Teaching Religion to Youth and Young Adults—Closing Discussion

Teaching Religion to Youth and Young Adults—Closing Discussion

An Evening with President Dallin H. Oaks

President Dallin H. Oaks: I am pleased to join Kristen for our final discussion. She is an experienced professional teacher—including many years in corporations and a year at BYU—a returned missionary, a wife, and grandmother. She will speak from those experiences and as the wife of a servant of the Lord. Our purpose here is to help you as teachers of religion and also to help your spouses in their great supporting role.

Sister Kristen Oaks: President Oaks, I am so thankful to be with you tonight. And I’m thankful to be with the teachers. You represent all those who have taught the gospel and blessed my family. We think you’re so unique. Many of our friends and our own family have wished to have the jobs you now have, and they were not given that privilege. So, in reality, we look at you as handpicked by the Lord to be the teachers to His children. We know that this is a challenging time to teach, with enrollment concerns and social problems and actual opposition to gospel principles and truth.

President Oaks: You will remember that we started off speaking of the power of love in our relationships: love of God, His love for His children, our love for one another, and, most important for this purpose, your love of your students. We went to part 2, the first discussion, and we talked about such things as “How can I teach what will be of the greatest value?” and “Why is it more important to teach principles than to teach rules?” and “How do we help our students navigate worldly ideas and values?”—in the midst of all of this, sharing love for everyone.

Sister Oaks: Well, I know you’re here tonight to be the best teachers you can be. Here is a photo of a key chain I was given. It says, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” It is a quote often attributed to Oscar Wilde. And when I received it, at first, I didn’t actually take it as a compliment. But in fact it is one of the greatest compliments I have ever been given, and I give it to you.

When it comes to the teaching of the gospel, you are the Lord’s chosen. You are one of a kind, and you have qualities, strengths, and talents unique to you. You are also in a unique position to overcome worldly opposition and teach eternal truths. As a parent, a grandmother, and even a great-grandmother, I trust you. And I am so dependent on you to teach my family correct principles to immunize them from the darkness around them. You literally offer a shield against evil, and you are an answer to our family prayers.

President Oaks: We appreciate every time you help our family and the youth of the Church understand and embrace their true identity as children of a loving Heavenly Father. Your greatest gift to all of us is to teach youth and young people correct principles and eternal truths to bless their lives—truths they can cling to when they face decisions alone. We believe that this will best arm them to face the world.

Sister Oaks: Our home is just across the street from the Salt Lake Temple. And right now they are doing massive construction. There is scaffolding and trucks and cranes everywhere. The temple seems undercover. It is being worked on, just like us in this time of COVID-19. The temple is covered but being made stronger and more beautiful. Every day, workers do a little more to strengthen and fortify the temple. In three years, it will emerge more beautiful, more perfect, and more able to stand in every circumstance.

President Oaks: We and our students can be like the temple: undergoing renovations each day to make us stronger, more dedicated, more faithful—even in difficult circumstances. As we are reconstructed, with the promised blessings, we too can become a house of the Lord.

One reason I am glad to have Kristen beside me in this teaching is that she is crucial to having the Spirit in our home. As President Nelson said in April conference, “One of the holiest of places on earth is the home.” We all need to do more to make our home truly a holy place. “If you are married, counsel with your wife [or spouse] as your equal partner in this crucial work. … Between now and the time the Lord comes again, we all need our homes to be places of serenity and security.”1 Our spouses are vital to making that happen.

Sister Oaks: Well, as a spouse of someone who literally needs the Spirit to function in his calling and work—and that’s just like every one of you—I make every effort to make our home a holy place and one of love. And never was there a time when the Holy Ghost needed to be in our home or in our classrooms more. COVID-19 has actually helped us. We have more time together. And my husband, like your spouses, functions best in a spiritual atmosphere. What I watch and what I read and what I bring into our home matters. And there can’t be any contention in our home, so I try to be positive and supportive. I know that my support is crucial in keeping things together for my family and for my husband, and I am really trying, and I try every day.

President Oaks: Thank you, my dear. Your students face significant opposition from worldly values and temptations. The Book of Mormon prophesied this. We live in a time where “all the lands of the earth … will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations.”2 It warns us against Satan’s techniques in this time.

For example, in 2 Nephi 28:20 we read that Satan will “rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” Everything from road rage, protestors, and family quarrels seems to have escalated. Your class can serve as a haven of peace and security from this. It can provide a model of civility to restore your students’ feelings.

Sister Oaks: Your classes can be their safe place. The principles taught in your classes—especially the testimonies borne there and the Spirit felt there—can nourish and protect your students.

President Oaks: In verse 21, Satan says that he will “pacify” others and “lull them away” with the thought that “all is well in Zion.”3

Sister Oaks: This has been talked about, but no form of modern technology has lulled us away or so captivated our attention as the cell phone. I wanted to share this story of one institute teacher who was on disability for two years. She said when she returned, she was shocked. The phone’s constant notifications and texts interrupted the students’ attention from thinking and learning in class. And worse, she said, it’s separating them from one another and from the Spirit. But I truly believe there is hope, and it lies with our asking those around us to put down their phones. And if possible, we might even encourage a conversation about the benefits and dangers of phones for those we love and teach—and let the students tell us about their concerns and find solutions on their own to the cell phone problem. As parents, we love that. We would.

President Oaks: The final example, given in 2 Nephi 28:22, is that Satan will flatter others away by “[telling] them there is no hell; and … I am no devil, for there is none.” Your teachings will help your students recognize the flatteries of Satan and the lies that contradict the commandments of God. There are consequences for Satan-inspired behavior, and your teachings will give the hope we receive from the mercy of repentance and divine forgiveness.

Sister Oaks: So sweet. I am married to an Apostle and have closely observed other Apostles. I know that the Lord’s servants are fiercely obedient, and they seek the Lord’s Spirit to guide them. I also know that spiritual guidance is available to each of us, and you can teach your students to find that and to be obedient.

President Oaks: Finally, in 2 Nephi 28:32, the Lord declares that He will be “merciful” unto all who “repent and come unto [Him].” He is always reaching out to lift and save us. You are the ones teaching that assurance and that hope to your students. Let them know that repentance is one of the greatest gifts we have. You are responsible to help your students reach their full potential and destiny as children of God.

Sister Oaks: And never forget the greatest weapon at our disposal to conquer such evils. In Alma 31:5 we are taught that “the preaching of the word [of God] had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword”—or, I might add, the cell phone. You are teachers of that word, and you have that power and that promise.

President Oaks: Place the Savior at the center of your teachings of your students, and you will have that power. As teachers of the gospel, with the direction of the Holy Ghost, you are doing this, and you can be even more effective. As you draw closer to Christ, your students will draw closer to you and to Him. Your capacity to teach the truth they need will increase, and your capacity to love them and discern their needs will be magnified.

My dear brothers and sisters, in addition to what I have said earlier, I testify of Jesus Christ—our Savior, our Redeemer, the head of this Church. You are His servants. We are united in teaching the true principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bless you—as His servants, as His teachers, and as fathers and mothers in Zion, as worthy servants of the Lord Jesus Christ—to fulfill your responsibilities, to keep His commandments, to be great models of righteousness and teaching of true principles. And I bless you to that end as I testify of the truth of the things you have been taught today, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.