“‘To Teach the Savior’s Way Plainly and Simply’—Sunday School Conference Explains Goals,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 136
A dramatic emphasis on the role of the priesthood in Sunday School was given during October conference when, for the first time, the First Presidency of the Church participated in the general session of Sunday School conference.
President Harold B. Lee not only presided and conducted the session, but also gave his greetings to the thousands of Sunday School workers assembled in the Tabernacle and shared his testimony of the role Sunday School leaders and teachers can play in the lives of the members of the Church. In an unscheduled talk, he counseled Sunday School teachers not only to lead their students through the current courses of study, but also to add the texts of modern revelation wherever applicable.
In a special message in the conference program, President Lee told all Sunday School workers, “Your responsibility in Sunday School is to teach [the Savior’s] way plainly and simply, to help members of the Church comprehend the divine meaning of his mission, and to encourage all to follow him.
“The goal of the Sunday School must be to reach all who have accepted the gospel, that all may be edified together. To this end, we encourage priesthood leaders to set the example by regular attendance at Sunday School, and fathers to lead the way by taking, and not by merely sending, their families.”
President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency, told Sunday School workers, “It is most important that we feel as well as know the truth. We must have the conviction of our faith and a real testimony of the gospel and teach by the Spirit. We must be prepared to live and be what we teach and keep hypocrisy out of our lives. No one senses hypocrisy more quickly than a child.”
In speaking of children, President Tanner said: “It is so important that we realize and always keep in mind that we are teaching spirit children of God who will be tomorrow’s officers and teachers, missionaries, stake and mission presidents, Regional Representatives, General Authorities, and who will hold responsible positions in our communities and nations. What a tremendous responsibility! And while we are training the children for their heavy duties and responsibilities we want to teach them those things that will give them the happiness for which they search.”
President Tanner said that “the stated purpose of the Sunday School is threefold: to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to strengthen the family, to build faith.”
In seeking to meet this challenge, the Sunday School is reaching out to the young adults of the Church in a new program that can be initiated by local wards and branches.
Introducing the program, President Richard L. Warner, second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, said that in some wards some young adults (single men and women between the ages of 18 and 26) have left home for school, for missions, for military service, or for employment, leaving behind an insufficient number of their own age group to form a class.
“In order to provide a means through which these young adults can study the gospel and have the opportunity for wholesome association with their peers,” President Warner presented guidelines for Young Adult Sunday School classes.
Under the program, young adults from several or all wards within a stake can meet together as a Sunday School class.
“Keep in mind,” said President Warner, “that a ward Sunday School class is preferable and any ward with sufficient young adults should provide such a class.” But with the approval of the stake presidency, bishops, and Sunday School officers concerned, young adults may join the appropriate class in an adjoining ward.
“If it is determined that a class for several wards is desirable, the stake presidency should assign one of the ward Sunday Schools to host the class and be responsible for such matters as the calling of a class teacher. If it is necessary to call a teacher from outside the host ward area, the call should be processed as a regular stake call. The curriculum should be the Gospel Doctrine course of study,” President Warner continued.
“The time for such a multi-ward or stake class should not conflict with the regularly scheduled Sunday family activities such as the dinner hour. A young adult serving in a ward or stake Sunday School class should be encouraged to continue in that calling. The needs of the individual, however, should always be of primary concern.
“It is hoped that no successful class in a ward will be disrupted. It should be emphasized that stake or combined ward Sunday School classes for young adults are not encouraged in all stakes, but would be authorized where insufficient numbers exist to serve the young adults in their own ward.”
Concern for the individual Sunday School leader and his or her challenges was exhibited in the many departmental sessions held as an integral part of the Sunday School conference.
Members of the Sunday School General Board conducted workshops in areas such as music, administration and leadership, learning resources, instructional services, and the children’s, youth’s, and adult’s role in Sunday School.
At an inservice workshop, the “quest for the one” was again emphasized to stake, ward, and mission inservice leaders. Booklets, especially prepared for the conference, are designed to help inservice leaders apply teacher development principles in their respective areas of stewardship. Aimed specifically at Sunday School inservice leaders, the booklets, “Applying Teacher Development Principles,” are available from the Church Distribution Center.
The booklets define and individualize roles for Sunday School inservice leaders, and discuss in depth the Teacher Development Program, ward faculty meetings, ward quarterly leadership meetings, the teaching support team, meetings, people, and goals.
In an “Activation: Who Needs It?” workshop, teachers and leaders were asked to set realistic goals for improving attendance at Sunday School. Teachers would then work with home teachers in bringing members out to Sunday School.
However, teachers were told that to improve attendance at Sunday School they should work on their own personal preparation and ability to teach, and should concentrate on helping class members to grow both in the gospel and in knowledge.
An interesting and well-received feature of the Sunday School Conference was the “Question and Answer” room where two or more General Board members were available all day to answer questions from any of the 1,500 Sunday School leaders and teachers in attendance. These brothers and sisters attended not only from Utah, but also from most other states, from Canada, and from ten other countries around the world.
In the closing moments of the conference, Russell M. Nelson, Sunday School general president, said, “If there is one quality I would ask for you, it would be that you teach by the Spirit. … To teach by the Spirit requires personal revelation; to receive personal revelation, prayer is the key, righteousness is requisite, and knowledge [gained through study], is power.”