Teaching Youth and Young Adults


Evening with a General Authority

Friday, February 7, 2020

Elder Bednar reminded us that teaching is not telling; it includes listening, observing, and discerning. It also certainly includes an invitation for the Holy Ghost to teach us.


President Nelson recently taught about the importance of personal revelation. What would you teach us about receiving personal revelation?

Elder David A. Bednar

As we honor our covenants, we may have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. We often talk as if hearing the voice of the Lord through His Spirit is a rare event. We should focus more on recognizing what happens to cause the Spirit to leave. If you and I are doing our best and not committing serious transgression, then we can always rely on the Holy Ghost to guide us.

Many people seem to believe that inspiration from the Holy Ghost is dramatic, big, and sudden. The truth is the Holy Ghost guides in still, small, and incremental ways over time. You often will not recognize that you are receiving revelation in the moment that you are receiving revelation.

Nephi is the perfect example of this model. He went not knowing beforehand the things that he should do.1 He pressed forward but did not know in every instance that he was being guided. We should make the connection that what happened to Nephi is probably how revelation works for us in many instances.

Members of the Church are sometimes terrified they will make a mistake, so they do not press forward. Nephi and his brothers drew lots. That did not work well. Was that experience for Nephi a mistake? No. He learned a great lesson. When they tried to get the brass plates from Laban using their gold and all their possessions, Nephi learned another lesson to prepare him for what lay ahead.

There are principles related to receiving revelation. For example, President Packer said, “President Harold B. Lee told me once that inspiration comes easier when you can set foot on the site related to the need for it. … President Lee was right!”2 There is value in being in the place, pondering, praying, and seeking for help.

This principle has huge implications in terms of ministering. Many with ministering assignments think a text is enough. There are occasions where you need to be in the home and you need to look the people in the eyes. You will receive impressions and inspiration in the home that you will never get any other way.


Would you add anything to our understanding of the revelation received by President Nelson and other leaders of the Church?

Elder David A. Bednar

Many members of the Church talk about how much revelation has come since President Nelson became the President of the Church. The adjustments that are coming forth now have been discussed and prayed for in councils for years and even decades. In many instances, the revelation is not what to do but when to do it.


Besides receiving revelation on when to do it, every once in a while we will receive revelation on what to do as well, correct?

Elder David A. Bednar

Do not make it mutually exclusive; it is not one or the other. Many times the revelation on what to do is pretty clear. But the timing of when to do it is what many people struggle with. So, as needed, we can receive revelation both on what to do and when to do it—not simply one or the other.


As teachers, we prepare our lessons and pray for the students. How do we recognize inspiration for those whom we are teaching and ministering to?

Elder David A. Bednar

During your preparation and prayers, there will often be a sudden thought, a stroke of inspiration, and you may have a name come to your mind or even see a familiar face. The Prophet Joseph Smith described it as “sudden strokes of ideas.”3 When it comes suddenly, you may recognize that you have received exactly what is needed, and those instances are quite remarkable.

One of the greatest sources of insight you will have are the questions your students will ask. Over a number of years, I have had a practice of answering questions from thousands of youth and young adults. Because of large numbers in meetings, I often allow them to text their questions to me in a controlled way. (I am not suggesting you do this in the same way.) Reading those anonymous questions is one of the greatest learning experiences anybody can have when working with young people. They really ask what they are troubled by and what they need help with. How do we know what to say or teach until we know where they are?


In seeking revelation, we should not have a prescriptive list—a list of things we should do and when. It should be more principle based, correct? Yet we have examples of Nephi, Joseph Smith, and Joseph F. Smith reading the scriptures, listening to the prophet, and then receiving revelation. Are those principles, or is that a pattern?

Elder David A. Bednar

We feast upon the word of God so we can hear and recognize the Lord’s voice. When we turn seeking revelation into a list—do these things and this will happen—that is when we are on dangerous ground. We must wait upon the Lord, be aware of and responsive to His timing—we do not demand revelation based upon our timing.


