Lesson 16: Teaching the Gospel

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 114–23


The purpose of this lesson is to help us recognize our responsibility to teach the gospel effectively.

Introduction

In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord has commanded us to teach:

“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand” (D&C 88:77–78).

The possibilities for teaching the gospel are many and varied. We can teach our families, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and our school classmates. We can teach members of the Church in organized classes, and nonmembers of the Church as we associate with them at work or in our neighborhoods.

Preparing to Teach the Gospel

  • Show visual 16-a, “Lessons should be prepared with each class member in mind,” and 16-b, “Lesson preparation includes scripture study and prayer.”

If we are to become good teachers, we must prepare well. “No teacher can teach that which he does not know,” President David O. McKay told us. “No teacher can teach that which he does not see and feel” (Treasures of Life [1962], 476).

Preparing Ourselves Spiritually

If we prepare ourselves spiritually, the Holy Ghost will guide and help us as we teach. The following are suggestions for how to prepare spiritually to teach:

  • Pray. We should pray often to ask the Lord to guide us as we study and prepare. We should also pray for the individuals we teach.

  • Study the scriptures. As we study the scriptures, we learn about the Lord and increase our knowledge of the truth.

  • Live the gospel. When we live the teachings of the gospel, we receive strength, peace, and happiness that will be an example to those we teach.

  • Be humble. Humility helps us avoid seeking honor for ourselves or relying too much on our own strength. The Lord taught, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10).

Preparing a Lesson

President David O. McKay was a professional teacher before he was called to be a General Authority of the Church. He suggested four steps in preparing a lesson for a class:

  • Determine the objective. The objective is the idea you want the class members to learn and put into action. Write your goal and think about it as you prepare the lesson.

  • Know the lesson material. Know the lesson well enough so that you can teach it in your own words. Of course, scriptures and quotations may be read from the manual.

  • Gather visual aids. To create interest in the lesson, use interesting visual aids, such as objects, charts, pictures, or other helpful items. Creating interest in a lesson is important in teaching people of all ages.

  • Organize the lesson materials. Have everything ready that you will need during your lesson, such as chalk, eraser, paper, pencils, and visual aids. These should be arranged in the order in which they will be used in the lesson to help you avoid confusion while giving the lesson.

Learning to Love Those We Teach

Another important part of effective gospel teaching is to love those we teach. Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “The good teacher has already studied the lesson. The superb teacher also studies the students—studies them seriously and intently. … As you study carefully the features and expressions of your students, there may well within your heart a warmth of Christian compassion. … Compassion is a feeling akin to inspiration; it is love that will compel you to find the way to do the work of the Lord—feeding His sheep” (“Study Your Students,” Instructor, Jan. 1963, 17).

Students who are loved will become more self-confident and will desire to improve themselves. They will be more attentive, cooperative, and helpful in class. Most of all, students who are loved will learn how to love others.

Teaching with the Spirit

If a teacher is to love his students, he must be sensitive to inspiration from the Lord. Only in this way will he truly understand the needs of his students. President Brigham Young said, “After all our endeavors to obtain wisdom from the best books, etc., there still remains an open fountain for all: ‘If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God’” (Discourses of Brigham Young [1954], 261).

The ability to teach is a gift we receive from our Father in Heaven. If we ask Him, He will inspire us as we prepare the lesson, as we seek to know and love the students, and as we teach. And when we teach with His Spirit, we teach with power. (For further information, see lesson 18, “Teaching by the Power of the Holy Ghost.”)

Teaching in the Home

  • Show visual 16-c, “A father is responsible for teaching his children the gospel.”

From the creation of the earth, we have been told by the Lord that we have a great responsibility to teach our children the gospel. A good time to teach our families is on Sunday or during family home evening on Monday, but there are many other appropriate times. The following story illustrates how one father learned to teach his family:

Several fathers were involved in a study concerning family home evening. Most of them expressed feelings such as, “I’m not a teacher; I never was and I never will be.” They were promised that if they would call the family together each week in a warm and relaxed atmosphere, the teaching part would not be the problem that they imagined it to be.

One father, whose name was Jerry, didn’t seem enthusiastic about the request. He attempted to get out of the request by saying, “I can’t teach.” But he had committed himself, and he was held to his commitment.

Three months later, when approached about his experience, he was very friendly and warm, and his children expressed enthusiasm for what had happened in the family home evenings.

His wife said, “It has been a wonderful experience for us. The very best lessons we have had were those Jerry taught.”

Jerry looked down for a time and remained silent. Then he remarked, “Aw, I didn’t do so good.”

His wife was very sincere as she replied, “Jerry, when you taught us it just seemed so powerful. It just seemed as if we were a family. We’ll never forget the things you said.”

Jerry was deeply touched by these heartfelt words. He looked up and said, “I guess I did do pretty good. I didn’t want to have these family home evenings. I just didn’t feel I could do it. But one night after my wife had taught a lesson one week and my daughter another week, I decided I’d try one.”

