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.


  1. Haha. I remember when you showed this to me several years ago. I've thought in years since about what makes a good talk. Ultimately, of course, it's a good talk if the Spirit is there and the intended Gospel message gets across, but the message can be communicated and received all the better if you use good public speaking skills. It particularly bothers me when people use things in your "1. Introduction" section. We are giving talks this upcoming Sunday (though we haven't received our topics yet...) so thanks for the reminders. ;)

  2. . . . a few of those are on my list, too.

  3. That's a great list. Thanks for sharing it.