Lesson 3

The Role of the Learner

“Lesson 3: The Role of the Learner,” 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2017)


Introduction

The Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the learner each have an important role in gospel learning. Understanding each of these roles can help students be successful in their learning efforts, leading them to become truly converted to Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. You may need to regularly review the principles taught in this lesson to remind students of their responsibility in gospel learning.

Suggestions for Teaching

The roles of the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the learner in gospel learning

Before class, write the following question on the board: What do I want to experience and accomplish through seminary this year?

Begin class by inviting students to think about how they would answer the question on the board.

Ask a student to read aloud the following statement, and invite the class to listen for outcomes that seminary is intended to achieve:

The purpose of seminary is “to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven” (Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion [2012], x).

  • How might your life be blessed by achieving each of these outcomes?

  • What are other outcomes you might want to achieve by participating in seminary?

Before class, use tape or string to create a circle on the floor that is large enough for three students to stand in comfortably.

Ask for three volunteers. Invite the volunteers to stand in the circle marked on the floor. Place an item, such as a book or an eraser, several feet away from the circle. Tell the volunteers that their objective is to retrieve the item without leaving the circle, without touching the ground outside of the circle, and without using any other items. (One of these three students will need to lean forward and stretch to reach the item while being supported or assisted by the other two volunteers.) After the volunteers have succeeded in retrieving the item, thank them for their participation.

  • What was required for these volunteers to successfully accomplish their objective of retrieving the item? (They had to work together.)

  • How can this activity be compared to being in a seminary class?

Point out that as in the task the volunteers completed, individuals with various roles must work together to achieve the desired outcomes of seminary. Write the following three headings on the board: Holy Ghost, Teacher, and Learner.

Explain that in order for students to understand their role in seminary, they need to first understand the roles of the Holy Ghost and the teacher.

The role of the Holy Ghost

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 33:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Holy Ghost does for students when the truth is taught by His power.

  • According to this verse, what does the Holy Ghost do for students? (Under “Holy Ghost” on the board, write the following doctrine: The Holy Ghost carries the truth to our hearts.)

  • How can we recognize when the Holy Ghost is carrying truth to our hearts?

Help students understand that the Spirit usually communicates with us quietly, through our feelings and in our minds (see 1 Nephi 17:45; D&C 8:2–3).

  • What do you think your experience in seminary would be like without the influence of the Holy Ghost? Why?

The role of the teacher

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:13–14 aloud with a partner. Ask them to look for a description of the role of a gospel teacher. Before students read, explain that these verses were addressed to early Church members who had been ordained to teach the gospel.

  • According to these verses, what is the role of a gospel teacher? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board under “Teacher”: Gospel teachers are to teach by the Spirit.)

  • Why do you think it is important for gospel teachers to have the assistance of the Holy Ghost when preparing and teaching?

The role of the student

Invite a student to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, which was addressed to early Church members whom the Lord had commanded to organize a school for religious instruction. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord said these early Church members should seek learning, which can also pertain to us.

  • Like these early Church members, how are we to seek learning? (By study and by faith.)

  • What do you think it means to seek learning by faith?

Explain that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about what it means to learn by faith. Encourage students to write this statement somewhere (perhaps in their class notebooks or study journals) so they can refer to it often throughout the seminary year. Invite a student to read Elder Bednar’s statement aloud:

Elder David A. Bednar

“True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. …

“… As learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. …

“… Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. …

“… A student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself” (David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 63, 64).

  • What truth can we learn from this instruction about what we must do to learn by faith? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board under “Student”: To learn by faith we must put forth effort to study the gospel and apply its principles.)

To help students understand this truth, invite a student to the front of the classroom. Explain that you want to help that student become physically stronger. Then ask a second student to come forward and do five push-ups.

After the second student completes the push-ups, ask the first student:

  • Did those push-ups make you stronger?

Ask the class:

  • How does this example of physical exercise relate to your responsibility to learn the gospel?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: As we put forth our own effort to learn by faith and act on the gospel principles we learn, …

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar. Ask the class to listen for what we enable when we put forth effort to learn by faith.

Elder David A. Bednar

“A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter. Learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart. …

“A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness” (David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” 61, 64).

