Are We ‘Worthy’ If We Won’t Public Speak In Church?


“…Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue…and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well…And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people…” (Exodus 4:10,14.16)

46% of adults rate public speaking as the activity that they fear the most. As our church is composed of a lay ministry, it is not uncommon for most to be presented with the call to public speak and or lead in a public manner. Some of our members, and more than you would think, have a negative physical reaction to the thought of speaking at church or leading a meeting in church. Many suffer from severe anxiety or panics attacks when they are presented with this challenge. Sadly, it has been my experience that too often a member who has such feelings, believes that they are lacking in faith or that they are not as worthy as those that can do so with ease. And sometimes inadvertently that message can be sent by a well-meaning leader.

I once met with a woman who told me of how she was asked to speak in church. She suffered from anxiety and the thought of standing in front of a congregation was simply frightening to her. She told me she had received a phone call and was asked to speak by a priesthood leader. When she politely refused and explained her situation, the leader pressed and told her if she had enough faith that she could overcome her fear. He directed her to a few scriptures regarding faith, and then pressed again for her consent. Under duress this good sister accepted. I am sure the leader meant well and I imagine that when they hung up the phone that leader felt good in thinking they had helped another person overcome their fear. What I do know happened for sure was that this sister hung up the phone, went to her bedroom and cried for a very long time. She told me she felt shame and that somehow she was not as good in the Lord’s eyes because she must lack faith. The whole week prior to speaking she was unable to concentrate on anything else. The experience of public speaking was a negative in her eyes. She felt like a failure. The experience has made her not want to come to church.

Once I discussed this subject matter with another member who felt that everyone could public speak if they had the faith. I told him that speaking, like many talents, was a gift and that for some it was just not their ‘thing.’ I asked why we don’t ask people to sing a solo in church if all it took was faith and that it had nothing to do with the talent of their voice. Why not ask someone to play the piano that had never had lessons if all that was required was faith? Their faith would “guide” them over the keys! He smiled and nodded and said, “I see your point.”

Each of us has been given talents, gifts, and abilities in this life. All of us should be at peace with ourselves when it comes to what talents the Lord has given to us. More importantly, we as members, should be willing to accept what others can lay on the altar and not pass judgment. So to all who suffer from anxiety, depression, or other physical disorders that limit your ability to speak, lead, or serve. The Savior said:

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Moses isn’t the only prophet named in the scriptures who was afraid of public speaking, there are others. So if public speaking isn’t our ‘thing’, we shouldn’t  feel too bad; were in good company. After all, I think Moses was counted as ‘worthy’!


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