I was recently asked to speak in Sacrament meeting. I would gladly do so, however I have a great fear in speaking in large groups. However I strongly believe in supporting my leaders and doing what they ask and in pleasing my Heavenly Father. Would it be wrong to decline the invitation?
Joe, from Utah
You have asked a question with which I am intimately acquainted by excruciating personal experience. Not only did I have a great fear of speaking in public, but I was absolutely petrified. If I ever got on the stand to give a simple 2 1/2 minute talk, I knew that the people in the back row could hear my heart beating. At the pulpit I have died 1000 deaths!!
Just to give you a specific example, at 23 years of age, after spending nearly four years in the military service, during which time I tried every way possible to get over my terrible stage fright, I was called as a missionary. I was the first missionary out from my stake after the war, and there was quite a crowd at the sacrament meeting where I was to give my farewell address. After being introduced by the bishop I got up to the pulpit and was so terrified as I looked out over the congregation that I turned around and sat down without saying a word!
Today, talking in church is no different for me than having a conversation around the dinner table. What made the difference? My mission! The Lord supports, sustains and gives abilities to those who dedicate themselves to his service. Before I went on my mission to Argentina I flunked a semester of Spanish in college, and they invited me not to return for the second semester. Before I finished my mission my Spanish was of sufficient quality that people with whom I talked could not guess my country of origin. That ability was a gift from God, a plain manifestation of the gift of tongues.
Also, when I started my mission, as I had to speak in Church every week, I would write out a talk in English, try to translate it into Spanish, have a more mature missionary correct it, then I would read it to the congregation, much as a child does in Primary. This continued for five months, until they made me a branch president, and I didn’t have time for such luxuries any more. When I returned home from my mission, I was able to handle my home coming address.
If you want to overcome your fear of speaking before large groups, immerse yourself in the service of the Lord in whatever way is open to you and you will receive his blessings more than you can expect–
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).