Over the years I have given probably 40-50 Sacrament meeting talks. Usually once a year, but then 3-4 times a year as counselor and Bishop. Getting into computers early, I have most of my talks saved back to 1990. I was looking over some of them recently, and thought I’d share a few words from some of them. You’ll be able to tell that I’ve been a nuanced, processive, unorthodox Mormon for a long time, way before I was called as Bishop. My main goal was to make sure nobody ever got bored during my talks.

From a mothers day talk in the 1990s, while I was 2nd counselor in the Bishopric

Several years ago,  while addressing temple ordnance workers, The Los Angeles Temple President  said that we often confuse two priesthood’s:  the Melchizedek,  whose charge it is to administer the Church and Kingdom of God,  and the patriarchal,  whose charge it is to administer the affairs of the family.  He said the patriarchal priesthood is given only over the alters of the sealing rooms,  and is given simultaneously and jointly to a sealed husband and wife. 

 It is only by expanding our vision to take in such an eternal perspective that we can begin to appreciate the loving concern of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in providing the means for the fullest of celestial glory, enjoyment and happiness for their children through a plan which values equally both the masculine and feminine in their children.

From 1998, while I was EQP a talk about Family Home Evening

To start,  lets define Family.  It’s not defined in the scriptures anywhere,  and it’s not even defined in the Proclamation of the Family that we hear so much about these days.  Now if you took your definition of a family from the pictures in the Ensign or Church Commercials on TV,  a family would be a Father, Mother, and 3.2 kids sitting at their knee.  But this does not fit the majority of families in the world,  or even the church.  Hopefully these are unintentional images that are portrayed.  Over half the church membership will see these images and say ‘well, I don’t even have that type of family,  so I can’t have FHE.

I’m going to define family for this talk so that it includes everybody in the congregation today.  My definition is :  A group of people, related or not,  that provide mutual support and love for one another.

Now everybody here today is included in this definition of a family:  Single fathers with kids,  Single mothers with kids,  Grandparents raising grandchildren, Step parents,  adopted children,  Brady Bunch unions with his, hers, and theirs,  Mothers with kids and dad gone on deployment (military), husband and wives without kids, single adults, and roommates.  My parents were in a FHE group comprised of older married couples and single adults whose kids have left the house.

From Jan 2000 while ward clerk

When we are so sure that we have all the answers, when we rely on our own ability to understand things, when we give in to the foolishness of despising instruction and hating knowledge, then we let our vanity come between us and the Lord, we wind up relying on the arm of the flesh, on our own intellectual abilities, and we move away from reliance on the Lord. The apostle Hugh B. Brown warned of this danger of prideful arrogance in a BYU devotional:

     “We have been blessed with much knowledge by revelation from God which in some part the world lacks, but there is an incomparably greater part of truth which remains yet to discover. Our revealed truth should leave us stricken with the knowledge of how little we really know. It should never lead to an emotional arrogance based on a false assumption that we somehow have all the answers-that we in fact have a corner on truth. For we do not.” [BYU devotional, 13 May 1969]

From Oct 2000 while 2nd Counselor in YSA Bishopric

With our diversity,  we  are going to encounter a wide range of ideas and preferences.  Some will dress different than others.  Some will enjoy activities that other will find unworthy of their time.  Despite these differences,  we all have one thing in common.  We are all children of our Father in Heaven. 

As we look at the green manicured lawns that front our homes,  we see that each blade of grass is the same color,  the same uniform appearance.  These lawns are man made.  Now look at God’s lawn.  When you see a mountain meadow, of wild flowers and grass,  that is God’s lawn.  There are flowers of various heights and colors,  tall and short grass. All these plants and flowers grow side by side, in beautiful harmony. This is how God grows his lawn.

Our ward is like God’s lawn.  Each of us is different.  Each of us will dress different according to our own forms of individual expression.  We are of different ages,  ethnic makeup and educational backgrounds. Our tastes will vary  for music, activities, and food. Like the wild flowers in the mountain meadow,  we can enjoy each others differences each Sunday,  and during weekly ward activities.

From 2004 while Bishop, a talk on Service

If we only provide service to other members of the church,  we are preaching to the choir so to speak.  Christ’s parable of the good Samaritan was about somebody providing service outside his circle of friends.  In fact the parable was a dig at the ruling church authorities of that time that they were not carrying out their stewardship properly. If it were told in today’s culture, within our church, it would go something like this

A certain Brother Smith went down the hill from Thousand Oaks to Camarillo, and had a flat tire, and having not a spare, was stranded on the side of the road with no cell phone coverage.

  31 And by chance there came down a certain Stake President that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side for he was late to a Stake leadership meeting.

  32 And likewise an Elders Quorum President, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side, for he had to go move somebody.

  33 But a certain Muslim,  as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

  34 And went to him, and bound up his tire , and set him in his own car, and brought him to an service station, and fixed his tire.

  36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the sharp nails?

Opportunities for service to others are limitless. Kind words and deeds can lift burdens and gladden hearts.  One true key to happiness is to labor for the happiness of others.

From 2005 while Bishop, a talk about how principles and culture are NOT the gospel

3. Dress

Principle is to dress appropriately for church so that we show reverence to God.

But dress is a very personal item and how we chose to follow the principle in our own lives and in our families should not be of concern to others.  I have noticed in my travels around the world that culture plays a big part in what is acceptable for church.

                –  While in Hawaii last year on business,  I drove out to the Hawaiian temple after work to do a session.  I left right from work (jeans and a pull-over shirt),  but had a change of clothes in the car (nice slacks and a white shirt and tie).  I took my change clothes to the front of the temple,  but could not find a changing room,  so I went in the front doors,  and was greeted by a large Samoan brother.  I ask if there was a place I could change.  He looked at me from head to toe,  and asked “What?”  I again asked for a place to change.  He said that everybody changes in the dressing room into there white clothes. I said I want to change my shirt and pants before I came into the temple.  He then looked at me with some concern (like I was crazy) and asked if I even had a temple recommend.  I told him I did,  and then he told me I could just go in,  there was no need to change.  I related this to my father (who worked in the Hawaiian temple at the time),  and he said that the temple president has instructed all temple workers,  that due to the relaxed culture of Hawaii,  that nobody is to be turned away from the temple,  no matter how they come dressed.

In the last talk I gave was a couple of years ago, I quoted liberally from a General Conference talk from 1984. Yes, THAT talk by Elder Ron Poelman. Except I didn’t use the church’s edited version that they published in the Ensign and is still on the church’s web site. I found the original online, and used that. I even mentioned in my talk I’m “quoting from Elder Poelman’s 1984 Conference talk”. Nobody in the ward knew of the controversy, and loved the original words from his talk!

I quoted the below which were censored out of his published talk

Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may,
through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies. Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles. Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy. In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity

The conformity we require should be according to God’s standards. The orthodoxy upon which we insist must be founded in fundamental principles and eternal law, including free agency and the divine uniqueness of the individual. It is important therefore to know the difference between eternal gospel principles which are unchanging, universally applicable and cultural norms which may vary with time and circumstance

As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered

So there you have it, the life and times of Bishop Bill. I always got lots of complements after each talk, and asked for a copy of the talk. What talk do you remember from your years of sitting in Sacrament Meetings? What made them memorable, for good or bad?