Viewpoint: Teaching by the Spirit

Contributed By the Church News

  • 13 November 2016

From left to right: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President; and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President.

A most remarkable event occurred November 5 with the live telecast, via Internet, of a worldwide teacher council meeting (see related story). A recording of the meeting may be viewed here.

With Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presiding, the meeting featured participation from each of the five general auxiliary presidents of the Church plus 18 men and women who are members of teacher councils in their respective wards.

What made the event truly worldwide is that teachers and leaders in the Church viewing the live transmission responded to an invitation to submit questions and comments on line, both prior to and during the meeting. The live participants addressed many of these questions and comments as they were received.

In a substantial way, the meeting modeled individual teacher council meetings that by recent direction are to take place monthly in local units of the Church.

It involved teachers from Sunday School, Primary, priesthood quorums, Relief Society, and Young Women meetings. Local meetings are to involve everyone who teaches a quorum or class in the ward, along with at least one of the priesthood or auxiliary leaders responsible for those teachers.

The worldwide meeting was moderated by Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President. In a comparable sense, local teacher council meetings in most cases are to be led by a member of the ward Sunday School presidency.

As is to happen in the ward meetings, the worldwide teacher council meeting participants counseled together, shared personal teaching experiences, asked questions, and gave ideas for overcoming challenges. They also practiced teaching techniques individually one-on-one.

Central to the meeting was the Church-published resource Teaching in the Savior’s Way. It is available both as a printed manual and online at

A couple of points in particular that are emphasized in that resource might be distilled from the proceedings of that worldwide teacher council meeting: teaching by the Spirit and loving those whom we teach.

Wise words came from Elder Holland in response to a request from a teacher viewing the broadcast in Japan, about teaching by the Spirit.

Elder Holland cited the familiar verse, Doctrine and Covenants 42:14, which reads: “And the Spirit shall be given to you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.”

From discussion with the panel, Elder Holland elicited the observation that, as rendered in English, the passage could be read as either or both a declarative or an imperative sentence. That is, “It doesn’t just mean that maybe you can’t teach, it means you should not teach.”

He added, “Now please, don’t panic … and refuse to open your mouth for fear that you don’t have the Spirit. But it does underscore, I think, in the eyes of the Lord how fundamental it is to have the Spirit.”

How, then, does a teacher ensure that he or she does have the Spirit?

“We have to live for it,” Elder Holland affirmed in the meeting. “When it says ‘be given by the prayer of faith,’ it’s supposed to reflect a faithful life, a devoted life. … Once we’ve realized it’s a gift and we have to pray for it, we’ve got to be living for it.”

Another scripture Elder Holland cited was Doctrine and Covenants 84:85, which instructs: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”

A participant commented that daily study and discipleship fill a well from which a teacher can draw when it comes time to present the next lesson.

“You get a chocolate chip cookie!” Elder Holland exclaimed, commending the teacher’s observation. “Let’s say we teach weekly. The minute we finish a lesson one Sunday morning, we ought to start preparing that afternoon for next week, if only for that reason. Watch for the lessons. Watch for what’s going to come along, and you store that up. God has given it to you. He’ll lead you to some circumstances, and next Sunday, there’s your lesson. You’ve treasured it up in your mind.”

A teacher viewing the telecast in Mexico asked, “How do I develop sincere love for those I teach?”

Elder Holland suggested that the instruction in Moroni 7 on faith, hope and charity might be a good place to start.

He noted the definition in verse 45, that charity “suffereth long, and is kind and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

“The question is, how do we get it,” he remarked. He cited verse 48, which says to pray with all energy of heart that one may be filled with this charity.

“It sounds like a vigorous, earnest prayer,” he said.

“If you can’t feel all you ought to feel in the moment for a given student or in a given situation, there is absolute majesty and marvel in starting with our love of God. Start with someone you do love, especially God. I believe that’s contagious. Love spreads; love moves; love flows.”

Much of value is in that worldwide teacher council meeting of November 5 and the precepts that were discussed therein. May we review and apply them, particularly as pertaining to teaching by the Spirit and loving our learners.