“Not Just a Lesson Manual,” Ensign, Dec. 2001, 62–63
In January 2002 we will begin studying the life and teachings of President Harold B. Lee. The book we will receive is one more in a series that will cover every President of the Church. They comprise a library that will enable us to become as familiar with the gospel teachings of our latter-day prophets as we can be with the writings of ancient prophets such as Moses, Nephi, or Moroni. This is why Church leaders want each member to receive a copy of the new volume of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.
Because these books are different from previous lesson materials, some priesthood and Relief Society members and teachers struggle with using them in class. Following are some suggestions to help.
Ask your priesthood or Relief Society leader for a copy of the ward study schedule for the book and place it inside your book.
Place the book near your scriptures. This may help you remember to study its pages.
Take time before going to church to review the chapter you will be discussing in class.
Review the questions in the “Suggestions for Study” section of each chapter and ponder ways to apply the doctrines you are studying.
Discuss with family members on the way home from church or at home what you discussed in class.1
Use the index in the back of your book to help you find teachings on topics that interest you or that answer personal questions.
If you are not able to attend class, follow the schedule by studying at home.
Priesthood and Relief Society members should bring their book to class, ready to participate in the lesson.
Teachers should choose methods that encourage class members to use their books.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said these books were developed to stress “the application of gospel principles.”2 Teachers and members can help in class by asking questions, participating in discussions, and sharing experiences that show how to apply doctrine. The questions in the “Suggestions for Study” section of each chapter may also help teachers and members as they discuss how to apply gospel principles.
Consider the needs of those you teach as you prepare and present the lesson. You may want to counsel with your priesthood and Relief Society leaders for additional insight into the needs of class members.
Studies show that teachers have about two minutes to capture the attention of students, so you need to think of interesting and appropriate ways to begin your lessons.
Reserve a significant part of your lesson time for discussing real-life examples. Some teachers like to plan class time so that about half goes toward reviewing the main points of the doctrinal quotes and about half goes toward discussing how the doctrine can be applied.
Remember that it is not necessary to present all of the quotes or questions in a chapter in your lesson.
Be careful not to talk too much. “Think of yourself as a guide on a journey of learning who inserts appropriate comments to keep those you teach on the correct path.”3
Use a variety of teaching methods. For example:
Divide the class into small groups, asking each group to discuss the meaning of a doctrine or how it could be applied and to report their conclusions.
Ask how a doctrine could be applied to people in different circumstances, such as a father, mother, single parent, teenager, college student, and so on.
Assign several class members to read different parts of a chapter before class and summarize what they learned or share appropriate insights or experiences.
7. Practice waiting for responses to your questions, since some class members take longer to formulate answers. Be patient and try not to call on the same people.
8. Finish the lesson with a concise summary that reviews the doctrines discussed. The spirit of testimony bearing may also help draw your discussion to an uplifting conclusion.
How am I to know when each chapter of the book will be taught?
Ward leaders are asked to coordinate a schedule for teaching each chapter. This can be done by (1) having a schedule for the year approved at a ward council meeting; (2) printing the schedule in the ward sacrament programs or newsletters; (3) announcing the schedule regularly in priesthood and Relief Society meetings.
Why aren’t the instruction books more helpful to teachers, like a lesson manual?
The books have been developed primarily for personal use and therefore need adapting for class use. Teachers should receive their assignments well in advance, because the assignments require more preparation time and more reliance on the Spirit of the Lord.
Some teachers tend mostly to read quotes directly from the book with little class discussion. How can these lessons be made interesting?
Teachers can use the scriptures, personal experiences, thought-provoking questions, object lessons, short stories, testimony, and other appropriate teaching methods. Whatever a teacher uses should relate to the lesson and help invite the Spirit (see D&C 88:122; Jonn D. Claybaugh and Amber Barlow Dahl, “Increasing Participation in Lessons,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 32–36).