Personal example is one of the most powerful teaching tools we have. When we are truly converted, all our thoughts and motivations are guided by gospel principles. We testify of the truth through everything we do.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that testimony includes righteous actions:
“To be valiant in the testimony of Jesus is to believe in Christ and his gospel with unshakable conviction. It is to know of the verity and divinity of the Lord’s work on earth.
“But this is not all. It is more than believing and knowing. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is more than lip service; it is not simply confessing with the mouth the divine Sonship of the Savior. It is obedience and conformity and personal righteousness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 45–46; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 35).
The Influence of Example
Our conduct can positively influence the attitudes of those we teach. President Thomas S. Monson shared the following experience:
“At the funeral service of a noble General Authority, H. Verlan Andersen, a tribute was expressed by a son. It has application wherever we are and whatever we are doing. …
“The son of Elder Andersen related that years earlier, he had a special school date on a Saturday night. He borrowed from his father the family car. As he obtained the car keys and headed for the door, his father said, ‘The car will need more gas before tomorrow. Be sure to fill the tank before coming home.’
“Elder Andersen’s son then related that the evening activity was wonderful. … In his exuberance, however, he failed to follow his father’s instruction and add fuel to the car’s tank before returning home.
“Sunday morning dawned. Elder Andersen discovered the gas gauge showed empty. The son saw his father put the car keys on the table. In the Andersen family the Sabbath day was a day for worship and thanksgiving, and not for purchases.
“As the funeral message continued, Elder Andersen’s son declared, ‘I saw my father put on his coat, bid us good-bye, and walk the long distance to the chapel, that he might attend an early meeting.’ Duty called. Truth was not held slave to expedience.
“In concluding his funeral message, Elder Andersen’s son said, ‘No son ever was taught more effectively by his father than I was on that occasion. My father not only knew the truth, but he also lived it’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 18).
Our conduct can also have a negative influence. For example, when Alma’s son Corianton went on a mission to teach the Zoramites, he forsook the ministry and committed grievous sins (see Alma 39:3). Alma said that many people were led astray by Corianton’s actions. He told Corianton, “How great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words” (Alma 39:11).
President Heber J. Grant said, “I ask every man and woman occupying a place of responsibility whose duty it is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to live it and keep the commandments of God, so that their example will teach it” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham , 72).
As you set an example by living what you teach:
Your words will become vibrant with the Spirit, carrying your testimony into the hearts of those you teach (see 2 Nephi 33:1). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “No man or woman can teach by the Spirit what he or she does not practice” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:184).
You will help others see that the words of Christ can be followed in everyday living.
The peace and happiness you feel from living the gospel will be evident. It will show in your countenance, in your words, and in the power of your testimony.
Those you teach will trust you and will more readily believe what you teach.
Your own testimony will grow. “If any man will do [my Father’s] will,” taught the Savior, “he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). You may feel that you lack understanding of a certain principle that you are preparing to teach. However, as you prayerfully study it, strive to live it, prepare to teach it, and then share it with others, your own testimony will be strengthened and deepened.
Striving to Live the Gospel
Teaching the gospel requires more than making preparations and presentations. Elder Richard G. Scott explained:
“Your commitment to teach the precious children of our Father in Heaven is not alone the long hours you spend in preparation for each class, nor the many hours of fasting and prayer that you may become a more effective teacher. It is the commitment to a life every hour of which is purposefully lived in compliance with the teachings and example of the Savior and of his servants. It is a commitment to constant striving to be evermore spiritual, evermore devoted, evermore deserving to be the conduit through which the Spirit of the Lord may touch the hearts of those you are trusted to bring to a greater understanding of his teachings” (“Four Fundamentals for Those Who Teach and Inspire Youth,” in Old Testament Symposium Speeches, 1987, 1).
Although you will not be perfect in everything, you can make an effort to be more perfect in living the truths you teach. You will find great strength and power in teaching gospel principles as you continually strive to live according to those principles.