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