“A Conversation about the Sunday School,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 101
The Ensign recently talked with the new Sunday School Presidency: Elder Robert L. Simpson, President; Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, First Counselor; and Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, Second Counselor. All are members of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Ensign: Do you have any new plans for the Sunday School curriculum?
Elder Simpson: One innovation that will be introduced in Gospel Doctrine classes next year is a scripture study guide for the New Testament. This will be a small booklet designed to be placed inside the scriptures. Too many times students come to class having done little or no advance reading or preparation. The new study guide will help Gospel Doctrine students keep current and prepared to participate in the next lesson.
The study guide will have a number of sections for each lesson. These will include selected scriptures, parallel accounts, and a glossary to aid understanding. The glossary is particularly helpful to students whose native language is not English.
Ensign: What are your feelings about the current teaching plan in which adults study the scriptures in rotation every four years?
Elder Simpson: The success of this four-year teaching cycle is a tribute to the approved curriculum plan, and we will continue to use it.
Elder Tuttle: It’s a good system. We have had some people complain that there’s not enough time to teach the New Testament in a single year. Of course there isn’t! It has never been our intention to fully teach the scriptures in forty minutes on Sunday. The goal is to interest people in the scriptures and inspire them to study at home. Sunday School isn’t where you go to learn it all—it’s simply a place to be introduced to the wonders the scriptures have to offer.
Elder Komatsu: The features about the Old Testament and gospel studies that have appeared in the Ensign and the Church News this past year have been a great help. They’ve done much to increase interest in the scriptures and have given our teachers more reference material.
Ensign: Are teacher development classes being emphasized or deemphasized?
Elder Tuttle: Our greatest challenge in the Sunday School is to teach teachers to teach the gospel. We don’t have career teachers. Everyone in this position is temporary and will be called to a new assignment one day. It’s the responsibility of the bishop to see that Teacher Development classes are taught, so that new teachers know how to be effective. This is an area that needs more emphasis, not less.
Ensign: In addition to teacher training, what other kinds of specialized courses are offered by the adult Sunday School?
Elder Tuttle: There are temple and genealogy classes, Gospel Essentials classes, Family Relations classes, and Member-Missionary classes for people with special needs. These classes are offered to meet a special situation and seldom run longer than twelve weeks. In the adult Sunday School, people generally belong in the Gospel Doctrine class.
Ensign: How is Sunday School attendance holding up under the three-hour block meeting plan?
Elder Komatsu: In some stakes, attendance at Sunday School is way up. In others, it’s down. We’ve discovered that there are two things that make a ward Sunday School successful: quality teaching and dynamic leadership. If teachers are properly trained and motivated, and if steps are taken to see that members are in class and not in the halls or in other meetings, the Sunday School can operate as intended. In support of this, bishoprics are being encouraged to schedule member interviews at some other time, and not during the Sunday School hour.
Elder Simpson: Our goal in the Sunday School is to be as effective as possible in teaching the gospel. We can have good teachers, but we have to pay the price. We have to see that they’re well trained and have good materials. In this church, every member is a teacher. In following the Savior, we are all teachers. It’s one of our most important callings.