Lesson 1: The Role of the Learner

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012


Introduction

The purpose of this lesson is to help students fulfill their role in gospel learning. Sometimes students think that the responsibility for their learning rests only with the teacher. 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:

“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” (“The Spirit Must Be Our Constant Companion” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 7, 2003], 1, si.lds.org).

As you teach by the power of the Holy Ghost and help students learn by that same power, you can help them become truly converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You may need to review the principles taught in this lesson on a regular basis to remind students of their responsibilities in class.

Suggestions for Teaching

Individual responsibility to learn by study and by faith

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 has done 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? Who is responsible for your gospel learning?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 aloud.

  • What do you think it means to “seek learning … by study and also by faith”? (You may need to point out that learning by study and faith requires individual effort.)

Elder David A. Bednar

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 scripture study journals or class notebooks) so they can refer to it often throughout the seminary year:

“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” (“Seek Learning by Faith” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 3, 2006], 3, si.lds.org).

Daily personal scripture study

Explain that daily personal scripture study is an important part of seeking learning by study and faith.

Invite a student to read Helaman 3:29–30 aloud.

  • What do you think is the difference between casually reading the scriptures and “lay[ing] hold upon the word of God”?

  • According to the verses we just read, what blessings come from laying hold upon the word of God?

  • What other blessings come through studying the scriptures daily?

  • When have you received blessings through daily personal scripture study?

As students respond to these questions, ensure that they understand that daily scripture study strengthens our testimonies, invites the Holy Spirit into our lives, and helps us learn the gospel.

Invite students to answer one of the following questions in their scripture study journals:

  • How might you improve your study of the Book of Mormon this year?

  • In what ways has reading the Book of Mormon influenced your feelings about Jesus Christ?

Invite students to set a goal to study the Book of Mormon daily this year. Invite them also to set a goal to read the entire Book of Mormon during the seminary year. You might suggest that they write these goals in their scripture study journals. Remind them that the goals can help them with requirements for Duty to God and Personal Progress.

Learning by the Spirit

Copy the following diagram on the board. Leave the words off the diagram. You will write them as the lesson develops.

triangle diagram

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:17–18 aloud.

  • According to these verses, what does the Lord require of a gospel teacher? (To teach the truth by the power of the Spirit.)

Write Holy Ghost and Teacher on the diagram, as shown above. Share your thoughts about seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost as you teach. Help the students know that in your preparation and teaching, you make a sincere effort to be guided by the Spirit.

Ask students to place a bookmark in Doctrine and Covenants 50 (since they will return to this passage in a moment). Ask a student to read 2 Nephi 33:1 aloud.

  • What does the Holy Ghost do for the learner when the gospel is taught?

Explain that to learn the gospel the Lord’s way, we must accept the responsibility to learn by the power of the Holy Ghost. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:19–21 silently.

  • What should we write by the bottom right corner of the triangle? (Write Student.)

  • What do you think it means to receive the truth by the Spirit?

You may want to teach some principles about recognizing the influence of the Holy Spirit. 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). The Holy Ghost also brings feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, gentleness, faith, and hope (see Galatians 5:22–23; D&C 11:12).

  • What can you do in seminary to prepare yourself to learn by the Spirit?

As part of this discussion, help students understand that one important way to learn by the Spirit is to be willing to share our testimonies with each other. Read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Richard G. Scott

“As students verbalize truths, [these truths] are confirmed in their souls and strengthen their personal testimonies” (“To Understand and Live Truth” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 4, 2005], 3, si.lds.org).

Remind students that the Duty to God and Personal Progress programs include suggestions to share gospel truths with others. Encourage them to share their experiences in seminary classes, in quorum or class meetings, and in conversations with their family members and friends. Emphasize that as they make an effort to explain, share, and testify of gospel truths, God will increase their ability to discuss the gospel with others.

Refer again to the diagram on the board. Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:14, 22 aloud.

  • How do these verses summarize the roles of the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the student in gospel learning? (You may need to explain that the Holy Ghost, also called the Spirit and the Comforter in this passage, teaches truth. The teacher is to teach by the power of the Spirit, and the student is to learn by the same power.)

  • What happens when a student learns by the Spirit and the teacher teaches by the Spirit? (You may need to explain that edify means to build up, strengthen, enlighten, or improve.)

In the Book of Mormon, Enos and Alma are examples of people who learned by the Spirit. Ask students to read Enos 1:4–10 and Alma 5:45–47 silently. (You may want to write these references on the board.) Then ask:

  • What did Enos (or Alma) do to learn by the Spirit?

  • What did the Spirit do for Enos (or Alma)?

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Bednar:

“We should always remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher who, through proper invitation, can enter into a learner’s heart” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” 4).

  • How does what we have studied so far apply to your individual responsibilities as a member of this class? (As students respond, make sure they understand that when we open our hearts and ask God in faith, the Holy Ghost will help us understand gospel truths.)

To help students consider ways they can help each other learn by the Spirit, ask:

  • What actions can we take that will help invite the Spirit into our classroom? (Answers may include singing the opening hymn, bringing scriptures to class and using them daily, being willing to answer questions and share experiences, praying for each other, and asking for the guidance of the Holy Ghost.)

