Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak during our sacrament meeting. A week ago, I received a phone call from the 2nd Counselor in the bishopric of our ward, with whom I visit with every Sunday during the normal course of the meetings I attend as the Executive Secretary. Not thinking anything of his call, I was surprised when he then asked if I would speak to the congregation on the topic of "Following the Brethren". He wanted me to address the ward and remind them the importance of this, particularly in light of the upcoming election where Proposition 8 will be on the ballot (check it out: protectmarriage.com).
While the church can not officially come out and tell people to vote for this proposition, the church can teach and remind the people of the sacred doctrines associated with it. We've been reminded of the non-church-affiliated efforts that are going on to collect money, contact voters, and discuss the proposition with people of all walks of life. So, it was that he wanted me to talk to the people about the importance of "Following the Brethren".
It seemed like a daunting task. He wanted me to lay the doctrinal groundwork for why we should spend our time, efforts, and even money to make this proposition pass. He wanted me to remind everybody very clearly that there is safety in obedience to the commandments, and obedience to the leaders of the church, who have the mantle of leadership and whose responsibility it is to lead and to direct us.
It was a tall order, and it made me nervous, which is a tremendously huge deal because, well, I don't really get nervous when it comes to public speaking (unless it's memorized dialogue, which is a whole other discussion). Throughout the week, I contemplated different things to talk about, leaving myself notes about topics that might be of interest to include. Ideally, I would have about 15 minutes to share this topic, but I needed to be prepared to take more time if the previous speakers were too brief.
Finally, Friday night, I sat down and went to work putting the talk together. I asked my wife for a few ideas, and she had some good ones, and I finally came up with my first draft. All day Saturday, I contemplated it some more, making some revisions that night. I printed it out, and Sunday morning made some more redlines. Come the time of the meeting, I was feeling queasy (or I could've just been hungry ...). As I sat on the stand awaiting my turn to speak, I noticed my vision was a little blurry in my right eye -- I think I'd stared at the bright chandeliers too much. I felt sleepy -- my trusty defense mechanism when I'm stressed (or I could've just been tired ...). I found it hard to focus, and I had to make a very conscious decision to not vibrate out of my chair from my anxiety.
Then it was my turn. My vision cleared, I stood to speak, and it went very, very well.
I had done my part to prepare, then let the Spirit do the rest -- truly the Holy Ghost is both the comforter and the teacher. Throughout the day, people regularly came up to tell me what a good job I'd done -- which is normal. However, what impressed me most was that people in the lessons that followed regularly referred to something in my talk to illustrate a point.
I do not feel proud at this accomplishment, but I have a lot of gratitude -- gratitude that it went so well, and gratitude that it is over. If you'd like to read the writeup of my talk, I've included it in this post. All told, the talk as delivered from the pulpit matches probably 70% of what is written there (some was cut for time, other parts of it were embellished for clarity, and all of it, of course, was delivered in my own way).
It was a great experience, but one I hope I'm not asked to do again for a while.