All Things Were Common among Them, Even how They Start Talks

A man delivers a sacrament meeting talk

Ever wondered how to properly start talks? There are many common ways members start sacrament meeting talks. We have all heard and probably done at least a couple of them. After asking what the most popular ways people start talks in sacrament meeting are, this is what we came up with.

1. Webster’s Dictionary Definition

Start talks Using dictionary definitions
Who was Webster and why do we go to him for answers most of the time?

Webster’s used to be the go to dictionary of many members, but several young people now quote from online dictionarys like dictionary.com. If the member is a person with a lot of education, he or she will probably use the Oxford dictionary definition.

2. Bible Dictionary Definition

Start talks with the bible dictionary definition
Don’t you hate it when you look up a word and there is no definition or it just tells you to see another word?

The Bible dictionary is a popular choice. However, sometimes the definitions are really long and people occasionally read definitions that are a few paragraphs long, reading way more than was necessary.

3. Telling a Joke

a meter that explains how funny something is or not
If you are going to tell a joke, test it on a few people before hand to make sure it is actually funny.

About half of the time the jokes are relevant to the topic but the other half they are just used as ice breakers. Some jokes are funny to a few, many, or none. The pity laugh however, is worse than no laugh.

4. Explaining How One Was Called to Speak

A woman telling her friend how she got called to speak - Image via Huffingtonpost.com
I knew I should have ignored that call.

My phone started ringing and I wasn’t sure who it was so I thought about not answering it, but I did and wished I hadn’t.

Or.

I saw the bishop walking towards me in the hall and thought about running away but didn’t. He asked if I could speak in church two weeks from now and I said I would be out of town. Then he said, “What about the next week?” and I said I had a baby blessing to attend. Again he said, “What about the next week?” and I didn’t have any more excuses so I said yes.

5. She Takes Charge of the Introductions

A man meeting a woman on a park bench
When was the last time you heard a man explain how he and his wife met in a talk aside from a member of quorum of the 12?

My husband and I met when we were in college. I was actually more interested in his roommate than him at the time, but he was persistent and had a nice smile.

6. With a Rhetorical Question

Man staring at a large question mark. Image via nlptjc.wordpress.com
If you are going to ask a rhetorical question, try and make it interesting.

These can be both simple questions or long ones. What is Faith? Or. How do we as members of the church live in the world but not become of the world?

7. Explaining the Process of Procrastination

man holding a clock freaking out because he is running out of time. Image via todayfm.com
Why do we wait until the last second to write a talk? Avoid the stress and prepare it early.

I knew the bishop was going to ask me to talk and was going to say no when he asked me. Then, for some reason, I said yes without really thinking about it. As the day got closer and closer, I kept putting it off. Last night I thought I would decide to be sick tomorrow. This morning however, I realized I couldn’t do that to the bishop and threw a talk together.

8. Creating a Personal Parable

Jesus teaching a sermon to a group of people
No one used parables like the Savior when teaching. President Utchdorh has some pretty good airplane analogies though.

Many talks start something like this. Have you ever noticed… and that is how potatoes and faith are similar and what I want to talk about today.

Or

When I was 9, I had a job shoveling snow for a business next door to our home. One day I didn’t want to… That is one of the lessons I still remember to this day about being honest and keeping your word and what I want to talk about today.

9. With the Words of  a Hymn

the music and words for the song amazing grace
If you are going to read the whole hymn, make sure it is relevant.

One of my favorite hymns is ______ and the first line reads… On occasion the person will read a whole verse and rarely he or she will read the entire hymn.

10. With a Quote from a General Authority

A man hiking up a hill with a message about being on the right path

President Benson warns us to beware of pride when he says… I have often thought about the words of Elder Holland when he said…How can we apply those words in our lives today?

11. Explaining the Challenges in Preparing the Talk

man staring at a wall with lots of arrows pointing in different directions. Image via http://www.cmswire.com/
We’ve all started a talk, almost finished it, and then realized we should talk about something else.

The bishopric didn’t assign me a topic so I prayed for guidance and started off preparing something about repentance. I had just about finished when I realized I needed to talk about something else and did some more reading. I ended up with a talk about how to show love to our fellow men.

12. Stating One’s Nervous and Apologizing Beforehand

man nervously breathing in a bag to calm down
At some point or other, most people get nervous talking in front of a crowd. Some even pass out.

I don’t like talking in church or public. I never have. I thought about telling the bishop this when he asked me to talk but didn’t. So, I am sorry if I don’t make sense or if my talk seems poorly prepared. I just don’t do well speaking in front of people. I hope you will bear with me for the next few minutes.

What are some common ways that you have heard people use when starting a talk that we may have missed?

