The Seven Deadly Sins of Sacrament Meeting Talks

I am very disappointed with the article The Seven Deadly Sins of Sacrament Meeting Talks at Meridian Magazine. It fails to mention the biggest sin of them all, the failure to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

No wonder the Church has a big retention problem. No wonder people drop out. Many Sacrament Meeting talks would be just as appropriate at a meeting of the Toastmasters Club. Unless one preaches the gospel from the scriptures, what is the point of giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting? At other churches they pay a minister to speak on a gospel theme every Sunday. Yet many of our Sacrament Meeting talks don’t have anything to do with the gospel.

It is easy to tell who is not keeping the commandment to study the scriptures daily. How can anyone give a whole Sacrament talk without ever opening the Book of Mormon, or mentioning a single gospel topic? Yet it happens all the time almost everywhere.

We need to repent. People go to Church to hear the gospel, not a lot of unrelated Church stories or theological twinkies. When people are not spiritually fed at Church, they stop coming.

What do you think?

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17 Responses to The Seven Deadly Sins of Sacrament Meeting Talks

  1. It sounds to me like you have a really good Bishop, a true man of God. Where is your ward? I wish there were more wards where the Bishop stresses the need to testify of Christ instead of telling these cute little stories that have little or nothing to do with the gospel. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Bobbi says:

    In our ward we are given really good instruction about teaching of Christ and from the scriptures. It has been so helpful as we don’t get all the “warm fuzzy” stories people come from. Our Bishop has actually asked travel log people to end their talks. This may seem uncomfortable, but it has only taken a couple of times for the members to realize we need to teach the real gospel. After all, the Lord gave us the stories in the scriptures that He felt would teach us. We need to ponder them. As a result, we have a lot of baptisms and love to embrace ur new brothers and sisters of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My next talk is on daily scripture study.

  3. Looking over the article it seems to be a list of what not to do, rather than your list of what to do. I think his suggestions would be helpful, and all these “sins” occur with frequency in every ward I’ve been in.

    In any case, note the last paragraph:

    Members are blessed with multiple opportunities in their lifetime to speak in Sacrament meeting to hundreds of people. With such opportunity, however, comes a sacred responsibility to prepare spiritual, thoughtful and appropriate messages. By keeping these seven commandments in mind, a speaker can help ensure that he delivers just such a message.

    That seems to strike the right note, doesn’t it? I am not sure what the problem is.

  4. Those discussing GA talks and holding them up as a standard are missing a notable item. That is that the Church employs speech writers that some GAs use to write their talks for them. Obviously many simply write their own talks, but not all.

    The general membership does not have such a resource available to them. We probably should offer optional classes (maybe on a stake level) once a year on how to prepare for and deliver an appropriate talk. A little bit of training might go a long ways.

  5. Steve EM says:

    Well Anon, sorry I step on one of your hobbies. I have mine and can appreciate your sensitivity. You missed the point of my comment: carping about an amateurish church talk isn’t a very Christian thing to do.

    I honestly didn’t mean any insult in calling our GAs and CES instructors professional clergy. I was born Catholic and, to me, church hierarchy is a profession hierarchy and is essential to running the church. I have no problem with this. To me if you’re good at something, do it full time and get paid for it, you’re a professional. I see it as our tithing dollars at work. If it were up to me, we’d pay our Bishops too, as is authorized by the D&C. We abuse our Bishops by treating them like full time parish priests anyway, rather than the part time volunteers they are supposed to be. Something as routine as a death in the Ward, and there goes 20 hours of the Bishop’s week; they should get paid. Now, if a Bishop is retired and can do the duties w/o compensation, that would be a different matter, but you hear what I’m saying: holding a 40-60 h/week job, being a hubby, dad and (supposedly) lastly Bishop seems abusive.

