When Jesus was on the earth, he “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matt. 9:35) (emphasis added). We would do well to see the connection between the Lord’s teaching, preaching and healing of the people (see Jacob 2:8; James 1:21).
As Jesus looked upon the multitudes, “he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36) (emphasis added). Jesus then said to his disciples: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).
As in the Lord’s time, there are many in our time who are “fainting” and need the nurture of the Lord and His servants. Many “faint” because they are “wander[ing] in the wilderness”, being “hungry and thirsty” and having “no city to dwell in” (Ps. 107:4-5). Speaking of our day, Amos saw “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Said Amos, “they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).
Sadly, the greatest victims of this famine appear to be among the rising generation. “In that day,” concluded Amos, “shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:13). Because of their inherent dependence on the old, the young’s hunger and thirst can only be ascribed to the failure of the old – their parents, leaders, and teachers – to impart the bread and water of life to the young.
In the Church today, we rightly claim that the word of the Lord has been imparted to us. But can we -- the parents, leaders, and teachers in the Church -- rightly claim that we are imparting the word of the Lord to our youth in a manner that moves them to understand, embrace, and live by the word of the Lord? Failure to impart the word of the Lord to our youth in a manner that allows them to understand, embrace, and live by the word of the Lord results in their fainting for hunger and thirst (see Mosiah 26:1-4; Judges 2:10-13; 1 Nephi 2:12) and wandering away in to strange roads and forbidden paths (see 1 Nephi 8:28, 32).
It is contrary to the Lord’s desire that his people go away with “nothing to eat” (see Matt. 15:32; Mark 8:3). In his absence, it is incumbent on us – we who are the parents, leaders, and teachers in the Lord’s Church today -- to teach and preach the word of the Lord, as it has been given to us, in a manner that the young among us may be nourished and healed unto everlasting salvation by that same word.
The Church’s new Youth Curriculum, announced by the First Presidency of the Church at October General Conference and available to all parents, teachers, advisers, and leaders of youth in the Church, calls on all of us to impart the word of the Lord to the youth of the Church in a different way than we have in the past. It calls on us to abandon the “stand-and-deliver” model of teaching, by which the teacher talks at the student and the student simply notes what the teacher says. Instead, the new Youth Curriculum calls on us to “mentor” students through a self-learning process that invites them to act for themselves on the truth that is imparted.
For a model on how to mentor in this way, we may look to the Savior for His way of teaching the gospel. As we consider how the Lord taught the gospel, you will envision the following hallmarks of His manner of teaching and desire to do the same:
§ He loved those he taught;
§ He knew who they were and what they could become;
§ He prepared himself through fasting and praying;
§ He used the scriptures to teach and testify;
§ He shared simple stories, parables, and real-life examples that related gospel principles to those he taught;
§ He asked questions that caused them to think and feel;
§ He inspired their confidence to share their thoughts and feelings, and was sincerely interested in their answers;
§ He invited them to testify;
§ He trusted them;
§ He invited them to act in faith;
§ He was their example and mentor.
The Lord’s call for more labourers in the harvest is a call to join Him in teaching the gospel His way. It is my prayer that we may let go of our way of teaching the gospel, and learn to teach the gospel the Saviour’s way, and thereby heal and nourish our students such that they will “never fall away” (Alma 23:6).