Gone are the days of Teacher Development classes and Inservice. Even Visiting Teaching Training has gone by the wayside. I ran across a talk, given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that should be studied and cherished by every teacher of gospel study. I hope it touches you as much as it has me.
The original talk was given at a Church Educational System conference in August of 2000 and can be found here.
It was shortened and revised for an Ensign article in January 2003 and can be found here.
Elder Holland strikes at the cords of every one of our hearts. That’s why we love him so much. This talk does not disappoint. As I read through it, I came up with my own short list of what teachers should focus on. He leaves a powerful message, one that we would be wise to incorporate in our own teaching whether it be at Church, during a Visiting Teaching visit, or at home with our children.
BE RESPONSIBLE IN YOUR CALLING AS A TEACHER
There are many teachers, some called for a period of time, others for a lifetime. It is a great responsibility, because a “gospel teacher” has been called to teach and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be an interesting exercise to study what made Jesus “the greatest teacher who ever lived or ever will live.” Where we may never measure up, we can certainly always put more into it than we do.
PREACH THE GOSPEL BY STUDYING, PRAYING, AND BEING PREPARED
Too many teachers are casual in their studying, praying, and preparation, and it shows. When manuals are viewed as out of date, that somehow gives license to “do your own thing.” Again, we are there to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not fit the lesson into our own agenda. I’ve been to too many classes where the lesson never came even close to investigating the scriptures, or inspired me in any way to study the life of my Savior.
HEAL YOUR STUDENTS BY READING THE TRUTH FROM THE SCRIPTURES
This was a profound message in Elder Holland’s talk. He pointed out that every single time Jesus taught and preached, He also healed. The correlation is that when we truly teach and preach, our words can inspire healing. What a lovely thought! Elder Holland said, “Could we try a little harder to teach so powerfully and so spiritually that we really help that individual who walks alone, who lives alone, who weeps in the dark of the night?”
Elder Holland shared President Boyd K. Packer’s method of teaching.
“President Boyd K. Packer … has a question he often asks when we have made a presentation or given some sort of exhortation to one another in the Twelve. He looks up as if to say, ‘Are you through?’ and then says to the speaker (and, by implication, to the rest of the group), ‘Therefore, what?’”
As teachers, we need to help make the connection between doctrine and how we actually live our lives. There is always a connection, but a good, thoughtful, and inspired teacher must draw it out.
A simple reminder from Elder Holland was, “These are God’s students, not yours, just like it was God’s Church, not Peter or Paul or Joseph or Brigham’s.” We are agents to channel the Spirit, who is the true teacher, so that the power of the Lord can enter and change lives.
Emma Smith was told in a revelation that she was to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit … this is my voice unto all” (D&C 25:7,16). As women, we have been given the responsibility, the ability, and the power to teach by the Spirit. But few women feel the confidence to do so. It takes serious study to feel confident in preaching the gospel. There are so many helps available to find answers. In fact, Elder Holland interrupted his talk to remind us that the LDS products available are “the best teaching scriptures ever produced in the history of the world.” As the old adage states, the teacher often learns more than the student. We are doing a great service to learn from the Spirit then to teach by the Spirit.
ALL LESSONS POINT TO CHRIST AND HIS ATONING SACRIFICE
All lessons, in Church, at home, and even throughout every walk of life can and should point to Christ and His Atoning Sacrifice. We have an obligation to make it happen. Elder Holland makes this confession:
“I remember almost dreading (I think that’s not too strong a word) the responsibility to teach the Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection in my classes because I never felt I could rise to the level of worthiness that I knew the subject deserved. I wanted so much for it to matter in the hearts of the students and I knew if there was a weak link in the experience, it wouldn’t be the student and it surely wouldn’t be the Lord—it would be me.
Although I love the Savior even more now and have been called to be a witness of His name in all the world, still I feel overwhelmed and inadequate on this topic. I say that to encourage you. You as teachers will feel that some days, and often it will be the days when you want to be your best.
Take heart. Let the Spirit work in you in ways that you may not be privileged to see or even to recognize. More will go on than you think if you are honest in your heart and trying to live as purely as you can.”
Everyone can learn, with help from the Spirit, how to teach of Jesus Christ’s greatest gift to us. This, in essence, is our gift to the Lord: to teach and testify of Him.
Elder Holland gave us two specific points that we should bring out in our teaching of Jesus Christ.
First, “Christ remained true.” He obeyed the will of the Father to the very end. He asked that the cup be taken from Him, but it could not be. For us, He remained true. “If you can leave your students with one principal commitment … leave with them the necessity to obey—to yield in their own difficult domain and hours of decision to the will of the Father, whatever the cost.” In our own lives, to a lesser degree, we will be asked to obey “no matter what.”
Second, “Christ knows the way.” Teach that Jesus Christ is all-forgiving, all-merciful, and all-loving. “Everything in the gospel teaches us that we can change if we really want to, that we can be helped if we truly ask for it, that we can be made whole, whatever the problems of the past.”
His last words were the whole reason I searched for this talk. I knew that I remembered Elder Holland saying this and I want to always remember it. He explained how Christ suffered pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind just so He could succor his people (Alma 7:11-12). Then he said, “To succor means ‘to run to.’” What a beautiful statement! Jesus Christ will run to us in our despair. Why wouldn’t we want to teach, preach, and heal others with this knowledge?
We all have our own teaching methods. But this is one I fully intend to incorporate. We need to be teaching, preaching, and healing, using the spiritual feast of our Savior’s life and words. Encourage the Spirit to come by asking Him to prepare with us. Ask “students” to help apply the words to life. And testify, testify, testify.