The Voice in Speech and Song


Chapter 45—Speed and Tone

Correction of Rapid Speech—Rapidity of speech can and should be corrected. The teacher must learn daily in the school of Christ, that he may speak in such a way as to make the best and most lasting impression upon his hearers. The appointed guardian of truth, he must conscientiously guard the sacred treasures. He is not to gather only a limited number of surface truths, but is to purchase the field, that he may possess the treasure it contains. He is to seek to improve in methods of labor, and make the very best use of the organs of speech. If the words of truth are of sufficient importance to be spoken before an audience, they are of sufficient importance to be spoken distinctly. The guidance of the Spirit never leads to indistinctness of speech. The Spirit takes the things of God and presents them through the human instrument to the people. Then let them come from our lips in the most perfect manner possible.—The Southern Work, October 27, 1903. VSS 258.1

Errors of Volume and Speed—The Lord designs that every minister shall reach perfection in his work, overcoming everything in voice, in attitude, in manner of address, which would lessen his influence. This it is his duty to do. “Be ye therefore perfect,” Christ says, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5:48]. VSS 258.2

It is natural for us to expect more from the ministration of the man whose manner of address and tone of voice is attractive than from him whose ways do not please. Two men may handle the same Scriptures and bear a full gospel testimony; one, because he has been careful to overcome his defective pronunciation, because he has learned to control his voice, not allowing it to swell to a high key, may be a most successful worker; the other may have a knowledge of the Word, yet he leaves an impression upon his audience that is not agreeable. He appears excited, and all who hear him wish that he would calm down and talk earnestly, but calmly and unexcitedly. VSS 259.1

By talking in a high key, the speaker detracts considerably from his usefulness. There are others who talk so low that their words can scarcely be heard. Another laborer will speak hurriedly, rushing his words one upon another. Half that he says is lost, for the hearer cannot take in the precious words coming from his lips. These are defects which should be overcome. VSS 259.2

The habit should be acquired of speaking slowly, yet earnestly and solemnly, with all the assurance which the Word of God can give. Then the hearer gets the benefit of every sentence. Every word is spoken distinctly, and makes its impression upon the minds. Rapid speaking and pitching the voice to a high key is an imperfection which every one should overcome if he would make the most favorable impression when bearing the message from God to the world. Let the Word of God come as a savor of life unto life. VSS 259.3

If God's servants will consider this matter rationally, if they will place themselves under the control of sound reason and good judgment, they will see that these errors need not be perpetuated. They will see that such defects can be overcome, and their efforts in the pulpit be of far greater advantage to the hearers, and far less taxing to themselves. Every minister should bear in mind that he is giving to the people the message which God has given him, and that this word involves eternal interests.—Manuscript 4, 1897. VSS 260.1

Truth at Half Value—Speak the truth in love and in pity for those who turn the truth to fables. Bear in mind the fact that the Lord Jesus is present in your assemblies. He would have you manifest dignity, calmness, and composure of spirit. When you rush one word right upon another, half the power is taken out of your discourse.—Letter 8, 1894. VSS 260.2

Ellen White's Voice Instruction From God—I have words of caution to give you, which I am repeating to you in the night season. I was saying this: “I have a message for you from the Lord. Cultivate your vocal organs. This is your privilege and duty. The voice is a most precious treasure. You often speak too hurriedly. Words are crowded too quickly upon words, and your utterance lacks the clear distinctness that it should have.” VSS 260.3

Speaking to large congregations as you do, it is your duty to give your vocal organs all the relief possible. When speaking, take deep, full inspirations of air. Use the muscles of the abdomen, and thus put upon them the burden you are now placing upon the throat and lungs. VSS 261.1

The Lord would not have you injure your vocal organs by a long, continuous strain. Your words will be much more forcible if you give your lungs more air and speak fewer words. When you are speaking, you need to give time to taking full, deep inspirations. Bring the muscles of the abdomen into action. Stand straight, breathe deep, and speak your words with as much force as you please. VSS 261.2

