A Teacher Come From God

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?

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery (joelsmonastery.blogspot.com). He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

9 thoughts on “A Teacher Come From God

  1. The most recent 2015 curriculum announcement said that the adult Gospel Doctrine classes will just go with the regular NT Manual for 2015. What’s your source on the new adult version of the Come Follow Me program?

  2. I have mixed feelings about the Youth teaching programme – especially as it will apply to adults. While the move away from tightly defined lesson outlines is positive, it seems to me that there is less emphasis on the scriptures themselves. Greater emphasis on the doctrines (positive), but less on the source (negative). Youth should still get the scriptures in Seminary, so that’s not a problem, but for adults…?

    I haven’t actually taught any youth classes under this format though, so maybe the concern is unjustified.

  3. I’m not sure why they describe the “discussion” pedagogy as more like the way Christ taught. From my readings, I rarely see Christ leading discussions. Just lecturing and usually saying challenging things that were over the heads of those he was preaching to. He did such a poor job of explaining himself that everyone was surprised when he came back from the dead, even though he’d been explaining it for some time. The methodology of class discussion is nowhere found in the scriptures that I can tell. While I’m unsure of its origin, I’m pretty confident that it would have a Hellenic, not a Semetic origin.

  4. When Christ taught others, He knew the doctrine perfectly, inside and out, and He knew everything in its balance. He taught the message, and He was always in control of where any discussion went. That method works wonderfully well when the teacher knows the doctrine perfectly, inside and out, and knows everything in balance.

    But a teacher called to lead a discussion, not really knowing the message him- or herself, and letting the group explore its own way and come to it own conclusions, is not a Christ-like teacher.

    I don’t know a perfect answer for teaching in the church. A perfect answer requires perfect people in every ward or branch, and we’re not there yet. So I want to be supportive of the new initiative, but I hope the teacher-training materials will be of the highest quality — they have to be better than the curriculum for youth — the curriculum for youth only works because of dedicated adults using their past learning and present inspiration, but without that, it provides very little of help to the teacher. The same pattern for adults teaching adults could be disastrous.

  5. Teaching is one of the most underrated and yet most difficult areas of the Gospel. A Gospel Doctrine teacher may well have “students” in her/his class that range from the total neophyte to one maybe much more knowledgeable in the Gospel than the teacher. It can be a bit intimidating for a still wet-behind-the-ears instructor to have an almost legendary former Stake President sitting front and center in the class. Trying to ascertain just what is the makeup of the target audience and what the needs are to be met by any particular lesson is a daunting task.

    In my limited experience, I tried to cater more to the neophytes’ needs, but using the insights and knowledge of the more learned to augment from ay own rather feeble understanding. I never liked reading almost entirely from a manual, or listening to someone else read the lesson almost entirely from the manual.


  6. One of the most valuable, yet underrated resources, is the Teaching, No Greater Call manual. There are so many great lessons for teachers of all abilities. Perhaps the best advice, yet most difficult to follow is to love the class you teach.

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