Sundays have always been a delight because of the friends I meet at Church but I have at times struggled to find any excitement in listening to sacrament meeting talks. Most Sundays of the year, speakers are assigned to share their life and spiritual experiences, often about how they have been blessed from applying the gospel to their lives. However, there have been times that I have retreated to the restroom, or read a general conference talk (a general assembly of the Church that happens twice a year) instead of listening to the speaker. Many members, I think, have also felt and experienced the same thing due to a speaker’s boring talk.
In one of his speeches at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA, President Henry B. Eyring, one of the Apostles or Representatives of Christ today, shared a Sunday meeting experience with his dad. He recalled:
Years ago I was sitting in a sacrament meeting with my father… He seemed to be enjoying what I thought was a terrible talk. I watched my father, and to my amazement, his face was beaming as the speaker droned on. I kept stealing looks back at him, and sure enough, through the whole thing he had this beatific smile.
Our home was near enough to the ward that we walked home. I remember walking with my father on the shoulder of the road that wasn’t paved. I kicked a stone ahead of me as I plotted what I would do next. I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful.
Now I really had a problem. My father had a wonderful sense of humor, but you didn’t want to push it too far. I was puzzled. I was trying to summon up enough courage to ask him how I could have such a different opinion of that meeting and that speaker.
Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind because he started to laugh. He said:
“Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.” He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then, with that special self-deprecating chuckle of his, he said, “Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting.”
Can we do the same? I am sure that this requires a lot of practice, prayer, humility and faith but it can be done. However, before it can be done, we must understand why we need to listen, even to the words of a seemingly boring talk. President Eyring shared two reasons:
…you and I need a check on our own inspiration occasionally. We can be mistaken. We at times, even with real intent and with faith and with careful prayer, may come to wrong conclusions. Listening to others can provide correction. It can promote more careful consideration. I hope you will always remember that there is safety in counsel.
I can think of another reason why we are blessed to be required to be taught by other human beings. For me, that is made clear in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants (another scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), verse 23, which says: “That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.”
Notice that the Lord used the words weak and simple. These talks from inexperienced or nervous speakers may be considered weak and simple but we can still receive inspiration from the Lord by listening to their words. We should be humble enough to realize that profound words can come forth even from the mouth of a little child.
When asked about what we do when we hear an unexciting talk, may we delightfully be able to say, “I cannot remember the last time I’ve heard one.”