How can we live our lives in such a way that we are always ready for revelation whenever the Lord is ready to pour it out on us?

Elder David A. Bednar

The phrase ready for is significant. We should always be living ready for revelation—that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us].”4

There may be some who take this to the extreme; please use common sense.

Think of how Oliver Cowdery came to be Joseph Smith’s scribe. He heard about golden plates, about Joseph Smith, and had a desire to meet Joseph. He acted upon that desire.

The Lord declared to Oliver:

“Blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind.”5

The next sentence in this verse is the most compelling to me. Oliver was being inspired and had no idea he was being inspired. He was receiving revelation and had no idea he was receiving revelation. So a revelation came through Joseph to Oliver to tell Oliver he had been inspired and was receiving revelation.

“And now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth.”6

That is what I mean about always having His Spirit to be with us.


You mentioned that Nephi and his brothers cast lots to determine who would go and ask for the brass plates and then tried buying them with gold and silver. When we need to do something, how can we ensure that we do it at the right timing? How do we know that we are doing it right?

Elder David A. Bednar

Nephi did not make a mistake or misjudge the timing. It was a learning experience, line upon line, precept upon precept. He was being prepared with each attempt—“not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do.”7

If we are doing our best and striving to be consecrated and devoted, we are not going to influence others inappropriately. Heaven is in charge of this work, not you and me. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I have assignments all the time that I know I cannot possibly do on my own. As you do your best, you are enlarged and magnified. You will not always know consciously when the right time is. Just do your very best.

President Hinckley often taught, “It all just works out.” And I believed that, but I still thought, “Come on; there has to be more than that.” The older I get, the more I understand that is the only answer there is. God will not leave you alone as you try to succor, nurture, and minister to His children. If you do your best, acting in righteousness, it will work out. And you will learn lessons along the way.


How do we teach students who may feel inadequate that they should be ready for revelation all the time? That may seem to be a daunting task for them.

Elder David A. Bednar

Instead of thinking, “What am I going to tell them?” the focus should be, “What would I ask them?” And not only “What would I ask them?” but also “What would I invite them to do?”

The very act of asking questions is inviting them to act. If that student will answer, that is an expression of faith in Christ. Faith is a principle of action and of power. As we act in accordance with the teachings of Christ, we are blessed with His power. What most of us want is the power first so we can act. That does not work.

Our intent ought not to be “What do I tell them?” Instead, the questions to ask ourselves are “What can I invite them to do? What inspired questions can I ask that, if they are willing to respond, will begin to invite the Holy Ghost into their lives?” The questions to ask are really very simple, such as “What are you learning?” By answering questions, that individual is inviting the Holy Ghost to guide his or her answers. Our role is to make it safe to discuss those things and to invite them to act so that the Holy Ghost can teach.

If you love them and are really trying to do what heaven wants, you will be guided in the simplest of ways. Questions need not be complicated. You try to find out where they are in their understanding because you really care.

There is always justified concern about young people who fall away. There are just too many who have not been invited to learn for themselves; they simply rely on what other people have told them. “If all you or I know about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel is what other people teach or tell us, then the foundation of our testimony of Him … is built upon sand.”8 That is why inviting them to act and learn for themselves helps them build a stronger foundation.


A young man read the Book of Mormon for the first time and concluded he had not felt the Spirit. Perhaps he was waiting for angels from heaven to declare it was true. How can we help in this type of situation?

Elder David A. Bednar

There are many incredibly faithful members of the Church who do not think they measure up because they have not had dramatic experiences like those sometimes described in fast and testimony meeting. Dramatic experiences are not the norm. If you honor your covenants and are pressing forward, you are doing fine and you are normal. Saul was not converted by the light. Alma the Younger was not converted by the angel.

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.”9 Not confidence in you—confidence in Them to get done what none of us can do.

Brother Chad Webb

That which persuades us to do good, to believe in Christ, is of God.10 We might be surprised to find out someday that the thoughts we thought were ours were really from the Holy Ghost. As we try to do good, our thoughts and desires will be guided by the Holy Ghost.

