The Spirit Is the Real Teacher

Teaching the gospel is a sacred duty, prophets and apostles say, and though it is not always an easy task, when guided by the Spirit both the teacher and the student can achieve spiritual growth and understanding.

Receive Direction

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the Holy Ghost is a powerful facilitator. “Your capacity to teach is enhanced by the direction you receive from the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Simply stated, truth presented in an environment of true love and trust qualify an individual for the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit.

“If you accomplish nothing else in your relationship with your students than to help them recognize and follow the promptings of the Spirit, you will bless their lives immeasurably and eternally,” Elder Scott said. “To do this you must constantly seek the guidance of the Spirit to know what to say and how to say it. …

“Our Father expects us to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and in His Holy Son. Were we to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, we would become weak and ever more dependent on Him. He knows that essential personal growth will come as we struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit. That struggle develops our immortal character as we perfect our capacity to identify His will through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. What may appear initially to be a daunting task will become much easier over time as we consistently strive to recognize the feelings awakened by the Spirit. Our confidence in the direction we receive through the Holy Ghost will also become stronger.”

Encourage Interaction

The confidence resulting from a constant and humble search for the presence of the Holy Ghost can allow teachers to assess the needs of the class, Elder Scott said. Then they can help each student learn and grow.

“All too often a teacher’s relation to a student is one of giving counsel with little or no interaction,” Elder Scott said. “Often there is no explanation of the reasons why there are commandments, rules, and standards. The teacher becomes just a talking head.

“Most of the teaching in the world is based on one of the five senses—hear, see, touch, smell, or taste,” he continued, but noted that “in your classroom you can teach by the power of the Spirit. Such communication begins by your encouraging each one you teach to participate rather than be a passive listener. In this way you can assess their understanding of what is taught, create a feeling of ownership, and also learn from them. More important, their decision to participate is an exercise in agency that permits the Holy Ghost to communicate a personalized message suited to their individual needs. Creating an atmosphere of participation enhances the probability that the Spirit will teach more important lessons than you can communicate.”

Allow for Spiritual Motivation

“That participation will bring into their lives the direction of the Spirit,” Elder Scott promised. “When you encourage students to raise their hand to respond to a question, while they may not realize it, they signify to the Holy Ghost their willingness to learn. That use of moral agency will allow that Spirit to motivate them and give them more powerful guidance during your time together.”

He stressed that “participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize and feel what spiritual guidance is. It is through the repeated process of feeling impressions, recording them, and obeying them that one learns to depend on the direction of the Spirit.”

Seek Inspiration

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that teaching the gospel is a sacred duty. It is an opportunity to share doctrines and principles that are eternal, and that is not always an easy task. But, Elder Holland said, by calling on the strength of the Spirit, both the teacher and the student can achieve spiritual growth and understanding.

“If I were going to teach a class on Sunday, I would read through and begin praying about that lesson the Sunday before,” Elder Holland said. “That gives me a full week to pray, to seek inspiration, to think, to read and watch for real-life applications that will give vitality to my message. You won’t finalize the lesson that early, but you will be surprised to find how many things come to you during the week, how much God gives you—things that you will feel to use when you do finalize your preparation.”

Listen with Your Heart

A teacher can invite the Spirit to carry doctrine into the hearts and minds of the students, Elder Holland said, noting that one who teaches by the influence of the Holy Ghost can have a profound influence on students’ understanding and can provide a witness of the power of studying by the Spirit.

“The Spirit of the Lord is the real teacher,” Elder Holland said. “Listen with your heart. Listen with your soul, and you may have feelings or promptings. … It may be something very personal, it may be related to something at home, something in a marriage or with a child, but that’s the Spirit, and He’s the real teacher.” He referred to Doctrine and Covenants 43:16 and emphasized that “you are to be taught from on high. We’re instruments, we’re tools, and it’s our tongues and our lips, but the teacher is on high.”