Revelation Is the Secret to Being a Good Teacher
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
- To teach according to how the Lord would have you teach:
- 1. Represent the Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2. Teach the doctrine.
- 3. Know the doctrine.
- 4. Learn and understand by faith.
“If we could take our whole message to the world and condense it into two words we would say, ‘God speaks.’ ” —David M. McConkie, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency
Revelation from heaven is the secret to being a good teacher, said Brother David M. McConkie, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, during Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University on August 22.
Brother McConkie was among more than 100 lecturers who presented more than 1,000 classes during education week, August 19–22.
“There is indeed a secret to learning and teaching in the Church,” Brother McConkie said. “And that secret is not found in methodology; the secret is found in theology. When I say ‘secret,’ it is a secret because it is not known to the world. It is beyond the world to understand the principles that we find as we teach the gospel of Jesus Christ because they are only known by revelation from heaven.”
The singular principle that separates Mormonism from the historic Christianity is the principle of revelation, he said. “If we could take our whole message to the world and condense it into two words we would say, ‘God speaks.’ ”
Just as the message of the Restoration and revelation are crucial to one’s testimony, they are also critical to learning and teaching in the Church.
“Second only to apostles and prophets, the Lord has placed teachers,” he said. “Now, He’s not talking about teachers of the world, and He’s not even talking about all teachers in the Church who are there to deliver information to show how much they know about a particular religious principle or doctrine or whose overarching goal is to deliver information.
“I am speaking here about teachers who are on the Lord’s errand, who we speak of being the weak and humble and simple things—those people who are entitled to revelation from heaven and who are teaching by the power and authority of God.”
It is the responsibility of the teacher to prepare the way for learners to have a spiritual experience with the Lord. Rather than saying to their class that they have a lot to cover that day, leaving little or no time for discussion or questions, teachers must listen to the Lord to know the most important principles they should teach.
Brother McConkie shared a few ways for individuals to teach according to how the Lord would have them teach.
1. Represent the Lord Jesus Christ.
“[Teachers] are on the Lord’s errand; they are agents of the Lord,” Brother McConkie said. When someone is an agent for someone else they are authorized to act in the person’s behalf. Teachers should look at their responsibility as acting on the Lord’s behalf.
“We must teach what the Lord would teach because we are representing Him,” he said. “We have no other duty, no other assignment, than to say what the Lord would say if He were there.”
2. Teach the doctrine.
“The Lord has commanded, not suggested, to us that teachers teach the principles of the gospel, particularly those found in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the standard works.”
Sharing words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who served in the Quorum of the Twelve from 1972 to 1985, Brother McConkie said that his uncle said he “ ‘learned the gospel by paying attention to the things I said as I taught.’ That’s the promise of every teacher the Lord has. They are entitled to learn the gospel by paying attention when they teach.”
Teachers who are acting as they ought and preparing as they should are entitled to be able to stand before a class and connect the dots they’ve never connected before, he said.
3. Know the doctrine.
“Clearly we can’t teach something that we don’t know,” he said. “We can’t return to a place we’ve never been or love someone that we’ve never met or that we don’t know. So in order to taste the gospel of Jesus Christ from the scriptures, it stands to reason that … the Lord has told us over and over again that our responsibility is to search the scriptures.”
By using the term “search” it is implying that there is something that’s deeper than the surface or that first meets the eye, something that is not as easy to find as other things might be.
“We have to search, and then when we find those things, the Lord has commanded that we treasure them up,” he said. “That we feast upon those things—not nibble or just gaze at them—but that we feast upon these things, we treasure them up.”
As individuals study the scriptures they are able to fill the “storehouse of the Lord” so when the time is right in the sight of the Lord, the Lord will reveal what ought to be done and said. It is also important as a teacher to not be tied to notes.
4. Learn and understand by faith.
In addition to searching and studying to learn the doctrines of the gospel, teachers have a responsibility to learn also by faith.
“It is not hard for us to understand what it means to study,” he said. “We talk about searching, but if we are going to learn by faith, what does that imply or mean for us?”
It means individuals must have a believing heart and be willing to listen, he said.
“It doesn’t mean we … don’t exercise our agency,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we can’t ask questions. But ultimately if we are going to learn by faith we are going to have to have a believing heart. What learning by faith means is that we are going to have a believing heart and we are going to be more accepting of the things the Lord teaches us and tells us.”
Once individuals receive personal revelation that Joseph Smith was a prophet, then as they read the Doctrine and Covenants they can know that it was written as revelations to a prophet from God.
“Other learned people are going to challenge what we feel and what we believe,” he said. “Even some of our own are going to raise questions and issues as to what we do and what we think.” That is why it is important to follow the Spirit, Brother McConkie taught.
“Do we let those seeds of doubt enter into our hearts, or do we keep them at bay and at the door?” he asked. “When the prophet speaks, do we say to him, ‘Because I know you are a prophet I will believe?’ … That is what we do as we learn by faith.”