Many have discovered the joy of teaching the gospel, but there is another distinct joy to be found in connection with teaching—the joy of preparing. Often, we see preparing the lesson as a chore and put it off until the last moment. Like praying in a hurry, preparing at the last minute is often shallow and not very effective.
I have prepared that way myself. But I have also experienced great exhilaration in preparing to teach. It can be a time of meaningful prayer and profound thoughts. I have found it to be an enjoyable time of worship, introspection, understanding, and inspiration.
Of course, very little happens by accident. Effective, enjoyable preparation is the result of thoughtful planning plus adherence to principle. Here is my own personal path to preparing lessons effectively.
Preview the lesson at least one week in advance. This is a quick look at headings, critical scriptures, and general concepts. Once I have some central ideas and scriptures in mind, I have the whole week to relate them to present-day life. During the week, I jot down ideas that come to me. By the time I sit down to finish preparing the lesson, I have some personal thoughts and feelings about the lesson material.
Find a regular place to study and prepare. I prepare my lessons at the kitchen table. Because I use the same place every week, I associate with it many joyful, spiritual moments. The memories of preparing past lessons help me get into the frame of mind to study. Solitude is also important. I like early-morning study, but anytime you are able to think without interruption or disturbance will work fine.
Gather the books and other resources you need. The scriptures and lesson manuals, of course, are the critical texts, but additional counsel and inspiration can also be found in Church magazines and from other sources. Having what I need within easy reach helps me focus on the lesson and allows me to concentrate on the spirit of the experience.
Ponder and pray as you prepare. This is a time when new insights often come into my mind. As I explore and examine the lesson material more deeply, I begin to get a clearer picture of how to give the lesson.
Organize ideas and plan the presentation. As I have followed these steps, I often find that I have learned far more than I will have time to present. The final part of my preparing consists of organizing what I have prepared and planning my presentation so I won’t neglect key points.
Whatever the lesson we are assigned to teach, the need to prepare is much the same. Preparing effectively helps us to teach “by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth,” enabling both the teacher and the class to “understand one another” and be “edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:14, 22).