“Speaking from the Heart,” Ensign, Dec. 1984, 65
I slipped into the back row of the room to listen to a shy ten-year-old boy give his talk. Although he was not especially confident, he delivered his talk with no awkward pauses or glances at his mother. He referred to a scripture and shared an experience from his life to illustrate his point. When he took his seat and began fidgeting with his paper, I suddenly noticed that there were less than a dozen words written on it. He had not read his talk; he had expressed the main ideas in his own words!
Later, his mother told me how she helped her children prepare such talks. First, she takes her child aside and together they choose a subject. Then she asks her child to tell her everything he knows about it. With some prompting, they have a general discussion of the gospel principle. As they talk, she corrects misconceptions and fills in any obvious gaps in his understanding. Then she asks him to tell again, in his own words, everything he knows about the subject. At this point she writes down key words that will help him remember the main points.
Next, they study the scriptures and mark a pertinent verse in the child’s own Bible. Sometimes she shares poems, song lyrics, or quotes from uplifting sources, and lets her child pick one he likes to use in the talk. Her only rule is that if he reads anything, it must be done in less than a minute.
Finally, she discusses with her child what this gospel principle means in his life. Together they review special times when this principle has been important to their family. He uses one of these experiences to close his talk, then bears a testimony.
There are several advantages to this system. Since there is nothing to memorize, there is nothing to forget. It eliminates stumbling over unfamiliar words or getting lost in the middle of a written sheet. And children gain confidence by sharing their own ideas in their own words.
This method also works well for adults. When preparing a talk, pick a subject, study it, search the scriptures, then make an outline of key words, phrases, and references to other source material. Illustrate with real-life, personal examples, and finally, bear testimony.
Speaking from the heart captures and involves the audience.
It invites us to speak the truth as we have come to know and experience it in our lives. And finally, it keeps us open to the Spirit of truth, that both the speaker and the listener “are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22.) Judy C. Olsen