As parents and teachers, we have been entrusted with Heavenly Father’s precious children and have been given a noble stewardship. There is no greater responsibility than to be teachers of God’s children. Our Savior was the master teacher and He invites each of us to follow Him in that great service. What you teach will touch the lives of the children, youth and adults in ways you may not even be able to comprehend now. How you teach is equally important.
How can we improve our gospel teaching? There are a few things we should strive for:
Love those you teach. Show your love for the children by learning their names and being aware of their interests, talents and needs.
Teach the Doctrine by the Spirit. As you prepare lessons, pray for guidance and strive to strengthen your testimony of the principles you will teach. This will help you teach by the Spirit. Only use Church-approved materials. If it doesn’t have the Church logo on it, don’t use it! (I’m a wee bit passionate about this one. If you want the Spirit to witness the truthfulness of what is taught, you must teach TRUTH.)
Invite Diligent Learning. This should be one of our greatest goals. Diligent, by definition, means having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties. For example, we want to enable those we “show care” toward to desire to find solutions to their problems in the scriptures. We know that if they diligently seek, “they shall find (Matthew 7:7).”
You will teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ more effectively as you do the following three things in every lesson:
Identify the Doctrine. Clearly identify the doctrine you are teaching. This helps the learners understand and apply it better. Ask yourself, what ways might they understand or help them remember it longer? Reach out to all types of learners (I am a visual learner so gospel art works well for me).
One trick I’ve tried at home many a Sunday night…If your children have a hard time remembering at the dinner table what they were taught in primary that day, ask them, “Did you see any pictures?” This will help them remember the principle learned. You may consider posting that same picture on the fridge for the week to help them recall what they learned, and how they felt in their hearts. When children have the opportunity to share what they have learned with others, it strengthens their understanding and testimony of the doctrine. Gospel discussions at home will also strengthen the family.
Encourage Understanding. Talk about the doctrine and discuss its meaning. Ensure that the learners gain a deeper understanding of the doctrine through a variety of teaching methods that engage them in learning such as reading scriptures, singing song, and role-playing.
A lesson isn’t a lesson without the use of scriptures. I can’t stress this enough. There is no substitute for the words of God. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Always remember, there is no satisfactory substitute for the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. These should be your original sources. Read and ponder more what the Lord has said, and less about what others have written concerning what the Lord has said.”
When we are telling a story from the scriptures, have your students open their scriptures up and find it with you. This help them know where they can refer to it later. The youth need to recognize that they can find solutions to their every day problems in the scriptures. The words will become a source of comfort, guidance and support. Before you begin reading – Help them focus and listen when scriptures are read. Consider asking them a question pertaining to the verse and what is being taught. This even works for adults!
Encourage Application. After a doctrine has been taught, we should encourage our students to make applications. This could be done as they:
- express feelings about the doctrine
- set goals related to the doctrine, and
- ponder how the doctrine applies to their life
Testify of the doctrine. When you let others share their feelings about the gospel, it invites the Spirit. Help them to understand that the feelings of peace and love they feel come from the Holy Ghost. Are the youth in your class able to recognize this in their lives? As you prepare to teach each lesson, pray for the Spirit to help you know when to share your most sacred feelings. You may be prompted to bear testimony several times during a lesson, not just at the conclusion.
The most significant and convincing power of gospel teaching is manifest when an inspired teacher says, “I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the doctrines I have taught are true.” Create a reverent atmosphere in primary for this to happen. Remember, your example is the most powerful form of teaching.
A very dear friend of mine, Sister Jean A. Stevens, the First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, has encouraged us to love and become more like the children in whom our trust is now placed. She has said,
“These children are providing examples of some of the childlike qualities we need to develop or rediscover in ourselves in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world—teachable and full of faith. It is no wonder the Savior has a special love and appreciation for little children.”
We must follow the example the Savior set and reach out to each member of our class.
In 3 Nephi we read,
“And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
“And when he had done this he wept. …
“And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard has taught us the importance of the Savior’s admonition to “behold your little ones” when he said:
“Notice that He didn’t say ‘glance at them’ or ‘casually observe them’ or ‘occasionally take a look in their general direction.’ He said to behold them. To me that means that we should embrace them with our eyes and with our hearts; we should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father, with divine attributes.”
Perhaps President Thomas S. Monson said it best, “It is our solemn duty, our precious privilege – even our sacred opportunity – to welcome to our homes and our hearts the children who grace our lives. Children have three classrooms of learning which are quite distinct from another…the classroom at school, the classroom in church, and the classroom called home.”