The Dilemma

Several years back, I was muddling over my dismal health situation. Having a chronic illness makes it hard to do just about anything.

I was also contemplating what sort of service I could perform in the Church, then and in the future, given my limitations. I'm also, gasp, old...

I happened onto an idea that has worked marvelously for me, and my leaders.

I was hesitant and resistant to accept a request to give a Sacrament meeting talk because I could not guarantee I'd have enough "up" time in order to prepare sufficiently.

This was besides the obvious problem of leadership not asking early enough. Reasonably, I think people need at least three weeks to give a good talk. Giving them only three days' notice only ensures they'll give a bad one.

I was also hesitant to generate my own talk topics. Local leadership knows what challenges the members face. They know what the members need. Besides, I don't want to be accused or guilty of simply pontificating on my own soap-box topics.

Speaking Holds No Horrors ...

Having taught for a living, speaking in front of a group holds no horrors for me. I don't get stressed or nervous anymore, not really. I'm only concerned about having the Spirit and telling people what Heavenly Father wants them to hear.

Preparation time is my only difficulty. Sometimes I just can't do anything.

Well, the idea came to me that I could prepare a talk ahead of time and hold it in reserve and give it when needed.

Too many times I've watched local leaders scramble because of a last-minute cancellation. Then, they end up winging it because there is basically no one else.

Obviously, they could prepare their own talk and hold it in reserve until they need it but others could do that too. Why not me?

Talk Topics

I informed leaders of what I'd come up with. They liked the idea. I asked for talk topics and waited, and waited, and waited ...

Finally, I decided I would have to generate my own topics.

This is something I take very seriously and spend a lot of time reflecting on what Heavenly Father may want me to address. I muddle over a lot of topics and only pursue ones I feel I have divine approval for.

In fact, sometimes I felt like I should pursue one topic and make considerable progress, only to feel stymied at some point and have to quit. Then, nearly always, I encounter something in the normal course of my scripture study and life experiences that is exactly what I need and I go back to the talk and include it.

It's often a new General Conference address, sometimes a scripture, and sometimes an idea I've encountered in the past rediscovered and it fits my topic beautifully.

Once generally complete, I read and re-read my talks trying to listen to the Spirit and what it tells me to add, change, or eliminate entirely.

In fact, I've felt inspired to remove some of what I thought at the time was my best stuff. It's wrenching. However, on reflection, I can't even remember what it was now.

Talk Preparation

So, how much time does this all take? My best guess would be about 30 hours of direct preparation time, per talk.

I often get prompts to finish up my talk because the Spirit whispers I'll have to give it soon. I try to pay attention to these prompts.

I even print it out when I feel it is ready and leave it in my car. If requested, I could walk out to the parking lot, retrieve it and give it on-demand. So far though, that hasn't happened.

I've given three talks in the last almost four years in my present ward. Two were as emergency replacements. I got a panicked contact on a Thursday night and one on a Friday morning from local leaders.

The other time I had been held in reserve for months by a particular counselor who kept me in reserve for himself in case he needed me to speak. Finally, he said, "It's been long enough. We need to hear from you. I'm slotting you in."

While I was laid up with a broken right arm and broken right leg, I couldn't do much - except generate talk topics and prepare talks. I had three talks in the works. My husband just shook his head over me.

I've given one of them now. Another talk just got completed. I'm about 90 percent done with the third. Lately, however, I've had another talk topic impressed on my mind. I'm mulling that one over. We'll see how it goes.

The Results Are In

So, what's the result? I respond positively to panicked calls from my local church leaders. They respond with incredible gratitude and relief when I tell them I can speak. I give my talk and the congregation is none the wiser that near disaster was averted.

Local leaders are practically kissing my feet, especially the one responsible for acquiring speakers that day. They can spend their otherwise valuable time focusing on things only they have the power and authority to do, and that list is extensive.

This is something I can do.

I know they are pleased. I think and hope Heavenly Father is pleased as well.

I'm pleased because I'm utilizing my knowledge, skills, and abilities in a way that works for me and allows me to serve other members, Heavenly Father, and the Church itself.

Well, that's enough for now. I've got some talks to prepare ...

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