Teaching Religion to Youth and Young Adults—Opening Remarks
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Teaching Religion to Youth and Young Adults—Opening Remarks

An Evening with President Dallin H. Oaks

My dear brothers and sisters,

We are proud to be with this gathering of seminary and institute teachers and religion teachers at our universities and college. We are pleased that you are accompanied by your spouses, who are so important to your sacred teaching responsibilities. We feel challenged to speak to you in this unique and difficult time—in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

As Commissioner Paul V. Johnson has advised you, after my brief opening address, we will have two different discussions for the balance of our program.

I begin by addressing the power of love. Why is love of God the first great commandment? It is first because it is fundamental to understanding and following God’s plan and His commandments for His children. Our love of God and His love for us is the central gospel principle, vital to what influences us and vital to what we must remember. God loves you as His teachers. His leaders love you as teachers of His plan and His word. And you love your students. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley summed this up in one sentence in a talk to teachers many years ago: “There is no better way to express love for God than by manifesting love for his children, particularly those who come … to learn at your feet.”1

My father died over 80 years ago. What do I remember best in our relationship? His teachings? His discipline of me? No, I remember best that he loved me.

Similarly, I believe your students will remember most how they felt about your feelings for them. They will remember how you lovingly helped them learn the gospel, recognize the promptings of the Spirit, and apply the gospel in their lives. Love is the motivating power in teaching.

It is about 70 years since I was a seminary student. What do I remember best about my two seminary teachers in Vernal, Utah? I can’t even remember the subject of the classes they taught, but I remember that both of them loved me and cared for me as a person.

Love has power: power to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, power to understand the plan of salvation, and power to explain God’s commandments.

If we don’t understand love, everything else about the gospel is contradicted or weakened by the temptations of the adversary and the power of worldly values and the worldly persons who surround us.

My second subject is your relationship to the gospel subjects you teach.

In teaching secular subjects, it is familiar and often permissible for teachers to set themselves up as experts on the subject matter. That is not permissible in teaching religious principles. We are not the authorities on the gospel of Jesus Christ. The authority is the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, who has the function of testifying of the Father and the Son and leading us into truth. He enlightens our teachings. Therefore, unlike teachers of secular subjects, we should never take credit for an idea that reinforces the great truths of the gospel. We should never act in the classroom or anywhere else in a way that interferes with the faith or teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ. We should never cast a shadow of self-interest over any subject we are teaching.

We teach out of love for our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ and with love for His children, our students. We are motivated by our determination to increase their ability to hear and heed Him who is our Savior.

I testify of our Savior Jesus Christ and pray for His blessings to be with us as we go forward, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Note

  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, BYU Conference Speeches, 1975, 53.