- In the Lord’s great plan of salvation there are no more important teachers than parents, who teach their children constantly by example and by precept. Each of us teaches those around us by example. Even children teach one another. Every missionary is a teacher. And every leader is a teacher.
Leaders play a vital role in helping teachers be effective.
- We want all leaders to encourage and help the teachers and learners over whom they preside.
President Oaks talks about what he has observed for years in the church and how he has learned about the effectiveness and non-effectiveness of teachers throughout the church. He emphasizes that we have some great teachers in the church that are effective at teaching the gospel but that there is much room for improvement.
- For many years I have sought to learn more about the nature and quality of teaching in the various quorums and auxiliaries of the Church. I have done this by dropping in unannounced on classes in various wards in different parts of the Church. By now I have visited hundreds of classes. I apologize if any of my visits has terrorized a teacher. My impression is that almost all of the teachers I have observed in these surprise visits have appreciated having a visitor who was there to learn and there to show appreciation for their efforts and concern for their students.
- For the most part, what I have seen in these visits has been gratifying and reassuring. I have seen inspired teachers whose love for the gospel and their students was so evident that the effect of their teaching was positively electric. I have also seen thoughtful and respectful students, receptive to the message and hungry to learn.
- Notwithstanding the great examples I have observed, I am convinced that in the Church as a whole—as with each of us individually—we can always do better. The challenge of progress is inherent in our Father in Heaven’s plan for His children. And in our sacred callings of gospel teaching, no effort is too good for the work of the Lord and the growth of His children.
President Oaks outlines six principles that make teaching effective. These six principles should be the focus of each teacher when seeking to improve their teaching abilities.
- The first is love. It has two manifestations. When we are called to teach, we should accept our calling and teach because of our love for God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, a gospel teacher should always teach with love for the students.
- Second, a gospel teacher, like the Master we serve, will concentrate entirely on those being taught. His or her total concentration will be on the needs of the sheep—the good of the students. A gospel teacher does not focus on himself or herself. One who understands that principle will not look upon his or her calling as “giving or presenting a lesson,” because that definition views teaching from the standpoint of the teacher, not the student. Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest. This means that a gospel teacher must never indulge in priestcrafts, which are “that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world.”
- Third, a superior teacher of the gospel will teach from the prescribed course material, with greatest emphasis on teaching the doctrine and principles and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Fourth, a gospel teacher will prepare diligently and strive to use the most effective means of presenting the prescribed lessons. The new Teaching the Gospel course and the new teacher improvement meetings are obviously intended to assist teachers in this effort.
- The fifth fundamental principle of gospel teaching I wish to stress is the Lord’s command, quoted earlier, that gospel teachers should “teach the principles of my gospel … as they shall be directed by the Spirit. … And if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” It is a gospel teacher’s privilege and duty to seek that level of discipleship where his or her teachings will be directed and endorsed by the Spirit rather than being rigidly selected and prearranged for personal convenience or qualifications.
- That leads to the sixth and final principle I will discuss. A gospel teacher is concerned with the results of his or her teaching, and such a teacher will measure the success of teaching and testifying by its impact on the lives of the learners. A gospel teacher will never be satisfied with just delivering a message or preaching a sermon. A superior gospel teacher wants to assist in the Lord’s work to bring eternal life to His children.
We have the ability to be great teachers when we seek the spirit to assist us in our efforts. President Oaks focuses on the things that will allow us to be effective and not just great teachers. I think there is a difference. I know when I teach, I want the principles taught to have an effect in the students lives. I want them to remember the principles that were taught so they can reflect on them again and again in their everyday lives. The effectiveness of the message is found in the spirit being able to teach them the gospel. I pray that we can all focus on bringing the spirit more into our lessons and thereby become an effective teacher of those that we teach.