neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ
- The Results of this disbelief in Christ
- Because of their unbelief they could not understand the Word of God
Their Hearts Hardened
- They would not Call upon the Lord their God
They remained in a carnal and sinful state
Recent Church Studies into what is the main measurable correlation between young adults being and remaining active
- Personal Scripture Study and Personal Prayer
Backing up to Benjamin’s words these same children who could not understand the Word of God and would not call upon the Lord their God was due to their unbelief in Jesus Christ.
It seems to me that the most important thing that our children must have is a belief and confidence in Jesus Christ and his atonement and it is clear this is tied to the result of studying the Word of God and calling upon the name of the Lord. I spent some time here talking about the most effective way to teach is by example and so if we believe the most important thing is helping our children believe in Christ then how can we do that by example is something that we must try to figure out. I gave the disclaimer that I really do not know the best way but I have a few suggestions.
King Benjamin actually gave the parents an interesting promise that is worth considering. So let’s read his words once again please listen to that amount of times he references humility and coming to Christ.
And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them. And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
Did you notice how many times he says or references humility and needing and depending on Christ? The parents had the key given to them but were not able to pass this on to their children for some reason. My guess is that these parents did study and teach King Benjamin’s words to their children because the scripture says they could not understand them, which implies they heard them but it didn’t relate to them for some reason. This means that there is more than just studying and teaching in order to help our children believe.
I have a few suggestions in our efforts to show our kids Jesus Christ in our lives. I pray that the spirit can give your mind ideas as you to think of this humility as we go through these suggestions.
Keeping in mind our need for the Lord in helping us and King Benjamin’s words here are my two suggestions.
Suggestion #1—First and most importantly we must set the example for our children by recognizing and showing that we need Christ’s atonement in our life
- Commandments are meant to show us our weakness not satisfy our pride.
When we focus so much energy and thought on the commandments we do keep we become blissfully unaware of the reality that we are still separated from God because as James points out in James 2:10
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, his guilty of all”
Do we in our seeking to show the example of righteousness forget to also show our children how much we need Jesus to be saved? Realizing we need Jesus is not a justification to sin, but an admission that without him our perceived righteousness would profit us nothing.
I spoke her about how many of our children feel about things and the expectations of perfection and that sometimes our children, as they make mistakes, feel that it is impossible to return. We need to show them and teach them that this is never true. NEVER. The arms of mercy are extended ALL THE DAY LONG. It is not enough to just say it we need to show it. Pull the curtains back brothers and sisters and let your children see that you need Christ.
Here I told a story about how growing up in my family things were different than what my kids will experience. My mom struggled to get us kids to go to church. My dad wasn’t a member and so my mom had to try and be an even better example in the gospel. She was so righteous in my mind and seemed to handle everything so well that I didn’t really notice how hard it must be. I was blissfully unaware until one morning I remember walking up the stairs earlier than normal and my mom was on her knees pleading to the Lord for help. She was sobbing and I could tell for the first time that my mom needed Jesus. That experience changed how I viewed not only my mother and her relationship with God, but it made me realize that amazing people, in fact the most amazing person I knew, still need the Lord. That experience has never left me and I have always known I could go to the Lord no matter my circumstances.
I made it clear that we don’t need to confess our sins to our children and that each parent should think about how to do this, but letting our children know we have always and will always need the Lord is something that is worthwhile.
Suggestion #2—we must show that following the actions of Christ (Love) with our fellow man brings us happiness and joy.
Being a disciple of Christ is not about feeling puffed up about our greatness above all the sinners of the world and glorying on our rameumptoms because we have the restored gospel, it is about eating with, praying for, and ministering to those who are our enemies, those who are in need, those who have sinned, or have been oppressed. This is especially true with our children and their mistakes along the way as I would suggest that most people who become caught up in sin have a hard time coming back because they don’t feel welcome by us and therefore believe Christ would not welcome them back and so they seek out companions who feel the same. If your child sees you open your arms and hearts to someone who is struggling; it will last in their hearts forever.
- Being a disciple of Christ is about learning from and helping everyone around us especially those who are different from us. Our differences should not cause us to satisfy our pride by demeaning or dismissing others feelings and points of view, especially in front of or with our spouse and children. Our love should come through in embracing our differences and showing that we can love and encourage each other even when we do not agree.
- Coming to church, fulfilling callings, home teaching, missionary work, temple work, the restored doctrines, prophets, all of these things that you are all so good at setting the example for; all of them are meant to help us learn to love each other, everyone not just people who are like us. The process of embracing all of God’s children and loving them in our actions can have a powerful effect in our hearts and our children’s hearts pertaining to Jesus Christ. This is the life He lived.
These words from Jesus are subtle but powerful:
“Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven: for she has loved much; but to whom little is forgiven the same loveth little.“
Conclusion—I focused on the order of the quote above. That it doesn’t say whom loveth little the same is forgiven little, it says to whom little is forgiven the same loveth little. We need to be coming to Lord often and humbly as King Benjamin said for us to truly love each other.
is the reason we or our children don’t understand the Word of God, or call upon the name of the Lord because we act as if we don’t need him or we don’t realize how much we all need him? It is something to consider… In response to his Sermon on the Mount (Which starts with about 12 verses about how the humble are blessed) Jesus says:
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” The Book of Mormon gives us a really great description of this Rock: I concluded reading the following Scripture Helaman 5:12:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
As you can see there was a lot there and I wasn’t able to or didn’t get to all of it, especially tying back the correlation between knowing we need Jesus Christ and studying our scriptures and praying earnestly to the Lord. I am going to explore that further on this topic as I know that sometimes study and prayer in obedience can lead to the Savior, but needing the Savior coupled with then going to him in study and prayer can tie us to the Savior forever. Overall, I think the message was received well, but mostly I am thankful for the opportunity to explore the idea further and hopefully understand it and teach it by example to my children better.