Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How To Give A (Bad) Sacrament Meeting Talk

Some years ago while I was in college I began struggling with attending church. I never wanted to stop going to church -- years of habit and the socialization ensured that -- but I often didn't enjoy my time there on Sundays.

To be truthful, the struggles I had with church enjoyment were really just one aspect of a larger whole. The bishop we had was wonderful, and I had a lot of respect and admiration for him. I had good friends with whom I attended church. Still, church was an easy focus for an outlet of stress.

Talks given in church were especially unenjoyable. Often enough things that people said, or the way they presented themselves, or how they structured their talks, would grate on me. I found little things here and there to keep myself busy, such as counting to 1023 on my fingers in binary.

One day I got the idea to write down the things people did in their talks that I didn't like, in the form of a sarcastic how-to outline for giving talks. I named it the Speaker's Bible. I enjoyed the activity so much that I folded the paper and kept it in my suit pocket for next week. Then, for the next weeks or months, as things would grate on me, I would add another line to my outline.

Eventually I moved on. Church is much more tolerable now. Enjoyable, actually. For a few years, though, I kept that paper in my suit pocket, and brought it out for the personal chuckle. It disappeared for years, though.

Recently I found it in a box or something around the house. It is kind of special to me, not because I want to refer to it to be a better speaker, but because of the period of my life that it represents. On the whole I make no statement whether I now agree or disagree with anything in particular in it. I feel like posting it, anyway, just for fun.

I've reproduced it pretty much exactly, except for a few capitalizations, and one misused apostrophe, which I just noticed. Apostrophes are not used for pluralization.


  1. Introduction

    1. "For those of you who don't know me..."

    2. Describe how you had a hard time preparing your talk

      1. "Bro X asked me to speak on..."

      2. Express your feelings of inadequacy

      3. "This topic is hard because..." / "This topic is broad..."

      4. Recite talk preparation story

      5. Give the Webster's definition for your talk

  2. Give Talk

    1. Ask people to follow along

    2. Tell stories

      1. "I think this story is good because...."

      2. Make stories very long. Long stories keep the audience's attention marvelously and mean you have less to prepare and mess up on.

    3. Intersperse periodically that you feel inadequate

    4. Do NOT take consideration for other people's positions and dispositions in life. If they think differently or have different struggles that is their problem... Deal with it.

    5. Do NOT let people recognize their potential. If they do, they may not think you are so far above them.

    6. Make sure you must turn many pages to find a quote in a book. This uses up time you are forced to speak.

    7. Use the word "just" ubiquitously.

      1. "I just want to...", "I just think..."

    8. Use the word "um" like it's going out of style.

    9. Play on people's emotions

      1. For girls - put our hand on your chest to emphasize how emotionally messed up you are.

      2. For guys - give long pauses for the same effect.

      3. This makes the audience think that they need to be emotional too. That's what we want.

    10. Make up dumb, long analogies.

      1. The ward members don't understand the Gospel without monopoly or football analogies.

  3. Conclusion

    1. Thank your friends for coming to hear you speak.

    2. Go Overtime!! (Important)

    3. Bear testimony about something totally unrelated.

    4. Make sure Christ isn't explicitly mentioned.

      1. If the ward members can't make the connection, they are too dumb.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Facial Hair

I have a beard.

I don't like having a beard.

Every once in a while I get the idea that I want to grow out my facial hair into a beard. Currently it's just a straight beard, nothing fancy, though I have grown goatees in the past. I never grow them very long, though, because I always pull at and play with the hair, and it is irritating. Invariably I shave before too long.

I like facial hair on other guys. Not all the time. Plenty of guys look great without hair. Some facial hair just doesn't look good. But there are a lot of guys with a lot of beards and other that look great.

Last week in church we had a high councilor come to speak. He came in sporting a nice looking beard, and as I've been letting mine grow out I felt some kinship with him. We were the only two with facial hair in the room. Just a short way into his talk he stopped and said he should apologize for his beard, that the stake presidency was not in the habit of sending high councilors on speaking assignments with facial hair, and that he only had it to get in the spirit of a planned pioneer reenactment trek he was going to participate in soon.


Why did he feel he needed to apologize for his beard? What's wrong with having a beard? It was neatly trimmed, and looked just fine on him. And what did the stake presidency have to do with his beard?

I've heard from several people that people in some callings, such as bishop, or temple worker, are asked to be clean shaven. I don't understand the policy. I don't even know if it's a policy, or just some guy's opinion. And I'm saddened by it.

Some people like to say, "Well, Jesus had long hair.", or, "Brother Brigham had a beard." It's a fun argument, but I think this misses the point. The point is not that so-and-so looked a certain way and so I can too. The real point is that I am the one who can choose how I want to groom my body. When I groom myself in a modest way, in a clean way, in a neat way, and in a non-prideful way, why should anyone think there is a problem with that? And why should that person tell me to change -- or revoke privileges if I don't?

Today at church the bishop (who is a great guy and a great bishop!) came up to me to say hi, and asked about my beard. I like the attention of people asking about my beard. But now I'm starting to wonder what people really think. They smile, but I wonder. Two years ago when I grew a beard someone asked my wife if I was OK.

(Could have asked me, by the way. Beards don't make people bite.)

I was going to shave last week. My beard is long enough that I've been annoying myself by pulling and stroking the hair. Now I don't want to shave it. I think I want to grow it a while longer to let my kids know that it's OK to have a beard.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You, LibreOffice!

Thank you, LibreOffice -- to all the developers, infrastructure maintainers, et al. who have given us your office suite.

I hope you continue to find success and enjoyment in your work.