Tag: talks

How to Give a Talk in Church

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This is a post has been stewing inside of me for some time.  How to give a talk in church (or any other public forum for that matter)…

Sometimes I feel in the Mormon church we are great at inspiring but not so great at the nuts and bolts of how to implement that inspiration.  For example, we teach young single adults that dating, courtship and marriage are important, but how often do we talk about etiquette on a date or what practical things we can do to prepare for a family?  Not much.

Public speaking is another example.  How is it possible in all my years of speaking in the church I have never been to one activity or lesson on the mechanics of good public speaking?  One would think there would at least be a mutual activity or enrichment lesson?  Maybe there is an assumption that everyone already knows how to do this and it is easy?  We are, after all, forced to speak publicly from primary on…

However, repetition in public speakings is helpful but couldn’t we be merely repeating the same bad things, reinforcing the same distracting tendencies?

To be clear, if I don’t get anything from sacrament meeting the fault is mine not the speaker.  I am responsible for my own spirituality but a good talk certainly can make my job easier.

In giving this advice let me further clarify that while public speaking is a strength of mine, I by no means have it all figured out; however, to the best of my ability I have came up with some tips to use the next time you are asked to give a talk:

1. Decide on 3 important points that you want to make.  This helps you plan for little time or elaborate if given a lot of time.  You can always just bare your testimony on the 3 points and sit down or you can do your full prepared talk, and perhaps have a few ‘if time’ stories on hand to include if needed.

2. Write out your talk- I know some will disagree with me on this but I do not believe the outline format suits the unseasoned speaker.  Write out your talk and include the quotes and scriptures so you don’t have to be flipping around to find things.

3. Be weary of bad introductions “The bishop assigned me this talk 2 weeks ago…”  “I am going to speak on testimony”, “Have you heard the joke about the bishop, a chicken and the RS Pres”  All such introductions are deadly.

4.  Do not ‘couple brag’.  A brief introduction may be appropriate for new couples but we don’t all need to hear about your wives fantastic cakes or how great your dog is.  Get to the doctrine.

5. Practice giving your talk.  Stand in front of the mirror and give it trying to look up every 30 seconds or so to make it feel more natural.

6. Follow the rule of 1/3rds:

a. 1/3rd of your talk should be statements of doctrine.  This includes quotes, scriptures and other resources.  For example, a talk on tithing may include Malachi 3:10

b. 1/3rd of your talk should be explanation of doctrine and how it applies to our lives.  So, you’ve stated a scripture on tithing, now you are   going to explain in your own words what the scripture and tithing mean to you.

c. 1/3rd of your talk should be personalizing the doctrine to your life.  Tell us a story on an experience with tithing from your life or ask your friends for their experience, do a poll on fb or twitter, find a story in the ensign that touches you or a scripture story you’ve always loved.  You’d be surprised how far you can get by ‘This scripture has always been special to me because….”

d. These 3 are all equally important.  If you just have data (scriptures, quotes) it will feel dry, just explanation it can drag and introduce false doctrines by accident, being too personal can be awkward or distracting.  All 3 must be there for a great talk (think about Elder Hollands or Pres Monson’s talks and you will see they follow this rule of thumb in general.

7.  For the most part, do not throw away your talk at the last minute and ‘speak by the spirit’.  Sometimes that is needed but most of the time I think it is Satan’s way of having congregations full of unprepared speakers.

8. Do not worry about offending people or making your talk apply to everyone.  While we shouldn’t be rude, I’ve heard speakers go a little overboard in the ‘we want to keep the single mothers happy’ in talks about the family.  The thoughtfulness is good but I think most people are comfortable with a little bit of doctrine on Sunday not applying to their situation.  Also, it can make a person feel more ostracized when  their ‘special circumstance is made a big to do of’.  It is typically better to find a core in the doctrine that most anyone can relate to and mention that in the course of the talk.

9.  Try to prepare your talk in advance with prayer and study.

10. Stick to the scriptures, Ensign and other church meetings.  Do not quote general authorities from personal conversations or fuzzy sources online.  There are quotes that have been attributed to multiple general authorities over the years, oftentimes stating incorrect doctrine.

11.  Finally don’t apologize for your life or talk.  I used to apologize when I’d tell stories of my mission, and I suppose those can be a bit over the top, but in general, just share and if its a good story people won’t care if its a mission story or whatever.

12.  If you say “I know the church is true” give a little bit more information to help new members understand.  “I know the church is true because I have prayed about it and gotten a witness in my heart” That is so much more powerful and easier to relate to.

13.  Finally leave your congregation with a challenge.  Something they can do like make a list of friends they haven’t spoken with, or a person they can forgive.  President Hinckley was the best at this.  Practically every conference talk he gave would end with some variation of ‘we can all do better.  Let’s go and do it!”

14. My last advice is to remember when you are quick to criticize someone’s talk, remember they aren’t being paid to do this.  It is out of the generosity of their heart and love of the gospel that gets them up there.  That alone deserves some respect.

Always remember public speaking is scary! Some fear it more than death:

(The Church has published their 10 tips for giving a talk in church.  Pretty good! https://www.lds.org/ensign/1993/12/random-sampler?lang=eng

Dr. Randy Bott giving his 4 parts to writing a talk.  This is brilliant http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2409

 

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Sacrament Meeting Talk: Developing a Relationship with God

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So tomorrow I am giving a talk in church for the first time since 2010.  (My last talk was on patriotism https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/patriotism-my-sacrament-meeting-talk/).  The topic was ‘The Power of Testimony”.  The more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to my relationship with my Heavenly Father and how essential that relationship is to my testimony.  It’s not just a set of facts or experiences but a lifetime of being nurtured by the Lord.

