Lesson 9: Recognizing and Following the Spirit in Your Teaching

"Lesson 9: Recognizing and Following the Spirit in Your Teaching," Part B: Basic Principles of Gospel Teaching—Teach by the Spirit, ()


If you have properly prepared yourself, the Holy Ghost will enlighten and guide you as you teach. You may receive impressions about those you teach, what you should emphasize in teaching them, and how you can teach them most effectively. Your diligent efforts will be magnified as you humbly obey the whisperings of the Spirit. You will also be able to help those you teach recognize the influence of the Spirit. You will be prepared to experience the fulfillment of the Lord’s words: “Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).

Recognizing the Spirit

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

“We should recognize that the Lord will speak to us through the Spirit in his own time and in his own way. … We cannot force spiritual things.

“In most cases, ‘his own way’ is not the thunderous interruption or the blinding light, but what the scriptures call ‘the still small voice’ (1 Kgs. 1 Kings 19:12; 1 Ne. 1 Nephi 17:45; D&C 85:6). … We need to know that the Lord rarely speaks loudly. His messages almost always come in a whisper” (“Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 10–12).

When the Lord speaks to us through the Spirit, He may occasionally “cause that [our] bosom shall burn within [us]” (D&C 9:8). This burning, Elder Oaks explained, surely “signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity” (Ensign, Mar. 1997, 10–12). Most often we will feel enlightenment, joy, and peace (see Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:22–23; D&C 6:23; 11:13).

President Howard W. Hunter explained how we can discern different manifestations of the Spirit:

“I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.

“I have watched a great many of my brethren over the years and we have shared some rare and unspeakable spiritual experiences together. Those experiences have all been different, each special in its own way, and such sacred moments may or may not be accompanied by tears. Very often they are, but sometimes they are accompanied by total silence. Other times they are accompanied by joy. Always they are accompanied by a great manifestation of the truth, of revelation to the heart. …

“Listen for the truth, hearken to the doctrine, and let the manifestation of the spirit come as it may in all of its many and varied forms. Stay with solid principles; teach from a pure heart. Then the Spirit will penetrate your mind and heart and every mind and heart of your students” (Eternal Investments [address to religious educators, 10 Feb. 1989], 3).

The Spirit Can Guide You As You Prepare to Teach

As you prayerfully prepare to teach, as you study the scriptures, and even as you perform your daily tasks, open your mind and heart to the Lord’s guidance. You may receive “sudden strokes of ideas” from the Spirit (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 151). You may be led to emphasize certain principles. You may gain an understanding of how best to present certain ideas. You may discover examples, object lessons, and inspiring stories in the simple activities of life (see “Looking for Lessons Everywhere,” pages 22–23). You may feel impressed to invite a particular person to assist with the lesson. You may be reminded of a personal experience that you can share. Write these ideas down, and prayerfully follow them.

Elder C. Max Caldwell shared the following experience: “Some years ago I prepared to teach a class on a subject I felt would be particularly difficult. The night before the scheduled class, I prayed for guidance and then retired, still troubled in my mind. When I awoke, a certain thought was introduced to my mind that I shared with the class later that morning. After the class, a young man spoke with me privately and said, ‘The lesson was for me. I now know what I have to do.’ Later I learned that he had come to that class as his first contact with the Church in many years. He then proceeded to get his life in order and eventually served a faithful mission. Presently he is experiencing the happiness associated with keeping eternal family covenants” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 29–30).

The Spirit Can Guide You While You Teach

Generally, you will teach by the Spirit when you follow what you have prayerfully and thoughtfully prepared. In addition, the Spirit may from time to time prompt you while you teach. As the Lord has promised, you will be given “in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” (D&C 100:6). You may occasionally feel a prompting to leave something out of a lesson or to add something that you have not prepared. You may feel impressed to bear your testimony or to invite others to share their testimonies. When learners ask questions, you may feel prompted to lay aside your preparations and thoughtfully discuss those questions. Make certain that these promptings come from the Spirit and not just from students’ questions. Humbly follow these feelings. Allow the Spirit to work through you to touch the hearts of those you teach.

You Can Help Others Recognize the Spirit

As you become more familiar with the voice of the Spirit, you will be able to help those you teach recognize the Spirit’s influence. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “If you accomplish nothing else in your relationship with your students than to help them recognize and follow the promptings of the Spirit, you will bless their lives immeasurably and eternally” (Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led [address to religious educators, 11 Aug. 1998], 3).

Kristi, who was eight years old, attended a special missionary meeting with her father. As part of the meeting, her father showed pictures of Jesus Christ and bore his testimony of the Savior. After the meeting was over, Kristi turned to her father and said, “I feel like crying.” Her father recognized that she was feeling the influence of the Spirit. He knelt down, gave her a hug, and told her that those feelings of tenderness were the promptings of the Holy Ghost, helping her know that the things she had heard that night were true. He bore testimony to her that she could always know when something was true by recognizing the same sweet feeling she was now experiencing.

Take advantage of every opportunity to help others recognize and be grateful for the peace and joy that come when they obey the whisperings of the Spirit.