“How can I get more out of sacrament meeting talks?” Ensign, Aug. 1990, 53
George Durrant, Department of Church History, Brigham Young University. I like this question because it puts the responsibility on those who can do something about the situation—us. While we can’t change the talks we hear in sacrament meeting, except for the ones we personally give, we can do things to make each talk more interesting. Great talks can be even greater, and poor talks can be pleasant, if we, the listeners, will do a few things.
First, we can make ourselves more receptive to what is said. I used to attend general conference in person, right in the Tabernacle. When I began staying at home and watching the proceedings on television, I soon realized that I had learned more and been more inspired when I went to the Tabernacle. Why was that the case? I thought that I would get more out of conference at home, where I was sitting on my nice, soft, comfortable chair.
But the comfortable chair was part of the problem. I was too comfortable . So I decided to try an experiment. At the next conference, I got up, showered, and dressed as if I were going to the Tabernacle. Then I found the hardest chair in the house and placed it in front of the television set. I ate before the first session began and did not do so again until it ended. I sang the rest hymn as though I were right there with those in the Tabernacle, sustained the Brethren by raising my hand, said amen to the prayers, and didn’t talk to anyone until the session concluded. And do you know what? I started getting the same nourishment from the conference broadcast that I had received while attending conference in the Tabernacle.
I realize that we are talking about sacrament meeting talks, not about general conference. Nonetheless, the receptivity principle is the same. We need to do certain things to ensure that we will receive the talk well. For example, if a Sunday feast precedes sacrament meeting, it is difficult not to be drowsy. So we should go a bit light on food before church in order to stay alert for the spiritual food of the meeting.
It might also help to sit close to the front, if possible. I know we can’t all do this, but the farther away from the podium we sit, the less interesting the talks seem to be. Sitting close to the front is especially helpful for families with children and youth. Children and youth maintain more interest when they can see the speaker close-up.
Another way to improve listening is to keep our eyes fixed on the speaker’s eyes. When we look down or away, our mind follows our gaze. And if the speaker looks at us and we nod our approval, it encourages him or her and sparks enthusiasm—both in us and in the speaker.
We can also praise the speaker in our minds, instead of finding fault with his or her grammar or lackluster speaking style. Bishop Henry B. Eyring once told me that his father said he had never been bored during a sacrament meeting talk. He always tried to think along with the speaker, even developing ideas in his mind about what he would say to supplement the talk.
Finally, perhaps the most important thing we can do to get more out of sacrament meeting talks is to pray for the speaker, pray that he or she will be able to express his or her message by the power of the Holy Ghost. As the Doctrine and Covenants declares, “He that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth. … He that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:21–22.) When we invest in speakers by praying for them, we are, in a sense, quietly cheering for them. We desire that they do well. And though our prayers help the speaker, they also help us. We are more receptive and, consequently, get much more from sacrament meeting talks.