Lesson 3

The Role of the Learner

“Lesson 3: The Role of the Learner,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Introduction

This lesson should help students understand and fulfill their role in learning the gospel. To understand their role, students must also understand the roles of the Holy Ghost and the teacher. 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 Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the learner

Divide students into groups of three or four, and invite them to discuss the following (you may want to write these items on the board): their name, their favorite team sport, and their favorite position in that sport, if they have one (other activities such as band, choir, or drama could be substituted here).

After students have discussed their answers, invite one student to draw on the board a diagram of the playing field or court of his or her favorite team sport or activity and put an X where each player would be positioned. Ask the student to describe the objective of the sport and how a team succeeds. Then ask the student the following questions:

  • What do you think is the most important position on the team? What position is least important?

  • What would happen if you removed a position from your team and then tried to compete?

  • What would happen if the player in that position was there, but he (or she) either did not understand his role or expected others to fulfill his role?

Point out how important it is for each player to understand and fulfill his or her role in order for the team to be successful in achieving its objective. Explain that being in a seminary class is similar to being on a team.

  • What do you think the purpose of a seminary class is?

After students respond, ask a student to read the following statement aloud while the class listens for the purpose of seminary. (Consider providing copies of the statement as a handout and displaying this statement in your classroom for at least the first few weeks of seminary.)

The purpose of seminary is “to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven” (“The Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion,” Gospel Teaching and Learning [2012], x).

  • What part of the objective of seminary do you most want to achieve in your life?

  • As a member of our seminary class, what do you think your role is in accomplishing this purpose?

After students respond, explain that accomplishing the objective of seminary requires the efforts of three different individuals. Each has a position or unique role to fill in the process. Write the following headings on the board: Holy Ghost, Teacher, Learner.

  • Which position or role do you think is the most important? Which do you think is the least important?

  • What would happen if we removed one of these roles from our seminary class?

  • What would happen if one of these individuals did not understand their role or expected others to fulfill their role?

Point out that no matter how effective the Holy Ghost or the teacher might be, the purpose of seminary will not be accomplished unless each student fulfills his or her role. Explain that in order for students to understand their role, they also need to understand the roles of the Holy Ghost and the teacher.

The role of the Holy Ghost

Ask students to ponder what they think the Holy Ghost’s role is in the seminary classroom.

  • Why is the Holy Ghost essential to our seminary experience?

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

  • According to this verse, what does the Holy Ghost do for students? (Under “Holy Ghost” on the board write the following doctrine: The Holy Ghost carries the truth to our hearts.)

  • What do you think will happen if we do not invite or welcome the Holy Ghost into our classroom?

Invite students to ponder how their behavior and personal worthiness relates to their ability to be taught by the Holy Ghost.

To illustrate the role of the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament, explain that a prophet named Elijah was discouraged because of the wickedness of the people. The Lord communicated with him as he stood atop a mountain. Invite a student to read 1 Kings 19:11–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how the Lord communicated with Elijah on this occasion. Invite students to report what they find.

  • How does knowing that the Lord communicates with us through the Holy Ghost help you as you strive to learn by the power of the Holy Ghost? How does knowing how the Holy Ghost speaks help you?

If possible, provide the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a handout. Invite a student to read it aloud.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“Please know that your Father in Heaven loves you and so does His Only Begotten Son. When They speak to you—and They will—it will not be in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but it will be with a voice still and small, a voice tender and kind” (“The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 18).

Invite students to share their thoughts and feelings about the ability of the Holy Ghost to carry gospel truth to our hearts.

The role of the teacher

Point to “Teacher” on the board and ask the following question:

  • If the role of the Holy Ghost is to carry the truth to learners’ hearts, what do you think the teacher’s role is in seminary?

Invite two students to read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–14 and Doctrine and Covenants 50:13–14. Ask the class to listen for what a gospel teacher’s role is.

  • How would you summarize what these passages teach about the teacher’s role? (Students may give a variety of answers, such as the following doctrine: The Lord commands teachers to teach the gospel by the Spirit. Write this doctrine under “Teacher” on the board.)

Explain that after the Lord spoke from Mount Sinai to the ancient Israelites, He gave some specific instructions to those who would teach His word. Invite a student to read Deuteronomy 6:4–7 aloud. Ask students to look for what the Lord commanded the Israelites.

  • What did the Lord expect of those who taught their children God’s word?

  • How does verse 7 affect your understanding of the role of your gospel teacher?

