Learn your essential role in the new approach to Sunday learning.
Think back to the last time you were in a Church class, and you were having such a great spiritual experience that you didn’t want it to end. Hopefully you don’t have to think back too far. What was it that made the class so meaningful? What did your teacher do? Better yet, what did you do?
Someone asked President Spencer W. Kimball, “What do you do when you find yourself in a boring sacrament meeting?” His answer was a little surprising: “I don’t know. I’ve never been in one” (See Donald L. Hallstrom, “Converted to His Gospel through His Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 15).
Maybe President Kimball hadn’t ever been to your ward—or maybe he looked at going to church a little differently. Maybe he prepared differently, participated differently, and lived differently as a result of his experiences.
Why Do You Come?
People come to church for different reasons, but if we come to be entertained, we’re likely to be disappointed. Even coming to obtain new information about the gospel may not be the best reason.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said that our ultimate goal is “far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something” (“The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
The purpose of the gospel is to change us—to change not only our views and thoughts but also our actions and our hearts. Perhaps for some of us, conversion may come in one dramatic moment in a Sunday School class. But for most of us, what happens at church is only one step on the long path to lifelong conversion. What you do before and after class may be just as important.
Like a Fire Is Burning
Consider the steps you take when you want to start a campfire. You probably gather plenty of dry kindling that will catch fire easily. Then, after the kindling is lit, you feed your fire with larger pieces of wood. And if you want your fire to last a long time, you continue to watch it and add logs as needed.
Our experiences at church can lead to the fire of conversion only if we come prepared—if we are in a spiritual condition to receive the spark and keep it burning within us.
Spiritually speaking, our experiences at church can lead to the fire of conversion only if we come prepared—if we are in a spiritual condition to receive the spark and keep it burning within us.
And this fire will keep burning only if we continue to feed it—as we seek deeper understanding in our personal scripture study, as we share with others what we are learning, and as we repent and strive to live the gospel more fully.
Take It Personally
Remember that the purpose of studying the gospel is to convert us, to change us, to make us more like the Savior. That only happens if we make connections between the gospel and our personal lives. So when you get to class, share your experiences, and ask questions. Ponder why the gospel matters to you.
For example, when you learn that we all lived as spirit children of Heavenly Father before we came to earth, what difference does that make in your life? How does it affect the way you see yourself? Or others? How does it change the way you think about your trials? How does it influence the choices you make?
Asking yourself questions like these can turn a Sunday School class into a potentially life-altering experience.
Find the Gems
Have you ever had the experience of finding something powerful in the scriptures or the words of the living prophets—not something someone else found for you, but something you discovered on your own? Maybe you read a verse in the Book of Mormon that seemed to describe your own situation at home or in school. Or maybe you heard President Thomas S. Monson say something, and it sounded like he was talking directly to you. These are the kinds of experiences you can have in Church classes if you seek them—if you come with the right spirit and attitude.
Remember that the purpose of studying the gospel is to convert us, to change us, to make us more like the Savior. That only happens if we make connections between the gospel and our personal lives.
When you are invited to read a scripture in class, don’t just read it; explore it! There are gems all throughout the word of God; find them! And when you do, share them with the class. Explain why they’re meaningful to you. Describe the difference they make in your life. You may just inspire others to do some exploring of their own.
Don’t Let It End Too Soon
We are only in church so many hours per week. If that’s all of the spiritual sustenance we get, then we’re going to be spiritually malnourished. So after you’ve zipped up your scriptures, said a closing prayer, and stacked your chairs, continue to ponder and explore the things you’ve discussed in class. Make them the subject of your personal scripture study. Seek answers to questions you have.
Follow the example of Joseph Smith. After reading a scripture that impressed him deeply, he didn’t let the words stay on the page. Instead, he “reflected on [them] again and again.” He saw himself in those words. And then he did what they told him to do. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11–13.) How different would the world be today if Joseph’s experience with James 1:5 had ended when he closed his Bible?
Learners Who Act
Can you see that the quality of your experiences learning the gospel has just as much to do with you as it does with your teachers? Can you see that it has as much to do with what you do outside of class as what you do in class?
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently taught: “Young people increasingly need to be learners who act … and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 27).
It is possible to never have a boring Church class again. It’s a choice you make to come to class spiritually prepared, to actively participate in discovering the truths of the gospel for yourself, and to make those truths part of your life.
To learn more, watch these videos to hear from youth who have made their gospel learning experiences more meaningful.