Every time we teach a lesson, whether it’s in Gospel Doctrine, Relief Society, our quorum meetings, FHE, one-on-one with a child, or speaking from the pulpit, there are three lessons to consider: the lesson we prepared, the lesson we gave, and the lesson we wish we would have given when we think back on it. Ideally, these three lessons are one and the same.
The Holy Ghost can help us through each of these three phases of the lesson. First, we prayerfully consider the material and the needs of each individual in the class. In the classroom, we create an environment where the Holy Ghost is able to join us and touch the hearts and minds of the members of our class. Afterwards, as we reflect on the lesson, the Holy Ghost can help us to identify what worked well and where we can improve our abilities as a teacher.
The assistance and guidance of the Holy Ghost is so essential to our efforts as a gospel teacher that without Him, “[we] shall not teach.” (D&C 42:14) The degree to which we are able to work with the Holy Ghost depends largely on our preparation as a teacher. Brother David M. McConkie speaks to four principles we can apply in preparing ourselves (not the lesson) to teach:
- Immerse yourself in the scriptures. We cannot love that which we do not know. Develop a habit of daily scripture study outside of lesson preparation. We have to treasure up the word before we can declare it. Studying the scriptures trains us to hear the Lord’s voice.
- Apply in your life the things that you learn. We must keep the commandments with all our might, mind, and strength.
- Seek for heaven's help. No class is so large that we cannot pray for inspiration regarding how to reach each student.
- Act, without delay, in accordance with the spiritual promptings you receive. We must not be afraid to exercise agency and act. We may feel awkward at first. The sweetest experiences as teachers come when we humble ourselves and follow the Lord's gentle counsel. Experience strengthens our faith and gives us greater courage to act in the future.
To illustrate the importance of studying what the Lord has already revealed before seeking personal guidance, Brother McConkie shared how he had learned that lesson as a newly-called stake president.
Soon after I was called to be a stake president, our stake presidency received training from an Area Seventy. During the training, I asked a question to which he responded, “That is a good question. Let’s turn to the Church Handbook of Instructions for the answer.” We then went to the handbook, and there was the answer to my question. A little later in our training, I asked another question. Once again he responded, “Good question. Let’s turn to the handbook.” I did not venture to ask any more questions. I thought it best to read the handbook.
I have thought since that the Lord could give a similar response to each of us as we go to Him with concerns or questions. He could say, “That’s a good question. If you will review Alma chapter 5 or Doctrine and Covenants section 76, you’ll remember that I have already spoken to you about this.”
Brothers and sisters, it is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to repeat to each of us individually what He has already revealed to us collectively. The scriptures contain the words of Christ. They are the voice of the Lord. Studying the scriptures trains us to hear the Lord’s voice.
I love this testimony he shares at the end:
You must not be afraid to exercise your agency and act upon the thoughts and impressions that the Spirit of the Lord puts into your heart. You may feel awkward at first, but I promise you that the sweetest and most gratifying experiences you will have as a teacher will be when you submit to the will of the Lord and follow the promptings you receive from the Holy Ghost. Your experiences will strengthen your faith and give you greater courage to act in the future.
“Gospel Learning and Teaching” by Brother David M. McConkie, First Counsellor in the Sunday School General Presidency.