Last week I posted a video clip of Shawn Rapier doing a stand-up bit about traditional ways we members of the Church begin our talks. In case you had a brief flash of slothfulness, and missed it, here is the post: "How Not to Start a Talk."
Shawn really nailed this topic, and the reason it was so funny is that we all recognize what he was saying from our regular church attendance. My friend that first sent me the link was one of my counselors in the bishopric. We went to lunch last week, and while we were talking about the video, he pointed out something that I had noticed:
Shawn missed one. Probably the one that bothered my friend and I the most - enough that I decided to go back and add it. Here it is...
"Brother's and sisters. I am glad to be speaking to you today. When the Bishop called me on Friday night to ask me to speak..."
There it is: The Time Stamp. It happens constantly.
"The Bishop asked me to speak on Thursday night."
"Bro. Counselor asked me to speak on Wednesday."
"He got me on my cellphone on Saturday morning."
I have to admit that one of the reasons the Time Stamp bothered me and my counselors was that it could be embarrassing. Yes, every now and again, speakers only had a day or two to prepare because we had just forgotten to make the call. Oops! Nobody likes to be called out in public when they mess up.
But what is the point of the Time Stamp? Why even go there? I've thought a lot about it, and here are a few unspoken reasons.
1) Shifting the Blame: It isn't really my fault if this talk is terrible - I just got asked on Friday - so it's the bishop's fault if I do a bad job. (Immediate assumption: I'm bracing myself for a bad talk)
2) I Shall Overcome: Yes, if this talk was good, it was good because I was able to pull it together on short notice - because that's how good I am. (Immediate assumption: Bad talk coming, but you might change my mind)
3) Some Leaders are Sent to Try Us. I am willing to speak, but need to point out that the bishopric is inept because they gave me so little warning. (Immediate assumption: That is so unfair - It's OK if your talk stinks.)
4) I'm So Funny. I needed to start with a joke, and this is all I could come up with - embarrass the Bishop. (Immediate assumption: That's all you got?)
Whenever you hear someone use the Time Stamp, you will see the bishopric smile and nod, or shrug their shoulders, because it isn't really that important - or because they know more than the speaker knows.
Sometimes the call comes late in the week because...
...someone cancelled at the very last minute, due to illness or other personal problems.
...the bishopric has been waiting for inspiration as to who to call to speak on a specific topic.
And what the Time Stamp speaker seems to forget is that the bishop would not call you on Saturday afternoon for a Sunday talk UNLESS HE TRUSTS YOU AND BELIEVES YOU CAN DO IT. I had a handful of sisters and brothers in the ward that I knew I could count up to the very last minute, and sometimes I would call on them - and they would step up and deliver. I cherished them.
So why dump on the leaders for a laugh? Lose the Time Stamp. Let it go. Give the best talk you can, and know that you don't know all the reasons as to why, or when, you were asked to speak.
- I am curious to hear the opinions of brethren who have had the task of assigning talks. -
(That sure wasn't as funny as Shawn Rapier)