Lesson 7: The Role of the Learner

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, 2013


Introduction

The purpose of this lesson is to help students learn how to fulfill their role in gospel learning. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said, “True conversion depends on a student seeking freely in faith, with great effort” (“We Must Raise Our Sights” [address to CES religious educators], Aug. 14, 2001], 4, LDS.org). As you help students fulfill their role in the learning process, they will learn how to invite personal revelation and deepen their conversion to the Lord. You may need to review the principles taught in this lesson regularly to remind students of their responsibility in gospel learning.

Suggestions for Teaching

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

Bring an item of food or drink to class (such as a piece of fruit or bread or a glass of water). Invite two students to come to the front of the class. Ask one of the students to take a bite of the food or a sip of the drink. Ask the first student to describe the taste of the food (or drink) to the second student. Encourage him or her to describe it so well that the description satisfies the appetite or quenches the thirst of the second student. Then ask the second student the following questions:

  • What benefit did you gain from the food (or drink) the other student described?

  • How well did the student’s description satisfy your hunger (or thirst)?

  • What must you do to gain any strength or benefit from this food (or drink)?

Ask the class how this example of meeting our bodies’ physical needs could relate to our responsibility to learn and grow spiritually.

Point out that some people think the responsibility for gospel learning lies primarily with a teacher. However, much like the example of the food or drink, one person cannot internalize spiritual truths for another. Each of us must learn and apply gospel truths for ourselves in order to receive spiritual strength and growth.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 aloud. Encourage the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that describe our responsibility in gospel learning.

  • What words or phrases describe our responsibility in gospel learning? (“Seek ye diligently,” “teach one another,” “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” You may want to invite a student to list these phrases on the board as students mention them.)

  • We are familiar with what it means to seek learning “by study.” What do you think it means to seek learning “also by faith”?

To help students better understand the meaning of this phrase, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If possible, provide a copy for each student or write the statement on the board before class begins. Ask students to look for words or phrases that help them understand the Lord’s commandment to seek learning by faith.

Elder David A. Bednar

“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, LDS.org).

Write the following statement on the board: Spiritual learning requires …

Ask students to use the explanation by Elder Bednar and what they have learned about our responsibility as learners to complete this statement. Possible responses might include the following: Spiritual learning requires effort on our part. Spiritual learning requires us to exercise faith and act.

To help students understand the influence personal effort can have on their spiritual learning, draw the accompanying diagram on the board. Explain that in Doctrine and Covenants 50, the Lord helps us better understand our role in learning the gospel. To do this, He first explains the roles of the teacher and the Holy Ghost in gospel learning.

Holy Ghost triangle

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:13–14 aloud. Before the student reads, explain that these verses were given to early Saints who had been ordained to teach the gospel to others. Invite half of the class to look for words that describe the responsibility of a teacher. Ask the rest of the class to look for words that describe the responsibility of the Spirit.

  • According to these verses, what is the responsibility of the teacher? (To preach the gospel by the Spirit. Invite a student to write preach by the Spirit underneath Teacher on the diagram.)

  • What is the responsibility of the Spirit, or Comforter? (To teach the truth. Ask a student to add the words teach the truth underneath Holy Ghost on the diagram.)

Write the following truth on the board: The Holy Ghost is the true teacher. Explain that while a teacher, missionary, or leader in the Church has the responsibility to preach the gospel by the Spirit, it is the Holy Ghost who reveals, enlightens, and carries the truth of the gospel into our hearts.

  • When have you felt the Spirit teaching you?

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:19–21 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for words that describe the responsibility of the learner.

  • According to these verses, what responsibility does the learner have? (To receive the word of truth by the Spirit. Invite a student to write receive by the Spirit underneath Learner on the diagram.)

To help students better understand what it means to receive by the Spirit, ask them to ponder what is required for someone to receive a ball from someone who is kicking or throwing it to them.

  • What does a person need to do in order to receive the ball? (Hold up his or her hands and catch it.) How is this like the effort a learner must make to receive the word of truth by the Spirit? (To receive a ball, a person must prepare to catch it. Likewise, we must prepare our hearts and minds to receive truth by the Spirit.)

