Helps for the Teacher

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), v–viii


President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I hope that for you [studying the scriptures] will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted” (“The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).

As a Gospel Doctrine teacher, you have the opportunity to help the members of your class learn to love the Old Testament and find the enlightenment that President Hinckley promised. As you teach, you will be following the example of the Savior, who loved the scriptures and used them to teach his disciples.

Just after Jesus was resurrected, he used the scriptures to teach two disciples powerful truths. A disciple named Cleopas and his companion were walking along the road to Emmaus, discussing the news they had just heard that Jesus’ body was no longer in the sepulchre. As they walked, they were joined by Jesus but did not recognize him. He asked what they were talking about and why they were sad, and they told him of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. When Jesus heard this, he “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

Cleopas and his companion asked the Savior to stay with them, and as they sat to eat they recognized him as the resurrected Lord. He then vanished from their sight, and they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).

The scriptures that prompted the disciples’ hearts to burn were from the books of Moses and the prophets—the scriptures that we know as the Old Testament. As you teach these same sacred truths, the Holy Ghost will testify of their truthfulness to your class as he did to Cleopas and his companion.

Studying the Old Testament should strengthen class members’ testimonies of the Savior and their commitment to live his gospel. Guided by the Spirit in their study, class members should be able to testify with Job, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

Teaching by the Spirit

When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Spirit of the Lord. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher in your class.

The way you seek the Spirit is through prayer, fasting, daily study of the scriptures, and obedience to the commandments. While preparing for class, pray for the Spirit to help you understand the scriptures and the needs of class members. The Spirit can also help you plan meaningful ways to discuss the scriptures and apply them to the present (1 Nephi 19:23). With the help of the Spirit, you will become an effective instrument in the hands of the Lord to teach his word to his children.

Some suggestions for how to invite the Spirit into your class are given below:

  1. 1.

    Invite class members to offer prayers before and after the lesson. During class, pray in your heart for the Spirit to guide you, to open the hearts of class members, and to testify and inspire.

  2. 2.

    Use the scriptures (see “Focusing on the Scriptures” below).

  3. 3.

    Bear testimony whenever the Spirit prompts you, not just at the end of the lesson. Bear testimony of the Savior. Frequently invite class members to bear their testimonies.

  4. 4.

    Use hymns, Primary songs, and other sacred music to prepare class members’ hearts to feel the Spirit.

  5. 5.

    Express love for class members, for others, and for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

  6. 6.

    Share insights, feelings, and experiences that relate to principles in the lesson. Invite class members to do the same. Members could also tell how they have applied or taught what was discussed in previous lessons.

Focusing on the Scriptures

Preparing for Gospel Doctrine class requires diligent, prayerful study of the scriptures. The Lord commanded, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word.” As you obtain his word through scripture study, the Lord promises that “your tongue [shall] be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).

This manual is a tool to help you teach the scriptures. Encourage class members to bring their scriptures to class every week. Where possible, Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures should be used. Refer to the excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible that are in the Bible footnotes and in the section following the Bible Dictionary.

During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.

Each class member should be given a copy of the Old Testament Class Member Study Guide (34592). This booklet provides summaries and questions that will help class members understand the scriptures, ponder how to apply them, and prepare for class discussion. Encourage parents to use the study guide in family scripture study.

Lesson Format

This manual has been written for youth and adult Gospel Doctrine classes and is to be used every four years. The lessons have been designed to contain more information than you will probably be able to teach in one class period. Seek the Spirit of the Lord in selecting the scripture accounts, questions, and activities that best meet the needs of class members.

Each lesson includes the following sections:

  1. 1.

    Purpose. The purpose statement provides you with a main idea to focus on as you prepare and teach the lesson.

  2. 2.

    Preparation. The first part of this section summarizes the scripture accounts in the lesson outline. Some lessons suggest additional reading that will give you increased understanding. In many lessons this section also includes other suggested preparations, such as materials you may want to bring to class.

  3. 3.

    Attention activity. This section consists of a simple activity, object lesson, or question to help class members prepare to learn, participate, and feel the influence of the Spirit. Whether you use the manual’s attention activity or one of your own, it is important to focus class members’ attention at the beginning of the lesson. The activity should be brief.

  4. 4.

