I Have a Question

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    Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

    Sometimes our children seem bored or seek distractions when we try to discuss the gospel with them. How can we help them enjoy learning about the gospel?

    Response by Claudia Porter Black, Laurel adviser and counselor in the Young Women’s presidency of the Mesa Sixty-first Ward, Mesa Arizona East Stake.

    We’ve struggled with this problem in our family. Here are some of the things we’ve learned.

    Be enthusiastic. The word enthusiasm stems from words that literally mean “having God within us.” How essential inspiration is! Without it, and the enthusiasm it generates, our teaching can die from a lack of spirit.

    Enthusiasm begins with prayer, which invites the Spirit into our hearts. It continues with dedicated preparation. Nothing kills enthusiasm as fear does, and the antidote to fear is preparation (see D&C 38:30). Keeping things simple also helps. Like Nephi of old, children delight in plainness and simplicity (see 2 Ne. 25:4).

    Using real, personal examples builds enthusiasm. That principle applies no matter what the topic is. Imagine teaching a genealogy lesson about a generic “ancestor” instead of about the real people with real names, people who look formal and solemn in those old photographs. There’s no comparison. Real-life examples enliven lessons, whereas made-up examples (or none at all) invite dullness and distance.

    Challenge and involve the children. Stimulate their minds with puzzles, games, quizzes, and thought-provoking questions. Involve them in preparing visual aids, organizing games, explaining things to younger children, preparing and serving refreshments, and so on. In families with wide age spreads, it’s hard to challenge all the children all the time. But if we target the various ages in the family as we present different segments of a lesson, it’s usually possible to keep everyone involved.

    Introduce variety into lessons. When eyes stare at an unchanging scene, perception and attention quickly fade. That’s what happens to our children if our lessons are static. So, for variety’s sake, try to teach precepts with stories. Also use puzzles, charts, pictures, games, songs, role playing, and other teaching methods. Remember that the younger the children, the more variety they need. But don’t overdo it.

    Use resource materials. For years, our family scripture-study program consisted of reading the Book of Mormon page by page. Then for Christmas one year, we received a book that organizes scriptures from the standard works into a year-long, topical, family scripture-reading plan. For our family, given our stage of development, it’s been just what we needed—a mine of ideas and inspiration.

    Many such resources exist. For general principles of teaching, try the Church’s Teaching: No Greater Call (1978) or The How Book for Teaching Children (revised 1984). For topics and ideas, try the Family Home Evening Resource Book (1983), with accompanying family home evening videos (nos. 53276 and 53277). The many Church videos are also helpful. And for a real teaching-resources treasure hunt, visit your ward library. Many LDS-oriented publishers and bookstores offer resource materials that, with careful selection and prayerful preparation, can stimulate our lessons. Information from general conference addresses can provide current, relevant authority on most gospel subjects.

    Take advantage of teaching moments. Some of our best gospel discussions and teaching have happened accidentally.

    When one of our daughters was in seventh grade, two of her friends told her that if she didn’t stop speaking to another friend, they would stop speaking to her. As painful as the experience was, it gave us many unplanned teaching moments. And when she managed to bring the three friends together again, the experience became a joyful case study in several gospel principles that have served her—and us—ever since.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment. Once, when our children didn’t seem to be responding to our gospel-oriented family home evening lessons, we prayed for a solution. The thought came to us that we needed a change of pace. So for the next lesson, we showed electron-microscope photographs of things like mosquitoes, immune-system cells, and the surface of a tongue. Our children became curious and enthusiastic. A week later, we showed amusing slides of my husband when he was a boy. And a week after that, we showed visual puzzles and optical illusions with the same result.

    Although we weren’t directly teaching the gospel during these innovative lessons, the change of pace rejuvenated the children’s interest (and our own as well). Soon we worked our way back to a mix of innovative lessons and the more usual gospel topics, which our children more willingly received.

    Teach the gospel for its own sake. For a long time, we taught lessons on what we were worried about—things the children were doing wrong or areas our family needed to improve. How dispiriting those lessons seemed, full of exhortation and gloom! Then we began teaching joyful gospel topics for their own sake, setting aside for a time our concerns. As our lessons brightened, our family problems began to diminish. Perhaps the Apostle Paul had a similar result in mind when he counseled, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

    [photo] Photo by Steve Bunderson

    What resources does the Church have to help members assist others in the Gospel Literacy Effort?

    Response by Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.

    The Gospel Literacy Effort is an ongoing literacy plan that helps individuals better understand the gospel by their own study so they can participate in all aspects of gospel living. Through this effort basic gospel literacy skills are taught to those who cannot read or write, and Church members are encouraged to read the scriptures and improve their gospel knowledge throughout their lives.

    The Church provides the following resources to support the literacy effort:

    1. 1.

      Talents and service of ward and branch members and leaders.

    2. 2.

      The Basic Scripture Literacy Course produced by the Church Educational System (CES).

    3. 3.

      Scriptures, handbooks, and other Church materials.

    The most important and accessible resource we have is ourselves. A unified and effective literacy effort requires the combined talents, abilities, and service of ward and branch members and leaders.

    Priesthood leaders oversee the Gospel Literacy Effort in conjunction with Relief Society leaders. On a regular basis, stake presidencies discuss literacy needs and efforts with stake Relief Society president, while bishoprics work with ward Relief Society presidencies. When necessary, efforts can be coordinated in confidential ward council meetings.

