Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Helps for the Teacher

“Helps for the Teacher,” Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), v–x

“Helps for the Teacher,” Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, v–x

Helps for the Teacher

In a meeting with the Twelve Apostles, the Prophet Joseph Smith “told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461; see also the introduction to the Book of Mormon).

As a Gospel Doctrine teacher, you have the opportunity this year to teach from “the most correct of any book on earth.” Guided by the Spirit, you will be able to help class members understand eternal precepts and strengthen their testimonies of Jesus Christ, His gospel, and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mission. You will also be able to help them receive other blessings that come from diligent study of the Book of Mormon, some of which were described by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 94–95; or Ensign, May 1975, 64).

“There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

As you teach, the Spirit of the Lord will bear witness to you of the power of the Book of Mormon in bringing people to a firm and steadfast knowledge of Jesus Christ and His doctrine.

Teaching by the Spirit

When preparing for Gospel Doctrine class, it is important that you seek inspiration and guidance from the Holy Ghost. “The Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith,” said the Lord, “and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14). Remember that the Holy Ghost is to be the teacher in your class.

You can seek the Spirit by praying, fasting, studying the scriptures daily, and obeying the commandments. While preparing for class, pray for the Spirit to help you understand the scriptures and the needs of class members. The Spirit can also help you plan meaningful ways to discuss the scriptures and apply them to the present (see 1 Nephi 19:23). With the guidance of the Spirit, you will become an effective instrument in the hands of the Lord to teach His word to His children.

Some suggestions for how to invite the Spirit into your class are given below:

  1. Invite class members to offer prayers before and after the lesson. During class, pray in your heart for the Spirit to guide you, to open the hearts of class members, and to testify and inspire.

  2. Use the scriptures (see “Focusing on the Scriptures” below).

  3. Bear testimony whenever the Spirit prompts you, not just at the end of the lesson. Testify of Jesus Christ. Frequently invite class members to bear their testimonies.

  4. Use hymns, Primary songs, and other sacred music to prepare class members’ hearts to feel the Spirit.

  5. Express love for class members, for others, and for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

  6. As appropriate, share insights, feelings, and experiences that relate to the lesson. Invite class members to do the same. Class members could also tell about how they have applied principles discussed in previous lessons.

Focusing on the Scriptures

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17). In your preparation and during class, focus on the saving doctrines of the gospel as presented in the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. This requires that you study the scriptures diligently and prayerfully. The Lord commanded, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).

Encourage class members to bring their scriptures to class every week. Read selected scripture passages together as you discuss them. Where possible, use Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures.

Each class member should be given a copy of the Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide (35684). This booklet will help class members improve their study skills. It will help them understand the scriptures, apply them, prepare to discuss them in class, and use them in family discussions. Encourage class members to read the appropriate scripture block and study guide section before coming to class each week.

Sharing the Book of Mormon

President Ezra Taft Benson challenged members of the Church to share the Book of Mormon. He said:

“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon. … God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.

“We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need.

“The time is now!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 4–5).

As you teach the Book of Mormon in Sunday School this year, encourage class members to share the Book of Mormon with their nonmember friends and acquaintances (see the second additional teaching idea in lesson 1). At the beginning of the year, you may want to consult with the bishopric and ward mission leader about how class members can obtain copies of the Book of Mormon to share with others.

Using This Manual

This manual is a tool to help you teach the doctrines of the gospel from the scriptures. It has been written for youth and adult Gospel Doctrine classes and is to be used every four years. Additional references and commentaries should not be necessary to teach the lessons. Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 93; or Ensign, May 1983, 68).

Review each lesson at least a week in advance. When you study the reading assignment and the lesson material early, you will receive thoughts and impressions during the week that will help you teach the lesson. As you ponder the lesson during the week, pray for the Spirit to guide you. Have faith that the Lord will bless you.

Each lesson in this manual contains more information than you will probably be able to teach in one class period. Seek the Spirit of the Lord in selecting the scripture accounts, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet the needs of class members.

Each lesson includes the following sections:

  1. Title. The title consists of two elements: a short descriptive quotation or phrase and the scriptures you should read as you prepare the lesson.

  2. Purpose. The purpose statement suggests a main idea you can focus on as you prepare and teach the lesson.

  3. Preparation. This section summarizes the scripture accounts in the lesson outline. It may also include additional reading and other suggestions for preparation, such as materials you may want to bring to class. Many of these materials are available in the meetinghouse library. (A five-digit number following the name of a suggested picture is the meetinghouse library number; if the picture is included in the Gospel Art Picture Kit [34730], that number is also given.)

  4. Attention activity. This section consists of a simple activity, object lesson, quotation, or question to help class members prepare to learn, participate, and feel the influence of the Spirit. Whether you use the manual’s attention activity or one of your own, it is important to focus class members’ attention at the beginning of the lesson. The activity should be brief.

  5. Scripture discussion and application. This is the main part of the lesson. Prayerfully study the scripture accounts so you can teach and discuss them effectively. Use the suggestions in “Encouraging Class Discussion” (pages viii–ix) and “Using Variety in Teaching the Scriptures” (pages ix–x) to vary the way you teach and to maintain class members’ interest. Select questions and methods that are appropriate for class members’ ages and experience.

  6. Conclusion. This section helps you summarize the lesson and encourage class members to live the principles you have discussed. It also reminds you to bear testimony. Be sure to leave enough time to conclude each lesson.

