So, your bishop or one of his counselors approached you and asked to give a talk next Sunday during Sacrament Meeting. Now you ask yourself, “Where do I even start?” It seems like an overwhelming task to give a talk in front of your entire ward (congregation), but don’t worry, it’s not an impossible task and it can really help you delve deeper in your faith and strengthen your understanding and testimony.
So let’s start!
This first step is crucial. We have to always remember, this Church started because a young boy got on his knees and prayed. One of the first things I noticed when I started attending LDS events was that everything started with a prayer, even if it was just two people meeting to talk. So, pray. Ask God to help you write your talk so that you can say what He wants you to say and so that your talk can help reach those in your ward.
Chances are, the bishop or his counselor gave you a specific topic to speak on. If that’s the case (which almost always is the case), you have to do some research on the topic, especially if it is a topic you don’t know much about. A good place to turn to first is the scriptures. The index in the Bible and Book of Mormon can help you find passages that relate to your topic directly. Likewise, the Doctrine and Covenants is a useful tool as they are revelations directly from God to the prophet Joseph Smith.
These are good starting points. But remember, one of the blessings of this Church is that we have modern day prophets guided by God. So read the words and counsels of the prophets and apostles. In my nearly two months of being a member, I have realized that most Sacrament Meeting talks involve quotes and guidance from at least one General Authority. So look up General Conference talks on YouTube or on LDS.org. Given that these talks come from more modern sources, they help bring a modern voice and modern counsel that the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, or even the Pearl of Great Price may not provide.
After you prayed and after you read, pray some more! Ask God to help you take what you have gained and put it together in a talk that helps give your ward a better understanding of your topic. How is this different than step one? It really isn’t, but the more you pray for understanding and help, the more you will understand and the more help our Father in heaven will give you. So pray.
Along with praying, start planning. How do you want to approach your topic? How should you approach this topic? Start by brainstorming and writing an outline. It’s ok to be all over the place in this step. Just trust that the Spirit will guide you.
Eventually you’re going to have to write this thing. So once you have an outline or basic idea of your beginning and how you want to transition, start writing! It won’t be perfect the first time. You’ll have to remove whole paragraphs and sections as you go, but as long as you have a vision of what you want to say, you’ll be fine in writing it.
Now, here’s one important note: The “General Conference voice”. Don’t do it. You know what I’m talking about. The General Authorities that speak at Conference have a very unique way of speaking. It has this tone of authority and conviction. It’s ok to speak with conviction. I mean, after all, we are giving our testimony of things and principles we know to be true so conviction is expected. But the overall tone should be you. How do you speak? Use your voice, not those of a general authority.
In writing you walk, this video can help explain what NOT to do when giving a Sacrament Meeting talk. Sad thing is, I’ve seen many of these mistakes being made. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
What do you do once you’ve written your talk? Edit it to make sure you get your point across and practice it! The editing process can be made easier if you edit it as you practice and read out loud. This can help you identify parts that are cluncky or just don’t sound right. Another benefit to practicing before hand is that once you give your talk in Sacrament Meeting you won’t be looking down at your paper the entire time. You’ll be comfortable with it.
As with all things LDS, we start with a prayer and end with a prayer. This time, ask for the Spirit to be with you as you speak so that you can deliver your message the best way possible. Most importantly, pray that those listening to your talk in the ward hear what God wants them to hear, whether you say it or not!
Now, pray for me as I take these steps and write my first Sacrament Meeting talk for this Sunday.