    Once literacy needs are assessed, individuals can be identified who can help address those needs. If ward or branch leaders decide to use the Basic Scripture Literacy Course, calls are extended to ward members to teach the course.

    The CES program is a scripture-based course that teaches basic language skills to adults and helps them record their personal histories. Relief Society education counselors can obtain the course through stake CES representatives, who teach those counselors how to use the program. The course, available in English and Spanish, has been written for teachers who have little or no experience teaching reading and writing.

    Without the ability to read the scriptures, Heavenly Father’s children struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to preach the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead. For this reason the scriptures, handbooks, and other Church materials are primary resources used in teaching literacy. In addition to the student manual included in the CES course, Church lesson manuals, books, and other gospel literature can be used in teaching reading and writing. Additional materials of high interest to literacy students can also be used.

    Heavenly Father’s children also have the spiritual resources he has made available through prayer and personal revelation. We are commanded to learn by faith as well as by study (see D&C 88:118). Whenever we earnestly seek guidance and assistance from the Lord, our understanding is increased. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 354). It is our duty to take advantage of resources that can help enlarge our minds.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ offers a deep understanding of the importance of literacy and lifelong learning. As Church members, we understand how infinitely valuable each soul is in the sight of God and how essential it is that every person have the opportunity to know God’s word through the scriptures. Disciples of Christ seek to know their Heavenly Father and to help others know him. Gospel literacy is an important part of this eternal process.

    How are the locations of our temples determined?

    Response by Derek F. Metcalfe, managing director of the Church Temple Department.

    As set forth by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, a temple is a “holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name … , that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people” (D&C 124:39–40).

    The Lord directs where and when his holy houses are to be built, for there are numerous accounts in the scriptures and from Church history of his making his will known to prophets regarding the appropriate locations and times for the erection of these sacred edifices.

    Anciently, the Lord gave his prophets detailed instructions regarding the location and structure of the tabernacle, the temple of Solomon, and the temple of Zerubbabel.

    As part of the restoration of the gospel in our dispensation, the Lord through holy prophets has again directed his church to build sacred temples to his name. First, he commanded that a temple be built in Kirtland, Ohio. Later, he revealed to his servants the locations for temples in Nauvoo, Illinois, and in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Four days after President Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, he walked with other Church leaders to a section of land located between two creeks in the heart of the valley, waved his hands, and said, “Here is the forty Acres for the Temple” (in Journal of Wilford Woodruff, 28 July 1847, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City). The plot was later reduced to ten acres.

    Another account states that President Young struck his cane forcibly on the ground and said, “Right here will stand the Temple of our God” (Millennial Star, 3 Sept. 1888, pp. 561–62.)

    Of the revelation he received regarding the location of the Salt Lake Temple, President Young said, “I scarcely ever say much about revelations, or visions, but suffice it to say, five years ago last July I was here, and saw in the spirit the temple not ten feet from where we have laid the chief corner stone. I have not inquired what kind of a temple we should build. Why? Because it was represented before me. I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there. I see it as plainly as if it was in reality before me. Wait until it is done. I will say, however, that it will have six towers, to begin with, instead of one” (in Discourses of Brigham Young).

    In 1924 Elder George Albert Smith, then a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, visited San Francisco, California. As he gazed toward the East Bay hills, he was inspired to prophesy regarding the location of the Oakland Temple. To the mission president, W. Aird Macdonald, he said, “Brother Macdonald, I can almost see in vision a white temple of the Lord high upon those hills. … Yes, sir, a great white temple of the Lord will grace those hills, a glorious ensign to the nations, to welcome our Father’s children as they visit this great city” (Improvement Era, May 1964, p. 380).

    The construction of many latter-day temples has been preceded by prophetic utterances as powerful and impressive as those described here, but we need not hear each one to know that the spirit of prophecy and revelation attends the work of temple building in our time.

    Regarding these sacred structures, President Spencer W. Kimball made this significant statement at each of several temple dedications he conducted in the 1970s and 1980s:

    Enter this door as if the floor within were gold;
    And every wall of jewels all of wealth untold;
    As if a choir in robes of fire were singing here;
    Nor shout nor rush but hush … for God is here.

    Temples are the Lord’s holy houses. He guides the selection of the spot where each temple is to be located. He guides the selection of the materials. He guides the selection of people who develop this great program.

    As the Church rapidly expands throughout the world and as temples dot the earth in prophetic fulfillment, the Lord’s directing hand will continue to oversee this sacred work of temple building. With a Church membership of nine million, there is a pressing need for more temples in many parts of the world. The Lord has a program in place to anticipate those needs and to respond in an effective manner.

    Under the direction of the First Presidency, essential information is constantly being gathered and carefully monitored relative to possible locations of future temples. Data regarding the number of Church members in various parts of the world, member concentrations in those areas, the proximity of existing temples to members, and capacities of existing temples is supplied to the First Presidency to assist them in their deliberations. Inspired statements by past and present Church leaders regarding future temple locations are also considered, and Church leaders visit potential temple sites and seek Heavenly Father’s guidance and will regarding the selection of appropriate sites.

    In determining when and where temples should be constructed, the First Presidency carefully weighs Church resources and the needs of Church members. However, it is my experience in serving under the leaders of the Church that such determinations are made only after much prayerful consideration and the receipt of the Lord’s direction.

    [photo] The Kirtland Temple

    [photo] The Sydney Australia Temple. (Photo by William Floyd Holdman.)