Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
In a previous article (see related links below) we discussed researching a Sacrament Meeting talk and choosing the focus. Today we’ll talk about how to write the talk. At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to my finished talk, When Testimony Doesn’t Come Instantly, under the related links. As I talk about how I built each part, you can follow along if you choose.
You will have gathered more research than you can possibly use. This wasn’t a waste. It helped you to think about the topic, to understand it, and to found out what parts of the subject you care about. Go through this research and reduce it to material you think you can use. I prefer to do this by highlighting (using the word processing feature) so the actual talk is still there in case I change my mind. I try to focus in on one or two talks, rather than dozens.
The introduction should serve to capture the attention of the congregation and get them focused on the topic. A joke frequently sets the wrong tone. Instead, choose a personal experience you’ve had with the subject. In my talk I told how I learned to pray, and then my disappointment at not having my prayer answered, but how the answer finally came after a year. This captured the attention of the congregation, which includes many investigators and new converts, and also showed where I was headed in my talk, without ever having to say, “My talk is on….”
Since I anticipated there would be some who felt I shouldn’t say that prayers aren’t always answered right away, I next moved to a story about David O. Mckay’s prayer for a testimony, which came many years after he started asking for one. This provided authority for my theme. This was also a story.
Now the congregation is settled in. They know what the talk is about. It’s time to bring in the doctrine and the teachings. The next section made several points: Instant conversion is rare, and is not the Lord’s preferred way. Both were backed by quotes from church leaders.
With the basics in place, I then like to get practical. The next section of my talk contained the steps to praying for a testimony, based on a talk by Elder Robert K. Dellenbach. Although I used his steps, I inserted my own thoughts on each one. Your talk is more powerful when it includes your own unique insights, as long as they’re based on gospel fact.
The final step is to summarize what you’ve taught and why it matters, and then to bear your testimony, which is not included in my published talk. In this case, I was able to provide the message of the talk in the last step.
In summary, the basic aspects of the talk are:
1. Capture their attention with an on-topic personal experience.
2. Establish the authority of your focus.
3. Teach the doctrine from approved sources.
4. Give practical application the listener can apply to his own life.
5. Summarize, explain why this matters, and bear testimony.
In the next article, you’ll learn to pull it all together to write the talk.
Read and analyze these great talks:
Rise to the Divinity Within You: Talks From the 2006 BYU Women's Conference