Savior’s Example Was One of His Most Powerful Teaching Methods, Speaker Says
Contributed By Sarah Harris, Church News staff writer
- Teach by example.
- Emphasize principles over exceptions.
- Focus on the value of individuals.
- Encourage others to find answers for themselves.
The Savior's example was one of His most powerful teaching methods, said BYU ancient scripture professor Camille Fronk Olson during a BYU Women’s Conference presentation on May 5 about teaching in the Savior’s way.
Sister Olson highlighted scriptural examples of Jesus Christ:
- Teaching by example
- Emphasizing principles over exceptions
- Focusing on the value of individuals
- Encouraging others to find answers for themselves
Teaching by example
“It isn’t so much about what Jesus said, but how He lived that brought people to Him,” Olson said.
She said Christ illustrated this in John 13, when He washed the Apostles’ feet. This taught them the servant is not greater than his lord, Olson said. The Savior then told the Apostles, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
“There’s something about living the gospel authentically that makes us naturally joyful,” Olson said. “And to be able to humble ourselves and think that there is no assignment that is beneath me, that is too minor, that isn’t visible or doesn’t count enough—no assignment is too lowly—that’s how the Savior taught.”
Olson also told the story of the mothers of the stripling warriors, who taught their sons by example how to live by faith.
“How often those mothers must have chosen [the] harder right, day in and day out,” Olson said. “Their sons watched them as those women put God first and trusted in Him.”
Emphasizing principles over exceptions
The Savior also taught by focusing on principles rather than exceptions, Olson said. Christ exemplified this by talking about the sanctity of marriage when the Pharisees asked Him about divorce.
“You focus on what the principle is, and then you do the best you can in those circumstances,” she said.
Olson said President Gordon B. Hinckley also used this form of teaching at a press conference in which he was asked to give his thoughts about women working outside the home. For his response, he talked about how wonderful and easily taught children are and how quickly they grow up.
“I thought it was profound. He focused on where the principle is,” Olson said. “The principle is not whether mothers are working outside the home or not; he focused on children.”
Focusing on the value of individuals
She said another of the Savior’s teaching methods was focusing on each person’s value.
“He focused on the value of each individual,” Olson said. “He saw individual sons and daughters of God.”
The Savior taught this way in John 3, when Nicodemus visited Jesus in the middle of the night to ask Him questions while nobody else was around.
“It’s in that setting Jesus taught some of the most remarkable teachings about being born again,” Olson said. “He gave that man, who came maybe with sketchy kinds of motivation, some remarkable teachings.”
Encouraging others to find answers for themselves
The last of the Savior’s forms of teaching that Olson highlighted was the way He encouraged others to find answers for themselves.
“He encourages them to ask questions and then find the answers through critical thinking. He’s not anxious in making sure they get an answer instantaneously,” Olson said. “There’s something about that process of learning and discovering that is phenomenal.”
An instance in which Christ taught this way was when He asked His disciples to feed the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fish rather than doing it Himself.
“They needed to learn that He had given them power, and He would not always be with them,” Olson said. “It is while they are serving that this grace of God they recognize has come upon them and they’re able to do things well beyond their natural ability.”
While it is important to study the Savior’s beautiful teachings, Olson said it is important to remember that His role extends beyond that of a teacher.
“He wasn’t merely a great teacher,” Olsen said. “He’s so much more.”