A few months ago, a former classmate from my hometown of Overton, Nevada, suggested we put together a Christmas gift for our beloved kindergarten teacher, who had recently celebrated her 98th birthday. She taught us to be kind, the importance of a good nap, the joy of milk and graham crackers, and to love one another. Thank you, Sister Davis, for being such a wonderful teacher.
I had another exceptional teacher while attending Ricks College many years ago. I was preparing to serve a mission and thought it would be helpful to attend a missionary preparation class. What I experienced changed my life.
From the first day of class, I realized I was in the presence of a master teacher. The teacher was Brother F. Melvin Hammond. I knew Brother Hammond loved the Lord and he loved me. I could see it in his face and hear it in his voice. When he taught, the Spirit enlightened my mind. He taught doctrine, but he also invited me to learn it on my own. That invitation helped me clearly see my responsibility to learn the Lord’s doctrine for myself. That experience changed me forever. Thank you, Brother Hammond, for teaching in the Savior’s way.
Brothers and sisters, everyone deserves to have this kind of learning experience both at home and at church.
The introduction to Come, Follow Me gives a vision of what Christlike teaching can accomplish. “The aim of all gospel learning and teaching,” it says, “is to deepen our conversion to Jesus Christ and help us become more like Him. … The kind of gospel learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miracle of conversion doesn’t happen all at once. It extends beyond [the] classroom into an individual’s heart and home.”1
The scriptures indicate that the Savior’s ministry in ancient America was so impactful and widespread that “the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.”2
How can our teaching have a similar effect on those we love? How can we teach more like the Savior and help others become more deeply converted? Allow me to offer a few suggestions.
First and foremost, take it upon yourself to learn all you can about the Master Teacher Himself. How did He show love for others? What did they feel when He taught? What did He teach? What were His expectations of those He taught? After you explore questions like these, evaluate and adjust your way of teaching to be more like His.
The Church provides many teaching resources in the Gospel Library app and on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. One such resource is titled Teaching in the Savior’s Way. I invite you to read and study its every word. Its principles will assist you in your efforts to be more Christlike in your teaching.
My next suggestion can be illustrated with an experience I had a few months ago when I stopped by to visit a dear friend. I could hear his wife in the background speaking with someone, so I quickly excused myself so he could get back to his family.
An hour or so later I received this text message from his sweet wife: “Brother Newman, thanks for coming over. We should have invited you in, but I want to share with you what we were doing. Since the pandemic we have been discussing Come, Follow Me with our adult children every Sunday over Zoom. It has literally been working miracles. I think it is the first time our daughter has read the Book of Mormon on her own. Today was the last lesson on the Book of Mormon, and we were just finishing when you came by. … I thought you would be interested to hear how Come, Follow Me, Zoom, and a pandemic have provided the opportunity at the right time to change a heart. … It makes me wonder how many little miracles have been taking place during this odd time.”
This sounds to me like a fulfillment of the promise President Russell M. Nelson made in October 2018. He said that home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning “has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings. … Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.”3 What a beautiful promise!
To be truly life-changing, conversion to Jesus Christ must involve our whole soul and permeate every aspect of our lives. This is why it must be focused at the center of our lives—our families and homes.
My final suggestion is to remember that conversion must come from within. As illustrated in the parable of the ten virgins, we cannot give someone else the oil of our conversion, as much as we might want to. As Elder David A. Bednar taught: “This precious oil is acquired one drop at a time … patiently and persistently. No shortcut is available; no last-minute flurry of preparation is possible.”4
Come, Follow Me is based on that truth. I compare it to the angel who helped Nephi learn about Jesus Christ by saying, “Look!”5 Like that angel, Come, Follow Me invites us to look in the scriptures and the words of the modern-day prophets in order to find the Savior and hear Him. Like Nephi, we will be personally tutored by the Spirit while reading and pondering the word of God. Come, Follow Me is the springboard that helps each of us to dive deeply into the living waters of the doctrine of Christ.
A parent’s responsibility is similar in many ways. Children inherit many things from their parents, but a testimony is not one of them. We can’t give our children a testimony any more than we can make a seed grow. But we can provide a nourishing environment, with good soil, free of thorns that would “choke the word.” We can strive to create the ideal conditions so that our children—and others we love—can find place for the seed, “[hear] the word, and [understand] it”6 and discover for themselves “that the seed is good.”7
Several years ago, my son Jack and I had the opportunity to play the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, where the game of golf began. It was simply amazing! Upon my return I tried to convey to others the magnitude of the experience. But I couldn’t. Photos, videos, and my best descriptions were totally inadequate. I finally realized the only way for someone to know the grandeur of St. Andrews is to experience it—to see the vast fairways, breathe the air, feel the wind in their face, and hit a few errant shots into the cavernous bunkers and burly gorse bushes, which we did with great efficiency.
So it is with the word of God. We can teach it, we can preach it, we can explain it. We can talk about it, we can describe it, we can even testify of it. But until a person feels the sacred word of God distill upon his or her soul like the dews from heaven through the power of the Spirit,8 it will be like looking at a postcard or someone else’s vacation photos. You have to go there yourself. Conversion is a personal journey—a journey of gathering.
Everyone who teaches in the home and at church can offer to others the opportunity to have their own spiritual experiences. Through these experiences, they will come to “know the truth of all things” for themselves.9 President Nelson taught, “If you have sincere questions about the gospel or the Church, as you choose to let God prevail, you will be led to find and understand the absolute, eternal truths that will guide your life and help you stay firmly on the covenant path.”10
I invite leaders and teachers in every organization of the Church to counsel together with parents and youth in order to dramatically improve teaching at every level—in stakes, in wards, and in homes. This will be achieved by teaching the doctrine and inviting Spirit-filled discussion about the truths the Holy Ghost has taught us in the quiet moments of our personal study.
My dear friends in Christ, the responsibility rests squarely upon each of us to follow the example of the Master and teach like Him. His way is the true way! As we follow Him “when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”11 In the name of He who is risen, the Master Teacher Himself, Jesus Christ, amen.