Preparing a Sacrament Meeting talk is a wonderful opportunity to delve into a topic and learn it well. I learn more from preparing talks than I do from preparing lessons, because I donít have a lesson manual to work from.
Begin the moment you learn about the talk. The best talks are those that have roamed your brain for a while so you discover what you have to say on the subject. I generally begin with an exploratory search at LDS.org, where I put the topic into search and start reading. I start a file on the subject and whenever I find an article that seems useful or causes me to think, I copy and paste it into the file, with the reference. At the moment, I donít know what my focus will be. Iím just gathering ideas.
After a few hours of research, I have an idea of the scope of the subject. You canít cover the entire topic in the few minutes you have, so youíre going to have to choose a narrow focus. Speak on only one aspect of the subject. For instance, suppose youíve been assigned a talk on prayer, as I was for my last talk. Just think of how much can be said about prayer. However, if every speaker for an entire month gives a basic discussion on prayer, they will all say the same things. Instead, focus your talk on an aspect of prayer. Here are some of the choices:
--improving personal prayer
--gaining a testimony through prayer
--teaching children to pray
--The First Vision
The talks you gathered will help you discover aspects of the topic you might not have considered in the past. Be certain your topic is narrow enough to have power, since you can delve into it more thoroughly, but not so narrow you have nothing to say on it.
Before choosing the focus, consider these points:
1. Who is your audience? If your audience has many investigators or new converts, consider a talk aimed at them. These people are often forgotten by the long-time members in their talks. Even if there are only a few, it can be a good thing to speak to them, since itís likely few talks are.
2. What aspect of the talk do you have a special passion for? If youíre passionate about your topic, you will speak more enthusiastically and convincingly.
3. What has been said on this topic recently? If the last three weeks included talks on family prayer, you will probably want to talk about something else.
Pray to find your focus. When I prepared my talk, I intended to base it on a quote about the Sacred Grove. I wrote the talk, but felt uneasy. I knew there was something else I was supposed to speak about. I continued to work until I understood what God wanted me to discuss, which was on how to pray for a testimony. I needed to share the story of my own prayers for a testimony, which took a full year to be answered, and show through quotes and stories from church leaders that this is both acceptable and even preferable. After I gave the talk, I learned who it was for. Heavenly Father knows who needs to hear something special about your topic.
Go through the research youíve gathered and highlight the material that applies to your new focus. Remove from your research anything that no longer applies. Then do another search on the specific nature of your talk.
Next week, weíll learn how to structure the talk. Check the link below to find the talk I built. We'll be using it as an example throughout this series on teaching through talks.