Latter-day Prophets Speak about Gospel Teaching


David O. McKay (1873–1970), Ninth President of the Church

“That leader or teacher fails in the work assigned if the leader or teacher directs the love of the member only to the personality of the leader or teacher. It is the leader’s duty, or the teacher’s duty, to teach the member to love—not the leader or teacher, but the truth of the gospel. Always, everywhere, we find Christ losing himself for his Father’s will; and so also should our leaders and teachers, so far as their personalities are concerned, lose themselves for the truth he desires to have them teach.

“When the people came to Jesus and asked for bread, or the truth, he never turned them away with a stone. He always had truth to give. He understood it. It radiated from his being. He understood how to use illustrations, the natural things around him, to impress that truth upon his hearers. In other words, he was filled with his subject and then was enabled to give that subject to his hearers. It is not always what you say, but what you are that influences children, the young, or that influences your associates. ‘What you are,’ said [Ralph Waldo Emerson,] the alleged wisest of Americans, ‘thunders so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say’” (in Conference Report, October 1968, 143–44).

Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), Twelfth President of the Church

“We were driving north on an Oklahoma highway and noted the afternoon sun going out of sight behind the clouds. The grayness got deeper and more ominous. We said, ‘It looks like a storm brewing.’ As darkness increased and the winds began to howl, we said, ‘This storm will be violent.’ As it broke with all its hellish fury, we said, ‘This rain and wind have become a raging whirlwind.’

“These are turbulent times. The newspapers give front page to ever-increasing acts of violence, and magazines devote pages to the growing menace. …

“Can it be arrested? Can we turn the tide and bring back decency and order out of chaos? The answer is yes—a positive, stentorian yes. But the solution is not easy. …

“Home life, home teaching, parental guidance [are] the panacea for all the ailments, a cure for all diseases, a remedy for all problems. …

“Oh, my brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of God, the members of Christ’s Church, the people of all religious affiliations, the people of all nations, let us take hold of this general panacea and heal our wounds and immunize our children against evil by the simple process of teaching and training them in the way of the Lord. Every father and mother in Zion, and every Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Mohammedan, and all other parents have the same responsibility: to teach their children to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord!” (in Conference Report, April 1965, 60–65).

Howard W. Hunter (1907–95), Fourteenth President of the Church

“Let me take just a moment to mention a little incident that made an impression upon me when I was a boy. …

“It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.

“Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.

“The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the little bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.

“God bless the good people who teach our children and our youth” (“A Teacher,” Ensign, July 1972, 85).

Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–), Fifteenth President of the Church

“To all who hold positions of leadership, to the vast corps of teachers and missionaries, to heads of families, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the spirit—nourish the soul. …

“I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food. Amos prophesied of old: ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:

“‘And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

“‘In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.’ (Amos 8:11–13.)

“There is hunger in the land, and a genuine thirst—a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the spirit. Ours is the obligation and the opportunity to nourish the soul” (in Conference Report, October 1967, 89–90).

Left: Photo illustration by Tokio Onogi; left inset: photo illustration by Steve Bunderson; right: photo illustration by Matthew Reier

Illustrations by Robert A. McKay