- Inspired instruction in the home and in the Church helps provide this crucial element of nourishing by the good word of God. To teach effectively and to feel you are succeeding is demanding work indeed. But it is worth it. In this Church it is virtually impossible to find anyone who is not a guide of one kind or another to his or her fellow members of the flock.
Elder Holland points out that our goal in life is to personally Come Unto Christ and our second goal is to invite others to come along with us.
- For each of us to “come unto Christ,” to keep His commandments and follow His example back to the Father is surely the highest and holiest purpose of human existence. To help others do that as well—to teach, persuade, and prayerfully lead them to walk that path of redemption also—surely that must be the second most significant task in our lives.
President Kimball taught us about effective teaching. Elder Holland quotes him.
- Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition. President Spencer W. Kimball once pled: “Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. … I fear,” he said, “that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or a meeting, and … then return home having been largely [uninspired]. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time … of stress, temptation, or crisis [in their life]. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit,” he said, “and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous work,” President Kimball concluded, “to get members to come to Church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.”
Elder Holland speaks about what people need when they participate in learning, when they are taught the good word of God, and when they are instructed with the Spirit.
- Most people don’t come to church looking merely for a few new gospel facts or to see old friends, though all of that is important. They come seeking a spiritual experience. They want peace. They want their faith fortified and their hope renewed. They want, in short, to be nourished by the good word of God, to be strengthened by the powers of heaven. Those of us who are called upon to speak or teach or lead have an obligation to help provide that, as best we possibly can. We can only do that if we ourselves are striving to know God, if we ourselves are continually seeking the light of His Only Begotten Son. Then, if our hearts are right, if we are as clean as we can be, if we have prayed and wept and prepared and worried until we don’t know what more we can do, God can say to us as He did to Alma and the sons of Mosiah: “Lift up thy head and rejoice. … I will give unto you success.”
- We do have a legitimate worry about the new member, wanting each one to stay with us and enjoy the full blessings of the Church. I am just simple enough to think that if we continue to teach them—with the same Christlike spirit, conviction, doctrine, and personal interest the missionaries have shown them—new converts will not only stay with us but, quite literally, could not be kept away.
He uses a term that I believe adequately describes a lot of instruction in the church: "spiritually empty calories." We need to avoid this happening. We need to be direct and teach with straightforwardness.
- When crises come in our lives—and they will—the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories?
- I love what President J. Reuben Clark said of our youth well over a half century ago. The same thing can be said of new members. “[They] are hungry for the things of the spirit,” he said; “they are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted. … You do not have to sneak up behind [them] and whisper religion in [their] ears; … you can bring these truths [out] openly.”
Elder Holland has a great line that could be the battle cry of effective teaching in every aspect of our lives. He simply says:
- Let us never make our faith difficult to detect.
He then gives us some points to consider when we teach that will help us be more effective teachers.
- Avoid self-serving performance and vanity.
- Prepare lessons well.
- Give scripturally based sermons.
- Teach the revealed doctrine.
- Bear heartfelt testimony.
- Pray and practice and try to improve.
- In our administrative meetings let us both “instruct and edify” as the revelations say, that even in these our teaching may ultimately be “from on high.”
He concludes with his desires for all of us.
- May we exalt the teaching experience within the home and within the Church and improve our every effort to edify and instruct. In all of our meetings and all of our messages may we nourish by the good word of God. And may our children and new converts, our neighbors and new friends, say of our honest efforts, “Thou art a teacher come from God.”
I had a recent talk with my daughter and she told me that she doesn't feel anything at church in her classes. What a sad statement of the effectiveness of her teachers. I was talking with a friend about our Priesthood instruction and he said that he hears all this instruction but doesn't know how to turn it into something to change his life. I listened to a friend the other day say that we spend a lot of time "getting through the lesson" instead of letting the class dictate where their spiritual instruction takes them.
We need good spiritual instruction in the church. Instruction that leads us to actions in our lives that improve who we are. I hope to share these ideas with several people in my ward that could find inspiration and help. We have a teacher development class and I think I am going to attend in the coming weeks to try to share some of these ideas with the people attending.