Since 1998 the lesson manuals for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes have been volumes of Teachings of Presidents of the Church (hereafter Teachings). Each manual focused on the life and teachings of one of our beloved prophets. These wonderful books create an invaluable resource for members across the world to come to know and love these great men and the marvelous doctrines they taught. Their counsel is as inspiring and pertinent today as it was when those Brethren first delivered the addresses included in those books. We hope that you continue to use the inspired literature of these faithful servants of the Lord. Their teachings are timeless.
Beginning in 2010 we will take a two-year leave from the study of manuals in this series. In their place, during the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes on the second and third Sunday of each month, we will study the newly revised Gospel Principles manual. Naturally, members may wonder why the change was made and how it will affect them. The following are some questions that may come to mind and the answers.
Why the Change in Curriculum?
Since we first began using Teachings, millions of people have joined the Church. Many of them have tender testimonies and, with relatively limited experience in the Church, will benefit greatly by a focus on the fundamentals of the gospel. In addition, all Church members will benefit by a return to the basics. A careful study of core doctrines as presented in the new and improved Gospel Principles manual will help members strengthen their understanding of the fundamental teachings of the gospel.
The Teachings manuals have been a wonderful curriculum for our classes and precious additions to our personal libraries. In 2012 we will resume the study of the teachings of our great Presidents.
How Will This Affect Me?
The Gospel Principles manual will be used as the course of study for second- and third-Sunday Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes. It will also be used as the manual for the Gospel Principles Sunday School class for new members, investigators, and members returning to activity. Because of this, some of you may wonder if there won’t be some redundancy. Of course there will! Isn’t it wonderful that we can gain the added benefit of repetition. Even the Savior taught the same doctrines multiple times to reinforce concepts. Consider how often He teaches us through the scriptures to believe and be baptized (see, for example, 3 Nephi 11:23–38)!
Knowing that we need to learn principles line upon line, precept upon precept, the Lord repeats many concepts so that we do not miss them (see Isaiah 28:10, 13; 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12; 128:21). Such instruction, handled by caring teachers who take an interest in the welfare of their class members, will help increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In practice, however, there will be less overlap than one might think. The Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes typically will use the manual two weeks a month, on the second and third Sundays, just as the Teachings manuals have been used. Lessons will follow a sequential order in which we will finish the Gospel Principles manual in two years. Meanwhile, teachers preparing for the Gospel Principles Sunday School class will tailor their lessons each week to the needs of their class participants. Generally speaking, new members, investigators, and members returning to activity will participate in the Gospel Principles class for a period of time determined by them and their bishop or branch president, after which time they will attend the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class.
As with the Teachings manuals, there will be no cost to individuals receiving these new manuals. Each ward or branch will provide the necessary manuals for its members.
In some parts of the world, the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society classes have been using the books Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood and The Latter-day Saint Woman instead of Teachings. Published in 45 languages, the new edition of Gospel Principles will be available in some of these units during the years 2010 and 2011. Where the new manual is not available, however, the older edition of the Gospel Principles manual will still be used.
How Has the Gospel Principles Manual Changed?
Our excellent Gospel Principles manual was first published more than 30 years ago. It has enjoyed wide use in the Church as a manual for Sunday School lessons, for teaching new members about basic gospel principles, and as an important resource in the home. However, the Brethren felt we could improve upon the existing manual and breathe new life into it. The result is a beautiful volume that will be a great addition to any home library as well as the Church classroom.
The new edition has several significant features in the design and text:
The new edition will be increased in size and have a new cover similar to the Teachings volumes. We also have updated the design of the text to make it easier to read. The visuals will be in color. All of this provides a more pleasing visual experience that will enhance personal study.
The text has been revised to make the manual more effective for personal study, teacher preparation, and class discussions. To aid personal study, many of the quotations and source citations have been updated to link this book with the Teachings volumes that have been published previously. This will allow individuals to learn more from the prophets who are quoted in the Gospel Principles manual. The integration of these manuals will enrich study both in the classroom and at home.
3. Teaching and Learning Suggestions
In each chapter are ideas that will help teachers improve their teaching. The ideas are based on sound teaching principles from Teaching, No Greater Call, the Church’s resource for teacher improvement. The ideas are intended to help teachers love those they teach, invite diligent learning, and teach the doctrine by the Spirit.
Additionally, questions that begin each section in a chapter will help foster discussion and direct class members to the content within the section. Questions that follow each section will help class members ponder, discuss, and apply what they have read.
A Timeless Book
It is our hope that the new Gospel Principles manual will take a prominent place in the homes and lives of all Latter-day Saints. The new edition will inspire teaching and enhance personal study. Brothers and sisters, by reinforcing your study of the core doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your testimony will grow, your happiness will increase, and you will find a greater abundance of the blessings of the Lord in your life.
Photo illustrations by Robert Casey