The role of the learner

Point to “Learner” on the board, and ask students what they think their role is in accomplishing the purpose of seminary.

After they respond, invite two students to come to the front of the class. Hand one student a weight (like a dumbbell), and ask him or her to begin lifting it in repetition. While the student does this, ask if there is any way to transfer the strength that this student is building in his or her muscles to the second student.

  • How might this example relate to gaining gospel knowledge and testimony? (If students want to grow spiritually stronger, they must put forth effort.)

Provide the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on a handout. Invite students to read the statement silently and look for what it teaches about the student’s role.

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. …

“… A student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 64).

  • What does this statement teach about your role in obtaining spiritual knowledge? (Students’ answers may vary, but they might include a principle similar to the following: Obtaining spiritual knowledge requires effort on our part. Write this principle under “Student” on the board.)

  • What are some spiritual, mental, or physical efforts we can make to obtain spiritual knowledge? (You may want to write students’ responses under the principle you just wrote on the board.)

(Note: Consider inviting students to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:122 and discuss the importance of order and respect in the class.)

On the board, draw a line connecting “Holy Ghost” and “Student,” and ask:

  • What do you think the relationship is between students fulfilling their role in the learning process and the Holy Ghost being able to fulfill His role? (Students may use different words, but their responses might reflect something similar to this principle: When we make an effort to fulfill our role as learners, we open our hearts to the Holy Ghost’s teaching power.)

To help students understand how the roles of the Holy Ghost, teacher, and student work together, invite them to turn to 2 Kings 5.

Explain that Naaman was a captain in the Syrian army who suffered from a disease called leprosy. A Jewish maid in his house suggested that the Israelite prophet Elisha in Samaria could heal him.

Invite two students to take turns reading aloud from 2 Kings 5:9–15. Ask the class to follow along and look for the effect of Naaman’s actions. After the students have read, ask the following questions to help the class recognize the roles of the student, the Holy Ghost, and the teacher.

  • What effects did Naaman’s actions have?

  • Who filled the role of a teacher in this account?

  • How do you think the Holy Ghost might have played a role in Naaman’s experience?

Invite students to share how they have invited the Spirit and acted on what they have learned in seminary or in other gospel settings and the results of such efforts.

Give students time to ponder one or two things they want to do to fulfill their role in seminary this year. Invite them to set a goal to act on these desires. You might suggest that they write this goal in their scripture study journals or on a piece of paper. If students need help coming up with goals, consider showing the following ideas from chapter 1 of Gospel Teaching and Learning:

  • Develop a habit of daily scripture study.

  • Discover and express doctrines and principles that are relevant to their personal lives.

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

  • Share insights, experiences, and feelings.

  • Explain gospel doctrines and principles to others and testify of their truthfulness.

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

Commentary and Background Information

The role of the Holy Ghost in relation to the roles of the teacher and student

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about how the Holy Ghost’s power relates to the roles of the teacher and the student:

“Nephi teaches us, ‘When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men’ (2 Nephi 33:1). Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. 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” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 61).

Strive for greater conversion

This is a glorious time to be a youth in the Church. Remember that no matter how inspired parents, youth leaders, and seminary teachers may be, each student has responsibility for his or her own conversion. “You have [the] primary responsibility for your own conversion. No one can be converted for you, and no one can force you to be converted. However, others can help you in the process of conversion. Learn from the righteous examples of family members, Church leaders and teachers, and men and women in the scriptures” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 43). Conversion takes place when we are diligent about saying prayers, studying the scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in church and temple ordinances. Conversion comes as we act on the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom. Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The importance of the Holy Ghost

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught why it is essential for the Holy Ghost to fulfill His role in seminary:

“Our students cannot know of God, and so love as they must love, unless they are taught by the Holy Spirit. Only by the Spirit can they know that God loved us enough to send His Son to be the [mediator] for our sins and that Jesus is the Son of God and that Christ paid the price of their sins. Only by the Spirit can they know that Heavenly Father and His resurrected and glorified Son appeared to Joseph Smith. Only by the Spirit can they know that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God. And only by inspiration can they feel the love of the Father and the Son for them in giving us the ordinances necessary to receive eternal life. Only by obtaining those witnesses, placed deep into their hearts by the Holy Ghost, will they be rooted on a sure foundation to stand steady through the temptations and trials of their lives” (“To Know and to Love God” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 26, 2010], 2; si.lds.org).