Speak Up!

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    First I wouldn’t speak. Then I couldn’t. Maybe the Lord was trying to tell me something.

    There are a lot of things I’m not good at. For example, I am not a great chef—my idea of gourmet is adding crushed potato chips to my tuna fish. With regard to sewing, I’m top notch as long as I have a stapler or hot-glue gun handy. And when it comes to drawing, well, my stick figures don’t even look like sticks!

    But there is one thing I think I’m particularly good at. I can talk.

    It’s not that I’m better at enunciating than other people, or that I have superior grammar and diction; I just enjoy making good conversation. My teachers in grade school would always tell my parents, “She’s quite the little chatterbox.” In junior high, the common statement was, “My, isn’t she enthusiastic.” By the time I got to high school, it had delicately evolved to, “Does this girl ever stop talking?”

    Then, a few years later, I was serving a mission in North Carolina—the perfect reason for me to use my talent to its fullest extent. The only problem was that I didn’t want to. I discovered that being on a mission was a little scary at first.

    When my first senior companion, Sister Hubbard, invited me to teach a discussion, I would reply, “You teach it. I want to watch you first.” When we knocked on doors, she would sweetly remind me when it was my turn to greet them. I would stiffly utter a bland hello and pray that they wouldn’t have any questions to ask me.

    This went on for a little while until I woke up one morning with a bad cold and sore throat. When I tried to tell my companion how rotten I felt, I found that I had lost my voice too. At first, it was pretty good. I had the perfect excuse to sit quietly through every appointment, not saying a word. After a few days, though, the novelty began to fade. I couldn’t chat with anyone, use the phone, or sing. Life wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be without a voice. Soon I was more down than ever.

    Toward the end of the week, while I was studying the scriptures, I came to Matthew 25 [Matt. 25], where it talks about the parable of the talents. As I read, I slowly realized that I had acted like the slothful servant. Heavenly Father had given me the talent of communication and had provided me with the means to use my talent by calling me to share the gospel. But what did I do? “I was afraid, and went and hid [my] talent in the earth” (Matt. 25:25). My days of silence taught me what it would really be like to lose my talent for good if I didn’t use it.

    Well, I’m still on my mission and I’m happy to report that my voice came back, and I’ve decided to use it as much as I possibly can. At every appointment, I try to teach with a grateful heart, thanking the Lord for the opportunity to bear my testimony of Jesus Christ. When it comes to knocking on doors, I greet people with a cheerful grin and a hearty “How y’all doing today?” (That’s southern for hello.) And when I walk through town, no one gets by without a friendly invitation to learn more about the plan of happiness.

    I may not be a master chef, a superior seamstress, or a modern Monet, but I am using the talent that I do have to do the very best I can. And I find special meaning in these words from the Doctrine and Covenants: “And thou must open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing” (D&C 128:16).

    [photo] Photography by Maren Mecham; posed by model