To help students understand that negative actions can also influence the rest of the class, ask:

  • What kinds of attitudes or behaviors offend the Spirit in a seminary class?

Invite students to consider the value of having the Holy Spirit as their teacher.

  • When have you experienced the Spirit acting in His role as a teacher?

Conclude by inviting students to learn by study and faith as they study the Book of Mormon in seminary this year. You may want to follow up with students throughout the year to encourage them to continue in this effort.

Commentary and Background Information

Daily scripture study

“Latter-day prophets counsel us to study the scriptures every day, both individually and with our families. They encourage us, as Nephi encouraged his brethren, to liken the scriptures to ourselves, finding ways that the sacred accounts of old apply in our lives today (see 1 Nephi 19:23–24). They exhort us to ‘search the scriptures’ (John 5:39) and ‘feast upon the words of Christ’ (2 Nephi 32:3).

“You will benefit greatly by following this counsel. Daily, meaningful scripture study helps you be receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It builds your faith, fortifies you against temptation, and helps you draw near to your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.

“Develop a plan for your personal study of the scriptures. Consider setting aside a certain amount of time each day to study the scriptures. During that time, read carefully, being attentive to the promptings of the Spirit. Ask your Heavenly Father to help you know what He would have you learn and do.

“Continue reading the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, throughout your life. You will rediscover the treasures of the scriptures again and again, finding new meaning and application in them as you study them at different stages of life” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], “Scriptures,” 156).

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said:

“If we become casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers.

“We may not cease to pray, but our prayers will become more repetitive, more mechanical, lacking real intent. Our hearts cannot be drawn out to a God we do not know, and the scriptures and the words of living prophets help us know Him” (“Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 17).

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

As part of your discussion of 2 Nephi 33:1, consider reading the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Nephi teaches us, ‘When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men’ (2 Nephi 33:1). Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. 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. …

“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” (“Seek Learning by Faith” [address to CES Religious Educators, Feb. 3, 2006], 1, 3, si.lds.org).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

Explain, share, and testify

Point out that when we explain doctrines and principles, share relevant experiences, and testify of divine truth, we show our willingness to learn by the Spirit. When we learn by the Spirit, we grow in our understanding, improve in our ability to teach the gospel, and strengthen our testimonies and the testimonies of others.

  • Why do you think it is important to explain, share, and testify of gospel truths in class and outside of class?

  • When have you been able to explain, share, or testify of a gospel truth to a friend or family member?

D&C 50:21–22. Learning by the Spirit

To enhance students’ discussion of Doctrine and Covenants 50:21–22, consider making a copy of the following statement for each student. Invite students to take turns reading portions of this statement while the other students follow along. Ask all the students to listen for reasons why some individuals receive more spiritual edification from Church meetings than others. Brother A. Roger Merrill, a former Sunday School general president, explained what it means to learn by the Holy Spirit:

“We often focus, appropriately, on the importance of teaching by the Spirit. But we need to remember that the Lord has placed equal, if not greater, importance on receiving by the Spirit. (See D&C 50:17–22.) …

“In our Church meetings, in our personal and family scripture study, and even this day as we listen to the Lord’s prophets and apostles, some of us will receive more than others. Why? I am learning that those who truly receive do at least three things that others may not do.

“First, they seek. We live in an entertainment world, a spectator world. Without realizing it, we can find ourselves coming to conference or going to church with the attitude, ‘Here I am; now inspire me.’ We become spiritually passive.

“When we focus instead on seeking and receiving the Spirit, we become less concerned about a teacher or speaker holding our attention and more concerned about giving our attention to the Spirit. Remember, receive is a verb. It is a principle of action. It is a fundamental expression of faith.

“Second, those who receive, feel. While revelation comes to the mind and heart, it is most often felt. Until we learn to pay attention to these spiritual feelings, we usually do not even recognize the Spirit. …

“Third, those who receive by the Spirit intend to act. As the prophet Moroni instructed, to receive a witness of the Book of Mormon, we must ask ‘with real intent’ (Moroni 10:4). The Spirit teaches when we honestly intend to do something about what we learn” (“Receiving by the Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 93–94).

  • According to Brother Merrill, why do some people gain more than others when they receive gospel teaching?

  • What three key elements did Brother Merrill share about learning by the Spirit? (Write answers on the board.)

1 Nephi 15. Consequences of not learning by the Spirit

To help students see a scriptural example of how hardening our hearts can impede our ability to learn by the power of the Spirit, have students turn to 1 Nephi 15. Explain that Nephi understood the relationship between the teacher, the student, and the Holy Ghost. 1 Nephi 15 recounts a discussion Nephi had with his brothers after their father, Lehi, taught them what the Lord had revealed to him. Have students read 1 Nephi 15:2–3, 7–11 individually.

  • What was the cause of Laman and Lemuel’s disputations?

  • Why were Laman and Lemuel unable to understand the words of their father? (They hardened their hearts, they did not make an effort to learn by the Spirit, and they hadn’t inquired of the Lord.)

You may want to point out that in 1 Nephi 15:11, Nephi reminded Laman and Lemuel of several things they could have done to receive revelation. Nephi had successfully tested each of the actions and attitudes he listed. He had not hardened his heart, he asked the Lord in faith, he believed that he would receive answers from the Lord, and he diligently kept the commandments.