A true gospel teacher is not satisfied when learners simply listen to what he or she has to say. Learning the gospel is not meant to be a passive experience. It is an act of faith and diligent effort. When you prepare to teach, instead of thinking, “What will I do to teach?” ask yourself, “What will my class members do to learn? How will I help them discover the gospel for themselves? How will I inspire them to act?” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the familiar saying, “Giving a man a fish feeds him for one meal. Teaching a man to fish feeds him for a lifetime.” He then taught, “As parents and gospel instructors, you and I are not in the business of distributing fish; rather, our work is to help [those we teach] learn ‘to fish’ and to become spiritually steadfast.”1
Encourage Learning outside of Class
Gospel study once a week is not enough to fortify class members against the temptations and deceptions of the adversary. Gospel learning must be centered in daily efforts at home, including personal and family study. The things you say and do as a teacher can reinforce this principle. Give learners specific invitations to study the gospel outside of class, and regularly ask them to share what they are learning. For instance, you might invite all class members to come to class prepared to share a meaningful passage from an assigned reading. Or you could invite one class member to prepare to teach a portion of the lesson. Even young children can be given invitations to learn, with support of parents, outside of class.
An encouragement to learn at home should be more than just a reminder about a reading assignment. It should be motivating and inspiring. For example, you might say, “If you would like to improve your ability to recognize the promptings of the Spirit, you will find valuable insights in Doctrine and Covenants 8–9. I invite you to read these sections before our next class.”
Question to ponder. How might I use class time differently because I see the home as the center of gospel learning?
See also “Support Gospel Learning in the Home” in this resource.
Put Responsibility on Learners
While a teacher’s role is important, learners are ultimately responsible for their own learning. Consider how you can help learners accept and fulfill this responsibility. For example, when a scripture is read in class, before sharing your insights, you could ask class members what they learn from the passage. Let them know that you aren’t looking for a specific answer but that you are sincerely interested in what they are learning. You may find that the questions and insights that invite the Spirit come just as often from a diligent learner as from the teacher.
Question to ponder. What are some things I can do to help my class members take responsibility for their own learning?
Express Confidence through High Expectations
Some learners are not confident in their ability to learn the gospel on their own. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Each [person] has access to the same scriptures and is entitled to the guidance of the same Holy Spirit.”2 When you express confidence in your class members and testify that the Holy Ghost will teach them, you help them rise to the high expectations that the Lord has for gospel learners. Many of them will never know what they can achieve unless they receive invitations and encouragement from you to stretch themselves. Share with them this inspiring invitation from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “I invite you to … become experts in the doctrines of the gospel.”3
Question to ponder. What have others done to help me feel confident in my ability to learn the gospel?
Scriptural example. The Savior expressed His confidence in His disciples by giving them challenging but attainable invitations (see, for example, Luke 5:1–11). What can I do to follow His example?
When learners share what they are learning, they not only feel the Spirit and strengthen their own testimonies, but they also encourage other class members to discover truths for themselves. In addition to sharing what you have learned from your study, encourage learners to share. You might ask questions like “What truths stand out to you in these verses?” or “What do you learn about rescuing those who are lost as you read President Monson’s story?” Small children can share by drawing pictures or telling stories. Reserve time for student sharing in every lesson—in some cases, you may find that these discussions are the lesson.
Question to ponder. How can I encourage my class members to share what they are learning?
Teach Learners to Find Answers in the Scriptures
A person who knows how to draw meaning out of the scriptures and turns to them daily will be able to access divine guidance to overcome any challenge. Such a person will not be dependent upon a teacher for spiritual strength. As you teach, ask questions that require learners to find answers in the scriptures. Even better, help them learn how to ask their own questions. Help them see that even though the scriptures were written many years ago, they contain the Lord’s answers to questions and problems we all face.
Question to ponder. What counsel could I give class members to help them have better experiences with finding answers in the scriptures?
Invite Learners to Record Impressions
Encourage learners to record the impressions they receive from the Holy Ghost as they study the gospel. For young children this may mean drawing a picture or sharing their thoughts with their parents. Teach learners that sometimes the Spirit will teach them things during a class discussion that are never spoken aloud. Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life.”4
Question to ponder. When have I been blessed by recording a spiritual impression?
Scripture Study Helps
The scripture footnotes, Topical Guide, and Bible Dictionary are valuable resources for helping us understand the scriptures. Consider this doctrinal insight from the entry on prayer in the Bible Dictionary: “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer”).
For the Discussion Leader
Share and counsel together. Begin by inviting teachers to share recent teaching experiences and ask questions. This could be an opportunity to model ways to invite diligent learning.
Learn together. Invite teachers to discuss one or more of the ideas in this section.
Practice. Before the meeting, assign each teacher to learn about a gospel principle and come to the meeting prepared to inspire the other teachers to learn about the principle. How is this approach different from simply teaching others about the principle? How will it bless learners?
Prepare. Decide together on a topic for the next meeting, and invite teachers to prepare.
David A. Bednar, “Watching with All Perseverance,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 42–43.
Bruce R. McConkie, “Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 3rd ed. (1994), 80; see also lds.org/manual/teaching-seminary-preservice-readings-religion-370-471-and-475.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Potential, Your Privilege,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 59.
Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Knowledge and the Strength to Use It Wisely,” Ensign, June 2002, 32.