Speaking Up


What do you say when you speak in front of famous generals and ex-presidents? For starters, you quote some real authorities.

Rachel Moss knew three people in the congregation.

Seated nearby were her mom and dad and her stake president. Outside of those familiar faces, the place was filled with a bunch of strangers. Well, except for the people she didn’t know but did recognize, namely former U.S. President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, as well as former Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole and General Colin Powell.

Gulp.

Lots of things were going through her mind. “Yeah, I was really nervous,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure that I did everything right.”

As she sat with the other speakers in the sanctuary of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her stomach was churning.

Be sure to make eye contact, she kept telling herself. Don’t talk too fast.

Rachel, a Mia Maid in the Marshaltown Second Ward, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake, was invited by her stake president to represent the Church and speak at an interfaith worship service that concluded U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Summit for America’s Future in April of 1997. She was one of five youth speakers on the program.

“That’s one of the things I remember most, just sitting there waiting. I’m not much for being in the spotlight,” Rachel adds.

But the spotlight was glowing brightly that day, and it didn’t take Rachel long to realize what a great opportunity she had to teach people a little about her beliefs.

After the microphone was adjusted for her, she began.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you our feelings about the importance of young people and the contribution they can make to the community around us,” Rachel said.

“Before I began, everybody was clapping and talking,” she remembers. “When I went up, it stopped. There was no talking, and everything was completely quiet. I thought it made it kind of easier because I felt like they were actually listening. Really listening. That was neat.”

Rachel’s five-minute talk dealt mainly with the Church’s emphasis on the family. She quoted from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Church’s proclamation on the family, and the 13th article of faith [A of F 1:13]. She then concluded with this from For the Strength of Youth:

“Joy and happiness come from living the way the Lord wants you to live and from service to God and others. The Lord asks you to keep your life pure, seek his Spirit, maintain your self-respect, and be a good influence on your family and friends,” she said.

Then she sat down.

I’m sure glad I didn’t mess up, was her first thought.

Indeed not.

“I’m glad I was chosen. My testimony got a lot stronger, and I feel like I have more conviction. What I believe is important to me, and speaking in that meeting has made me think of my beliefs more,” she says.

Her talk gave others plenty to think about too.

[photo] Photography by Laury Livsey. Photo illustration by Pat Gerber.