Teachers Come from God

An Evening with Elder M. Russell Ballard

Address to CES Religious Educators • February 26, 2016 • Salt Lake Tabernacle


 

My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you tonight. I especially want to express gratitude to all the teachers and their spouses and to all who support those who teach. I have a son-in-law who is an early-morning seminary teacher, and so I know of the sacrifice and dedication it takes to teach early-morning seminary, and I have seen the impact that full-time teachers have on the rising generation, including my grandchildren. May God bless you all for what you do.

Last August I spoke to you about our need to rise up to the great responsibilities that rest upon us. We need to educate the rising generation more deeply and more powerfully than we have ever done before. And that means that we all need to be better and do better than we have ever done before.

As I have thought about that charge from the Lord and the opportunity to say a few words tonight, my mind has been drawn to the account of the visit of Nicodemus to the Savior at night, as recorded in the third chapter of John. Nicodemus said: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”1

That statement not only declared who Jesus is—a teacher come from God—but also what teachers who come from God do: They work miracles in the lives of those they teach because God is with them.

I know such a teacher very well. I want to share a parable about her with you tonight. It is called “The Parable of the Nursery Leader.”

A certain sister was called as the nursery leader in her ward. She had been well trained in the university, and she had many ideas for activities and crafts the children could make. She decided to make the nursery a showcase.

After many weeks, the sister was discouraged. Nursery was a burden. She dreaded facing the children. Despite her plans, the children fussed and cried and ignored her every week. Nothing she tried worked. Every week she came home in tears.

In frustration she cried out, “I have done my best! What more can I do?”

A thought came into her mind: Ask Heavenly Father what you should do. Wiping away her tears, she knelt in prayer. She prayed about the nursery, her hopes, her frustration, and her disappointment. She prayed for His help and guidance.

Heavenly Father answered her prayer. A strong impression came to her: Your lesson plans are about you. Focus instead on the children; learn to know them and love them.

It was good counsel, a good message, but hard to hear. The sister knew she had to repent. She needed a new attitude and a new approach to the nursery. She prayed and studied the scriptures for inspiration.

When the teacher went to the nursery the next Sunday, she had no feelings of fear. She trusted the Lord. She met the children at the door, knelt down on their level, and greeted them by name. She talked to them about their families, their favorite food, and much else. She had singing time and read them stories. Some of the children cried and fussed, but there was a different feeling in the nursery that week. And when it was over, the sister was exhausted but not tearful.

Little by little, as the good sister got to know the children better, her feelings about them changed. The nursery leader looked forward to Sundays. She was excited and happy to be with her nursery kids. She loved them.

And … inspiration came. One week she took a camera to nursery and took each child’s picture. She prepared a picture board, mounted each child’s picture on the board, and took the board to nursery every week. The children loved seeing themselves on the board. They not only felt important, they felt loved.

After a while, the nursery leader used her activities and her projects to teach the children. The children loved them. In fact, the children loved nursery so much they would run to nursery after sacrament meeting. The children loved being in the nursery. They loved the nursery leader, and she loved them.

There are many principles one can learn from this parable. Of greatest importance is faith in Heavenly Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ. It was the teacher’s faith that took her to her knees in prayer, faith that motivated her repentance, and faith that led her to move forward without knowing exactly what she would do. Faith is the first principle.

The second is hope. Being in the nursery can be hard for little children. They may feel afraid, or alone, or even abandoned. They may wonder if there is a way out. The nursery leader had felt those same feelings, but she had worked through them, and she knew there was hope in Christ. Her hope was “lively,” “bright,” and “shining,” and the children felt it.

The third principle is humility. Pride and trusting in the arm of flesh is an occupational hazard for a teacher. Humility—being teachable—is the great antidote to pride. The nursery leader acted with faith in Christ to humble herself before her Heavenly Father. He enlightened her and blessed her with wisdom through the power of the Holy Ghost.

The fourth principle is love—the pure love of Christ. At the beginning, the children were not easy to love. But the nursery leader had faith in Christ, and she went forward in humility with hope in Him to love those children. God blessed her with the pure love of Christ, and the children felt it. In fact, the nursery leader established bonds of charity with those children. Those bonds became a spiritual conduit through which learning, encouragement, and hope could flow.

Brothers and sisters, I pray for God’s blessings upon us, that all of us, no matter where we teach, may act upon these principles of faith, hope, humility, and love with even greater diligence, courage, and patience than ever before. I know that if we do, the grace of Christ will attend us and we truly will be teachers come from God, working miracles in the lives of our students. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.