This article is intended to help readers better utilize the new Teaching in the Savior's Way manual that was recently released.
The power of love cannot be overstated nor over-emphasized. Can you think of anything the Lord does that is not motivated by His love for us? Our motives tend to be less pure and sometimes are not founded on love for those we are dealing with. This lesson is about how using love can empower us to be better teachers and better Saints.
Any quotes used without references come directly from the manual.
If we ever wonder if we are doing something for the right reason, we have only to ask ourselves if what we are doing is out of love for someone or for some other reason. When we teach the gospel, since it only works if we teach Spirit to Spirit, love is even more important. The Holy Spirit will not confirm to the hearts of others of what we testify unless there is love behind it. “Through the power of the Holy Ghost, we can be filled with [Christlike] love as we strive to be true followers of Christ” (see John 13:34–35; Moroni 7:48; 8:26).
Pray by Name
The lesson demonstrates how the Savior prayed for Peter by name. The effect of praying for someone by name is that your prayer becomes far more personal. Consider the difference in how we feel inside when someone prays for our family vs. how we feel if someone mentions someone by name and prays for them specifically. It is intimate.
Isn’t that what love is? Intimate? It is not intimate in a sexual way, but in an emotional way. When we pray for people by name, we let them into our inner circle of thoughts. We have to open our hearts in order to hold their needs up in front of our own and petition God to fulfill their needs. It places us in a position of humility and submission to the power and will of our Lord.
How will that kind of prayer change how we feel about our class members? When we have to consider specific needs of each person for whom we pray, we have to work to learn their needs. They are no longer just a member of a group, but an individual with individual needs. We stop thinking of them in general terms and start thinking of them as unique and special.
See As God Sees
The manual says, “As you strive to see those you teach as God sees them, you will recognize their divine worth.” This may sound on the surface like it is a “collective” approach. Do we not all have divine worth? But that would be like saying a person is not special because they are human, just like all other humans. When the Lord looks at us, He sees our divine potential as a unique package of gifts and challenges that no one else shares in the same way.
In order for us to have our eyes opened to this kind of individual view of a person’s worth, we require the help of the Spirit. Only when we rely on the Spirit to guide us in how we can benefit and bless that person will their true needs and abilities be revealed to us. It will come a little at a time. The more we learn about that person we pray for and try to bless, the more we come to love and appreciate them for their uniqueness in the family of God.
In Luke 19:1-10 the Lord encounters Zaccheus. To everyone else, Zaccheus was just a tax collector, someone to be shunned. They knew nothing of the kind of man he really was. The Lord saw him as a son of Abraham, a man desirous of being good, and worthy of the Lord’s attention.
Appropriate Ways to Express Love
This is a difficult topic in today’s society. We live in a world where everything has been sexualized and people have become objectified as things to be used. For many people, learning how to express love in appropriate ways is a real challenge, especially if they have not been raised seeing appropriate examples of love and affection.
For some people, the art of complimenting and demonstrating appreciation has to be learned so that their compliments and demonstrations of appreciation don’t come across as flirting or stalking. In the meantime, asking people to help with different aspects of the lesson is generally a safe route to follow. A simple thank you will suffice for the help received. Acknowledging a person’s help or participation goes a long way in helping the student feel appreciated and accepted.
If you have ever had a doctor with a terrible bedside manner, you know how important your “delivery” is when speaking to others. If you come across as gruff, unforgiving, judgmental, crude, or stern, it doesn’t really matter how much you know or how you actually feel about the members of your class. They need to feel the Savior’s love through your behavior and your manner. Saying “I love you” while glaring menacingly hardly inspires confidence in your words.
As we learn to pray for the members of our class by name, we come to love them as individuals. That makes it easier for us to express our appreciation for them and their participation in the class in a more genuine manner. The Lord’s love will be more likely to fill our classrooms if we have the Spirit with us as we seek to answer the needs of each person. This is especially true if we are seeking to help them feel that love through how we teach the class.
Understanding Those You Teach
It is important to remember that when we teach we are teaching people, not lessons. The lesson is only the vehicle that helps us teach the person. Even though there are many billions of people on earth, the Lord still sees us as individuals with individual needs, even if many of our needs are the same. Our specific needs are important to us and when we teach even the common needs of the group may require their solution be applied in unique ways for each person.
Our sight is limited by what we can see and directly experience. Only the Spirit can give us the insights we need to reach those whose needs are deeply hidden from view. This takes prayer and pondering over individual students and a personal desire to reach them in a meaningful way.
Let’s not get caught up in those who seem to be like us. They are easy to teach because they think like us and act like us. We need to reach all of our students, not just the ones that are more easily taught.
Preparing for People
We may have taught a principle for many years, and generally had great success in getting our points across to our classes, but what happens when we take those lessons we were teaching adults and have to teach a class full of young teenagers? Or what happens if we now have to explain a difficult concept to a Primary class?
Every group of people will present you with unique challenges. This is true even if the groups are the same age. We live among people of almost infinite variety and capacities. If we haven’t learned to see them all as individuals then our teaching will become generic. When that happens, we will miss the mark with many of our students.
This requires an active campaign on the teacher’s part to be ever vigilant for new examples, different scriptures, situations to describe the same principle, and different methods of presentation. This is more difficult to do for some of us than for others who are talented in this area of teaching.
Some things we can try when we want to mix up our teaching methods might include writing on the board, including drawings, using handouts, visual aids, role-playing, and using class activities where they have to participate in groups and answer to the class with what they learned in their group. There are many things we can do to help us personalize our teaching while still teaching a group.
When we teach even one person a lesson, sometimes we get sidetracked by questions or individual needs. That is okay. Remember the principle that we are teaching people, not lessons. The lesson only provides us with material to teach the people. What materials we ultimately use should depend on the Spirit that guides us in teaching the lesson.
I know that there have been times when I was focusing on trying to get through all of the lesson material when suddenly I had the distinct feeling of disapproval about going on. A particular point rose to the front of my thinking and anything else I tried to say just seemed to fade into thin air, leaving me with nothing to say. When I picked up a thought that rose to the forefront of my thinking, my mind was suddenly alive with other things to say that ultimately engaged the class and brought joy to the teaching experience.
The Spirit is our teacher. We don’t speak to the souls of those in our class, the Spirit does that by carrying the words we utter into their hearts and sinking them into their souls so that it becomes part of them. We can’t take any credit for the converting that the Spirit does while we teach. Our job is to open our mouths and listen to what He tells us we need to do.
Of course, that’s assuming we have studied the lesson material, prayed about the individuals in our class, and have sought to be guided by the Spirit. When we do these things, focusing on the individual needs of each person in the class, our confidence will increase in our own ability to teach, and our love will increase the strength and testimonies of all those whom we teach. We will grow to love even the most difficult of students in this way.
If you start to teach a class with a whole bus load of material, but the class walks away feeling edified and truly taught by the Spirit after covering just a couple of verses, you have succeeded. The goal is to teach, not to deliver quantity. Help your class to understand what they did not understand before. Any progress is a win for everyone.