Suggestions for Giving a Good Sacrament Talk

Having finished partaking of bread and water in memory of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, a young man walks up to the podium. He pulls out notes copied by printer from information found on the LDS Church website. Nervously he clears his throat and prepares to face a group of people familiar to him, but often no more than acquaintances. He puts on a smile to cover true feelings of discomfort.

“Hello.” he starts. “The Bishop wants me to talk about happiness. I first learned of the assignment Saturday morning soon after getting out of bed. The phone rang and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and started dressing when my mom called out that I had a call. ‘who is it?’ I begged. It seemed too early for it to be my girlfriend who was probably just getting up. ‘You’ll find out. Just pick up the phone.’ I wish I hadn’t,” the young man says, turning to the far older man sitting between two other men. “You caught me at the only time to reach me.” He turns back to the audience, “The minute I said hello and the Bishop said hello back, I knew what this meant. I’ll get back at the Bishop,” he chuckles in good nature. No one takes him seriously. That is part of the problem.

He clears his throat to start the rest of the talk. For a moment he looks out among the bored adults, screaming babies, inattentive busy children, and self-absorbed teenagers. It seems the only ones paying attention are his parents; siblings not caring. “I am going to base my talk on Elder _________ of the Seventy who gave this excellent talk about what Christ did for us.” The young man proceeds to read paragraph after paragraph, interjecting a few short comments of his own. By the time he ends most in the meeting are taking a cat nap or reading the latest Church magazine or scriptures on mobile devices. He sits down and the next speaker gets up to more or less repeat the process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Although the example was from a young man, adults often follow this same pattern. Part of it is a general nervous reaction to getting up in front of a group to communicate. The American culture is extremely individualistic with only the most extroverted getting noticed. Exhibitionism is the norm for public presentations and lectures set aside for teachers. No matter. There are some suggestions anyone can follow to give a better Sacrament meeting talk that is engaging and less uncomfortable. Most who read this probably already know these tips, but hopefully it can be shared. Do in our own talks what 1 Timothy 4: 12 says, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Continue reading

I Still Believe Romney will be President

. . . of a Mormon Mission. Many pundits wonder what Romney can do next. They say his political fortunes are over, as he isn’t a powerful force in the Senate like Kerry or McCain. He doesn’t have a faithful ideological following like Huckabee. For a weakened GOP, unless you count the continued success of the other House, they hardly want to be reminded of the lost opportunity for expanded power by giving him a political position. To be honest, he was always a political outsider even when accused of belonging to the ruling party elite. Those who have studiously followed his rise know he built what he did out of whole cloth. Conservatives never completely supported him and the only office he held was Governor in a Democratic state (Chris Christie is similar, but he lost all chances of going anywhere with his support of Obama during Sandy). He never had any solid backings in the Party other than his own will and inertia. Unless there is a surprise in the wings, he has nowhere in politics to go.

The other possibility floating around is he will go back into business. Sounds logical at first, but his current history says otherwise. He hasn’t seen the inside of a corporate boardroom outside of a friendly visit since taking over the Salt Lake Olympics. He has enough money and to spare to last the lifetime of his whole family put together. Since he isn’t the greedy Gordon Gekko that the media and others have painted him, he is old enough to retire from making more money. On the other hand, if he does do anything of his own volition this will most likely be the course taken. He is known to have saved big risky businesses. Perhaps he could take on advocating small upstarts. Just because he lost the U.S. Presidency doesn’t mean he can’t do some good as a private citizen.

Yet, he could have greater things in store for him than Earthly positions and jobs. Even Mormon commentators in the traditional media didn’t talk about religious opportunities. With the expected increase in missionaries there is going to be the need for leaders. He and his wife seem very qualified for the position of Mormon Mission President. Where? Only the Lord and his servants know, if they decide this at all. Utah, however, should be on the top of the list. Continue reading

Learning from an “Honorary” Mormon

Years ago Andrew Bowen was an Evangelical Christian with very set beliefs. Anyone who didn’t share his faith were both going to hell and worthy of contempt. No one deserved his and God’s wrath more than Mormons. whenever Mormon missionaries came near he would curse and yell at them, chasing the bike riders away. It was a scene from the Mormon past made contemporary.

His wife became pregnant and they expected the start of a wonderful life with the new child. Surely God was blessing him for faithfulness to the Lord. Then tragedy struck. Not only did they lose the child, but in a way that his faith taught him should never be chosen; abortion. If they didn’t do it then both mother and child would die. There was no way around it and the experience crushed all his faith.

Grappling with personal and spiritual loss, he decided to research religion for at least one year. His method was to pick a faith for a month and completely immerse himself in the traditions and teachings. He became a self-described “honorary” member of whatever he picked for the month with the help of an inside mentor.

Having already been a Jew and Hindu, among other faiths, his next step was the biggest so far. Taking up the courage to repent of his abuses he “became” a Mormon. As it happened he picked July, although it doesn’t appear he completely realized in its entirety how important a month for Mormon culture. He understood Pioneer Day as a religious holiday, but he never mentioned July 4th with spiritual significance. There are at least a few things a Mormon can learn from what he wrote. Continue reading

West African Mormon Missionaries Sing Called To Serve

[Cross-Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

A few years ago my brother, Ben, visited Ghana to do some research into how music, drums, and rhythm are used in traditional practices and shamanism. While he was there he shot a lot of video and during part of the visit he got to go teach with some of the missionaries there.

Even though it’s been a while, he recently rediscovered this video he shot of a couple of Mormon missionaries from West Africa singing the LDS missionary anthem, “Called to Serve” and he just put it up on YouTube.

With all of the potential pop-cultural misperceptions of Mormon missionaries resulting from the “Book of Mormon” Musical, I thought it would be useful to share a taste of real LDS missionaries in Africa.  Enjoy and share!

Explain it to me better: A Response to CNN on Mormonism

For a reason that is hard to understand, there have been Mormons that are impressed with how a short CNN web segment explains the Mormon religion. They might not agree with everything on the video, but the respect for it runs strong. Perhaps Mormons are grateful for any perceived neutral or positive presentation of the religion. Perhaps they are happy for any secular mention considering the lack of outraged response to the blasphemous and disgusting “Book of Mormon” musical. A growing and influential religion deserves better than what has come out of obscurity, although a lack of respect and understanding about religion in general is part of today’s society.

The short report by CNN religion editor Dan Gilgoff is bad enough to deserve a critical review. This isn’t even “Mormonism for Dummies,” but just dumb. It doesn’t touch on more than the most basic of basics; some of that only half of the information necessary for understanding. There isn’t much detail to go into to pull from, but that is part of the problem. Superficially it might not have been wrong, yet so far as contexts and relevance it leaves out a lot of important information. This hampers its worth for those who want to know more. Continue reading