It is a missionary farewell so I tried to relate it to my mission in a way that felt natural and on topic.  So this is what I came up with , with a few modifications for the blog.

I’d be curious to know what you all think.

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When I was a little girl I was bullied for 2 years.  After trying the normal school channels, my parents took me out of the situation and then we moved across the country.  It proved to be a fresh start for me and a chance to figure out how to make friends which I was able to do.   However, I always knew that despite my best efforts the world could reject me.  I could not rely on them for my self-confidence and happiness.  So what was I supposed to do?  I looked at the people I loved and none of them relied on other people for their self-worth.  They had an inner fire that come from something higher.

I realized I needed to not only pray to God each night but that I needed something that could build a life around.  Something that could protect me in the lonely times.  It was then that I first started building my relationship with God.  Some may call this a testimony but I prefer to think of it as a relationship that but is a work in progress.

Speaking to the women of the church Elder Russel M.  Nelson described this type of relationship with God

“Her self-esteem cannot be based on physical features, possession or lack of a particular talent, or comparative quantities of anything. Her self-esteem is earned by individual righteousness and a close relationship with God. Her outward glow is generated by goodness within. And her patience is much more apparent than any imperfection.”

So to God I went and the first step in building this relationship was learning that He was there and that He loved me.  As a middle schooler , I first asked these questions and have asked them again and again with each time getting the sweet confirmation that ‘Yes, Rachel.  I love you.  You are special’.

How could the bullies hurt me again with that in my pocket?  I had the God of the Universe tell me I was special.

As I grew the relationship grew.  I learned repeatedly about repentance, forgiveness, family, trials, rejection, patience and hard work and all of these experiences made the relationship better and stronger.  It was work, but it was a sweet work.   There were seasons where I forgot to trust him where my anxieties felt almost overwhelming but in the end I always knew He was there rooting for me if I just took the leap of faith.

Elder Wirthlin said,

“I have been impressed recently with the thought that this life is made up of little things—little things that count a great deal. I believe that the little things are of great importance in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship with others, and in our relationship with God.

The Lord has said, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

Now I don’t know if I’ve done many great things but I know the Lord is happy with my efforts.  I know this because of the relationship I started way back as a bullied youth.

Elder Oaks described this type of relationship with God:

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost.

So what can we do to develop such a relationship with God?

President Uchtdorf tells us how:

We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].”10To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God

Doesn’t sound too hard right? A little quiet time, personal prayer and scripture study?  I’m sure all you Mom’s are wondering how you can get such time and if it really exists?  My only thought on that topic is to think of the quiet times I’ve had in my life where I was surrounded by people and yet alone.  The mind can ponder while the body is busily engaged.

Regardless, Heavenly Father knows when we are trying.  He loves us.  He wants to bless us.  He will bless us with time, patience, enhanced spirituality or the ability to persevere through seeming droughts of spiritual knowledge.  We must trust in Him.

President Uchtdorf continues on:

Our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.

I have a friend who went to the MTC and felt sad that her testimony wasn’t as seemingly strong as the other members of her district.  Such comparisons miss the point of a relationship with God.  Just as strong marriages come in many forms and styles a strong relationship with God can manifest itself with different strengths and weaknesses.

A testimony when seen as a relationship is not thrown off by questions in theology or seeming offenses of church members because a relationship ebbs and flows. It leaves room for questions and it can always be better.  A relationship is never finished.

Now I have a long way to go in my quest for perfection and my relationship with God can be much stronger than it is today.  So how do I do that? How do I make it stronger?

Since this is Elder Lampings last talk before going into the MTC, I thought I would answer this question with a little missionary advice.  Because I think how to be a good missionary is the same as how to develop a relationship with God:

  1. Be obedient-  You will meet people, even companions, who want to shrug off some rules.  Many will say ‘I’m living the spirit of the law’.  You will not know the spirit of the law unless you are living as close to the letter of the law as you can.  Be obedient.
  2. Pray for Love- pray for love of yourself, your companion, your investigators and all the people you serve, even those that reject you.
  3. Study as Hard as You Can-  Use your study time well.  Yes, you will have mornings where you fall asleep into your scriptures but try your best to think about the needs of your investigators and how you, using your skillset can help them.
  4. Be happy- Find something to be happy about each day.
  5. Serve with No Regrets-  Leave each area, each companionship knowing that you did all you could do, spiritually, emotionally, physically all you can do.

When I was flying home from my mission I had a distinct impression from the spirit that ‘We had done it’.  That the Savior and me as His representative had found everyone we needed to find, we had helped everyone we needed to help and that the work was done.  I promise it was the best feeling of my life.  I left my mission with no regrets.  I wasn’t perfect but I had no regrets.  I honestly thought that all missionaries had a similar experience but in speaking with some of my fellow sisters none of them seemed satisfied with the breadth of their efforts.  They had not received this same assurance

Now the reconciliation of their missionary labors is between them and the Lord but shouldn’t a life with no regrets be our goal no matter if we are missionaries or members.  It’s certainly my goal.  I want to be able to have a similar feeling that I had on that plane when I’m in the spirit world ready to move on.  It should be a feeling of ‘we did it’.  Because of our relationship, Jesus Christ and I did it together.

Our goals should be to say like Elder McConkie before his death

“And now as pertaining to this perfect Atonement, I testify that it took place at Gethsemane and at Golgotha. And as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God who was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person… And in the coming day I will feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s almighty Son and he is our Savior and Redeemer and that Salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.”

May we all strive to be obedient and to develop this relationship with God

Name of Jesus Christ,Amen.

Jesus hugging a man