Lesson 1: Love Softens Hearts

"Lesson 1: Love Softens Hearts," Part B: Basic Principles of Gospel Teaching—Love Those You Teach, ()


A new teacher was having problems with some misbehaving class members. She sought advice from a member of the Sunday School presidency, and he suggested that she conduct an experiment. She was to select a disruptive class member and then show that person in five different ways that she cared about him or her. A few weeks later, the leader asked the teacher how she was doing. She reported that the person she had selected had stopped misbehaving, so she was in the process of selecting another class member. After two more weeks the leader inquired again. The teacher said that she was having difficulty finding someone to work with. When he asked her a third time, she told him that she had selected three different class members, one after another, and that when she started to show that she cared about them they had ceased being disruptive. In each case, love had softened a heart.

The Power of a Teacher’s Love

As we show love for those we teach, they become more receptive to the Spirit. They become more enthusiastic about learning and more open to us and others in the group. Often, they awaken to a renewed sense of their eternal worth and a greater desire for righteousness.

Elder Dallas N. Archibald of the Seventy explained:

“Proper teaching will enlarge the soul.

“For example, let us compare a child to an empty glass, and our knowledge and experience, which have accumulated over the years, to a bucketful of water. … We cannot pour a bucketful of water directly into a small glass. However, by using correct principles of transferring knowledge, the glass can be enlarged.

“Those principles are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge. They will enlarge the glass, which is the soul of the child, allowing that child to receive much more than the original bucketful” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 34–35; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 26).

A Primary teacher reported some of the rewarding experiences she and her class members had after she visited with them in their homes and expressed interest in their lives. One little boy had been reluctant to stay in class, and when he did stay, he would not participate. But after the teacher made a brief visit to his home and talked with him about his favorite things, he began looking forward to coming to Primary. Another class member had never spoken in class but talked excitedly when the teacher came to her home. After the visit, she began to participate in class. (See Norda D. Casaus, “One on One,”Ensign, Feb. 1994, 59.)

How Christlike Love Affects Our Teaching

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2). In this dispensation the Lord has said that “no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity” (D&C 12:8).

If we want to influence learners for good, we should not merely love to teach; we should love each person we teach. We should measure our success by the progress of those we teach, not by the excellence of our performance.

Love prompts us to prepare and teach differently. When we love those we teach, we pray for each of them. We do all we can to know their interests, achievements, needs, and concerns (see “Understanding Those You Teach,” pages 33–34). We tailor our teaching to meet their needs, even if this takes more time and effort. We notice when they are absent and recognize them when they are present. We offer help when it is needed. We are devoted to their eternal welfare, doing all we can to promote it and doing nothing to harm it.

Many of the most important qualities of faithful and effective gospel teachers are linked with love. The prophet Mormon taught:

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

“Wherefore, … if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:45–47).

Additional Information

For more about the importance of loving those you teach, see lesson 2 in the Teaching the Gospel course (pages 194–97).