I was taught this lesson when my throat and lungs were so much affected that I could not breathe without suffering. No human friend gave me any hint of what to do in order to improve, but the great Medical Missionary, whom I love and obey, told me what to do. The directions given me, I give you. The importance of voice culture was impressed upon me, and ever since I have tried to impress this upon others. Let our ministers speak slowly, taking in full inspirations of air, and there will be a melody in their voices that is now heard in the voices of but few, because it is hard to change wrong habits for right ones. VSS 261.3

God would have His workers treat their vocal organs with special care, as a precious gift from Him. These organs are not to be abused by overtaxation. Let great care be shown in their use. Then the discourses given will be more impressive, and those who speak will be enabled to do more work for the Master. There are men who have gone down to the grave because they did not take pains to be in harmony with nature's laws in their use of the vocal organs. VSS 261.4

The Lord would have His messengers guard sacredly their health and strength. They are not to sacrifice their God-given organs by misusing them. One organ is not to be overstrained, made to bear a burden of abuse that will bring disease and cut short the usefulness of the workers. VSS 262.1

The Lord would have you improve in speech by placing the burden where it belongs, upon the muscles of the chest and abdomen. The throat is only the channel for the words. Speak slowly and breathe deeply. This will enable you to throw out your words with distinctness and volume, while the throat and lungs, instead of being injured, will be strengthened to resist consumptive tendencies. VSS 262.2

It is your privilege to take lessons in voice culture, if possible. Voice culture is a study that should find a place in every institution for the education of the youth. Especially is this study essential for those who are preparing themselves to labor as teachers or ministers. In every study the importance of speaking slowly and distinctly, and of placing the burden upon the muscles of the abdomen, should be made prominent. This line of work should be made a specialty in every school. The students should be taught to stand straight, to breathe deeply, and to give the proper emphasis to important words and sentences.... VSS 262.3

Think of these suggestions. Give them due attention, for the preservation of your life demands this. The human agent is to do all in his power to preserve his health and strength. The minister of the gospel should give the organs of speech special care, giving the throat every advantage, so that it shall not become irritated. He must take time to rest. Then his vocal organs will not be so overworked that they will become diseased beyond remedy. VSS 263.1

I must urge you to exercise discretion. You talk hurriedly, and the throat and lungs become wearied and irritated. Elder D was a man of great ability. I did my best to persuade him to be careful of his health, but he would not follow my advice. He said that he could not enjoy freedom in speaking if he kept the rules which he knew to be essential to the health of his vocal organs. The force of habit was so strong that he did not change. When he was dying, he sent for my husband and me to come and pray for him. While we were with him, he said, “Oh, Sister White, I need not now be dying had I heeded the warnings that you gave me.”—Letter 367, 1904. VSS 263.2

Noise and Hurry No Evidence of God's Presence—Some ministers have fallen into the error that they cannot have liberty in speaking unless they raise their voices to a high pitch and talk loud and fast. Such should understand that noise and loud, hurried speaking are not evidence of the presence of the power of God. It is not the power of the voice that makes the lasting impression. Ministers should be Bible students, and should thoroughly furnish themselves with the reasons of our faith and hope, and then, with full control of the voice and feelings, they should present these in such a manner that the people can calmly weigh them and decide upon the evidences given. And as ministers feel the force of the arguments which they present in the form of solemn, testing truth, they will have zeal and earnestness according to knowledge.—Testimonies for the Church 1:645. VSS 263.3

False Inspiration—Some seem to think they must race right straight along or else they will lose the inspiration and the people will lose the inspiration. If that is inspiration, let them lose it, and the sooner the better.—Evangelism, 670. VSS 264.1

Distraction by Physical Antics—There are also fanatical ministers, who, in attempting to preach Christ, storm, halloo, jump up and down, and pound the desk before them, as if this bodily exercise profited anything. Such antics lend no force to the truths uttered, but, on the contrary, disgust men and women of calm judgment and elevated views. It is the duty of men who give themselves to the ministry to leave all coarseness and boisterous conduct outside the desk at least.—Evangelism, 640. VSS 264.2

