Object Lessons That Motivate

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“Object Lessons That Motivate,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 70

Object Lessons That Motivate

To teach and inspire his listeners, the Savior often referred to familiar objects—objects like a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a pearl of great price. Teachers can similarly find good object lessons by (1) searching the scriptures, (2) choosing common objects readily available, (3) using creativity. Two cautions: keep the object lesson short and avoid making comparisons that do not work well.

To help the teachers in our ward use object lessons better, I called each of the teachers who would be attending teacher development meeting and asked them to recall the most memorable object lesson that had stayed with them through the years. The responses were wonderful and sparked a deeper-than-usual interest in our upcoming meeting. From the responses, my wife, Rosie, and I listed nearly 30 object lessons on the chalkboard and spent the rest of the time encouraging teachers to share their most memorable object lessons with the class.

One sister, Eunice Black, a Relief Society teacher, told of a speaker who set out 10 apples on the podium to represent his monthly income. He “paid” one apple for food, two apples for rent, and so on until only one apple remained—a tithing apple. Then he asked the bishop to come and stand next to him. He explained that he hoped the Lord would understand that he still had many bills to pay and that he could pay only part of his tithing this month. Then the speaker took a big bite out of the apple and handed the bishop the partially eaten fruit. It made a powerful impression on Sister Black, who determined to pay tithing first, then budget the remainder of her money.

Deacons quorum adviser David Baugh shared a story about a raw egg that had been wrapped in several layers of egg cartons and tape. The teacher invited the class to bounce the bundle off the wall or drop it on the floor. Then the teacher took the package, pulled it apart, and showed the students the sheltered, unbroken egg inside. He taught the students that the gospel was designed to protect each of them in the same way—by helping them build layers of testimony as they kept the commandments.

Primary teacher Pam Lareaux told our class about a time when her grandmother had taken her into a darkened room, lit a candle, and showed Pam how she could light other candles once her own was lit. Then the older woman taught Pam the importance of being an example and sharing her testimony with others. The lesson was so powerful that Pam begged her grandmother to teach it to her again each time she visited.

I shared my own favorite object lesson about a bishop’s counselor in Laramie, Wyoming, who nearly 40 years earlier had passed a clean, new Lifesaver around a circle of deacons and then offered the handled and somewhat sticky piece of candy to anyone who wanted to eat it. This wise teacher challenged us to remember the lesson when we were old enough to begin dating. We needed to keep ourselves morally clean and to respect our dates. It was a powerful lesson on chastity I never forgot.

At our teacher development meeting we discovered what it means to combine love and spiritual preparation with inspired object lessons that can motivate members to make good decisions and increase their understanding of important gospel teachings.—Jon R. Howe, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photo by Jed Clark, Craig Dimond