5 Ways to Become a “Teacher Come from God”
Contributed By Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School general president
- 1. Teach by the Spirit.
- 2. Align our life with our words.
- 3. Read the scriptures first.
- 4. Review the scriptures and lesson materials at least a week in advance.
- 5. Reach out to those who did not attend.
“You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is.” —President Harold B. Lee
Have you ever wondered: How can I make a real difference in the lives of those I teach? How can I help change their lives for the better? How can I teach with power and authority from God?
Wherever we rank on the scale of excellence as a teacher, we can all improve, if we are teachable—if we demonstrate that very quality we hope each of our students possess. Each of us has the power from within and the Spirit from without to become “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Following are some ideas on how we might do this.
1. Teach by the Spirit.
The Lord has spoken in no uncertain terms about the teacher’s responsibility to teach by the Spirit: “And if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). No other teaching talent can compensate for lack of the Spirit. Why is that? Because it is the Spirit that builds faith, it is the Spirit that softens hearts, it is the Spirit that enlightens minds, and it is that Spirit that brings about conversion. No doubt that is why the Lord said, “Teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit” (D&C 43:15, see also D&C 50:14). The doctrine and the Spirit are inseparable partners in the conversion process.
Thus, the goal of every teacher is to teach the doctrine by the Spirit in such a way as to build faith in Jesus Christ and bring about greater conversion. It is much more than giving a masterful lesson or a dramatic, never to be forgotten presentation; it is to transform lives for the better.
The goal of every teacher is to teach the doctrine by the Spirit in such a way as to build faith in Jesus Christ and bring about greater conversion. Photo by Scott G Winterton.
2. Align our life with our words.
The Savior was the Master Teacher because He was the Master Exemplar—His life was in perfect accord with His words. There was no gap between the two. Our best preparation to receive the Spirit comes when we live in harmony with the Savior’s teachings. No doubt that is why Alma said, “Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (Mosiah 23:14).
In the play Don Quixote there are some wonderfully incisive lines that read: “He teaches well that lives well. That is all the divinity I understand.” A teacher must live what he teaches. His example is his most powerful weapon—his most potent tool. It was President Harold B. Lee who said, “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is” (“Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Apr. 1973 general conference).
3. Read the scriptures first.
If we will read the assigned scripture block before reading the lesson materials or any supplementary material, and write down any impressions we have as to doctrinal insights, questions we might ask, and invitations we might extend, then by exercising our agency in this way, we will maximize the Spirit that will come to us. We will become spiritually self-reliant. I have found that when I read the scriptures and have a question, there is often the temptation to immediately go to the commentaries for the answer. But if I restrain myself from doing that and instead wrestle with the issue, usually some personal inspiration will come. Sometimes the answer I get is the same as is in the commentary, but now the answer is mine, not theirs. Other times I may gain an insight that was customized for me and is different from the commentaries.
If I had gone straight to the commentaries, I would have lost those benefits. President Marion G. Romney made this candid observation: “When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it” (quoted by Elder J. Richard Clarke, “My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures,” Oct. 1982 general conference). The lesson materials can be very helpful, but they should never interfere or take priority over our personal relationship with the scriptures and the Spirit.
4. Review the scriptures and lesson materials at least a week in advance.
Preparing spiritually is not just setting aside a fixed block of time, for example two hours on Saturday afternoon, to prepare the lesson. Rather, it is a constant pondering and reflecting—while traveling to work, in idle moments at home, while talking with family and friends.
Revelation usually comes line upon line, precept upon precept, and at such times as the Lord desires, some of which are inconvenient and some of which are not on Saturday afternoon. Therefore, we need to be pondering our lessons at least a week in advance to give the Spirit time to work through us.
Lesson materials can be very helpful, but they should never interfere or take priority over a personal relationship with the scriptures and the Spirit. Photo by Scott G Winterton.
5. Reach out to those who did not attend.
As a young man, President David O. McKay enjoyed a story that appeared in one of his schoolbooks. The author pictured some people sailing down the river toward Niagara Falls. The man on the shore cried out: “Young men, ahoy! The rapids are below you!” But they went on laughing and carousing. Later, he cried again, “Young men, ahoy! The rapids are below you!”
But they heeded not the warning call until they suddenly realized that they were in the midst of the rapids. But with all power at their command, they failed to turn their boat upstream, so shrieking and cursing, over they went. President McKay said that the story left an indelible impression upon him, but somehow it seemed incomplete. It is one thing for a teacher to stand on the shore and cry: “Young men, ahoy! There is danger ahead.” It is quite another to get into the boat, row out to them, and with all the kindly force and persuasion one can muster, cause them to turn upstream.
One of our duties as teachers is to climb into our cars, drive to the homes of our less-active class members, and help bring them back to the fold. In addition, we can phone them, text them, give them assignments to participate in class, and use other class members to befriend them. It is but the parable of the lost sheep put into action.
It matters not what the curriculum may be; if we choose to teach like the Savior we can improve and we can become worthy of that saintly description: “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2).