Our inability to effectively cope with the problems of youth is exhibited in phrases of despair such as these: “I don’t understand this new morality.” “How can I tell it like it is when I don’t even know what they’re talking about?” “How can I keep my children close to the Church when temptations everywhere excite them to do otherwise?”
Such are the feelings of Latter-day Saint parents, expressed at firesides, in after-church discussions, or wherever two or three couples talk together. Yet, we can have the help we need to raise our children in righteousness, if we teach them that living the gospel can bring to them those satisfactions in life for which they are seeking.
There is no denying that the pressures in our world are many. Recently a young married couple came to a counselor’s office in complete despair. They were lost in a maze of confusion that included the use of drugs and other morality problems. They were unable to ferret any meaning out of their existence. Although they were the parents of two beautiful children, that fact had not helped them to find any purpose in their life.
The gospel, however, could have given meaning to the lives of that young couple. It could give them hope, a sense of direction, and provide a key to happiness. In more simple and straightforward terms, the teachings of Jesus Christ could save this young couple and their children. What is equally or perhaps more important, the gospel could have prevented their difficulty in the first place.
All Latter-day Saints must rise to the challenge of these times by renewing their determination to really know the gospel, to live it, and to teach it to one another. We should be appreciative of the fact that through inspiration from our Father in heaven, methods have been developed by which we can continually learn and teach the gospel.
Four vital teaching forces are present in the Church: the family home evening program, the seminary and institute programs, the Church schools, and the Church classroom. All of these teaching forces provide members with opportunities to learn the gospel.
In the preface to the 1970–71 family home evening manual, the First Presidency states: “… Spiritual solidarity in family relationships is the sure foundation upon which the Church and society itself will flourish. This fact is well known and appreciated by the adversary, and as never before, he is using every clever device, influence, and power within his control to undermine and destroy this eternal institution. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ applied in family relationships will thwart this devilish destructiveness.”
The seminary and institute programs are a viable, living force in the lives of 175,000 young members of the Church. The dedicated faculty members truly teach the gospel to our children. The fact that approximately 95 percent of those young members who complete an institute program are married in the temple indicates a willingness to obey the gospel.
The fourth teaching force includes the 400,000 priesthood and auxiliary teachers who meet with the Church membership every week to teach the gospel. The Church classroom teachers have a great influence for good. However, they must continually strive to do their job more effectively. They should know the latest and most effective teaching techniques that, combined with true spirituality, will increase the impact they have on those whose lives they touch. It is to the challenge of improving the teaching in the Church classroom that we now turn.
The priesthood and auxiliary classroom teacher is the most important person in this improvement effort. It is the nonprofessional teacher who decides how the precious teaching hour should and will be spent. Every teacher in the Church must make the commitment to really teach.
At this important time in history, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve have felt the need to create a Churchwide program to improve the classroom teaching of the Church. The new approach, sponsored by the priesthood, is called the teacher development program. Its purpose is to provide training for all teachers in the priesthood and auxiliary organizations.
The goal of this new program is to assist teachers with the basic skills that are necessary to help bring about real and worthwhile changes in the lives of the members of the Church. Teachers will be expected to inspire their members to think about, feel about, and live the gospel truths and principles.
The teacher development program is under the direction of the stake president, who calls a high councilor to be the stake teacher development director. In each ward the bishop has the authority and responsibility for teacher development, and he calls a priesthood bearer to the position of ward teacher development director.
The teacher development program consists of three parts: (1) an eleven-week basic teacher development course on a continuing basis; (2) a monthly inservice lesson for all Church teachers; and (3) a program for supervision. Every English-speaking ward or branch in the Church has been asked to start the basic course and the inservice program in January 1971.
The eleven-week course combines the latest teaching techniques with spiritual principles. The bishop calls eight people, who may be prospective or current teachers, to participate in the class. They will study essential teaching methods and procedures and then try these methods out by actual application. The participants will go into the classroom to observe differences in students and student-teacher interaction. They will then practice their own teaching skills in a controlled teaching situation, called micro-teaching. Finally, they will assume full responsibility for teaching an actual class for two weeks. After the student-teaching assignment, seminars will be held to assist the class participant in evaluating his teaching performance.
The basic course requires a strong commitment by the class participants to study and carry out all the assignments. If this commitment is made, they will develop their teaching skills rapidly and will begin to form an effective teaching corps upon whom the bishop can draw to staff his teaching positions.
The inservice program consists of lessons to be taught ten months each year for priesthood and auxiliary teachers. The inservice lessons are designed for the teacher who has taught twenty or thirty years as well as for the new teacher who has just completed the basic course. For example, one high priests class teacher, a veteran of thirty years of gospel teaching, recognized that his teaching was greatly improved as a result of his participation in the inservice lessons in the pilot study. He said, “I didn’t realize how routine and ineffective I had become until I met with others interested in the inservice sessions and began looking at principles and new techniques related to gospel teaching.”
The new teacher development program is designed to continually motivate the teacher by giving him the opportunity to draw from the strengths of others engaged in teaching the gospel. The lessons and learning experiences are based on the idea that the best learning takes place by doing, and the teachers as a group will try out together the skills they learn.
Finally, the teacher development program strives to combine teaching skills with spiritual principles. As Brigham Young said:
“I had only travelled a short time to testify to the people, before I learned this one fact, that you might prove doctrine from the Bible till doomsday, and it would merely convince a people, but would not convert them. You might read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and prove every iota that you advance, and that alone would have no converting influence upon the people. Nothing short of a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost would … bring them in their hearts to repentance. Nothing short of that would ever do.” (Journal of Discourses 5:327.)
The priesthood teacher must decide that now is the time to improve the gospel lesson he gives to those deacons he faces every Sunday morning. Now is the time for the Primary, Sunday School, MIA, and Relief Society teachers to take advantage of the new program to improve teaching and to rededicate themselves to the teaching of the gospel.
Now is the time to strengthen the teaching in the Church classroom. Improved classroom teaching, coupled with the family home evening and the seminary and institute programs, can be an effective defense against the forces that pull us away from the Church.
Dr. Farley, an associate professor of social work at the University of Utah, is a member of the Teacher Development Committee. He received his M.S. (1959) and Ph.D. (1968, educational psychology) degrees at the University of Utah. He has also done graduate work at Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in the Holladay Twelfth Ward, Mt. Olympus Stake.