Monday, November 12, 2012

On Teaching

Yesterday, a fifteen year old young man was giving a talk at the pulpit.  (In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members of the congregation give the Sunday Sermons and youth play an active role in that.)  In it, he mentioned that he had a testimony that coming to church was important, even though "it is three hours of boredom."  Yikes, I thought, what a stinging indictment of his teachers!

I'm not suggesting that his teachers are bad people.  It could be the fault of this young man that church is boring, but it is just as likely that the blame could be shared with his teachers.  (I'm really not trying to ignore  or make light of the fact that we as students MUST come prepared to learn.  That includes our personal preparation as well as our attitude.  This facet is essential.)

Last night, my husband went to a Stake Priesthood meeting (a meeting for all of those in our area who hold the priesthood).  The Stake President talked about our Young Men and addressed the fact that we lose many of them right at the time they are coming into manhood.  The facets of this issue are multitudinous  but one area he mentioned was the level of teaching happening in the classrooms.

"What message are you sending when your students see you flipping through the manual just minutes before you are supposed to teach the lesson?  Do you think they don't notice that you don't crack open the scriptures?  Why do we joke about the fact that the members of the Elder's Quorum don't prepare for lessons or even bother to bring manuals to church?"

He said that, in effect, the brethren are not taking the teaching of the doctrine of Christ seriously, so why should our young men turn to that doctrine during times of searching and need?

When I was a college student, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend school for a semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near-Eastern Studies.  It was a marvelous building, built into the side of the hill on the other side of Kidron Valley.  Because it was built into the side of the hill, every classroom looked out over the Old City of Jerusalem, a breathtaking sight to be sure.  Every classroom, in fact, had one entire wall that consisted of beautifully arched windows with that amazing view.

When they were building the center, some were concerned about the windows and the possibility that they could prove to be too distracting to the students.  The simple reply from the brethren was that the teaching would have to improve.

I am a teacher at church, as well, so this lesson is just as much for me as for anyone who teaches that bored young man.  Our students have many distractions that can easily draw their focus away from the lesson.  What we must do, like those professors who so aptly held my attention despite the glorious display just outside the window, is improve our teaching.  I am the first to admit that I have taught so many primary lessons that sometimes I don't pray about it, ponder it and work on it with the degree of seriousness my position demands.  This work is too great, the consequences too grave for me to do any less than my best.  Who knows how many fragile testimonies are relying on the Spirit in the classroom to teach them the thing they need to hear?  If I give my calling a half-way effort, I could be robbing that student of the moment they were seeking, even praying, to have.

Incidentally, this applies to Family Home Evening lessons as well as those Primary, Young Women, Young Men, Relief Society, or Sunday School lessons.


  1. A wonderful observation and message, Emily!! The best teachers I've ever had (and the times that I've felt like a good teacher) are those who focus on the doctrine and its application to our lives.

  2. thank you for this! I am so sad that my kid's primary teachers don't take their callings seriously. Half the time they don't show up and often there will be three classes combined. Kenzie, almost 7, was in Sunbeams last week learning to be grateful for "animals"??? We need to strengthen the home that much more to make up for unprepared teachers.

    I think I will go study my Sunday School lesson. The thought of teaching Gospel Doctrine unprepared makes me want to puke. It can't happen.