“Object Lessons That Motivate,” Liahona, Mar. 1999, 26
To teach and inspire His listeners, the Savior often referred to familiar objects—like a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a pearl of great price. As gospel teachers, we can also use good object lessons by (1) searching the scriptures, (2) choosing objects familiar to our class members, and (3) using creativity. Three cautions: keep the object lesson short, keep it simple, and do not allow the object to overshadow the lesson.
To encourage the teachers in our ward to use better object lessons, I called those who would be attending a teacher development meeting and asked them to recall the most memorable object lesson they had seen. The responses were wonderful and sparked a deeper-than-usual interest in our upcoming meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, my wife, Rosie, and I used the responses to list nearly 30 object lessons on the chalkboard. We spent the rest of the meeting encouraging the teachers to share the object lessons that had the most impact on them.
For example, Eunice Black, a Relief Society teacher, told of a speaker who set out 10 apples 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 stand next to him. He said that he hoped the Lord would understand he still had many bills to pay and could pay only part of his tithing that month. Then he took a big bite out of the apple and handed the bishop the partially eaten fruit. This lesson left a powerful impression on Sister Black. She determined to pay tithing first, then budget the remainder of her money.
David Baugh, the deacons quorum adviser, shared a story about a raw egg 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 he took the package back, 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 about a time her grandmother took her into a darkened room, lit a candle, and showed Pam how she could light other candles from her own. Then Pam’s grandmother taught her the importance of being an example and sharing her testimony. The lesson was so powerful that Pam asked her grandmother to teach it to her again each time she visited.
I shared my own favorite object lesson. Nearly 40 years earlier a bishop’s counselor passed a clean, new piece of candy around a group of deacons. Then he offered the handled and somewhat sticky piece of candy to anyone who wanted to eat it. No one did. 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 lesson on chastity I never forgot.
Spiritual preparation, combined with inspired object lessons, can help us understand gospel principles more clearly and motivate us to make good decisions.