Whining Tone Not Proof of Humility—There is another class that address the people in a whining tone. Their hearts are not softened by the Spirit of God, and they think they must make an impression by the appearance of humility. Such a course does not exalt the gospel ministry, but brings it down and degrades it. Ministers should present the truth warm from glory. They should speak in such a manner as rightly to represent Christ and preserve the dignity becoming His ministers.—Testimonies for the Church 2:617. VSS 264.3

Inaudible Prayers a Joy to Satan—In the social meeting there is special need of clear, distinct utterance, that all may hear the testimonies borne and be benefited by them. Difficulties are removed and help is given as in social meeting God's people relate their experiences. But too often the testimonies are borne with faulty, indistinct utterance, and it is impossible to gain a correct idea of what is said. Thus the blessing is often lost. VSS 265.1

Let those who pray and those who speak pronounce their words properly and speak in clear, distinct, even tones. Prayer, if properly offered, is a power for good. It is one of the means used by the Lord to communicate to the people the precious treasures of truth. But prayer is not what it should be, because of the defective voices of those who utter it. Satan rejoices when the prayers offered to God are almost inaudible. Let God's people learn how to speak and pray in a way that will properly represent the great truths they possess. Let the testimonies borne and the prayers offered be clear and distinct. Thus God will be glorified.—Testimonies for the Church 6:382. VSS 265.2

Clarity in Public Reading—It is essential that students be trained to read in a clear, distinct tone. We have been pained as we have attended conference meetings, tract society meetings, and meetings of various kinds, where reports were read in an almost inaudible voice or in a hesitating manner or a muffled tone. One-half the interest in a meeting is killed when the participants do their part in an indifferent, spiritless fashion. They should learn to speak in such a way that they can edify those who listen. Let everyone connected with missionary work qualify himself to speak in a clear, attractive way, enunciating his words perfectly.—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 246, 247. VSS 265.3

Mouthpiece for God—He who accepts the position of being a mouthpiece for God should consider it highly essential that he presents the truth with all the grace and intelligence that he can acquire through discipline of the mind and in such a manner that the truth shall lose nothing by his presentation. Let no one consider it a little thing to speak in a thick voice and clumsy manner, or to pitch the voice in a high, unnatural key, and talk loud and long and thus abuse the organs of speech given of God, and make himself unacceptable to the people.—Manuscript 67, 1895. VSS 266.1

Defective Utterance of Truth—The ability to speak plainly and clearly, in full, round tones, is invaluable in any line of work. This qualification is indispensable in those who desire to become ministers, evangelists, Bible workers, or canvassers. Those who are planning to enter these lines of work should be taught to use the voice in such a way that when they speak to people about the truth, a decided impression for good will be made. The truth must not be marred by being communicated through defective utterance.—Testimonies for the Church 6:380. VSS 266.2

Manner of Speaking for All Workers—All the workers, whether they speak from the pulpit or give Bible readings, are to be taught to speak in a clear, expressive manner.—Evangelism, 665. VSS 267.1

Holy Boldness in Prayer—I am pained as I see how little the gift of speech is appreciated. In reading the Bible, in engaging in prayer, in bearing testimony in meeting, how necessary is clear, distinct utterance! And how much is lost in family worship when the one offering prayer bows the face down and speaks in a low, feeble voice! But as soon as family worship is over, those who could not speak loud enough to be heard in prayer, can usually speak in clear, distinct tones, and there is no difficulty in hearing what they say. Prayer that is thus uttered is appropriate for the closet, but not edifying in family or public worship; for unless those assembled can hear what is said, they cannot say Amen. Nearly all can speak loud enough to be heard in ordinary conversation, and why should they not speak thus when called upon to bear testimony or to offer prayer? VSS 267.2

When speaking of divine things, why not speak in distinct tones and in a manner that will make it manifest that you know whereof you speak, and are not ashamed to show your colors? Why not pray as if you had a conscience void of offense, and could come to the throne of grace in humility, yet with holy boldness, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting? Do not bow down and cover up your faces as if there were something that you desired to conceal; but lift up your eyes toward the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ your Mediator stands before the Father to present your prayers, mingled with His own merit and spotless righteousness, as fragrant incense.—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 241. VSS 267.3