    Scripture discussion and application. This is the main part of the lesson. Prayerfully study the scripture accounts so you can teach and discuss them effectively. Use the suggestions in “Helps for Teaching the Scriptures” (below) to vary the way you teach and to maintain class members’ interest.

  5. 5.

    Conclusion. This section helps you summarize the lesson and encourage class members to live the principles you have discussed. It also reminds you to bear testimony. Be sure to leave enough time to conclude each lesson.

  6. 6.

    Additional teaching ideas. This section includes additional truths from the scripture accounts, alternate teaching approaches, activities, and other suggestions that supplement the lesson outline. You may want to use some of these ideas as part of the lesson.

Helps for Teaching the Scriptures

Use the following suggestions to teach scripture accounts more effectively and with greater variety:

  1. 1.

    Help class members understand what the scriptures teach about Jesus Christ, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, whose birth, mortal mission, second coming, and millennial reign are prophesied in the Old Testament.

  2. 2.

    Ask class members to think of and share specific ways that a scripture passage can apply in their lives.

  3. 3.

    In addition to the doctrine, give emphasis to the stories in the Old Testament, particularly the stories of faith, ensuring that class members understand them and discuss ways to apply them.

  4. 4.

    Have class members look for words, phrases, or ideas that are repeated often in a scripture passage or that have special meaning for them.

  5. 5.

    Write on the chalkboard some phrases, key words, or questions that relate to the scripture account. Then read or summarize the account. As class members hear the phrases, key words, or answers to the questions, stop and discuss them.

  6. 6.

    Throughout the Book of Mormon, the phrase “and thus we see” is used to introduce a summary of the principles taught. After discussing a scripture passage, ask class members to complete the sentence “and thus we see” in order to explain the gospel principle being taught.

  7. 7.

    Look for and discuss symbols that are used throughout the Old Testament. For example, the bride and the Bridegroom represent Israel and the Savior.

  8. 8.

    Notice how people or events in the scriptures can be contrasted with each other. For example, you could contrast Cain with Abel and Enoch (Moses 5–7); David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) with Joseph of Egypt and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7–13); or the prophet Elijah with wicked King Ahab (1 Kings 16:29–33; 17–19).

  9. 9.

    Conduct a readers’ theater by having class members read the words of the different people in the scriptures.

  10. 10.

    Divide the class into two or more small groups. After reviewing the scripture account, have each group write down the principles taught in the account. Then have the groups take turns discussing how these principles apply in their lives.

  11. 11.

    Invite class members to bring a pencil to mark significant verses as you discuss them.

Encouraging Class Discussion

You normally should not give lectures but should try to help class members participate meaningfully in discussing the scriptures. As class members participate, they more effectively learn about the scriptures and better understand how to apply gospel principles. Seek the Spirit’s guidance in deciding which questions to ask, how to organize them, and how to develop them. Class discussions should center on matters that help members come unto Christ and live as his disciples. Redirect discussions that do not accomplish these purposes.

Scripture references are provided to help you and class members find answers to most questions in the scriptures. Answers to some questions will come from class members’ experiences.

Covering all the lesson material is less important than helping class members better understand the scriptures and commit themselves to increased discipleship. If class members are learning from a good discussion, it is often helpful to let it continue rather than try to cover all the lesson material.

Use the following guidelines to encourage class discussion:

  1. 1.

    Ask a question and then give a scripture reference so class members can find the answer.

  2. 2.

    Ask questions that require thought and discussion, rather than yes or no answers. Questions that begin with why, how, who, what, when, and where are usually most effective for encouraging discussion.

  3. 3.

    Encourage class members to share their feelings about what they are learning from the scriptures. Also encourage them to share experiences that show how scriptural principles can be applied to life. Make positive comments about their contributions.

  4. 4.

    Be sensitive to the needs of each class member. Although all class members should be encouraged to participate in class discussions, some may hesitate to respond. You may wish to speak privately with them to find out how they feel about reading aloud or participating in class. Be careful not to call on class members who might be embarrassed.

  5. 5.

    Encourage class members to prepare for class by studying the assigned scripture account and the Old Testament Class Member Study Guide (34592). They will be better able to participate in discussions if they are prepared. Suggest that class members discuss the scripture accounts and the lessons with their families.