Worldwide Teacher Council Meeting Discusses “Teaching in the Savior’s Way”

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 7 November 2016

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the worldwide teacher training council meeting emanating from Salt Lake City.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Holland presided over the worldwide teacher training council meeting.
  • He encouraged teachers to not feel overwhelmed: “You can do this!”
  • Conducting the meeting was Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President.

In a worldwide teacher training council meeting emanating from Salt Lake City, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland declared to teachers everywhere, “You can do this!”

Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided over the event conducted by Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President, with participation from the other four general auxiliary presidents of the Church and 18 leaders and teachers who are members of their respective local teacher councils.

The 90-minute meeting was carried by live internet streaming to more than 140 councils in 10 languages, Brother Callister announced. The recorded proceedings were made accessible thereafter on the Church’s website, LDS.org.

“The purpose of this broadcast is to improve teaching in the Church,” Elder Holland said, adding that a Church-published printed resource, Teaching in the Savior’s Way, “helps us do exactly that.”

“We all want to teach like Jesus taught. His instruction was simple and direct and powerful. He often told stories or parables that people could readily understand. Without exception, His lessons were spiritually motivating. He loved His audience. And the ones who had ears to hear and eyes to see loved Him.”

Elder Holland said that kind of spiritual instruction and loving relationship between teacher and learner “is what we hope we can find existing in every home, classroom, and meetinghouse of the Church.”

Acknowledging that some of his listeners feel overwhelmed already, Elder Holland admonished, “Put those thoughts away right now; you can do this!”

He said the Lord will give teachers revelation through the Holy Ghost, “the ultimate teacher of truth.”

“You have loving leaders committed to orienting, training, and encouraging you. You have newly organized teacher council meetings in which other teachers will share ideas with you. You have manuals and teaching tips and a host of ancillary resources at your fingertips. You can do this!”

Brother Callister said the focus of the meeting was on Teaching in the Savior’s Way, teacher council meetings, and new teacher orientation. He invited worldwide listeners to share comments and experiences they have had and to send them in via email. Some of them were shared as part of the televised meeting.

He shared an experience he had the prior week visiting a teacher council meeting in Calgary, Canada.

“There in that council were teachers just like you see here, new and experienced, helping each other. There were leaders in the auxiliaries who wanted to learn so they could help support their teachers. There was the Sunday School president. He didn’t give a lecture. He didn’t give a formal presentation. He just created this warm environment where people could share their comments, ideas, experiences, and counsel with each other. And then he started to lead a discussion on the teaching principle they had chosen, loving those you teach.”

The Sunday School president asked for a suggestion of a scripture that supported the principle. One man pointed out a scripture in Teaching in the Savior’s Way, 1 Samuel 16, where the Lord talked about not looking on the outward appearance but on the inward heart.

“This was such an important moment because we want to turn our discussions often to the scriptures,” Brother Callister said, “to be anchored in the scriptures, because we know it’s the scriptures that give us the clearest definition of the doctrines that we’re teaching, and it’s the scriptures that have the greatest power to motivate us to live those principles and … will help all of us teach in the Savior’s way.”

Auxiliary leaders shared selected comments as they were sent in about their experiences with teacher councils.

A woman in Argentina wrote, “I had my first teacher council last month. It was inspiring. We were able to share our experiences and feel the Spirit of the Lord very strongly.”

A woman in California wrote, “I enjoyed hearing the suggestions of teachers who teach different age groups than I do. It helped me remember to keep a wider perspective of those in the classroom.”

A man in Arizona wrote, “Our teacher councils have been so inspiring, and teachers in our ward are committed to the Lord and to becoming better in their callings, and I love meeting with them to learn from their experience and feel of their love.”

Also addressed during the meeting were questions sent in, such as one from a man in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who asked, “Should we meet separately with the teachers of youth and children compared to meeting as a whole?”

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, responded, “That definitely should be determined locally. … There is some benefit from meeting together with say the Young Men and Young Women leaders, but there also is some benefit from meeting with everyone.”

He told of his conversation with a young married sister who had just been called as a teacher of a youth Sunday School class in which all the students were boys.

“She was wondering, ‘How in the world am I going to be effective in teaching them?’ And so that teacher council meeting becomes a wonderful opportunity with those who have already served in those callings to help her.”

Many had submitted questions, Brother Callister said, pertaining to how the Primary teachers can attend teacher council meetings, as they are conducted during the schedule time for Primary.

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, said, “Every Primary is going to have a little different approach, … but a few ideas would be combining classes so that one teacher could attend during class time and one teacher could attend during sharing time; team teachers to take turns, one month one could go and they could trade off the next month, referring their concerns to the ward council … to find a solution; and substitutes, calling even youth and parents, to be involved in sitting with the children during sharing time in Primary.”

A man from Missouri wrote, “In our small branch, breaking [out for] a teacher council meeting would end up taking most or all of our adult Sunday School class students. Do you have suggestions about how we can still make this a success?” Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, said, “It’s okay for there to be maybe a small Gospel Doctrine class once a month. As youth, I was sometimes the only person in my class—I was in a small branch—and that was okay. Perhaps, though, they could also invite the members of the Gospel Doctrine class on the teacher council Sunday to join with another class, like Gospel Principles, or maybe one of the youth councils. Or they might consider splitting up the teacher council so half of them go one Sunday and then they have the other half the next Sunday. There are solutions to be found as ward councils meet together and address this problem.”

A female teacher in Tokyo, Japan, asked specifically for words of counsel from Elder Holland on teaching by the Spirit.

“For me, any good classroom experience has to get into the scriptures,” he said.

He cited two things he said would impede teaching by the Spirit.

“One extreme is to over-program, over-plan, over-prepare. … We are teaching people, … and we’re using lessons and doctrine to do that. But we should keep that relationship in context and not let the material brutalize the lesson.”

The other extreme, he said, “is at least as dangerous, and that is someone who strolls into class and says, ‘I am not prepared. I have come trusting in the Spirit of the Lord to guide our discussion.’ … That’s asking too much of the Spirit, to do His work and our work too. We have to prepare.”

He cited Doctrine and Covenants 42:14, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” Through discussion with the group, Elder Holland made the point that it is both a declarative and an imperative sentence: that one not only won’t be able to teach without the Spirit, but that one must not endeavor to teach without it.

In the latter portion of the meeting, dealing with teacher orientation, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, recalled her experience years ago as a newly called Primary teacher. She said she recalled three things.

The first was that having her husband present while the bishop extended the call taught her the importance of the calling.

Second, she was given a vision by the bishop’s counselor supervising Primary. He helped her understand that the 7-year-olds she would be teaching hopefully would be baptized within a year, and helping their parents to prepare them was her important responsibility, so she needed to be present each week.

The third thing that impressed her was the assurance from the bishopric that they had prayed about the calling and her name was the one that had come by inspiration.

“Inadequate as I felt, I had a vision, I felt the importance, and I had an assurance that this was from Heavenly Father,” she said.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President.

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President.

From left to right: Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President; and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President.

Brother Tad. R. Callister, Sunday School General President, speaks at the worldwide teacher training council meeting emanating from Salt Lake City.

Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided over the worldwide teacher training council meeting conducted by Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President, with participation from the other four general auxiliary presidents of the Church and 18 leaders and teachers who are members of their respective local teacher councils.

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.