The seed of testimony

Growing up Mormon means you get early experience with public speaking.

If anyone deserves to list “public speaking” as a skill, it is those of us who grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832 and 1833, the Lord commanded Church members to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:77). Instead of the professional, trained clergy of other faiths, Latter-day Saints are expected to teach each other—and to know the scriptures and the doctrines of the Church well enough to be able to do so with the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

For many of us, such experience begins at an early age, in Primary. During my later years in Senior Primary, in the former Charlotte 3rd Ward, each Sunday a child was asked to share a scripture, another to give a talk, and two others to say the opening and closing prayers during sharing time, when all the Senior Primary children met together. Miraculously, over the years, I was able to hold on to the original hand-written copies of my talks. Eventually, I transcribed them into my journal—and I’ve somehow been able to hold on to that, too, over the years. That’s where I got the text from.

I don’t remember the exact dates I gave these talks, but I still have the memory of those days. Not a vivid memory, but just enough to picture myself there in front of everyone reading my talk from the small piece of lined paper I had written it on with my mother—that morning before church. I also remember after the first one, a member of the Primary presidency, Raydene South, who was a good family friend and conducted sharing time that day, said to everyone that it sounded like I had spent a long time working on that talk. After Primary, I revealed to her my procrastination. She didn’t find the irony of her statement as funny as I did, replying in her gentle, soft-spoken way, “Well, I guess you’ll just need to plan ahead next time.” But her advice was well taken (if not always applied in the years since).

A few months after I graduated from Primary, I had my first opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting. The occasion was the 165th anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. It was definitely one of those moments where I probably learned more from writing the talk than the congregation did listening to it: it was the first time I’d learned about the structural organization of the quorums of the priesthood. A later talk codified what I knew about temple-recommend interviews, which I had experienced for the first time myself just a short time before.

Giving a talk in church is intimidating—a feeling that doesn’t go away with age or experience. But I’m grateful to be a member of a church that gives me that opportunity, and that expects each of us to know what we say we believe well enough that we can teach it to others.

This article appeared on pages 22–23 of Issue 13 | January 2014.

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