Chapter 5: We Learn to Teach by Study and also by Faith,” Part 1

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Religion 130, (2005), 34–41


At the Missionary Training Center, missionaries spend several hours each day in personal and companion study. In the mission field, missionaries are expected to continue their study each day. They must learn “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118) in an effort to build a reservoir of gospel knowledge and conversion essential for their teaching.

Missionaries studying on chairs

This chapter teaches students how to obtain knowledge by study and by faith. They will be given opportunity to practice teaching during class time with the aid of these notes. Lesson preparation through study and faith is also addressed in chapter 6 to allow for more time to introduce and practice important study and lesson preparation skills. Students will have many opportunities during this course, in the MTC, in the mission field, and throughout their lives to apply the Lord’s counsel to Hyrum Smith before his mission to “first seek to obtain my word” (D&C 11:21).

Doctrines and Principles to Understand

  • Prayer and pondering the scriptures help prepare us to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost.

  • We must seek to obtain the word.

  • We obtain the word by study and by preparing to teach the restored gospel.

Teaching Suggestions

Prayer and pondering the scriptures help prepare us to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Explain that spiritual communication generally requires some prior action on our part. Share the following statement by Elder L. Lionel Kendrick of the Seventy:

“Receiving personal revelation is not a passive process. As we seek such revelations, we must prepare for these sacred experiences. President Spencer W. Kimball told us that ‘God reveals himself to men who are prepared for such manifestations’ (CR, April 1964, p. 97)” (“Personal Revelation,” Brigham Young University 1996–97 Speeches [1997], 252).

  • What specific things can we do to prepare to receive inspiration?

  • What is our obligation after receiving inspiration? (see D&C 46:7).

Use the following statements and questions to help you discuss these principles with your students:

Prayer is a basis for spiritual communication. Read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer:

“Inspiration does not—perhaps cannot—flow unless you ask for it, or someone asks for you.

“No message in scripture is repeated more often than the invitation, even the command, to pray—to ask.

“Prayer is so essential a part of revelation that without it the veil may remain closed to you. Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 76; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 59).

  • Why is it important for you to pray often for inspiration?

  • Where and when have you found to be the best place and time of the day for you to pray about serious concerns or needs?

Pondering the scriptures prepares us to receive revelation. Read together Doctrine and Covenants 76:19 and 138:1–2, 11.

  • What do you think it means to ponder? (see 2 Nephi 4:16).

  • When do you think missionaries should take time to ponder the scriptures?

Read the statement by Sister Anne G. Wirthlin from the student manual (p. 40), and have students discuss why they feel that pondering the scriptures invites revelation.

We must seek to obtain the word.

Cover the label identifying the name of the Missionary Training Center, and show the class the following picture. Ask students if they know what this building is and where it is located. Reveal the answer and inform students that there are many Missionary Training Centers worldwide, including the largest and most well-known one in Provo, Utah. The locations of these centers include the countries of England, New Zealand, Ghana, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Peru, Mexico, Korea, Guatemala, Colombia, and Chile. Invite students to share what they know about the activities that take place in the Missionary Training Centers. Explain that a major focus in the MTC is developing competency in knowledge of the restored gospel.

  • Why should you not wait until you are in the MTC to begin studying the restored gospel in earnest?

Have various students each read aloud one of the following scriptures: Doctrine and Covenants 11:21; 42:14; 84:85; 100:5–8.

  • What principles can you draw from these verses? (List them on the board.)

Share the following statement of President Ezra Taft Benson:

“We love all of our missionaries who are serving the Lord full time in the mission field. But there is a difference in missionaries. Some are better prepared to serve the Lord the first month in the mission field than some who are returning home after twenty-four months.

“We want young men entering the mission field who can enter the mission field ‘on the run,’ who have the faith born of personal righteousness and clean living that they can have a great and productive mission” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 59; or Ensign, May 1986, 45).

  • What do you think it means to enter the mission field “on the run”?

We obtain the word by study and by preparing to teach the restored gospel.

Share the following statement from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“I have said to missionaries all over the world that they make or break their mission from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement of Jesus Christ” [seminar for new mission presidents, June 20, 2000], 5).

Missionary Training Center
  • What do you suppose Elder Holland was referring to? (Getting up on time, missionary study time, planning, prayer.)

  • How could effective use of study time help “make or break” a mission?

While missions vary in the details of their schedules, missionaries are expected to devote significant time every day to personal and companionship study of the restored gospel and to their language.

Share more of Elder Holland’s statement regarding missionary study time. Listen for the main focus of his counsel:

“In those morning hours it is the studious, prayerful missionary who receives the Father’s record of the Son, borne with fire and the Holy Ghost to the heart of the missionary. That is why we want you up on time. … We want you to be able to prepare, to receive the Spirit of the Lord, to receive anew your witness of the work of salvation in which you are engaged, the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” 5).

  • What is the central purpose of daily scripture study?

DVD Track 10 Have a student read Elder L. Tom Perry’s reflection of how his personal study time as a missionary affected his life (see student manual, 41), or you may choose to show DVD track 10 (0:53). Invite the students to notice ways he benefited from this daily experience.

  • What did Elder Perry list as benefits of individual study? companion study?

Encourage students to commit themselves to make the best use of their daily study time.

Invite students to recite from memory one or more of the articles of faith. Do the same with two or three scripture mastery verses learned in seminary. Then have these students describe the process they used to memorize.

  • What benefits are there for a missionary who has many scriptures committed to memory?

  • How can memorizing scriptures be an exercise in faith as well as study?

Explain to students that an effective means of obtaining the word by study is to learn to identify and apply principles from the scriptures to your own life. A principle is a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for belief or action. To apply means that one uses that guideline or idea to improve or reinforce understanding or behavior.