Invite students to search Doctrine and Covenants 50:22 silently, looking for what happens when we make this effort to receive the gospel and learn by faith. Before students read, explain that the word edified refers to being uplifted or built up spiritually.

  • According to this verse, what blessings do teachers and learners receive from the Spirit if they fulfill their responsibilities in gospel teaching and learning? (Understanding, edification, and joy.)

Tell students that Elder Richard G. Scott testified of the connection between learners fulfilling their role and the Spirit’s opportunity to teach and testify. If possible, provide each student with a copy of the following statement. Invite a student to read the statement aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that explain the influence the learner’s effort has on the Holy Ghost’s opportunity to teach.

Elder Richard G. Scott

“[A learner’s] decision to participate is an exercise in agency that permits the Holy Ghost to communicate a personalized message suited to [his or her] individual needs. Creating an atmosphere of participation enhances the probability that the Spirit will teach more important lessons than [the teacher] can communicate” (“To Learn and to Teach More Effectively” [BYU Campus Education Week devotional, Aug. 21, 2007], 4–5, speeches.byu.edu).

  • According to Elder Scott’s statement, how can we invite the Holy Spirit to teach us?

Invite students to summarize how their efforts as learners influence the Holy Ghost’s opportunity to teach. Students may use different words, but they should express the following principle: As we exercise our agency to participate in the learning process, we invite the Spirit to teach and testify of truth. Write this principle on the board underneath those previously identified.

To give students an example of someone who exercised his agency to learn by study and faith, invite them to reflect on Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision. Arrange students in pairs, and assign each pair one or more of the following verses: Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18. (You may want to write these verses on the board.) Invite students to read their assigned verses and discuss the following question:

  • How did Joseph make an effort to learn spiritual truths?

After sufficient time, invite each pair to point out phrases from their assigned verses that illustrate Joseph’s effort.

Testify that Joseph’s willingness to study God’s word and act in faith on what he learned resulted in greater knowledge, a blessing that is available to all of us. Invite students to search Joseph Smith—History 1:20 silently, looking for what Joseph said to his mother when he returned home after receiving the First Vision.

  • Which phrase in Joseph’s statement to his mother reflects that he had learned the truth for himself? (“I have learned for myself.”)

Invite students to identify a principle we can learn from Joseph’s experience. Encourage them to phrase their suggestions as “if–then” statements. The following is one way students might express this principle: If we diligently study God’s word and act on it in faith, then we can come to know the truths of the gospel for ourselves. (You may want to suggest that students write this principle in their own words next to Joseph Smith—History 1:20.)

Refer to the food or drink activity you used at the beginning of class. Remind students that partaking of physical nourishment requires effort on our part and that we can benefit from food or drink only by eating or drinking it for ourselves. Testify that the same is true spiritually: the gospel can enter into our hearts and become part of us only as we make the effort to learn the truths of the gospel and apply them in our lives.

  • What actions will you take this year to invite the Spirit to teach you and to carry the truths of the gospel into your heart? (Answers could include attending Church meetings and classes, including seminary; participating in meetings and classes by singing hymns, marking scripture verses, recording insights, answering questions, sharing experiences and testimonies, and teaching others; participating in family home evening and family scripture study; engaging in daily personal scripture study and prayer; and applying gospel principles in their lives. Invite students to write down one or more goals.)

Conclude by asking students to reflect on their testimonies of the gospel and what they know for themselves to be true. Invite a few students to share how their personal efforts to learn the gospel have influenced their testimonies and relationships with the Lord. Add your testimony of the strength and guidance we can receive from the Lord in response to our efforts to learn and live the principles of the gospel.

Commentary and Background Information

Students can invite the Holy Ghost to confirm what they are learning

Elder David A. Bednar testified of the connection between learners fulfilling their role and the Spirit’s opportunity to teach and testify:

“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. … It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost” (“Seek Learning by Faith” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 3, 2006], 3, LDS.org).

The importance of daily scripture study

True to the Faith states the following about the importance of 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], 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).