    Back to topic, Anon, if you have the same time budget, knowledge and skill set as a church professional and can preach as well as our GAs and CES instructors, Billy Graham, Pope Jean-Paul II, etc, my hat is off to you. I’m struggling to do the best I can and find it demeaning when someone compares my effort to that of a seasoned profession master and somehow suggests that I’m being less than diligent in my effort. I hope you can appreciate I have a short fuse for criticism of Joe and Jane member’s talks.

  6. His Worship says:

    I have found that the Speeches website from BYU is an excellent resource for finding and listening to talks from those who truly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how their talks were formatted, so to speak, and this has allowed me to totally restructure the way I develop a talk, staying with the scriptures and preaching the doctrine, rather than throwing out “gospel twinkies”.

  7. David J says:

    John, I think the author of the article takes mentioning “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” as you state in your complaint, as a given.

    That said, I think you’re right, and I submit that the best talks I’ve ever heard in church (all three of them) were drenched with scripture usage.

    But my favorite point of theirs was the last one. I hate the “it’s the bishop’s fault my talk sucks” stuff that people pull when they start out. It turns me off to what they’re going to say, and in most cases, I wonder if the talk would suck less if the person were given what they feel is ample time to prepare…. I doubt it.

  8. Roo says:

    I agree with you. There is so little talk of Christ in our church it is no wonder people are confused. I think we have changed our focus from the actual gospel to “the church”. Instead of talking about gospel truths we usually talk about church programs and some notion of what it means to be a good member (white shirts, no facial hair, and whatever else is deemed holy by a paricular ward).

    I don’t think it matters what kind of speaker you are, if you are asked to speak in church it should be about Christ. I’m not a speaking pro, but even I can look up scriptures.

  9. Anonymous says:

    SteveEM is a troll, in case anyone didn’t figure that out. In no realistic sense are the General Authorities “professional clergy”. Those who think that drawing a living stipend from the Church coffers so as to leave one’s career behind and spend all one’s time working on Church business qualifies as a “professional” need to pull their heads out of the stinky dark recesses they’ve got it stuck in.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never put any shirts on my Coke, white, striped, or polka-dotted

  11. Anonymous says:

    I *never* drink my coke with a white shirt on. That’s a commandment! Right?

  12. will says:

    The Seven Deadly Sins of Magazine Articles about Seven Deadly Sins:

    1) Inadequate proofreading.

    “…provides an extraordinarily glimpse…”

    2) Misquoting.

    “high falsetto” should be “dry falsetto”

    3) Using an urban legend in an article that decries urban legends.

    Truman G. Madsen provides no source for his J. Golden Kimball story.

    4) Using a story that is generally presented as fiction as an example of an urban legend.

    I’ve never heard the blood donation story presented as factual.

    5) Comparing talks of lay members to those of professional clergy.

    See Steve’s comment above.

    6) Listing sins that are trivial compared to the real problem: Lack of interesting content.

    7) Lack of interesting content in the article itself.

    Of course, this post is purely in jest.

  13. Steve EM says:

    Good post John. But comparing talks of us lay members to those of professional clergy, which includes our GAs, CES instructors, etc is grossly unfair. I was particular irked by the Meridian article citing Pres Monson on the proper time budget for talk preparation. Easy to do if you’re 100% on the tithe payer’s clock and have armies of resources in the church office building at your disposal; quite patronizing to dictate the same expectations to working people. From amateurs such as moi, we should expect amateur results and keep our mouths shut.

    BTW, I generally wear blue or striped dress shirts to church. I wore enough white shirts on my mission for a lifetime.

  14. There is no doubt about that. That is all the more reason why we need to keep the commandment to teach one another the doctrines while we are carefully avoiding Cokes and wearing white shirts to Church. The Lord said:

    “And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.” (D&C 88:77)

    And a great time to do that is when we speak in Sacrament Meeting or teach a class during the block. If we don’t, some people won’t hear it anywhere else.

  15. MahNahvu says:

    The lay clergy helps us to develop patience, compassion, tolerance and perspective.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree totally. I also thought the article was very superfiicial and shallow. It mentioned a couple good items about preparation and keeping within your time allotment. But overall, it did not mention the more important item that you mention.

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