Christian A. Johnson in his "Seven Deadly Sins of Sacrament Meeting Talks" makes the following list:
1) The Sin of Unpreparedness.
2) The Sin of Time Enroachment
3) The Sin of Out-and-Out Time Theft
4) The Sin of Repeating Urban Legends
5) The Sin of Drawing Upon Inappropriate Material
6) The Sin of "Too Much Information"
7) The Sin of Casting Blame on Others for Your Speaking Assignment
To the above list I would like to add:
8) The Sin of Not Using the Scriptures. I don't know how many talks I have heard that pretty much contain Sin Six and Sin Four with almost no mention of the Scriptures. We should be teaching each other the Gospel, and it is in the Scriptures that the gospel truths are most readily available. Reading long excerpts from stories out of the Church magazines or any other material goes in one ear and out the other for me. It would be great to get people's insights into what they have learned or thought about as they Feast Upon the Word, rather than regurgitate another's creative tale spinning.
9) The Sin of Political Speaches. Believe it or not, even Conservative statements over the pulpit make me nervous. We should make sure what we say is backed up by recent prophets and plenty of scriptures. Quoting a politician, pundit, or pop culture is probably not a good idea. Small doses might be fine if carefully used.
I would like to elevate the Seventh Sin to the First slot. I love giving talks. Many years of my life have been devoted to the study of the gospel, so it is a thrill to get up and share what I have learned. Of course, it helps that I love getting in front of audiences as long as I have a reason. But to get up and say from the first "when the Biship called I hoped it wasn't about giving a talk" is a complete turn-off. It is the same for me as saying "I didn't want to do this and therefore I don't know why you should listen." This practice of voicing your disfavor for talking has got to stop!
Maybe I should set an example (I already completely skip out on saying anything about the act of speaking when giving a Sacrament talk) and just give a positive statement every time I get up. It would go something like this: It is so nice to get up in front of this ward and express my heartfelt gratitude for the gospel. When the Bishop asked me to give a talk on . . . add subject . . . it gave me the opportunity to revisit my favorite scripture . . . add scripture.
No matter what the probems might be that hamper the effectiveness of Sacrament meeting talks, lets all work together to improve our experiences. We all know how boring a group of lay speakers are. Something must be done to benefit the soul more fully during a time when we should be strengthening each other. Certainly its not about having a professional clergy. Rather, its about wishing for the voice of an angel and then reaching for the closeness of the Spirit in our communications. Its time to start a new crusade to rid the Sacrament Meetings of horrible talks. Especially when most people can do better when they put their hearts and minds into a project of personal importance. And the gospel is important.
Now lets all say together in our most enthusiastic voices: I am glad to be giving this talk today.