Abe is always aspiring to be awesome. It wasn't until he started to go bald that he finally started to realize that goal. When that happened, he realized his writing, and life, drastically improved. He enjoys writing, growing his facial hair, and many other pursuits. Abe is a Professional and Creative Writing Major and an intern with LDS.net
  • Ivan

    Regarding telling jokes in Sacrament Meeting talks, I have never been able to reconcile the sacred with humor, nor am I aware of any scriptural examples of it. As temples are closed on the Sabbath, the Sacrament Meeting is the most sacred meeting in the church. Keeping talks consistent with the ordinance of the Sacrament seems to be the highest order, in my view.

  • MIchael

    Speaking in public is one of the most feared things people face. Personally I enjoy hearing people be themselves, sharing experiences, scriptures, quotes from the prophets, jokes about how they were asked to speak. as long as they are sincere. I like seeing people that are nervous, and scared overcome their fear of public speaking. Cliches or not, I enjoy them because they are thoughtful. I really haven’t heard any talks that the speaker prepared the talk with the intention of disappointing the audience with cliches. Perhaps most of you are at a different level of public speaking as our inexperienced and young members. Perhaps suggestions as to how give great talks would be more productive than pointing out things you don’t like to hear, or things that don’t reach your expectations.

  • Shirley Davis

    Yes, I really would like to have some examples of how to begin a talk.

    • Susan Cunningham

      There is another article on Mormon hub that gives great tips on how to start a talk. Consider how general authorities begin their talks at general conference. They often begin with a story, but they always just dive in their topic. They do not give introductions (they were already introduced as are we by the bishopric), they do sometimes comment on the choir or the previous talks (but never analyzing them, just thanking the speakers for them). We should do the same. Some of the things in this article are really appropriate – beginning with the words of a hymn, a quick definition, a rhetorical question, or a story.

  • Why do our bishoprics say “we’ve lined up a good program for today”? I would rather have them just tell us what has been lined up without editorializing about what they think about it. And, would it seem better to say “for today’s service”?

  • Linda

    I would like to see some suggestions on how the best way to start a talk is.

    • Trong-Tyler

      i talked at stake conference once and I said “I was asked by our Stake President to speak today, and if you believe half the stories his son tells about his anger, saying no will turn him into Godzilla.”

  • PRA

    Please don’t go over time, ramble, tell a joke unless it pertains to the topic and fits in the talk, and please don’t tell me you threw something together the last minute, I tune you out at that one, and please please practice it before hand, time it…. Use the example from the GAs and Prophets!

  • David Birley

    “I’m happy to be here today. Of course, when you reach my age, you’re happy to be anywhere.” (I’m 80).

  • Greg

    Where is the meat of the story?
    I would have loved the author to explain what is good and bad about each method of starting a talk!
    An article like this could go a long way to educating members about good ways to start talks…

  • Ben

    Whatever way we start, I just appreciate it when members don’t throw the bishopric under the bus. All bishoprics are busy, and they don’t need to be reminded that they only gave you a few days notice or gave you a topic you didn’t like or understand. Maybe avoid saying something like “they must have been desperate to ask me”, or “I saw Brother so-and-so on the caller i.d., so I almost didn’t pick up”. Most bishoprics I know spend many hours thinking about who to ask and organizing a meaningful Sacrament Meeting, so whenever and however you’re asked, just say yes! If you’re nervous and only speak for a few minutes, that’s okay, very few people have ever complained about a talk being too short. And DO use personal experiences and tell the congregation about yourself, other members are truly interested in you and your unique perspective. Volunteer to speak when bishoprics run short of people to ask or have cancellations, because both happen. There’s nothing a bishopric (and maybe even the Lord) loves to hear more than “I am really grateful for this opportunity to speak”, and then say what’ s in your heart and stick to the doctrine. If you prayerfully prepare, it won’t matter how you start and you will finish the way you hope to!

    • Gaylene Glenn

      I love your comment. It was not critical, and gave specific suggestions. I like your positive approach.

  • Rich

    Talk. Don’t read. And if the Bishop asked you to keep your remarks to a specified number of minutes, do it.

  • DAO

    “I bring you the greetings of our stake presidency.” Ouch. It usually goes downhill from there.

  • jan nel

    Start talks the way the general authorities do, no nonsense, no excuses, no jokes just get on with the theme, don’t go into detail those who listen will understand and probably be uplifted, those who don’t get it weren’t paying attention, their loss.

    • I so agree! I came to that conclusion when I was a teen (in the 70’s) and have done just that ever since. They set the example for us and we should endeavor to follow it.

  • susan

    Don’t forget the obvious, “Hi, my name is … for those of you who don’t me (as if everyone just ignored what your name was when the bishopric announced them) and then for those who like to be cute they add. “and for those of you who do know me my name is still… hahaha. It’s okay, we are certainly not professional orators.