“Hungering, Thirsting, and Teaching,” Tambuli, Dec. 1977, 25
In the second article of this series, the following statement appeared: “A teacher of the gospel has the best companion possible [the Holy Ghost] and a very reassuring fact is that we can always depend upon him to do his part. The challenge is with ourselves. What must we do to qualify? (“Preparation for Team Teaching,” International Magazines, May 1977, p. 26.)
That article discussed some of the qualities needed by the teacher. This article discusses the need for the student to seek—to hunger and thirst—for the things of the spirit in order for the teaching/learning process to function as it should. (See chart, “Teaching/Learning Relationships, International Magazines, April 1977, p. 27.).
“If teaching is to be effective, it must capitalize on the readiness of the students to learn.” (Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, P. 107. See companion article in this magazine entitled,” Ready or Not, You Will Be Taught” for additional information on this subject.)
Teachers cannot pour knowledge and understanding into their students. They can only offer it. And their responsibility is to offer it in the most timely and appropriately pleasing way. If knowledge is to be obtained, the student must (1) want it, (2) take steps to obtain it, and (3) open his own heart to receive it.
Sometimes we have students, who, for one reason or another, do not seek spiritual understanding. When this happens, we as teachers have an auxiliary responsibility to stimulate that desire within them. But how? What motivates a person to seek spiritual learning?
One factor worthy of consideration is spiritual preparation. Missionaries sometimes have to search hard for those who will listen to their message because there are few who have prepared themselves to receive it.
For us who teach in our homes and in the Church environment, the task should ideally be easier. We teach those who often have already had spiritual experiences in which they responded to the voice of the Spirit. Some, of course, have responded more than others. But we must not forget that our students represent a choice selection of our Father’s children.
On one occasion, the late President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., of the First Presidency, clearly defined the attitude we as teachers should have toward Latter-day Saint youth. He said, “The youth of the Church, your students, are in great majority sound in thought and in spirit …
“The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the spirit; they are eager to learn the gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted …
“These students crave the faith their fathers and mothers have; they want it in its simplicity and purity …
“These students hunger and thirst, … for a testimony of the things of the spirit … They sense by the spirit they have that the testimony they seek is engendered and nurtured by the testimony of others …
“These students as they come to you are spiritually working on towards a maturity which they will early reach if you but feed them the right food.” (The Charted Course in Education, pp. 4–6.)
Those who have been baptized already have access to the gifts of the Holy Ghost. In the Church and in our homes, teachers and students, parents and children all share in the promise that “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 121:26.)
This inward source of light and truth in students must never be ignored by those of us who teach. We must make sure that we are in tune with the Holy Ghost as we teach; and then have faith that it will touch the hearts of the students who hear our teachings. Remember, it is the Holy Ghost that “carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Ne. 33:1.)
Generally our students are thirsty for spiritual refreshment, and if we will lead them to God, the water which he will give to them will be like a well springing up within them.
Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
“Whosoever drinketh of this water [from the well] shall thirst again:
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:10, 13–14, italics added.)
When students obey the truths learned through the Spirit, that flow of living water will continue. “But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.” (D&C 63:23.)
Again the Lord has said: “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42:61.)
And again, “Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17.)
Notice that those who come unto Christ should partake of the water of life freely. Not only should a student be free to partake in abundance, but also his partaking should be by his own choice. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord said, “Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely.” (D&C 10:66, italics added.)
Teachers should not compel their students to learn. Alma counseled his son Corianton as follows: “Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.” (Alma 42:27.)
All that the teacher does should be inviting to the student. Again Alma counseled: “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent and I will receive you.
“Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;” (Alma 5:33–34, italics added.)
Since we as teachers should invite but not compel, the nature of our invitation becomes exceedingly important, especially when the student isn’t seeking as much as he should be. Our message must be both inviting and enticing. Moroni, quoting his father said, “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moro. 7:13.)
We cannot force a child to learn but we can awaken that desire within him by making what we teach interesting and valuable to him. Our teachings should be seasoned with items of interest to our students much like our food, should be seasoned to make it palatable and interesting. Paul the apostle said, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Col. 4:6, italics added.)
When we are filled with the Holy Ghost and we let it guide us as we teach others, it spreads from us to our students like the fire spreads across a dry hillside.
But attempting to teach without the Holy Ghost to animate the teacher and stimulate the student is like using a rubber mallet to shape a horseshoe out of cold iron. Nothing warms the spirit of man and draws him close to God, as does the fire of the Holy Ghost. We must never teach without having it. If we try to teach without it, we would be as salt that has lost its savor, and our efforts as teachers of the gospel are no longer effective.
To us in our own day, the Lord has said, “When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;
“They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.” (D&C 101:39–40, italics added.)
Again he has warned: “But inasmuch as they [my people] keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
“For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
“And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” (D&C 103:8–10.)
When teaching with the spirit, we become the “light” (Matt. 5:14–16), the “leaven” (Luke 13:20–21), and the “salt” which will stimulate our students to thirst for the gospel. Yet we as teachers can be none of these things to our students without the Holy Ghost. As Paul admonished his student, Timothy, to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands,” (2 Tim. 1:6), so must we admonish those who come under our care to cultivate the gift given to them at the time of their own baptism.
One thing to remember is that the attitude we have toward the learner and his appetite for truth has much to do with how we teach him.
If we distrust the students’ desire to learn, then our teachings are often weak, or oversimplified, and are spiritually unfulfilling. In reality, the student may be asking for bread, and we, inadvertently, “give him a stone.” (See Matt. 7:9.)
If we have faith in the student, and see him as a child of God whose inner spirit is searching for an opportunity to renew and expand the understanding it once had while yet in the Father’s presence, then we are quick to provide him with the bread of life—and also to lead him to the source of living water.
Our students are quick to discern the kind of attitude we have toward them. We radiate it in everything we do or say. They discover very soon how much faith and trust we have in them. They know how much we care. They feel our love—or lack of it. So often their initial enthusiasm for the gospel is dependent upon ours.
Consider the Old Testament account of Moses sending spies into the Land of Canaan so that the children of Israel would know what to expect when entering that land. They reported that the land was flowing “with milk and honey,” but the people were “strong” and the cities “walled.” (Num. 13:27–28.)
Ten of the twelve spies exhibited a fearful attitude by saying, “we be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” (Num. 13:31.) The effect of their total lack of faith in being able to accomplish that which the Lord had commanded, was revealed in their concluding statement, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Num. 13:33; italics added.)
Only two of the twelve, Caleb and Joshua, had a faithful attitude. It was Caleb who said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (Num. 13:30.) Caleb and Joshua’s concluding statement was simply, “the Lord is with us: fear them not.” (Num. 14:9)
Which of the spies would have been good teachers? Caleb and Joshua accepted assignments from the Lord with a faithful attitude. Like Nephi, they too would have said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7.)
The Lord will help us to teach and he will also help our students to learn. We can succeed if we will work with him.