Third Time This Year

I have to give yet another talk on Sunday. That’s three in about four months. So, I’m not going to put much thought into today’s post. I’m simply going to cut and paste the beginning and end of the last talk I gave. Maybe at least looking at it will motivate me to prepare Sunday’s message with a better heart, because it’s so incredibly rotten to the core right now. Well, maybe not to the the core, but maybe the pericardium and mesocardium and the outer layer of the endocardium. Anyway, I guess the assignment couldn’t have come at a better time. This one only has to be 5 to 8 minutes long, so it forces me to be concise and non-word-mincy. I’m always up to that challenge.

Without further ado:

I have a confession. Sometimes during sacrament meeting, I get distracted. Maybe I don’t feel the Spirit as strongly as I should, and my mind wanders. During one such sacrament meeting, the speaker’s voice droningly transmitted from the microphone to the congregation. It was monotone and it kept going and going, and occasionally I could tune in, but it was one of those situations that took a great deal of effort to focus on what was being said. Usually, if I try, even with any kind of distraction, I can really channel the speaker’s words and intentions to my mind and heart, and I can usually find something useful or edifying from the talk.

This wasn’t one of those instances. The temperature was fine; I wasn’t falling asleep. There wasn’t much in the way of noise or commotion that I haven’t ignored before. But the speaker’s voice just blended into the background and I might have started daydreaming. I don’t know for how long.

I’m not sure exactly how I snapped out of it, but suddenly I was present, and I became very keenly aware of my surroundings. I was standing behind a podium, in front of a congregation, hands resting on the varnished oak surface. My eyes followed typed words on white paper. My mouth moved, dictating my reading and forming words into the microphone with a droning, monotone voice. My voice. A sinking feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. It occurred to me that one of my worst nightmares had come true: I had checked out of my own talk.

Has this ever happened to you?

It wasn’t as if I didn’t prepare, because I did, and I tend to put a fair amount of thought into my … thoughts. Maybe the writing was off, maybe I was too nervous and I tried too hard not to show it. Of the possible causes I considered, the one reason that kept my stomach sinking was the state of my heart. Where was my heart? If in delivering my talk I wasn’t getting through to myself, how was I coming across to the congregation?

[anecdotes and experiences I pulled from this blog to make the talk last 15 minutes]

I could go on, but I won’t. I confess: Teaching seminary has been one of the greatest, most tiring, most humbling, most joyful experiences of my life. I’m grateful to all the students who have blessed my life. Our hearts are in a better place. I’m grateful for my co-teachers and friends and parents and church leaders for their amazing support. Because of seminary, the students learn that all scripture is given by inspiration, to feast on the word of Christ. They know to go and do the things the Lord commands. They know to pray always and come off conqueror. They are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and they know wickedness never was happiness. They are the light of the world, whose immortality and eternal life are God’s work and glory. They know the Book of Mormon is true. That Joseph Smith restored the gospel. That Thomas S. Monson leads the Church today. That Christ’s atonement is for everyone. They know it, and I know it. Nothing can distract me from that.