Some scriptures state the principle outright. For example, have students read Alma 41:10 and note the principle stated in the last sentence. (“Wickedness never was happiness.”)

  • How can you apply this principle in your life?

Other scriptures are subtle and require thought to extract a principle. For example, have students read John 3:5 and state a principle contained in that scripture. Possible answers might include:

  • To join the Church, you must be baptized and confirmed.

  • To enter the celestial kingdom, baptism and confirmation are required.

  • To be a good Latter-day Saint, you must honor your baptismal covenants and live so that the gift of the Holy Ghost is operative in your life.

Explain that often more than one principle can be drawn from a passage of scripture. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 31:1 and suggest as many principles from that short verse as they can come up with. Allow them additional time to think after each response. (Don’t be concerned about short moments of silence while students are thinking.)

Some possible answers might include the following:

  • The Lord knows each of us by name (“Thomas”).

  • We can become sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (“my son”).

  • Blessings come because of faith (“blessed are you because of your faith”).

  • There is a cause-and-effect relationship in gospel obedience (for example, faith brings blessings).

  • This is the work of God (“my work”).

  • Our faith is required to recognize the work of God.

  • God knows His children.

  • Revelation occurs in the latter days.

  • God can speak to ordinary individuals.

Caution students that we should not “stretch” or “twist” meanings from the scriptures or identify concepts that are not there, but often we don’t ponder carefully enough to perceive many of the principles embedded within the scriptures. Encourage students to read scriptural passages more slowly and ponder them more deeply.

Repeat the exercise either by selecting one or two of the following references and asking the class to respond in similar fashion as before, or by dividing the class into small groups and letting them discover and discuss assigned references with their own group.

Allow five to ten minutes for this learning activity. Conclude by inviting summary observations from students about the value of extracting principles from scripture passages.

Display a copy of scriptures that has been marked a great deal. These may be your scriptures or, even better, a copy of one of your students’ scriptures.

  • What are the possible values for marking scriptures?

Invite students to share ways of marking passages of scripture they have found helpful. List their suggestions on the board. Emphasize that there are many ways to mark scriptures and that it is a personal matter. If students choose to mark their scriptures, they may wish to choose a way that helps note important words, phrases, ideas, people, and events. For many people, marking scriptures makes them easier to remember and find. It is better to emphasize the basic elements of scripture marking than to teach a particular marking system. Review “Mark scriptures” in the student manual (p. 42).

Note: The following teaching suggestion introduces the skill of organizing and writing lesson plans. This skill will be used from time to time throughout this course. Missionaries are encouraged to write their thoughts and organize them to help them understand the doctrines of the restored gospel. Missionaries should prepare in a manner that is effective for them. Missionaries who go to the Missionary Training Center with experience doing this will have an advantage in their mission preparation.

Ask students to describe what a lesson plan is. You may wish to refer students to the sample lesson plan in the student manual (see p. 45). Emphasize that this is only one example and that there are many different ways to prepare lessons. Some people use numbers and letters to list and organize various points. Others may use simple pictures or drawings.

Ask the students if they have created an outline for use in a written assignment or a talk.

  • How did this preparation help?

Creating a lesson plan in the mission field serves the same purpose. Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud the paragraphs under “Creating a lesson plan enhances learning and teaching” in the student manual (pp. 43–44). Then discuss as a class the lesson plan considerations and the sample lesson plan that follows in the student manual (pp. 44–45).

Have students split up into pairs. On a blank piece of paper, ask each pair to take 15 minutes and create a lesson plan for teaching a single gospel topic, such as the Godhead, the First Vision, prayer, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, tithing, or fasting. After preparation time, invite a few pairs of students to share with the class what their plan includes. (If your class time is over after this activity, tell students to save their lesson plans and bring them to the next class when they will again refer to them. Or, class time may expire before the following practice teaching exercise is completed. Continue and conclude the exercise during the next class.)

Have each pair teach their subject to another pair of students. They could do this by explaining what they learned in their own words, referring to their lesson plan to remind them of points they wish to share. Both students should take part in teaching their subject, just as companions would do in the mission field.

Instruct the students that after each pair teaches, those who were taught should provide evaluation and feedback to the teaching pair. The feedback should point out doctrines, scriptures, and illustrations that were clear and helpful. Suggestions should be made that would improve the teaching, such as additional scriptures that may have been used to strengthen the teaching, explanations or scriptures that were not clear and how they could be improved, and so forth.

Introduce the evaluation to students by emphasizing that there is value in getting feedback from others on how you did. The purpose of feedback is not to criticize but to compliment things done well and assist in improvement and practice. Point out that giving and receiving feedback will be a part of this course in the future. It is also used in the MTC and in mission-field training. (You may also choose to have a pair go to the front of the class and model their teaching for everyone.)

Switch roles and have the other pair take their turn teaching and receiving feedback.

After both pairs of students have taught each other and received helpful feedback, discuss as a class the sources they used in preparing their lesson plan.

  • Which of these sources did you find most useful and why?

  • What are some ways one group might have used the same source differently from another group?

Ask students how teaching a gospel principle has helped them better understand it and know of its truthfulness. Encourage them to keep learning so they can become better teachers of the restored gospel.

Suggested Assignments for Students

  • Think about where you are in your gospel knowledge compared with where you would like to be when you enter the mission field. Determine what you will need to do to reach that level and write some goals to help you gain that growth in your gospel understanding.

  • Select a doctrine or principle of the restored gospel that you would like to understand better. Study that doctrine or principle, and develop a lesson plan for teaching from your study. Use your lesson plan to teach a friend or family member.

  • Begin or enhance a scripture-marking program for your own set of scriptures.