The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no paid preachers, and unlike most churches, members of the congregation take turns teaching each other. Within the Church, when a person speaks to a group of members, their speech or sermon is called a talk. Talks are given in Sacrament meetings, firesides, conferences, and other special occasions like baptisms.
In Sacrament meetings, talks take up the majority of the time. Typically two to four people are asked to speak, and their talks can range anywhere from two to twenty minutes. There is often a youth speaker (a member of the ward between the ages of 12 and 17) and it is usual for married couples to speak together, although this is not always the case. A member of the bishopric usually asks these people to prepare and give talks and will provide them with a topic such as family, faith, or the temple. Talks are not considered doctrine and are not official statements of the Church because the individual is not authorized to speak for the Church. However, talks are meant to benefit others by teaching from the scriptures, relating teachings of the prophet and stories from Church history, or by relating personal inspirational experiences that will help others in the congregation. The beauty of have members teach each other is that people can learn and grow from the perspectives and experiences of their peers, people who may well be dealing with the same difficulties in life. Learning from each other also promotes unity within each congregation.
Members of the bishopric do not just go down their membership list and have each person speak, instead the choice of speakers is either inspired or based on tradition. Usually, within the Church, new members of the ward are asked to give talks shortly after they move in. It is usually requested that they tell a little bit about themselves before giving the talk. Members of the ward who have received callings in leadership positions are also often asked to speak before or just after beginning their new calling. For example, often when a new Relief Society presidency is called or when a new bishopric is announced the following week all three members of the presidency or bishopric give a talk in Sacrament meeting. It is also traditional in the Church to have missionaries that have just been called to the mission field or who have just returned from the mission field give talks in Sacrament meeting.
Members are encouraged to ponder the message of their talks and pray to be guided so that they might say the things the Lord wants the members of that particular congregation to hear. There are numerous stories within the Church about how a person’s talk was the answer to someone else’s prayer. Sometimes, the person who may benefit the most from a talk is the speaker who prepared it.
Talks given during General Conference are different from those prepared for Sacrament meetings. The General Authorities and General Auxiliary leaders who speak choose their own topics. Since the messages given in general conference are considered doctrinal, speakers are asked to clear their talks in order to make sure everything presented is doctrinal and accurate.
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