  7. Additional teaching ideas. This section is provided in most lessons in the manual. It may include additional truths from the scripture accounts, alternate teaching approaches, activities, or other suggestions that supplement the lesson outline. You may want to use some of these ideas as part of the lessons.

Encouraging Class Discussion

You normally should not give lectures. Instead, help class members participate meaningfully in discussing the scriptures. Class members’ participation helps them:

  1. Learn more about the scriptures.

  2. Learn how to apply gospel principles.

  3. Become more committed to living the gospel.

  4. Invite the Spirit into the class.

  5. Teach and edify each other so they benefit from each other’s gifts, knowledge, experience, and testimonies.

Discussions should help class members draw nearer to the Savior and live as His disciples. Redirect discussions that do not accomplish these purposes.

Asking thought-provoking questions can be one of the most effective teaching techniques. It is a technique the Savior used when He taught. Seek the Spirit’s guidance as you study the questions in this manual and decide which ones to ask. The manual provides scripture references to help you and class members find answers to most of these questions. Answers to other questions will come from class members’ experiences.

It is more important to help class members understand and apply the scriptures than to cover all the lesson material you have prepared. If class members are learning from a good discussion, it is often helpful to let it continue rather than try to cover all the lesson material.

Use the following guidelines to encourage class discussion:

  1. Ask questions that require thought and discussion rather than questions that can be answered with yes or no. Questions that begin with why, how, who, what, when, and where are usually most effective for encouraging discussion.

  2. Encourage class members to share experiences that show how scriptural principles and doctrines can be applied to life. Also encourage them to share their feelings about what they are learning from the scriptures. Show appreciation for their contributions.

  3. Be sensitive to the needs of each class member. Although all class members should be encouraged to participate in class discussions, some may hesitate to respond. You may wish to speak privately with them to find out how they feel about reading aloud or participating in class. Be careful not to call on class members if it might embarrass them.

  4. Give scripture references to help class members find the answers to some questions.

  5. Encourage class members to ponder the questions in the Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide as they study each week’s reading assignment. As you prepare each lesson, consider how to discuss these questions in class. Class members will be better able to participate in discussions if they have studied the reading assignment and if you ask questions that they are prepared to answer.

Using Variety in Teaching the Scriptures

Use the following suggestions to teach scripture accounts more effectively and with greater variety:

  1. Help class members understand what the scriptures teach about Jesus Christ. Ask them to consider how certain passages increase their faith in the Savior and help them feel His love.

  2. Ask class members to think of and share specific ways that a scripture passage can apply in their lives. Have them personalize the scriptures by mentally substituting their names in selected passages.

  3. In addition to teaching the doctrine, emphasize inspiring stories in the Book of Mormon. Ensure that class members understand the stories and discuss ways to apply them. Ask, “Why do you think this account was included in the Book of Mormon?” or “What can we learn from this story to help us be better followers of Christ?”

  4. Have class members look for words, phrases, or ideas that are repeated often in a scripture passage or that have special meaning for them.

  5. Encourage class members to use the study aids included at the end of the Latter-day Saint editions of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, such as the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary for the Bible and the index for the Book of Mormon.

  6. Write on the chalkboard phrases, key words, or questions that relate to the scripture account. Then read or summarize the account. As class members hear the phrases, key words, or answers to the questions, stop and discuss them.

  7. Throughout the Book of Mormon, the phrase “thus we see” is used to introduce a summary of the principles taught (see, for example, Helaman 3:28). After reading a scripture passage, ask class members to explain the passage using the phrase “thus we see.”

  8. Look for and discuss symbols that are used in the Book of Mormon. For example, a strait and narrow path is often used to symbolize the gospel (see 2 Nephi 31:17–20; 33:9; Jacob 6:11; 3 Nephi 14:13–14; 27:33).

  9. Note how people or events in the scriptures can be contrasted or compared with each other. For example, you could contrast Laman and Lemuel with their brothers Nephi and Sam, or compare the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the New Testament with the account in 3 Nephi 12–14.

  10. Have class members dramatize scriptural stories by reading aloud the words of the different people in the stories. Ensure that dramatizations show proper respect for the scriptures.

  11. Divide the class into two or more small groups. After reviewing a scripture account, have each group write down the principles and doctrines taught in the account. Then have the groups take turns discussing how these teachings apply in their lives.

  12. Invite class members to bring pencils to mark significant verses as they discuss them.

  13. Show segments from Book of Mormon Video Presentations (53911) as suggested in the “Preparation” section of various lessons.

Helping New Members

You may have the opportunity to teach members who are relatively new in the Church. Your teaching can help these members become firm in the faith.

The First Presidency has said: “Every member of the Church needs to be loved and nourished, especially during the first few months after baptism. When new members receive sincere friendship, opportunities to serve, and the spiritual nourishment that comes from studying the word of God, they experience enduring conversion and become ‘fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19)” (First Presidency letter, 15 May 1997).

Teaching the Gospel to Youth

If you are teaching youth, remember that they often need active participation and visual representations of the doctrines being discussed. Your use of video presentations, pictures, and activities suggested in the manual can help youth stay interested in the lessons. For other ideas to help you teach the gospel to youth, refer to Teaching, No Greater Call (36123) and the Teaching Guidebook (34595).