In President Nelson’s talk on revelation, he invited us to pour out our hearts to Heavenly Father, speak with Him, be honest with Him, and then listen. He asked us to write down the impressions that come and then act on them. Then he said, “As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’”11

Most of the inspiration that has come for me personally did not come while I was praying. I pray; I ponder; I try to write down impressions that come. But as I act, then the inspiration comes. During a lesson, when singing a hymn, when talking to somebody, or in other settings, answers to prayers start to come.

Elder David A. Bednar

One caution: the means or modes of revelation can vary for people all over the world. For example, in Africa, people often have remarkable dreams. It is not uncommon for the missionaries to encounter someone on the street who says, “I saw you in a dream, and you have a message from God. I want to hear what you have to tell me.” I do not have dreams like some of the faithful Saints in Africa do.

We teach largely from our own experience, so we have to be careful not to impose our pattern of experience on others. It does not mean that their pattern is any less valid or useful. Remember that there is a variety of different ways the Spirit of the Lord can connect with somebody’s mind and heart.

Please be open to a wide range of things that you might invite and entice somebody to do so they can act and learn for themselves.


How do we increase confidence in our ability to receive personal revelation and not rely on a process we may have heard or read about from someone else?

Elder David A. Bednar

A quote from President Joseph F. Smith is an incredible resource for someone who is beginning this journey of gaining confidence in receiving revelation:

“Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs, and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members of the Church who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God. …

“As a boy … I would frequently … ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line, … until he made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did He have to speak with the trump of an archangel. By the whisperings of the still small voice of the spirit of the living God, He gave to me the testimony I possess.

“And by this principle and power he will give to all the children of men a knowledge of the truth that will stay with them, and it will make them to know the truth, as God knows it, and to do the will of the Father as Christ does it. And no amount of marvelous manifestations will ever accomplish this.”12

Anyone struggling can take the first steps and do what Joseph F. Smith did.

Some members of the Church want to see a light on the road to Damascus before they believe. Really? Was Saul in any condition to recognize the still, small voice? He had to have a spiritual wake-up call. Many expect to see an angel the way Alma the Younger did. Really? Alma was not in any condition to receive the still, small voice. He had to have a spiritual wake-up call. And President Joseph F. Smith testified that it is not the light nor the angel. It is recognizing the still, small voice that brings confidence. Just go and do.

If we are not keeping the commandments, we cannot have that confidence and we will not have the companionship of the Spirit. There are young people who need to repent, and there are young people who are too hard on themselves and never think they are good enough. You do not have to be perfect; you simply have to sincerely repent, be good, do your best, and press forward.


You have spoken and written a lot about being student centered and focused on their progress. Is there more you would like to teach us about inviting the Holy Ghost into that process?

Elder David A. Bednar

“Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man [and woman] may have an equal privilege.”13 We are not the teachers; the Holy Ghost is. This verse is an admonition to appoint the Holy Ghost to be the teacher. And “a pattern”—not the only pattern—is to let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings. That sounds so simple, and it might even look easy.

If people feel safe, they can give voice to some of their questions and what they are unsure about. They do not learn from other people in the room per se, but what someone says might allow the Holy Ghost to teach them individually. They do participate in a collective expression of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as everyone in that setting is asking, seeking, and knocking. And in that individual and collective exercise of faith, we invite. The word appoint doesn’t mean designate. We cannot designate the Holy Ghost to be the teacher, but we can invite and entice the Holy Ghost to be the teacher.

In a missionary meeting we discussed a number of issues, and I asked the missionaries, “What are you hearing that has not been said?” An 18-year-old missionary, who had been in the field for four weeks, answered, “Elder Bednar, if I hear an answer in your voice or in the voice of another missionary, that is a message for everyone. If I feel it in my heart or have a thought in my mind, that is from God just for me.” Are you dazzled by that answer? How long would it take to lecture somebody or create some kind of role-play or other experience where an 18-year-old would have that spiritual insight?

