Sunday, August 17, 2008

Church talk

I was asked to speak in church last week. As much as I dislike talking in front of large groups of people, it is preferable to, say, chaperoning a herd of fighting, teasing, punching 9-year-old boys. So I always keep that in mind.

Speaking in our new ward made me a little more nervous than the one we have just moved out of. First, almost no one here knows us and this will be their first impression of our family. I usually like to trick people into liking me before revealing that we're a little off-center. Second, our old ward was packed with kids and the noise level was always somewhere between "Cafeteria" and "Metallica Concert". So I could ramble on with the serene knowledge that no one was listening to me anyway. Not so much the case here.

Anyway, for posterity (mine, not yours) here is the talk I gave. Feel free to not read it, I'm mostly posting it so that I will not lose the document - the way I have with all the previous ones.

We were given a rather broad topic to speak on – reverence for sacred things. I looked through many talks and indexes searching for inspiration. I stumbled across this quote by Keith L. Smith where he said “Reverence is more than being quiet. Our regard for sacred things, our behavior in the home and at church, and our attitude toward those who hold the priesthood all serve as measures of our reverence.”

This really struck a chord with me. We have very small children, who are at the age where you are constantly trying to teach them to be reverent. Walk with your arms folded, don’t fight at the drinking fountain, don’t punch each other during the hymns… I’m sure you’ve all been there. But it seems like my focus on “reverence” is limited to Sundays and church meetings. Elder Smith’s comment made me realize that I need to take one step back and address this issue at home. President Spencer W. Kimball said “… Behavior learned at home determines behavior in Church meetings. A child who has learned to pray at home soon understands that he must be quiet and still during prayers in worship service.”

So I’ve decided to speak on reverence in the home. I think the first thing to address is the way you talk. We are continually advised to make our home into a sanctuary – a temple of our own. At the May BYU Women’s conference, Elder Merrill J. Bateman said that there is no better example to children than for parents to live their covenants and proceeded to give 5 ways to pattern your home after the temple. First on his list was to speak quietly. Anyone who has attended the temple has surely noticed the hushed calm of the rooms – everyone speaks in a whisper. There is no shouting over one another, no noise, no chaos. It’s so peaceful and the Spirit just washes over you. Then I compare this to our home. With two small restless children our house is rambunctious at best and a complete circus the rest of the time. There are times when I feel like I have to shout over everything just to be heard. But when I actually stop to think about it, as soon as the volume of my voice goes up, it seems like the craziness goes up another level. No one is listening to what I say. Instead everyone yells until they’re in trouble or crying.

If I compare that situation with the opposite – when I’m able to sit down and talk to them calmly, quietly – the results are often dramatically different. No one gets wound up or out of control. You are not driving the spirit out of your home by shouting and being angry. Instead you’re actually inviting peace, personal revelation and that still small voice to guide you and prompt you. They still might not listen to me… but at least I’m on the right path.

Of course our homes will never achieve the constant quiet peace of the holy temple. There will always be friends, music, ringing phones, laughter and fun. But as much as we are able, we should try to balance the noise of the world with some quiet and reverence for the spirit of the Lord.

The next step is the things we say. The words we use and the things we talk about contribute greatly to the environment in our homes. Is that environment inviting the spirit of the Lord? Elder Wood says “…in small and in great ways, our words are creating an atmosphere in which we build or demolish.” Are we building up a reverent home and family? Or are we tearing down the things we have struggled to learn and achieve?"

Elder Woods goes on to say “…in graduate school I had a conversation with a friend who argued that one should be, as he called it, direct, even if rude and insensitive to others’ feelings. Unfortunately, the spirit animating these incidents has taken firm hold on society and is found even among the Saints. Over the years, there has been an increase in sexual innuendos, raucous humor, violent expressions, and great noise in talk, in music, in gestures. Much around us is crude and rude, with a corruption of moral behavior and sensitivity. Society has not been improved by our “light speeches” and our “light-mindedness.” Instead, our expressions have polluted our communities and corrupted our souls.

I think I would be right to assume that most of us don’t swear. We don’t curse or take the Lord’s name in vain. But is that enough? Do we tell jokes that are vulgar or demeaning because they are funny? Are we rude, sarcastic or careless of other’s feelings? I read a phrase a few years ago that has stuck with me ever since – cavities of the soul. Every mean or unclean thing we say, however insincere, has the ability to sit and fester until it is painful. Who knows what problems this can cause down the road?

It seems like a lot of emphasis is put on the things you shouldn’t say, but I want to end on a positive note. What SHOULD we say? What should we focus on? Elder Woods gives this encouraging thought:

What we say and how we present ourselves not only betray our inner person but also mold that person, those around us, and finally our whole society. Every day each of us is implicated in obscuring the light or in chasing away the darkness. We have been called to invite the light and to be a light, to sanctify ourselves and edify others.

This bit of advice is twofold. First we should speak and act like a witness of God. We should be willing to stand out from the crowd. Second we should talk about the gospel. Share it with your children and friends. Have wholesome discussions. Be willing to share your experiences or testimony with others. D&C 80:4 says “Therefore, declare the things which ye have heard, and verily believe and know to be true.” I think that by sharing the things we know and have experienced in the gospel shows not only a reverence, but a love for the teachings of our Heavenly Father. Your children will see that you are proud to be a Latter Day Saint and will hopefully learn to act accordingly.

When we speak and act, we should ask whether our words and expressions are calculated to invite the powers of heaven into our lives and to invite all to come unto Christ. We must treat sacred things with reverence. We need to eliminate from our conversations the immodest and the lewd, the violent and the threatening, the demeaning and the false.

I hope that we can all be more mindful of reverence in our homes. I know that I have been more conscious of it this week while I’ve been writing this talk and I’ve noticed a definite change in the behavior of the children. Like any family we’ll continue to have our good days and bad but I hope that I can take this lesson to heart and strive to have more peace and reverence in our home.

1 comment:

Becca Jo said...

oh I can't wait until my next talk! it's already written for me! I love it though it is really good and so true.