Lesson 3: The Role of the Learner

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

The Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the learner each have an important role in gospel learning. This lesson can help students understand each of these roles so they can be successful in their learning efforts. 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

Invite a student to read aloud the following scenario:

A young woman is inspired and edified as she attends seminary. She feels the influence of the Holy Ghost there and is grateful for the things she learns. Another young woman is in the same seminary class. However, she is often bored and feels that she doesn’t get much out of the class.

  • What are some possible reasons why these two young women have such different experiences while attending the same seminary class? (Possible answers may include the following: the first young woman may participate more actively in the lesson; the first young woman may have had more previous spiritual learning experiences on which her present learning can build; and the second young woman may be distracted by other concerns.)

Invite students to look for doctrines and principles in today’s lesson that can help them fulfill their role in seminary and strengthen their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Explain that three individuals have essential roles in gospel learning in a setting like seminary: the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the student.

Invite one student to read John 14:26 aloud and another student to read John 16:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the roles of the Holy Ghost.

  • What truths can we learn from these verses about the roles of the Holy Ghost? (Students may give a variety of answers, but be sure they identify the following doctrine: The Holy Ghost teaches truth.)

  • How can we know when the Holy Ghost is teaching us truth? (You may want to refer students to Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3.)

Ask a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 50:13–14 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the role of a teacher of the gospel. Before the student reads, explain that these verses were given to early Church members who had been ordained to teach the gospel.

  • What is the role of a teacher of the gospel? (See also D&C 42:14.)

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

  • According to this verse, what does the Holy Ghost do for us?

To help students understand how to invite the Holy Ghost to carry truth into their hearts, invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how we are to seek learning.

  • How are we to seek learning? (By study and by faith.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for what we enable to happen when we seek 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” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 61).

  • From this statement, what principle can we learn about what can happen if we seek to learn by faith? (Help students identify the following principle: If we seek to learn by faith, then we invite the Holy Ghost into our hearts to teach and testify of truth. Consider writing this truth on the board.)

Point out that faith is more than passive belief. We express our faith through action.

  • What do you think it means to learn by faith?

To illustrate what it means to learn by faith, ask for a volunteer who has never played soccer. (You may adapt this activity to involve a student who has never played basketball, played a musical instrument, juggled, tied a tie, and so on.) Inform the volunteer that you intend to teach him or her how to play soccer well enough to play on a soccer team. Ask the volunteer if he or she has faith in your ability to teach and in his or her ability to learn. Then explain and demonstrate how to dribble a soccer ball, but do not let the volunteer try. Explain how to pass a soccer ball. Then demonstrate by passing the ball to the volunteer, but retrieve the ball rather than allowing the volunteer to try passing it back to you. Do the same for throwing a soccer ball inbounds after it has gone out of play. Then ask the volunteer:

  • How prepared do you feel to try out for a soccer team? Why?

  • Although learning about and watching others play soccer can help, if you want to develop the needed skills to succeed in soccer, what must you do?

  • How might this relate to learning by faith? (Only believing and trusting that the Spirit can teach us is not enough. To obtain knowledge of God’s truths, we must also put forth effort to learn and apply what we learn.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bednar. Ask the class to listen for what he teaches about learning by faith (you might consider making copies of this statement for students and inviting them to mark what they find):

Elder David A. Bednar

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

“… Learning by faith cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration, or an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” 64).

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

Note: This may be an appropriate time to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:122 and discuss the importance of order and respect in the class.

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

  • How would the seminary experience of a student who seeks to learn by faith be different from the experience of one who doesn’t?

Ask students to turn to Matthew 4. Explain that in the experience of the Apostle Peter we can see an example of how seeking to learn by faith invites the Holy Ghost into our hearts to teach and testify of truth. Ask a student to read Matthew 4:18–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s invitation to Peter and Andrew.

  • What did the Savior invite Peter and Andrew to do?

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

Point out that Peter’s action of following Jesus Christ allowed him to be with the Savior throughout His mortal ministry. By heeding the Savior’s call to follow Him, Peter had the privilege of hearing the Savior teach on a regular basis and of witnessing many miracles. With the Savior’s invitation, Peter even walked on water (see Matthew 14:28–29).

Explain to students that on one occasion, Jesus asked His disciples a question. Invite a student to read Matthew 16:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior asked.

  • What did the Savior ask His disciples?

  • How did they answer?

Invite a student to read Matthew 16:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Peter responded to the Savior’s next question.

  • What was Peter’s response to the Savior’s question?

  • What did the Savior explain about how Peter received his knowledge?

