Thursday, May 27, 2010

Speaking in church? No problem, most just read.

I carry in my scriptures a quote from Spencer W. Kimball. It says, “The Savior has told us to feed his sheep. I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uniformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.”

Pres. Kimball spoke this in the October 1980 conference. So important was this statement that he repeated it, verbatim, a second time in the October 1981 conference.

During another discourse, Spencer W. Kimball said that those who passed by the Good Samaritan and did nothing to help will be held partially accountable for the pain and suffering the man endured from the moment they could have helped and did not but, instead, chose to pass by.

Think about that story. Do you realize the Levite and the priest were on the same road as the wounded man? They were within reaching distance yet they chose to focus only on their own concerns and walk on by. Maybe they were nervous. Maybe they were genuinely afraid. Whatever their reason, they did not trust Him to help them help another.

Now apply that to the calling to speak or teach. As speakers and teachers, we are standing on the same road as many members--some who may be spiritually wounded or malnourished. We may console ourselves by saying “I’m not a teacher” or “I’m terrified of speaking in public” but, no matter what our Levitical or priestly rationalization is, it is our duty to feed and care for His sheep! And, like the prophet said, I believe we will be held partially accountable for those members and investigators who go home unnourished if we did not adequately prepare to feed them while they were in our hands at Church.

And that is especially true with those in our classrooms or congregations who have come seeking spiritual uplift and light during a period of stress, temptation or crisis. We may not know who they are but in every class and in every congregation someone is crying out for Spiritual sustenance...sustenance we have been asked to give them that day.

It is our calling to prepare. It is their calling to come. They have done their job. They are there, waiting for us to feed them the message we have been asked to share with them. If there is a failure, it is usually on the part of the speaking or teaching shepherd, not the sheep. We must do better if we are going to change hearts and strengthen souls.

Now, I know not everyone is a public speaker but speaking or teaching in public is improved if we learn and apply this simple truth.

Do not read!

I tell my children they need to know their talks well enough that, if they are sitting on the stand and suddenly can’t find their notes they could still give the talk and do a good job. The same is true with each lesson. Know your material well enough that you could give it without the manual if you had to. That kind of preparation won’t happen by starting on Saturday night. You have to start preparing as soon as you are asked to teach or talk.

Yes, I know some weeks are hectic but, even then, preparation is essential and possible. During one hectic period of his life, my brother worked a job that required he leave the house between 7 and 8 in the morning. Often he did not get home from work until after 10 at night.

During that demanding time he was called to be an early morning seminary teacher. He had every right to turn it down but he did not. He chose to accept the Lord’s call and I learned a great truth because he did what he was asked to do.

The church was 40 minutes from their home. He had to get up at 4 a.m. each morning to be to seminary on time and have a bit of time to prepare. I asked his wife how he managed to find time to study a lesson each day with the demands of work. She said he often told her he was grateful he had spent time preparing his whole life through diligent scripture study and prayer. On days when he just did not have time, the Lord blessed him because he already had prepared…for years. Thankfully, my brother never read the lessons to the students as a cop-out. He taught them, with the Spirit, because he had spent a lifetime preparing.

When a speaker reads their talk, they are relying on the arm of flesh, called pen and paper, rather than on the Spirit to guide their words. True, they may have felt the Spirit guiding them as they wrote those things down but now they need to trust the Spirit, not the paper, to guide them as they share those thoughts and ideas.

More than once in the Book of Mormon the writers comment that the written word lacks the power of the spoken word. That is true in sacrament meeting talks and Sunday School lessons.

“When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Nephi 33:1)

When reading must be done, keep the quotes and passages short. If they are long, select only the best or break it up into several short readings. Why? Because reading is what you do to put children to sleep at night! Do you think reading in Church causes a different reaction? No. If you read for longer than about a minute, people are sleeping.

Also, when we read our eyes are pointed downward. We cannot see the faces of those we teach and cannot read if they are being fed. We must see their faces to view their hearts!

Finally, we are not called to read in church, we are called to speak. We are not called to read in class, we are called to teach. There is a mighty difference.

Teachers and speakers will never know the power they can have until they learn to trust that Power and speak and teach, not read, from the heart.

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