“New Tools to Help Us Teach Better,” Ensign, Jan. 2000, 51
In a 1998 general conference address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sounded this call: “We must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom.”1
He spoke of Nicodemus’ words to Jesus Christ: “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.”2 We, with Nicodemus, acknowledge the Savior as the Master Teacher and recognize that we have a mandate to testify of Him and to share the saving truths He taught. With Nephi, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”3
In calling for a revitalization of teaching, Elder Holland cited this counsel given by President Gordon B. Hinckley while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church. Eternal life will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives. They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven. They must be led, and that means teaching.”4 Elder Holland added that “fathers, mothers, siblings, friends, missionaries, home and visiting teachers, priesthood and auxiliary leaders, classroom instructors” each have a teaching role to play in the schooling and salvation of Heavenly Father’s children.5
The responsibility to teach does not end with our release from a calling or even with our release from mortal life. “I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God,” President Joseph F. Smith recorded. The charge given to these teachers in the spirit world would be similar to the charge given us in mortality: to testify of the Son of God as our Redeemer and great Exemplar.6
Since teaching is an assignment we will carry with us always, we would be wise to ask ourselves how we can do it better—beginning now. Fortunately, the Church has recently made some new learning opportunities and teaching tools available to help us teach more effectively about the Son of God and His gospel.
A refreshed and revitalized 12-week course, Teaching the Gospel, is now available to help improve the quality of instruction in both the classroom and the home. This series of lessons replaces the Teacher Development Basic Course taught in the past. The new course includes topics such as learning to teach by the Spirit, creating a learning atmosphere, using effective methods, and developing your own talents. It will serve not only those specifically called as teachers but also priesthood and auxiliary leaders, prospective missionaries, home and visiting teachers, and parents.
A newly revised and improved edition of Teaching, No Greater Call (item no. 36123) is designed to be used by all members, leaders, and teachers as the basic resource for improving teaching in all settings of the Church. It contains the lessons for the Teaching the Gospel Course, resources for the quarterly teacher improvement meetings, suggestions for leaders to use in their efforts to improve teaching, and many excellent helps for members to personally improve their teaching skills.
Improving Gospel Teaching: A Leader’s Guide (item no. 35667) helps leaders oversee the effort to improve gospel teaching in the Church.
Quarterly teacher improvement meetings for leaders and teachers currently called will be conducted in three separate meetings. Those who teach members age 18 and older will meet together for training. Those who teach members ages 12 through 17 will receive instruction in another meeting, and those who teach Primary children will also meet for instruction and training. These three groups meet separately and may meet in different months of the quarter.
The agenda for a typical teacher improvement meeting could include a brief message from a priesthood or auxiliary leader about a principle of teaching or learning; a presentation on a teaching method or skill; and a discussion of ideas to help the teachers meet their specific class members’ needs.
In each of the three separate teacher improvement meetings, a leader of one of the participating organizations will conduct. Suggestions for preparing and conducting the meetings can be found in Improving Gospel Teaching: A Leader’s Guide.
Teacher improvement coordinators become members of stake and ward councils to help priesthood and auxiliary leaders focus teacher-improvement efforts where they are most needed.
General direction and help for local teacher improvement efforts can be found in three publications: Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, section 16, “Gospel Teaching and Leadership”; Improving Gospel Teaching: A Leader’s Guide; and Teaching, No Greater Call.
Section 16 of the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 emphasizes the importance of gospel teaching and leadership. Its pages contain guidelines to help priesthood and auxiliary leaders organize and administer teacher improvement efforts in the ward and stake.
Improving Gospel Teaching: A Leader’s Guide focuses on the three key components of efforts to improve teaching in the Church: the Teaching the Gospel course, leader support for teachers, and teacher improvement meetings. This new publication provides ideas and suggestions that support the direction and information found in the handbook. The book includes this admonition: “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders are responsible for the quality of gospel teaching in their organizations. They ensure that teaching is effective and doctrinally correct.”7 The most effective teaching, of course, is done with the help of the Holy Ghost.8 The efforts of priesthood and auxiliary leaders to support teachers must focus first on ensuring that lessons, in both their content and presentation, testify of Jesus Christ and of the doctrines and principles of His gospel. Doing so opens the way for the Spirit to witness to the hearts of students that Jesus is the Christ.
Teaching, No Greater Call also offers valuable guidance on teacher improvement. Long used as a basic resource for teacher development, it has been revised to focus more clearly on principles and methods of teaching the gospel.
While this revised manual will be beneficial to those who have always been its regular users—members called to teaching and leadership positions—this new edition also becomes an invaluable aid to parents as they prayerfully seek better ways and new opportunities to testify of Christ in the home, the fundamental classroom of the Church. As parents gain confidence in their own ability to teach, they will be more comfortable sharing eternal truths concerning our relationship to our Heavenly Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ, with their children.
To improve the quality of teaching at church, priesthood and auxiliary leaders have the help of members called as stake and ward teacher improvement coordinators. At the stake level, this position is held by a high councilor who oversees improvement of teaching in the stake and helps bishoprics see how to improve teaching in their wards. At the ward level, the teacher improvement coordinator is to be a member of the ward council and may also be the instructor for the Teaching the Gospel course. The coordinator is to be a resource to priesthood and auxiliary leaders by suggesting approaches for improving teaching, assisting leaders with teacher improvement efforts as they request, and working with other members of the ward council in planning quarterly teacher improvement meetings.
President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has written:
“The General Authorities are teachers. Stake presidents and mission presidents are teachers; high councilors and quorum presidents are teachers; bishops are teachers; and so through all of the organizations of the Church.
“The Church moves forward sustained by the power of the teaching that is accomplished.”9
And President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Home is where we become experts and scholars in gospel righteousness.”10
During His mortal ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ was the Master Teacher. He taught both by precept and example. He set a pattern as the model teacher for each of us to follow. Whether in the home, a Church classroom, or anywhere members or leaders serve, the calling of teacher is one we all have. And it is ours to magnify. The new teacher improvement opportunities and tools provided by the Church are here to help us fulfill our responsibilities. They are here, ultimately, to help us bring others to Christ.