The Ensign received an unusually large number of responses to a request for articles in August 2003. Following are only a few of the accounts of lessons or gospel discussions that blessed lives. Perhaps these experiences can help you in your responsibilities as a gospel teacher.
I had spent several weeks planning a lesson about the Holy Ghost for my Laurel class. I wanted the girls to learn more about the Spirit and what the Holy Ghost means to us as members of the Church. I was prepared with quotations, scriptures, and even some cute handouts. I was very excited and very prepared to give my lesson.
That Sunday morning, opening exercises were chaotic and some of the girls were irreverent. I was patiently dealing with the disorderly conduct until one of my Laurels hurled an open bag of candy across the room and sent pieces flying everywhere. That’s when I blew a fuse. Needless to say, the room quickly filled with a spirit of contention. When we finally separated for classes, I was still angry, but I was determined to proceed with my lesson—after all, I was prepared and I knew the lesson material.
As I began, nothing that came out of my mouth made sense. I stumbled over words and couldn’t write simple phrases on the chalkboard. After a few minutes of useless attempts, I stopped. It was hopeless. Distraught and miserable, I turned around and faced the chalkboard. What was I going to do? I said a quick prayer, then turned around and looked at the girls. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I am not able to go on with the lesson.”
The room was very quiet. As I stood there, not knowing what we were going to do for the next 30 minutes, a calming thought crossed my mind. “Have someone say a prayer.” Desperately, I asked for a volunteer. One of the young women offered to pray, and then the most amazing thing happened. The very moment she opened her mouth to pray, the Spirit entered the room. Immediately! When she finished, I felt prompted to bear my testimony.
After I finished, I sat down. I wondered how the girls would learn about the Holy Ghost. Then, one by one, every Laurel stood and bore witness of the Holy Ghost and the incredible presence we were feeling. This was the most important lesson I have ever learned as a teacher or a student. It is the Spirit that teaches.
Darla F. Jones, Maple Hills Ward, Tooele Utah East Stake
I was a student at Brigham Young University, and my roommate and I had been asked to teach a lesson to the Relief Society sisters in our student ward. We agreed to participate, but I had to hold back my groans when I saw the topic: understanding death. It seemed strange to discuss a topic that appeared to have no relevance to young women with little life experience—college students living youthful and vital lives. It also seemed a daunting challenge to prepare a lesson on a subject I had such little experience with. But I prepared intensely for my part of the lesson. Through my preparation and prayers I was blessed with a deeper understanding of death. My testimony increased as I gained a new perspective on mortality and eternity.
My roommate and I taught the lesson, and many in our class seemed to feel the Spirit as we discussed a topic of eternal significance. But the lesson’s impact did not end there. Less than two weeks after that Relief Society lesson, my dad was killed unexpectedly in an airplane crash. To say I was devastated by that event would be an understatement. But because of the truths I had taught in Relief Society two weeks before, I was able to stand in my home ward testimony meeting two days after the tragedy and express my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, my knowledge of the plan of salvation, and my gratitude for the limited time I had in mortality with such a wonderful father.
This experience reaffirmed to me that the Lord knows each of us individually and blesses us with the things we need if we are to grow and develop according to His design.
Andrea C. Merriman, Saddle Rock Ward, Arapahoe Colorado Stake
My grandmother taught me the lesson I remember best. I had been selfish, and she took me into the kitchen and said, “I want to read you something.” She then took her journal from the shelf and opened it to a poem. I cannot remember a single word of that poem now, but I remember looking up at her and saying, “What does it mean, Grandma?”
“I’ll tell you what it means,” she answered. The poem could sum up your experiences here on this earth, she explained: “Give, give, give, and soon you will have everything. But take, take, take, and soon you’ll have nothing.”
My heart leaped within me, and I knew that what she said was true. But I chose to ignore her wisdom. And I now write these words from the Utah State Prison.
I’ll tell you something else. I’ve never felt this happy before, because since remembering her lesson I’ve been giving. Not long ago one of my friends here in prison told me his daughter would soon have a birthday and he didn’t have anything to send her. I was crocheting slippers at the time. I got my bag of slippers and said, “You pick the ones you want to send her.” He was delighted and picked the elf slippers, my most prized work. I hesitated, then gave them to him.
Two weeks later he came to talk to me after a phone call. He was in tears. His wife had told him that his daughter had jumped up and down and screamed: “Daddy sent me elf shoes! Daddy sent me elf shoes!” He was so grateful that he was able to give her that gift of love.
