Everybody loves stories. The best teachers and speakers are also storytellers.
In winter, when the Vikings, Eskimos, and Native Americans, were hunkered down and isolated, the most popular person in the village was the story teller. Stories have always been a great source of entertainment and learning.
Stories, both fiction and non-fiction, are a powerful way to teach gospel principles. Jesus taught with stories. The parables of the Good Samaritan, Lost Sheep, and the Sower are classics.
Stories attract attention and are memorable. Often, stories are the only part of the talks and lessons that people remember. I can recall stories from talks 50 years ago, and some people remind me of stories I have shared decades ago.
“We have in the Church an untapped treasury of inspiring and faith-promoting stories…. [T]hey were selected and edited by the Lord Himself … and placed in holy scripture so that we could have samples before us of how to act and what to do in all the circumstances that confront us in life.
“They are stories of real people who faced real problems and who solved them in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. .” (Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85), “The How and Why of Faith-Promoting Stories,” New Era, July 1978)
Sources of Stories
- Church history
- Lives of the Prophets
- Stories from General authorities
- Stories about Church leaders
- Missionary stories
- World History
- American History
- Great Religious leaders
- Great Political leaders
- Stories of heroes
- Stories from the Internet
- Family history
Keep the story focused
The story should be used to teach a gospel principle, not to just entertain. Keep focused. Get to the point. Avoid meandering. Leave out irrelevant time-consuming extraneous details. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Separate fiction from non-fiction
Even fictional stories, like Christ’s parables, can educate and inspire. However, it is important to differentiate between fictional stories and true accounts. I highlight fictional or apocryphal stories by saying: “The story is told ….”
Don’t perpetuate “faith promoting rumors,” “urban myths,” “LDS folklore”
The internet and LDS culture are full of stories of doubtful authenticity. Check your facts. Don’t teach as true something that is apocryphal or false.
Some examples of apocryphal and/or false stories I have been heard in church:
- “Fate of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence”
- “Fate of the Persecutors of Joseph Smith”
- Joseph Smith’s “White Horse Prophecy”
- Three Nephite stories
- Missionary folklore (bizarre healings, “visitations” by strangers)
- Comedian Steve Martin is LDS
- Yoda was modeled after Spencer Kimball
Don’t stretch the truth.
To make an authentic account more dramatic, it may be tempting to alter or exaggerate some details, like the proverbial “fish story.” Don’t do it. It repels the spirit and undermines your credibility. It pollutes the truth.