Thursday, December 9, 2010

What I Didn't Say

 “Just try to stick to Elder Oak’s conference talk on testimony,” Brother Wallace’s voice message said when he gave us our speaking assignment for the following Sunday.

I was excited about the topic because I had benefited a lot from that talk in the April 2008 General Conference. But, on the other hand, I had a really great idea of how to teach from Alma 32 about planting the seed to allow faith to grow into testimony. As I started preparing my talk, however, I felt prompted to only talk about Elder Oaks’ talk and not Alma 32.

I followed that prompting. I re-read Elder Oaks’ talk and took notes on things that stuck out to me. I started outlining. My husband and I decided that I would cover the first half of the talk and he would cover the second half. I took my reading notes and chunked the ideas into three main points. I thought of personal experiences I could share for each point and I decided on the main points that Elder Oaks had made that I wanted to share with the congregation. My outline was two pages of bullet points and looked great.

But a few days before Sunday, I still didn’t feel like I had the right talk. I had studied, pondered, and organized everything and thought I had a great talk outline, but I still didn’t feel settled. I looked at my printed outline and started crossing things out. I really felt like I should chop down my content by two-thirds, even if that meant that I wouldn’t fill up my time. Even just before Sacrament meeting started on Sunday, I was circling and crossing out all over my outline.

When I got up to speak, my talk only covered one of my bullet points. I kept all my personal experiences in and related them to that one point. I felt guided as I spoke, even in details such as where in the congregation to look and where to pause.

But even though I felt like everything went well, I was still a little disappointed. Why did the Spirit tell me to leave so much content, the specifics of Elder Oaks’ instruction, out? I found the answer to that question when I went to Relief Society. It was a fourth Sunday Teachings for Our Times lesson, and the bishop had asked that the teachers teach from Elder Oaks’ conference talk on testimony, the same that my husband and I had been assigned to speak about in Sacrament meeting. I don’t know if the bishop knew that his counselor had assigned us the same talk, but because of the Spirit, this double arrangement worked perfectly. In my talk I had given personal experiences that talked about the importance of testimony and how we should be seeking to gain testimony in everything we do—in every lesson and every personal scriptures study session. Our Relief Society teacher, however, spent the lesson time talking about the more specific points of Elder Oaks’ talk, like the different types of knowledge and ways to learn.

As I sat through that Relief Society lesson I was so grateful for all that the Spirit had told me to cut out of my talk. If I had tried to cover what the Relief Society teacher wanted to cover, I would have ruined her lesson and the sisters, including me, would have been bored with going over the same talk twice within the three-hour block of church. Instead, the Relief Society built on what I had said in my talk. Further, the specific points of Elder Oaks were discussed much more productively in a classroom setting than I could have done from the pulpit.

My sacrament meeting talk was a teaching miracle to me. Only the Spirit could have told me and the Relief Society that we were both preparing lessons on the same General Conference talk and had it work out as perfectly as it did. I hope that I can always seek the Spirit to help guide me with what I should and shouldn’t say in a talk.


Rachelle said...

This is a neat experience. Thanks for sharing it!

merrilykaroly said...

That's really cool. I love those little things that jump out at me all the time that just keep showing me that there is Someone watching me and helping me along. I also love that you were in tune enough to follow the prompting-- I probably would have been attached to the talk I had prepared. Good reminder that there is really Someone else doing the teaching!

Jessica said...

I found your blog by googling images for "speaking in sacrament meeting" as I'm preparing for my own talk on testimonies. It was so neat reading your experience I'm so happy I found your post. :)