"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
July 10, 2012
Thinking of Good Stuff to Say
by Vickey Pahnke Taylor

I began talking when I was seven months old. I didn't say a word; I said a sentence. Apparently, I shocked my mother (and now, being a mom and grandmother, I can understand) when I smiled and said, "See the doll, momma?"

With that introduction to words, I began using them. Lots. About everything. To anyone. The story goes that I was a good child. Obedient. Enjoyable. But I talked too much - drove everybody crazy.

Since I've spent so much time doing public speaking as an adult, maybe I was practicing. Those public speaking, debate, and theater classes paid off as a means of learning a craft of using words to paint pictures, uplift, and communicate (hopefully) in ways that count. The speech that began so early makes a good line when someone asks me about how I got started in the public forum of speaking.

But that's the public portion of using words. Because I am totally invested in good, bad, upset, or hurt moments in the family circle, my communications background don't serve me as well.

When I'm hanging out with family or friends, there are lots of times when I just don't open my mouth to speak, even when I really want to. Sometimes, I weigh the words, so they don't come out like a fire hose. But because of the large amount of words that come out of my mouth, it's probably all relative. They might say I haven't missed a beat in contributing (large) amounts of verbage, in most situations.

My oldest says that, to this day, I would talk to a tree if no one was around. It's probably so.

What of the times when I open my mouth, before I've weighed the words? What of the times when I thought I communicated clearly, but it came out all wrong? What of the times when I had no idea what to say (which, admittedly, is rare, because I am prone to charge ahead, regardless), and the silence spoke more loudly than words?

Elder Ted E. Brewerton once shared a wise thought: "If we are not most careful with our thoughts and speech, the words we use will use us. Language has its own ethics, and one who communicates truth is like a bright light in the darkness." (Ensign May 1983)

There are times when someone doesn't want to hear what I have to say, even though it's true. There are hearts hardened, or colored by misconceptions or misgivings planted by other people. So, regardless of my words, people will hear what they want to hear and disregard the morsels of truth.

There are also moments when words become a way of lobbing a ball back and forth, to establish dominance, win, or make ourselves feel better. This always seems foolish and unnecessary, when we look back on it.

There are times when I don't feel like being the bright light. I would enjoy someone else being a bright light for me, thank you very much.

But there's this most important principle to remember:

We will be held accountable for all the things we say. The Savior taught, "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." (Matthew 12:36) 

Since we are not in that better state where we may freely communicate through the Holy Spirit, we must use words. Besides body language and eyes, our words are our primary tools for connecting. It also means that, according to the Lord, every word counts.

The more we use them, the more management we must use in our communication.

That's sometimes comforting to me; and sometimes - not so much.

But I'll keep trying. Those little - but huge - words "I'm sorry" and "Forgive me" carry a lot of weight. I imagine they also work as a nice little eraser on the chalkboard of our word choices.

My thought is - words are powerful. When we use them, we're enjoying a gift given. The better we use them, the more blessed we may find ourselves - as we share a lot of goodness with those who will accept them.

Okay. No one's home now, so I'm gonna go talk to the kitchen sink or something.

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About Vickey Pahnke Taylor

Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, author, and songwriter. Her undergraduate study at BYU was musical theater. She has a Masters degree in interpersonal communications.

A Billboard award-winning songwriter with hundreds of songs to her credit, she uses music as a teaching tool. But her favorite way to use music has been to sing to her children. You should hear the family's rousing versions of "Happy Birthday"!

In addition to three solo albums in the LDS market, she co-wrote "Women at the Well" with Kenneth Cope and "My Beloved Christ: with Randy Kartchner. She is co-writer of the theme song for Utah's Make-A-Wish foundation, the song for the Special Olympics program, and EFY's theme song.

She writes for several online magazines and columns, and has authored several books. Her website, www.goodnessmatters.com, is her way of continuing to grow goodness in the world, pointing people gently toward Christ and eternal principles of truth.

She has spoken for the Church's various Youth and Family programs for 25 years. She and her husband Dean have eight children and four grandchildren. She adores being a wife, mom and grandmother. She loves flowers, brownies, cooking Italian and Southern foods, the ocean, and laughing every chance she gets.

Vickey was baptized a member of the Church as a teenager in Virginia. She serves as gospel doctrine teacher in her ward, and Dean serves on their stake high council.

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