5 Habits of Great Teachers
All of us are teachers, in one way or another. Whether it’s as a parent, or in a calling in Church, or simply sharing what we know about the gospel to a friend. God places teachers on a high plain. It is through His teachers that his doctrine is spread through the nations. What a privilege it is for us to act as His couriers, as we relay His word to the world.
Not only is doctrine found in the scriptures; it is also where we can hear the Godhead testify of the doctrine. With ears to hear, we will gain a personal association with each of them as we seek to understand and gain from their testimonies our own.
“And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me;” (3 Nephi 11:32)
And once our testimony burns within us, it is expedient that we share those words to others.
“Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.” (3 Nephi 11:41)
Over the years, with each opportunity given me, I have become a better teacher, mostly because I become a better learner. In our family, our children know they can ask any question, and because of that, we have had some interesting gospel discussions where the Spirit edifies everyone. I have also seen the light go on in the eyes in a Primary classroom as the Spirit speaks to each of them. Gospel Doctrine class becomes engaging when the Spirit speaks through me, the teacher, as well as those who are listening and sharing, the room full of that beautiful Spirit.
While serving as a docent at the Church Museum, I had countless positive experiences sharing my testimony, or answering (sometimes off-the-wall) questions from visitors. Put on the spot like that I had to be prepared spiritually, drawing from chance passages from my scripture study. How the Spirit blessed me in those times!
Learn How To Learn
With all of these precious experiences, I feel that the most rewarding part of teaching the gospel is the preparation time, the developing of a study habit. Since you have to teach, you have to know, right? And since a teaching opportunity can come from any direction, at any time, I feel that my study time is as necessary as dinnertime, or putting-on-makeup time. If I want the Lord to work through me—and I do—I must persevere in making a habit of my study time.
Joseph Young was a great Methodist preacher, who also happened to be the older brother of Brigham Young. One day, while preaching a rousing sermon, he noticed his little brother in the congregation. Afterward, Brigham took his hand and said, “Come with me, Brother, for I have found the true Church of God.” Without hesitating, this humble man followed his brother into the waters of baptism and was called immediately as a Seventy. He spoke in a conference these words:
My brethren and sisters, if you can learn how to learn, you have acquired something that will make of you a real teacher. You have acquired a habit that will not only give you much joy every day, but will also strengthen your character and lead you on daily to greater truths and more abundant life. (Story and quote given in a talk by his grandson, Levi Young, Oct 1959, CR).
A teacher, who seeks that abundant life, takes the necessary time to prayerfully study lesson material. A well-prepared teacher brings the spirit to the lesson, where true edification can occur. It is unfortunate when a student disrupts the spirit of the lesson with comments meant to belittle, outsmart, or usurp the teacher. We’ve all experienced this in our own Sunday School classes at one time or another. This instantly removes the Spirit from the classroom. But, if and when that happens, a teacher, who comes prepared to teach doctrine, can maintain the presence of the Spirit through confidence, personal testimony, and love.
Goals & Rewards
My desire to teach well encourages me to set personal study goals. As a teacher, I gained the habit of reading regularly. As I sought for further understanding, my reading became more thorough, deeper, and richer. I have continued my heavenly habit of scripture reading for my own personal gain. The joy I have received in continuing my happy feast makes me eager—yes, eager!—to ravenously fill my soul. Reading my scriptures regularly was a huge hurdle to jump. It is years in the stretching and growing and committing and sometimes just forcing myself to do it. As much as I love to read my scriptures, stretching, growing, committing, and even forcing myself to continue will just be a part of my everyday life. It’s okay. This is a challenge with instant rewards.
One such reward is having the ability to recall a passage previously read and studied that correlates with another, and another, and another. The scriptures are replete with repeated doctrine. The doctrine is the same whether it is taught by Nephi, Abinadi, or Pres. Monson. It’s exciting for me to make those connections. And many of those connections have been made because the Spirit reminded me. I have even had experiences where I knew a scripture existed, but I didn’t have a clue where to find it, but the Spirit has shown me where it is. These experiences are very special to me.
To be honest, I’m not sure if my constant reading stores and files this information in my head, ready to be pulled out when needed, or my constant reading allows the Spirit to step in and recall the information for me. All I know is those tender mercies are real. Elder Scott said,
“Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world.” (Oct. 2011, GC)
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14: 26)
Either way, the Lord shows His love and I feel it when I search and find the scriptures.
Take It Up A Level
There are so many ways to study the scriptures, you really have to find your own way and experiment with what works best for you. But I have a short list you might consider, if you want to feel the rewards immediately in your personal routine.
- When studying for a Sunday lesson, go a step further and study the scripture references thoroughly. Ask questions as you search and find the answers along the way. Don’t stop until you can testify, with a surety, that what you have learned is truth, and comes from God.
- Do your very best to obey the commandments every day of your life. I testify that obeying the little things will create a sensitiveness in you that is borne of the Spirit. Your heart will fill with gratitude, as you know you are doing all you can do. You will receive additional inspiration and understanding as you study. Pay attention to the smallest tender mercies sent by the Lord.
- Focus on the Doctrine. What are the principles that allow you to apply the doctrine in your own life? Make connections where the same doctrine is taught in other scripture. See the whole by understanding the detail. Or gather the detail to create the whole.
- Your purpose in studying is to understand. Do what it takes to find answers by reading helpful guides, reading where the footnotes take you, praying specifically, and pondering deeply. Some scriptures are easy to find, but there are many more within the standard works if we but do the footwork to find them and make connections. This is an adventure everyone can seek to engulf themselves in to learn this precious doctrine. Seek to learn every aspect, fitting it into its place in the Plan as we dig deep to accept, internalize, and love the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- When we learn something that spiritually amplifies our testimony, we need to find a way to share it. We are not here to correct one another, or flaunt our bit of knowledge. We are here to help and lift one another, and share the pure doctrine of our Savior.
Perhaps God created teachers for the sole purpose of inspiring our study habits. It is our blessing to continue this habit and build upon it regularly so that God can use us. Setting goals will help move us forward as we seek the Spirit. And spiritual experiences will happen, I promise. The scriptures are true. They have power to open up the mysteries of God. If we seek diligently, we will find all we need to know and understand so we can know the doctrines of salvation and share them with others, that we may all know God and return to Him some day.
- How has studying the scriptures brought you confidence enough to teach with doctrines of Christ?