I had the great blessing of serving on a writing committee that assisted in the inspired curriculum, Come Follow Me. Throughout the writing process, the phrase heard most was, “The youth deserve this! They are the generation that needs it!” Each time these words were uttered, my thoughts turned to you, their leaders and teachers, because I believe it’s an important time for you, too. Heavenly Father called you at this time because He trusts you. You are the very best of teachers. You will connect to them through the Savior. Invite them to come hear the Master’s voice and exemplify His way of teaching. Humbly pray to Heavenly Father; pray for the gifts of the Spirit, pray that you might ponder and understand the scriptures and the words of the living prophet. Be an example to members of your family, your quorums and classes of faith and one who believes in the Atonement of the Savior. Help make “weak things strong” and invite true conversion to take place in the hearts of those you teach and have been entrusted with, including yourself. Always remember, you are using this blog as a guide, but you will use Spirit as you teach in the Savior’s way, serve in the Savior’s way and most importantly, love in the Savior’s way.
* * *
Learning Experience vs. Lesson. The first thing I would like you to consider is omitting the word “lesson” from your vocabulary. We are no longer teaching lessons, we are providing learning experiences. It is not only WHAT the youth are learning, but also HOW they are learning it. Through these experiences the youth will become master teachers. As you read through each “learning experience” in Come Follow Me you will discover powerful ways of teaching. You will learn to teach in the Savior’s way. This approach to teaching and learning will bring great blessings – It already has with the lowering of the missionary age! This could lead to a major culture change of teaching in the Church.
I am thankful for the trust Heavenly Father has placed in each of us to teach the gospel. Just as we read in the scriptures, the Lord guided Nephi in finding the ore to make the tools necessary to build the ship. He did not have to do it for him, nor did he prescribe everything he was to do. It is seldom the Lord will do something for us that we can do for ourselves. Through Nephi’s faith and hard work he had success and grew through the process. This same growth will take place in the hearts of the youth as well as their leaders. Look at it this way – Learning experiences bring growth. This growth will strengthen testimonies. Testimonies bring conversion. Elder Bednar has said, “Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.” I had the blessing of serving on a writing committee that assisted in this inspired curriculum initiate. Throughout the writing process we heard, “The youth deserve this!” “They are the generation that needs it!” But I also think of you, their leaders. It’s your time, too. Heavenly Father called you to be teachers at this time because like Nephi, He trusts you. You are the very best of teachers. You will connect to them through the Savior. Invite them to come hear the Master’s voice and exemplify His way of teaching.
Teaching and Learning for Conversion. The aim of gospel teaching is to help learners apply the principles and doctrines found in the scriptures and qualify them to receive promised blessings. The Savior demonstrated this throughout his life and in the scriptures. This curriculum was designed to place the desire in EVERY heart to ACT and change behaviors for the better. The “invitation to act” is extended at the end of each learning experience, and as they “go and do” their hearts will be changed, testimonies will be strengthened, they will become converted. They will see the doctrine in their lives and take on a greater responsibility to become “agents unto themselves.”
Teacher Preparation. The first step in a successful learning experience. The learning experiences might require more time spiritually preparing. It will also encourage leaders to know and genuinely love each member of their class. The teacher can’t just show up to class with her manual and expect to have it on her lap the entire class. It’s my personal opinion that the book creates somewhat of a barrier between the teacher/learner. The teacher should consider herself as the discussion facilitator and when possible, just have simple notes written on a paper if she needs something at all. There should be less talking on her part and more from coming from the learners. In fact, you will be able to measure the success of your lesson by how much talking you did vs. the the students. I am always amazed when I sit in with a class and hear what the youth have to say. It’s profound and prompts others to share and learn from each other. This also invites the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. When someone shares a powerful experience, we should simply ask, “Has anyone else had a similar experience? Don’t ever be afraid of silence. Silence means the students are pondering upon what you asked. Time will allow them to think through their responses and in turn they will be more meaningful.
Doctrines Clearly Defined and Discussed. Each lesson is reinforced by True to the Faith or Gospel Principles to ensure true doctrine is taught, Personal Progress, Duty to God, Church Hymns and Primary songs are also included. Lessons also offer suggestions for digital media use. Remember, even though more freedom is given with class discussion – the teacher must still define and teach doctrine each week – not only allowing facilitating in sharing feelings about the doctrine.
The First “Living Curriculum.” Come Follow Me is the first “living” curriculum in the Church. Because it is sent out in a digital format, the curriculum department will be able to update conference addresses and new Mormon Messages to keep things current and applicable to the struggles of the day.
Consistency in the Doctrine/Less Prescribed Teaching. Church leaders are encouraged to organize a teaching plan where instead of learning seven different lessons throughout the week at Church, home and in seminary, the youth are hearing the same messages – each one being reinforced by the other. Just imagine how much better this will be! This is not prescribed teaching, nor does it require an exact order. Leaders may choose lessons they feel will be most appropriate for the youth in their ward at the time (perhaps something they are currently struggling with – i.e. modesty). Read David A. Bednar’s inspiring General Conference address on conversion, “Converted unto the Lord,” (October 2012). Download a copy of “Teach For Conversion” (.pdf) to learn more about this inspired curriculum.