What more can I say? My grandmother was right. Give, give, give, and soon you’ll have everything. But I didn’t understand her then. I had thought she was only talking about things!
When I was four years old, my mother, who had recently remarried, moved me from the security of my grandma’s home to a new town, with a new daddy, new ward, and new life. I was confused and sad after leaving everything that was familiar.
At this time, Primary was held on a weekday afternoon, and when that first Primary day came, I just couldn’t face any more newness. I begged my mother to let me stay home “just this once.” Uncharacteristically, she agreed. Instead of joining my class at Primary, I stayed home near the warm fire, snuggled under a blanket.
Just before dinnertime there was a knock at the door. My Primary teacher, a stranger to me, was standing on the steps, smiling at me. She asked if she could come in and visit with me and my mother for a few minutes. We sat on our couch while she gave me a minilesson. She brought a tiny loaf of bread made from colorful Indian corn for me to nibble while she talked.
I don’t remember what the lesson was about—probably something about pioneers. What I do remember was feeling that I was an important member of her class, missed when I wasn’t there. I no longer felt like an outcast in a strange world. My Primary teacher helped me know that I was loved by her and, even more important, by my Heavenly Father. I was not lost to Him just because I had moved. I was known by name and personality.
That was an important lesson to learn at an early age. Since then, I’ve moved from one end of the country to another and lived in more than 10 wards as an adult. Never again have I been tempted to “drop out of sight.” I know, wherever I live, I can find a strong, loving support system by going to church and participating fully in my new ward.
Sandra Rush, Crest Haven Ward, Rexburg Idaho East Stake
I was a new member of the Church, the only member in my family. I had been a widow for several years, struggling to balance the demands of job and home. My teenage daughter had been through a very difficult time in her life. She had recently moved out of our home and was staying with friends. In my frustration I never missed an opportunity to tell her of all the changes I felt she needed to make in her behavior.
Although I was reluctant to give up a Saturday of catch-up-at-home time, I agreed to attend a tri-stake singles conference with a sister from my ward. One of the workshops was about parables in life. The instructor caught our attention immediately when he walked into the classroom carrying an old, rusty animal trap.
He told of a year when his family had lived in the mountains and of the raccoons they had fed and befriended there. One day a raccoon had come dragging a trap in which one of its feet was painfully caught. Our instructor told us he was eventually able to get close enough to the raccoon to get hold of the trap and free the animal. He then asked what parallels we could draw to life. Several class members commented that, like the unfortunate raccoon, people can become trapped in sin. Finally, one sister observed that the instructor was able to help only because he had been feeding the raccoons. In that moment it was as if a light had been turned on for me. I understood that I could be of help to my daughter only if I consistently gave her the kind of love and compassion the Savior would give.
The brother who taught the workshop and the sister who made the inspired comment never knew how their efforts helped change lives, but, figuratively speaking, I have been feeding the raccoons ever since, doing my best to respond with love to all those around me. I have seen the great difference it can make.
Faith Smith, Cottage Grove Second Ward, Eugene Oregon Stake
When I was a child, I walked to the meetinghouse with my friends after school one day a week for Primary. Since my father and mother were not active, this was the only affiliation I had with the Church. I remember well one sunny afternoon. The lesson was on the premortal existence. One teacher asked us, “How do you know you chose to follow your Father in Heaven?” Not receiving a response, she answered, “Because you are here on earth.” She then went on to explain about our first estate, the war in heaven, receiving a body, the blessings of earth life, and our obedience to God.
I knew what she said was true. The Holy Ghost testified to the divinity of this truth, and I was so grateful I had made the right choice in the premortal life. This knowledge sustained me through many trials and was the beginning of my testimony.
I look back with gratitude and recognize the preparation of my teacher, the presence of the Holy Ghost, and the love of Heavenly Father for an impressionable young girl. I have received answers to many questions in many lessons, but none so profoundly given and none that have had such an impact. I do not remember my teacher’s name, but I remember her message. She was truly an instrument in God’s hand.
Tina Riddle, Cedar Fifth Ward, Cedar City Utah Stake
“It is our privilege to have the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, as our constant companion, to edify and inspire us in our preparation as teachers. We should prepare ourselves through obedience to God’s commandments, that our confidence will wax strong when we call upon the Lord, that His Spirit might magnify us as we teach. When we have the Spirit to direct us, we are capable of teaching with great power.”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Teach Them the Word of God with All Diligence, Ensign, May 1999, 8.