Giving impromptu Church talks is a pretty common request of missionaries. Additionally, every missionary gives a farewell talk in sacrament meeting before they leave. Therefore, knowing how to write and deliver a talk is an essential missionary skill.
I gave at least one talk in every ward or branch to which I was assigned as a missionary. My first talk was my first Sunday in Argentina. I arrived in my area mid-week, and one of the first people my senior companion took me to visit was the branch president. I didn’t understand much of the conversation, but I did understand that he wanted me to give a five minute talk on Sunday.
The Gazano branch was very small; we only had 20 or 25 people attend Church each week. One of the active members was our landlord, Brother Cabrera, who rented us a room in his house. The branch president didn’t assign me a topic, so I basically just bore my testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel. If new missionaries can do nothing else, they can bear their testimony, even if it is in broken Spanish. I can remember struggling through the talk with Brother Cabrera, sitting on the front row prompting me, correcting my Spanish, and encouraging me.
Through my two-year mission, my Church talks, along with my Spanish language skills improved. It got to the point where being asked to give a talk with only five minutes notice was no big deal, which, though rare, did happen a few times.
In the ten plus years since my mission, those impromptu speech skills have diminished, I’m sure, though I was probably never an expert on how to write a talk. BYU Professor Randy Bott, who teaches a Mission Prep class, though, is an expert on how to write a talk for Church. In a recent article in BYU Magazine called How to Write a Church Talk, he discussed the four elements a sacrament meeting talk should have: 1) a purpose, 2) main ideas, 3) expansion or validation, and 4) your testimony.
- Purpose: “Once a person has the purpose, the rest of the talk is easy.” If your topic was faith, for example, you could come up with a purpose statement like “The purpose of my talk is to teach people how to recognize the power of faith in their own lives.”
- Main Ideas: You will need one or two, or perhaps more, main ideas that support this purpose. One might be “Faith is the very motivating power that enables us to act.” A second main idea might be “I can increase faith by recognizing it in my life.”
- Expansion or Validation: You can expand or validate the main ideas with stories, scriptures, or examples of faith (or whatever your topic is) in your life.
- Testimony: Says Professor Bott, “I would honestly evaluate how strongly I feel about the principle I am teaching and then testify about that principle.”
Professor Bott says this method can be used to write any talk in five minutes or less. In fact, he says he once gave a twenty minute talk with less than one minute’s notice and did so by simply following the steps above.
So you future missionaries, learn these steps for how to write a talk. By learning the gospel principles missionaries teach and by having organization to your talk as Professor Bott indicates, you will be able to deliver great sermons when called upon. D&C 84: 85 “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”