So inviting others to act—to exercise their faith—helps to entice the Holy Ghost to teach them individually and everybody collectively.

It is so important to be learner centered and invite the Holy Ghost to be the teacher. We have a role to play. We do the inviting and enticing and guiding, but then the Holy Ghost directs things in remarkable ways.


A young lady asked me if I remembered teaching her a certain principle. She said it changed her life forever. I remembered the situation, and I did not teach her that at all; she actually missed the point of what I was trying to teach. She was taught by the Spirit. How do we help students recognize they are receiving revelation so they can have the confidence to seek it more for themselves?

Elder David A. Bednar

What might you invite her to do so that she would have eyes to see what she has not seen before?

The Holy Ghost will bring all things to our remembrance.14 She had a remarkable experience where she heard something that clearly was not being said. Help her identify that. Ask her to think about her experience and discover one or two more episodes like that. Help her find a pattern in those two or three things that have taken place and discover what brought that spiritual insight.

There is vast diversity among our young people, and they have all kinds of challenges and issues. But we ought to expect them to be what we tell them they are. And we ought to invite them to act. And you will stand all amazed at what they come up with. Think first about what to invite them to do so they can learn what they need to learn.


Can you help us understand, or maybe learn, how to listen and observe better?

Elder David A. Bednar

I would recommend that you get an inexpensive paperback copy of the Book of Mormon and read it from beginning to end, looking for every instance of “eyes to see and ears to hear,” or similar wording. Also look in the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament. Go into the scriptures as an agent—asking, seeking, and knocking—with your question: “How do I see what I do not usually see? How do I hear what I do not usually hear?” As you go into the scriptures with those questions, the Holy Ghost will tutor you and provide the answers to your questions. I cannot give it to you; the Holy Ghost will teach you individually, privately, and personally what that answer is for you.

Let me share an example. My wife, Susan, has always been an incredibly faithful visiting teacher. When the adjustment was made to ministering and President Nelson asked for “higher and holier”15 ways of ministering, Susan listened and wanted to figure out what that was. After pondering and praying, she came to a stunning conclusion—to ask her sisters to whom she ministered, “What does higher and holier mean to you in our ministering?”

That is the simplest and most obvious question you could ask, but the responses from her sisters were amazing. One sister asked to go to the temple together. Another sister asked to read a general conference talk and then get together over lunch to discuss what they learned. Susan wondered if she had done something wrong previously. She had not done anything wrong. Higher and holier—eyes were opened to see in ways they had not seen before.


In the remaining few minutes, would you share whatever you feel like sharing and your testimony?

Elder David A. Bednar

I love you. I love who you are and what you are striving to become. I love what you do. We can all improve, but I say, “Thank you.” I say thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and the Church Board of Education.

To live on the earth in this season of the dispensation of the fulness of times is the blessing of a lifetime. A number of years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley repeatedly told me, “David, this is the greatest season in the history of the restored Church.” And he was absolutely right.

Think of the things we are blessed to see. Consider that this year is the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. Temples have been announced in Papua New Guinea and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We have missionaries in the former Soviet Union and a temple in Ukraine. This is the greatest season in the history of the restored Church.

We have a particular responsibility in this day. If we have been saved for this day, it is because we have a lot to do, and we have a role in helping the rising generation to be ready. This is the greatest season in the history of the restored Church—the greatest opposition and the greatest opportunities. Together, in this day we have this opportunity to serve, to bear testimony, to minister, and to succor.

I pray the Holy Ghost will fill the gap between the words I express and what I yearn to convey. I witness that the Father and the Son did appear to Joseph Smith 200 years ago. I witness that the Father is our Father, and He is the author of the plan of happiness. I know, I testify, and I witness that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. I witness that He lives. He is resurrected; the tomb is empty. “He is not here: for he is risen.”16

I witness that through the Prophet Joseph Smith, priesthood authority and priesthood keys have been restored to the earth and that the appearance of the Father and the Son initiated the Restoration of the gospel. I witness that that Restoration is ongoing.

I bear this witness and I express my love to you in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.