With the recent changes to our meeting schedule announced in general conference, I've been thinking a lot about what these changes mean for teachers in the Church. With shorter class times comes new challenges and opportunities, not to mention we each now have a greater responsibility to become teachers in our homes as we strengthen friends, family, and ward members.
"We know that when we have better teaching and more spiritually prepared class members, we have a better Sunday church experience. We are blessed that often the Spirit increases and strengthens conversion in the church setting," Elder Quentin L. Cook said this past conference. "Sunday can be a day of gospel learning and teaching at church and in the home."
As the opening page to Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families states: "The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. For this reason, when we study the gospel, we’re not just looking for new information; we want to become a 'new creature' (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). This means relying on Christ to change our hearts, our views, our actions, and our very natures."
But how can we incorporate more power, insight, and revelation into our teaching as we go about our day-to-day lives? How can we strive to teach and serve children, friends, neighbors, and strangers as Jesus Christ would?
As I thought about these questions, I remembered a worldwide teacher council meeting Elder Jeffrey R. Holland held on November 5, 2016, that impacted how I view teaching in the Church. I wanted to share a few insights from this meeting.
"We all want to teach like Jesus taught. His instruction was simple and direct and powerful. He often told stories or parables that people could readily understand. Without exception, His lessons were spiritually motivating. He loved His audience. And the ones who had ears to hear and eyes to see loved Him,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says.
That's ultimately what teaching in the Savior's way means: to love, to motivate, to help others understand, just as Christ did. But, for those of us who aren't perfect like Jesus Christ, how can we make that high standard a reality?
Elder Holland counsels us not to worry.
"You have loving leaders committed to orienting, training, and encouraging you. You have newly organized teacher council meetings in which other teachers will share ideas with you. You have manuals and teaching tips and a host of ancillary resources at your fingertips. You can do this!”
At one powerful moment in the discussion, Elder Holland also gave some warnings about things that are potentially dangerous for teachers to do.
"Let me start with a couple of things we should not do, a couple of things I think will impede teaching by the Spirit."
1. Don't "over-program, over-plan, over-prepare."
When we do this, "we miss this great lesson, the great fundamental reminder that we are teaching people, we are teaching human beings, we're teaching each other, and we are using material—we are using lessons and doctrine—to do that," Elder Holland shares.
2. Don't "feel like we have so much material and we have to get through it" all.
Elder Holland reminds us to keep the relationship with the people we are teaching our prime focus, "and not let the material brutalize the lesson and brutalize us." When this happens, we are likely to be anxious and frantic, something that makes it difficult for us to feel the Spirit.
3. Don't be someone who "strolls into class and says, 'I have not prepared. I am coming trusting on the Spirit of the Lord to guide our direction.'"
This may be one of the most dangerous of our tendencies as teachers. As Elder Holland emphatically says, "That's asking too much of the Spirit. That's asking the Spirit to do His work and our work too."
4. "If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach."
After quoting this scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 42:14, Elder Holland says, "[The scripture] doesn't just mean that you won't teach and it doesn't just mean that you can't teach, it means you should not teach" if you do not have the Spirit. But Elder Holland once again offers words of comfort to those scared by this prospect, reinforcing his initial message: "You can do this!"