  • Based on Elder Bednar’s statement, how would you complete the statement on the board to form a principle? (Help students identify the following principle: As we put forth our own effort to learn by faith and act on the gospel principles we learn, we open our hearts to the Holy Ghost so He can teach us and testify of truth.)

handout iconDivide students into groups of three or four. Give each group a copy of the following handout. Instruct students to discuss the questions in their groups.

handout, roles of the Holy Ghost, teacher, learner

The Roles of the Holy Ghost, the Teacher, and the Learner in Gospel Learning

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual—Lesson 3

  • Based on what we have discussed about the roles of the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and students, what would happen if we removed any one of these roles from our seminary class?

  • What are some attitudes or behaviors that can prevent the Spirit from teaching us truth in a seminary class?

  • What are some spiritual, mental, and physical efforts we can make to invite the Spirit to teach and testify to us of truth?

  • How can an entire class be influenced by each student fulfilling his or her role in gospel learning?

Invite a student from each group to report what they discussed. (This may be an appropriate time to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:122 and discuss the importance of order and respect in the class.)

Point out that contrasting the experiences of Nephi with those of some of his brothers illustrates how putting forth our own efforts to learn by faith opens our hearts to the Holy Ghost so He can teach us and testify of truth.

Write the following references on the board: 1 Nephi 10:17; 11:1–6 and 1 Nephi 15:2–3, 7–11. Divide students into pairs. Assign one student in each pair to read the first group of verses, looking for how Nephi responded after hearing his father’s vision and teachings. Assign the other student in each pair to read the second group of verses, looking for how Laman and Lemuel responded. Instruct students to discuss in their pairs what they find. Invite several students to report to the class what they discussed.

  • How was Nephi an example of seeking to learn by faith?

Point out that as recorded in 1 Nephi 11–14, Nephi’s efforts to learn by faith led him to receive his own revelation regarding the things his father saw.

  • How did Laman and Lemuel’s response after hearing about their father’s vision differ from Nephi’s response?

  • How were Laman and Lemuel lacking in faith?

Point out that 1 Nephi 15 contains Nephi’s answers to his brothers’ questions about Lehi’s vision and teachings. Although Laman and Lemuel received answers to their questions from Nephi, their lack of faith and their disobedience prevented them from learning these truths through personal revelation from God as Nephi had (see 1 Nephi 15:7–11).

Ask students to reflect on their previous gospel learning experiences in seminary and other Church meetings or classes. Invite them to respond to the following questions in their class notebooks or study journals (you may want to consider writing the questions on the board):

  • What experiences have you had with putting forth effort to learn by faith?

  • How did the Holy Ghost fulfill His role in gospel learning when you did this?

Invite several students to share the experiences they wrote about. You may also want to share a personal experience and your testimony that putting forth our own effort to learn by faith opens our hearts to the Holy Ghost so He can teach us and testify of truth.

Ask students to ponder and write down what they will do to learn by faith in seminary so they can invite the Spirit to fulfill His role and help them achieve the personal desired outcomes of seminary they thought of earlier in the lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Nephi 33:1. Opening our hearts to the Holy Ghost

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about how students and teachers can ensure the teaching of the Holy Ghost during a gospel learning experience:

Elder Richard G. Scott

“[Students’] decision to participate is an exercise in agency that permits the Holy Ghost to communicate a personalized message suited to their individual needs. Creating an atmosphere of participation enhances the probability that the Spirit will teach more important lessons than [the teacher] can communicate. …

“… Participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize and feel what spiritual guidance is” (Richard G. Scott, “To Learn and to Teach More Effectively” [Brigham Young University Education Week devotional, Aug. 21, 2007], 4–5, speeches.byu.edu).

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency spoke about the need for both the learner and the teacher to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost:

President Henry B. Eyring

“The troubles and the temptations our students faced just five years ago pale in comparison with what we see now, and even more difficult times are ahead. I have felt … that what we have done and are doing will not be enough. We need greater power to get the gospel down into the hearts and lives of our students. …

“You must have the Spirit as your constant companion to teach with power, and your students will not survive spiritually without the Spirit as their companion” (Henry B. Eyring, “The Spirit Must Be Our Constant Companion” [evening with a General Authority, Feb. 7, 2003], 1).

Doctrine and Covenants 88:118. Seek learning by faith

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the importance of putting forth our own effort to learn by faith:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Spiritually, the classroom of faith becomes less like a lecture hall and more like a fitness center. Students do not get stronger by watching someone else do the exercises. They learn and then participate. As their spiritual strength increases, they gain confidence and apply themselves all the more” (Neil L. Andersen, “A Classroom of Faith, Hope, and Charity” [evening with a General Authority, Feb. 28, 2014], lds.org/prophets-and-apostles).