You read that right. I am giving the sermon. I'm not a preacher, pastor, or minister. I'm not a scriptorian, or theologian. I'm not exceptionally motivational and I am certainly not a man. I'm just another daisy in the church garden.
We do this all the time, actually. In fact, the bishop (our word for pastor) rarely speaks on Sunday at all, besides introducing the people who are giving the talks (our word for sermons). As long as the bishop is confident that they will not shout obsenities or preach false doctrine, every member will probably have an opportunity to grasp the pulpit in their own sweaty palms at one time or another.
Speakers can be men or women. Usually we are given a topic (forgiveness, honesty, service, Jesus Christ) and a time limit (anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes). Even teenagers, to their eternal happiness, get opportunities to address the congregation.
My topic this Sunday is missionary work. Specifically, hastening missionary work through technology. I have 12 minutes.
I have heard people say that Mormon Sunday meetings are anti-climactic. I think they say this because there is a lot of hype that Mormons do all sorts of crazy religious things when really we are pretty normal people who like to speak in public about as much as you do. So if you ever come to one of our meetings and find it on the dull side, remember that the people giving the talks are plumbers, painters, cafeteria ladies and housewives and that if they can make it through their talk without feinting or throwing up the meeting is a success.
But get this--here is something not very many people know. Once a month, after the bishop has opened the meeting and after the sacrament has been passed, we have an OPEN MIC for any member who feels prompted to come up and explain why they believe in Jesus Christ. No program, no notes, no outline. Just you, the pulpit and your pounding heart. We call this Testimony Meeting.
We prepare for this meeting by fasting, which helps us be more spiritually sensitive. Sometimes it takes a while for the spirit to move people out of their cushioned seats, so there are periods of awkward silence. But this is often one of our most stirring and spiritual services. There is no age limit, either. Even young children can get up and say what is in their heart. Listening to the testimonies of others can be very powerful and enriching, especially if you listen with your heart and not just your ears. When we get up to speak we are being prompted by the spirit. And when the spirit speaks, it is powerful because it comes from the inside out.
Speaking with power--that is, speaking with the power of the Holy Ghost--is a tradition in our church that goes back a long way. Here are some famous speeches from our history:
This is Abinadi. Not the guy in the green feathers. The one in chains.
You can read the story here.
Samuel the Lamanite
Samuel the Lamanite is another Book of Mormon messenger who did not fear speaking. . . or heights. He tried preaching to the people of Zarahemla, but they threw him out. He was about to go home when the Lord told him to go back and "prophesy unto the people whatsoever things that should come into his heart." So he climbed the wall of the city and spoke to them there.
The people tried to shoot him with arrows but he was protected by the Lord. (That, or he was too far up.) What was the message that was so important for him to tell? That Christ is going to be born on earth. And after he visits Jerusalem, he will visit us. You can read the story here.
Church history has some legendary speeches as well. One especially is remembered not for what the speaker said, but what happened when he said it.
After Joseph Smith died the church was seeking a new leader. It was narrowed down to two men: Sidney Rigdon who was the first counselor of the church, and Brigham Young, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve. On an August morning in 1844 the church members gathered together for an outdoor conference to listen to the two men speak and then vote. Sidney Rigdon spoke first. Then Brigham Young began to speak and that is when something extraordinary took place.
Witnesses say that Brigham Young's voice sounded just like the voice of Joseph Smith. Others say that Brigham Young's mannerisms, his appearance, even the way he cleared his throat seemed characteristic of the late and beloved prophet. Still others simply felt that a spiritual transition of leadership had taken place, and fallen on this man's shoulders. Whatever it was, it was palpable and clear: Brigham Young was to be the next prophet. Few witnesses ever talk about what Brigham Young said in that discourse, but there are at least 101 written accounts explaining how they felt. From that point forward the church was in Brigham Young's hands. Source
Now (deep breath) it is my turn to take my place at the pulpit. Unfortunately I doubt my talk will change many lives. My face is not going to glow, and if you shoot arrows at me I'm pretty sure I'll die. But if there is anyone who can preach a good sermon, it is a mother.
So enough of this blogging business. I've got to get working on my talk.
P.S. I thought it might be interesting to know if any of my Mormon friends have had an expereince as they listened to a particular talk in church that moved them. Can you remember a talk that stands out to you and what the speaker talked about? I know that I have a few readers who would be delighted if you shared your story below in the comments.