His eyes grew moist as he said: “I’ll never forget the feeling I had in my heart as I talked about good things with my family. It just seemed that for the first time I was the father that I was supposed to be” (see George D. Durrant, Love at Home: Starring Father [1976], 41–43).

This story illustrates what can happen when we assume our responsibility to teach our families.

  • Ask several brethren to share their experiences in teaching the gospel to their children.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “Much of what we do is teaching. Showing a youngster how to tie his shoe, … helping a daughter with a new recipe, giving a talk in church, bearing testimony, conducting a leadership meeting, and, of course, teaching a class—all of this is teaching, and we are doing it constantly. … We are teaching when we preach or speak or respond in meetings” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 2–3).

Teaching in the Church

Much of the teaching we do is done informally as we talk with one another. But the Church also provides us with many opportunities to teach in organized classes.

Elder Boyd K. Packer wrote: “Every member of the Church teaches for virtually his whole lifetime. … We have teachers serving in all the organizations of the Church. A great deal of teaching is done in the priesthood quorums; indeed, all priesthood holders are eligible for appointment as priesthood home teachers. … The Church moves forward sustained by the power of the teaching that is accomplished. The work of the Kingdom is impeded if teaching is not efficiently done” (Teach Ye Diligently [1975], 2–3).

Sometimes our teaching is not done in a classroom, but through our associations with others in the Church. The following stories are examples of teaching done outside the classroom:

“Bishop Fred Carroll entered the scene when our family moved into his ward while I was an over-age deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. This great man probably spoke no more than fifty words to me directly, yet twenty-five of them remain indelibly imprinted on my mind. I am certain that this good bishop was never aware of the tremendous impact he had on me with those twenty-five golden words, given to me one day quietly and privately: ‘I have been noticing how reverent you are in our church meetings. It is a fine example you set for the other boys to follow.’

“Just a few words, but oh, how powerful! To me they had more effect than hundreds of assignments have had since. Up to that time I never did see myself as being particularly reverent. I am quite sure that Bishop Carroll mistook my shy, reserved manner for reverence. Yet that did not matter. From that time on I started wondering about the meaning of reverence in my life. I soon began to feel reverent. After all, if Bishop Carroll thought I was reverent perhaps I really was! The attitude which developed in me because Bishop Carroll planted a seed has since grown to be a guiding influence in my life” (Lynn F. Stoddard, “The Magic Touch,” Instructor, Sept. 1970, 326–27).

Elder Thomas S. Monson wrote:

“When dedicated teachers respond to [the Savior’s] gentle invitation, ‘Come learn of me,’ they learn, but they also become partakers of his divine power. It was my experience as a small boy to come under the influence of such a teacher. In our Sunday School class, she taught us concerning the creation of the world, the fall of Adam, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. She brought to her classroom as honored guests Moses, Joshua, Peter, Thomas, Paul, and Jesus the Christ. Though we did not see them, we learned to love, honor, and emulate them.

“Never was her teaching so dynamic nor its impact more everlasting as one Sunday morning when she sadly announced to us the passing of a classmate’s mother. We had missed Billy that morning, but knew not the reason for his absence. The lesson featured the theme, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Midway through the lesson, our teacher closed the manual and opened our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the glory of God. She asked, ‘How much money do we have in our class party fund?’

“Depression days prompted a proud answer: ‘Four dollars and seventy-five cents.’

“Then ever so gently she suggested: ‘Billy’s family is hard-pressed and grief-stricken. What would you think of the possibility of visiting the family members this morning and giving to them your fund?’

“Ever shall I remember the tiny band walking those three city blocks, entering Billy’s home, greeting him, his brother, sisters, and father. Noticeably absent was his mother. Always I shall treasure the tears which glistened in the eyes of all as the white envelope containing our precious party fund passed from the delicate hand of our teacher to the needy hand of a heartbroken father. We fairly skipped our way back to the chapel. Our hearts were lighter than they had ever been; our joy more full; our understanding more profound. A God-inspired teacher had taught her boys and girls an eternal lesson of divine truth. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 99; or Improvement Era, June 1970, 91).

Teaching in the World

Every member of the Church is a missionary with the responsibility for teaching the gospel by word or deed to every person with whom he comes in contact. We made a covenant at the time of baptism “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that we may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). As we teach our friends and neighbors, we should do so in mildness and meekness (see D&C 38:40–41).

We have been given a great responsibility, not just to teach our children or members of the Church, but to teach every person with whom we come in contact.

Conclusion

“President David O. McKay said, ‘There is no greater responsibility in the world than the training of a human soul.’ A great part of the personal stewardship of every parent and teacher in the Church is to teach and train” (quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone, in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 153; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 103). We have the responsibility to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to our children, to fellow members of the Church, and to our nonmember neighbors. In order to do this, we must prepare ourselves by studying and living the gospel.

Challenge

Prepare and teach the lesson for the next family home evening by studying and by praying for the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    If you desire, assign several class members to share good experiences they have had in teaching their children.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.