The Lord has said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.” (3 Ne. 27:21. Italics added.)
Christ has set the pattern for us. We will do well to follow this pattern. Even though we may be weak compared to him, we should imitate his example for he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6.) Teachers can profit from following the example set by Jesus Christ in teaching as he taught. We are teaching his message. We should not, therefore, take any glory for ourselves or seek to develop a following of our own. We are engaged in developing followers of Christ. John the Baptist clearly taught this principle when he said of himself in relation to the Savior.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30.)
A teacher may draw attention to himself long enough to deliver an initial message; but the substance of that message and the example of the teacher must direct the student to Christ. John the Baptist only prepared the way for the Savior’s ministry by calling upon his hearers to repent. Inherent in his call to repentance was the message that each individual should look to the Savior who would lead them in the way of truth and salvation. Likewise, teachers, have the responsibility to help prepare the way for students to come to the Lord and develop a meaningful, personal relationship with him.
We must light the way.
Jesus said: “I give unto you to be the light of this people …”
“Therefore, let your light so shine before this people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (3 Ne. 12:14, 16.)
When our works are his works and when they are illuminated by his light, our students are drawn to him and to our Father.
“Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up that which ye have seen me do.” (3 Ne. 18:24.)
If we are to effectively teach others, the light which is to guide them must shine first in us. We must be models of obedience. Such is an essential part of the preparation of those who are called to teach. (See the chart, “Teaching Learning Relationships” published in the first article of this series, International Magazines May, 1977, p. 19.)
Christ is a very worthy example for us to follow. He asks nothing of us which he has not been willing to do himself.
Clearly he taught:
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19.)
And again: “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30.)
The teaching approach used by the Savior was so simple, yet so powerful. His constant willingness to follow the Father was the beginning point of his power and effectiveness. There is power in one who obeys God. There is power in one who teaches by example.
Elder Delbert L. Stapley has suggested that, “Example is greater than precept.” (Improvement Era, June 1969, p. 70. See companion article for full text.)
Teachers who themselves are obedient to the great truths of the gospel which they teach, have power, through the Spirit, added to the words they speak.
“Yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins.” (Alma 17:4.) Anyone, if he so desires, can verbalize the gospel; but words with power to convert come only through obedient teachers.
Paul admonished Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers, in words, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12.)
This is the Lord’s way, and as teachers we should have faith in its effectiveness. Example, with its accompanying spiritual power should become one of our foremost teaching methods.
To elders who would be teaching in the church, Peter gave the following counsel:
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pet. 5:2–4.)
The ideal way for a teacher to determine the quality of his own example is for him to examine himself.
Alma the Younger, who gave up the judgment seat so he could devote his full effort to teaching the word of God, had an interesting way of keeping members of the church on a high level of spiritual preparation. Chapter five of the book of Alma contains no less than forty-two well worded questions designed to guide members of the church through a process of self-examination. Each teacher of the gospel would do well to read the entire chapter carefully.
Consistent with the Savior’s statement that he was the light which each of us should hold up for others to see, Alma asked such questions as the following:
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the Church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenance? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? …
“I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenance?” (Alma 5:14, 19.)
And then, to make sure that we can go on day after day answering “yes” to all such questions, Alma continues: “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
“Behold, are ye stripped of pride? …
“Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? …
“Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
“Woe unto such an one, for he is not prepared.” (Alma 5:26–31.)
And finally, to make certain that we understand our responsibilities, not only to ourselves, but to others, Alma concludes:
“For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock, doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him.
“And now, I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice, he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.
“And now I, Alma, do command you in the language of him who hath commanded me, that ye observe to do the words which I have spoken unto you.” (Alma 5:59–61.)
Alma’s teachings followed the pattern set so clearly by his father who said: “Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” (Mosiah 23:14.)
How well prepared are we to teach? Are we learning more about the gospel every day? Do we study the scriptures, ponder, pray, listen and learn through the power of the spirit? Do we live by what we learn? When others see our light, do they see Christ? Do our words and actions give cause for others to glorify and turn to our Father in heaven?
If in any area, we, as individuals, are not prepared, may we hasten to make whatever changes are necessary. Remembering always the most basic question, and answer, of all:
“Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)