Recently, I sat in on a high priest group meeting to listen to a lesson basically read from the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. As much as I enjoy hearing/reading the teachings of the prophets, the purpose of our lessons seem to still miss the mark with many of our members – including high priests.
In his memorable April 1998 General Conference talk, “A Teacher Come From God“, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland teaches us some of the key concepts for improving teaching in our classes, homes, and Sacrament meetings.
In recent months President Gordon B. Hinckley has called on us to hold our people close to the Church, especially the newly converted member. In issuing this call President Hinckley has reminded that we all need at least three things to remain firmly in the faith—a friend, a responsibility, and “[nourishing] by the good word of God.”
Elder Holland focuses on our need to “nourish by the good word of God.” Not only is this necessary for new converts, but for youth and adults. Our Church is beginning to recognize this with its new youth teaching agenda. This new agenda of teaching as the Savior taught, works to inspire individuals to seek their own revelatory experiences and to share them with others.
For each of us to “come unto Christ,” to keep His commandments and follow His example back to the Father is surely the highest and holiest purpose of human existence. To help others do that as well—to teach, persuade, and prayerfully lead them to walk that path of redemption also—surely that must be the second most significant task in our lives
Being of such high priority, why do we feel we can give so little to instruction and think we are doing the Lord’s great work of helping others “come unto Christ”?
Now, at a time when our prophet is calling for more faith through hearing the word of God, we must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition.
In the Lectures on Faith, we learn that Faith is a great power, the power by which God created the heavens and the earth. It is by this great power that miracles happen, angels visit mankind, and the work of God is manifested in the lives of men and women and children. Faith is developed through hearing the word of God, taught in such a way as to inspire people to believe and repent. Is such teaching becoming a “lost art”? Can we bring it back so that the podium is “set on fire” as in times before, as I once heard Elder Holland encourage us in a stake meeting years ago.
Eternal life,” President Hinckley continued, “will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives. They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven. They must be led, and that means teaching.”
As parents, do we try to coerce our kids into enjoying Family Home Evening? Do we try to force feed the gospel to our youth? Or do we take the time to learn how to teach effectively and with power?
We do have a legitimate worry about the new member, wanting each one to stay with us and enjoy the full blessings of the Church. I am just simple enough to think that if we continue to teach them—with the same Christlike spirit, conviction, doctrine, and personal interest the missionaries have shown them—new converts will not only stay with us but, quite literally, could not be kept away. The need for continuing such solid teaching is obvious. In times like ours we all need what Mormon called “the virtue of the word of God” because, he said, it “had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them.” 17 When crises come in our lives—and they will—the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied. 18 During a severe winter several years ago, President Boyd K. Packer noted that a goodly number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay. In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed. Regrettably they had fed the deer but they had not nourished them.
By a show of hands, how many of us enjoy spiritual Twinkies? How many of us feed our children and classes tons of calorie-empty theological hay?
We do not have to dilute the gospel. adults and youth are thirsty for it. We can talk about the skeletons in our closets in a faithful manner, and have them accept them. More over, we can help them seek and find their own testimonies and spiritual witnesses. We can teach them how to seek their own inspiration, by showing them how inspiring the gospel really is.
This next Sunday School year, we will see adults being taught in the same fashion as the youth have received over the past few years. They will be taught the key doctrines, invited to ponder and study them over the following week, and then ask them what inspiration, miracles, insights, and blessings they have experienced over the week. As Saints share their spiritual experiences, they grow spiritually together. Their lessons are filled with fire and excitement, and power from God.
Such is a Teacher Come From God. Are we seeking to be such a teacher?