  • How is Peter’s experience an illustration of the truths we have identified in this lesson?

Invite students to respond to the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals (you might consider writing these questions on the board):

  • When have you sought to learn by faith? How did the Holy Ghost fulfill His role in gospel learning when you did this? (You might invite students to reflect on previous learning experiences they have had when they sought to learn more about Jesus Christ.)

If students are comfortable sharing, invite several of them to describe the experiences they wrote about. You may also want to share an experience of your own as well as your testimony of the truths you have discussed.

Ask students to think of one or two things they will do to learn by faith and to invite the Holy Ghost into their hearts to teach and testify of truth. Invite students to write down what they will do.

Conclude by sharing the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson:

President Thomas S. Monson

“Young people, I ask you to participate in seminary. Study your scriptures daily. Listen to your teachers carefully. Apply what you learn prayerfully” (“Participate in Seminary,” Aug. 12, 2011, seminary.lds.org).

Commentary and Background Information

Reverence invites revelation

Reverent attitudes and behaviors can be part of learning by faith and can invite the Spirit to teach and testify of truth. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the relationship between reverence and revelation:

“For the past several years we have watched patterns of reverence and irreverence in the Church. While many are to be highly commended, we are drifting. We have reason to be deeply concerned.

“The world grows increasingly noisy. …

“This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless.

“The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.

“Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit. …

“… Leaders should teach that reverence invites revelation” (“Reverence Invites Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 22).

Sister Margaret S. Lifferth of the Primary general presidency taught about reverence in Church meetings, and her instruction pertains to a seminary class as well:

“Only in an attitude of reverence can the Spirit confirm the truths of the gospel through the word of God, music, testimony, and prayer. …

“… Texting or reading e-mails in a Church meeting is not only irreverent, it is distracting and signals a lack of respect for those around us. So we exemplify reverence by participating in the meeting, listening to the speakers, and singing the hymns of Zion together” (“Respect and Reverence,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 13).

A prophet’s call to participate in seminary

President Thomas S. Monson gave the following message about participating in seminary:

“Seminary has blessed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint youth. I remember my own seminary experience. Seminary for me was held at an early hour in a little house across the street from my high school. I thought, if my teacher can get up that early, I can get up that early.

“Seminary will help you to understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ. You will feel the Spirit of the Lord as you learn to love the scriptures. You will prepare yourselves for the temple and for missionary service.

“Young people, I ask you to participate in seminary. Study your scriptures daily. Listen to your teachers carefully. Apply what you learn prayerfully” (“Participate in Seminary,” Aug. 12, 2011, seminary.lds.org).

Participating in class

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about participating in a gospel learning experience:

“[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.

“That participation will bring into their lives the direction of the Spirit. When you encourage students to raise their hand to respond to a question, while they may not realize it, they signify to the Holy Ghost their willingness to learn. That use of moral agency will allow that Spirit to motivate them and give them more powerful guidance during your time together. Participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize and feel what spiritual guidance is” (“To Learn and Teach More Effectively” [Brigham Young University Campus Education Week devotional, Aug. 21, 2007], 4–5, speeches.byu.edu).

Additional ways to help students fulfill their role in gospel learning

To learn how to help students fulfill their role in gospel learning, see the following topics in Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion [2012]:

  • “We help students fulfill their role in the learning process and prepare them to teach the gospel to others” (section 1.3.3, pages 6–7).

  • “Expect students to fulfill their role as learners” (section 2.2.2, page 15).

  • “Discuss principles of spiritual learning” (section 2.2.3, page 17).

  • “Focus on helping students fulfill their role” (section 4.3.4, page 57).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

Goals students can set to learn by faith

If students need help thinking of goals to help them learn by faith, consider sharing the following ideas (adapted from Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion [2012], 7). Students can set goals to:

  • Study the scriptures daily.

  • Develop scripture study skills, such as marking, cross-referencing, and using the scripture study aids.

  • Actively participate in the devotional.

  • Reverently and attentively engage in learning activities and avoid distractions.

  • Ask questions and seek for answers that help them better understand the gospel and how it applies in their lives.

  • Record impressions, thoughts, and notes in a scripture study journal or notebook.

  • Identify and express doctrines and principles taught in the scriptures.

  • Explain gospel doctrines and principles to others, share insights and experiences related to gospel doctrines and principles, and testify of the truthfulness of gospel doctrines and principles.

  • Apply gospel doctrines and principles in their lives.

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

Copy the accompanying diagram on the board before class begins. Throughout the lesson, you could add principles to the diagram that reflect the roles of each individual in gospel learning as you find these principles in the scriptures.

diagram, learning