Giving a talk in the Mormon church is tricky business. We’re all asked to share the responsibility to preach to one another, so on any given Sunday there are very few experts speaking in sacrament meeting. In the big picture, we are all amateurs in the kingdom of God though, aren’t we? Since we sit through a lot of sacrament meeting talks we all have opinions about how they should go. Here are my ideas about how to prepare well to give a talk at church:
Pray as you begin reading and studying for your talk.
Assume there will be someone in the audience attending the Mormon church for the very first time.
Talk about Jesus Christ (see above). If your topic makes it impossible to talk about Jesus Christ, change your topic.
Include at least three scriptural references. If your topic makes it impossible to reference the scriptures three times, change your topic.
Start with a personal story. Add another one in the middle if you can. Finish up with a personal story at the end. This is my husband’s biggest pet issue–add more personal stories! I agree with him, but you can think of it as “making your topic personal” if it helps. Sharing how you relate to the topic at hand is almost as meaningful as sharing a personal story (and it’s sometimes the same thing).
DO NOT, under any circumstances, begin your talk with the phrase or the sentiment, “When the bishopric member called me to give me this talk (insert lame joke here).”
DO NOT, under any circumstances, make a joke about the pulpit being raised or lowered for you. Not funny. Boo.
DO NOT, under any circumstances, discuss how much or how little time you spent preparing for your talk (ie, “I agreed to give this talk two week ago, but then I forgot about it until last night,” or “I’ve been studying for this talk for two weeks”). No one cares. It’s boring.
DO NOT start your talk with the Webster’s definition of your topic.
DO DO DO write your talk. You should write it down verbatim, even the jokes. You should practice it out loud, three times, in front of a mirror. We force our kids to do this and it has made them much better speakers. We yell the phrase “Loud and Proud” at them from across the room while they are practicing.
When you print out your talk, make the font slightly bigger than normal and/or add spacing. My husband makes his as big as 18 point font. I like to leave mine around 12, but I double space. This will help you when you are at the podium.
One final note. Some people think you shouldn’t write a talk. That writing it down forces a rigid delivery that discourages the Spirit. They are wrong. There are two people who don’t have to write their talks: President Monson and Jeffrey R. Holland (but I promise, he writes them and that is why they are good). I believe that when you don’t prepare your talk, you are not just wasting my time, you are wasting the time of everyone else in the room. Say you spend 15 minutes at the pulpit and there are 150 people in the chapel. That means your lack of preparation just cost 37 1/2 man hours, almost TWO DAYS. You should be ashamed of yourself. Prepare yourself and write that darn talk.
Want a great laugh about giving a talk in church? Check out this link at the Mormon Tabernacle Enquirer.