Lesson 3: Learning by the Spirit
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“Lesson 3: Learning by the Spirit,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 3,” Missionary Preparation


Learning by the Spirit


For missionaries to grow in the gospel and stay on the path that leads to eternal life, they need to develop a habit of gospel study. At missionary training centers, missionaries spend several hours each day studying by themselves and with their companions. In the mission field they are expected to continue their gospel study each day. They must learn “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118) in order to build a reservoir of gospel knowledge and increase their own conversion. It is essential for missionaries to have this reservoir of knowledge gained through Spirit-guided study in order to teach with power and fulfill their purpose.

Advance Preparation

Suggestions for Teaching

The Importance of Gospel Study

Show students a picture of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and ask them to open their scriptures to Doctrine and Covenants 11. Help students understand the context of this section by explaining that while Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, his older brother Hyrum became deeply interested in the work and desired to share the message of the Restoration with others. Seeking the Lord’s will, Hyrum asked Joseph to ask for a revelation in his behalf. The Lord’s response is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 11. In many respects, Hyrum was in the same position as the members of your class, who are themselves preparing to share the message of the restored gospel.

Have a couple of students take turns reading aloud Doctrine and Covenants 11:15–17 while the class follows along, looking for counsel the Lord gave to Hyrum. Then ask:

  • Why did the Lord tell Hyrum to “wait a little longer” before sharing the gospel message with others?

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 11:21–22 and 26, looking for counsel that is applicable to prospective missionaries today.

  • What did the Lord direct Hyrum to do as he prepared to share the gospel with others? What does it mean to obtain God’s word? What does it mean to treasure up the Lord’s word in your heart?

  • How could the Lord’s counsel in these verses help someone today who is preparing to serve a mission? (Though they may use different words, students should identify the following principle: Gospel study prepares missionaries to preach the gospel with the Spirit and with power.)

  • What blessings did the Lord promise to those who “seek to obtain [His] word”?

Have students turn to page 180 in Preach My Gospel, and have a student read aloud the paragraph that begins with “Your ability to teach with power.” Then ask:

  • What ideas in this paragraph reinforce the importance of daily scripture study for those who want to become effective missionaries? (Scripture study prepares missionaries to teach the gospel with power.)

Tell students that the remainder of the lesson will focus on how they can get more out of their personal scripture study. Encourage students to ponder throughout the lesson how to apply what they learn in order to improve the effectiveness of their scripture and gospel study.

Using a Study Journal

Instruct the class to turn to page x in the introduction of Preach My Gospel. Invite two students to read aloud the two paragraphs in the “Study Journal” subsection. After the students read, ask:

  • According to this section, how can using a study journal help you as you study the gospel?

  • Why would it be important to record the ideas and feelings that you receive during gospel study?

Consider asking your students if any of them have a study journal, and invite those who do to share how their journal has benefited them. Encourage students to begin using a study journal if they have not yet done so. Remind them that a study journal can be as simple as an inexpensive bound journal, a notebook, or pages in a binder. They could also use the notes and journal tools on LDS.org or a note-taking app on an electronic device. Encourage students to bring a study journal to each class to record the ideas, feelings, and insights they have during class.

Learning by the Spirit

Divide students into pairs. Invite them to work together to read the second paragraph on page 17 of Preach My Gospel and then discuss what is required to have meaningful learning experiences with the scriptures. After students have had time to discuss the paragraph, invite a few of them to share a few of the main ideas from their discussion. You might ask questions like these:

  • What does it mean to study with “real intent”? (Real intent means that we intend to obey or put into practice what we learn.)

  • How might studying with “real intent” and “hungering and thirsting after righteousness” affect a person’s gospel study? (As students respond, consider asking follow-up questions to encourage them to think more deeply about their answers. For instance, if students respond that real intent will be reflected in how someone prays, you might ask them to explain how one’s prayers would be different. If a student responds that it will show in their desires, ask them to expound on that idea.)

Ask three students to take turns reading aloud the paragraphs in the section titled “Learning by the Holy Ghost” on page 18 of Preach My Gospel. Have the rest of the class follow along and mark the blessings that come to us when the Holy Ghost helps us learn the gospel. Then ask:

  • What blessings can come to us when the Holy Ghost guides our gospel learning? (Consider writing this principle on the board as students respond: When the Holy Ghost guides our gospel learning, we receive greater light and understanding.)

To help students better understand how they might invite the Holy Ghost to teach them while studying the gospel, read or display the following quotation from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite your students to look for what they can do to gain more from their scripture study.

Christofferson, D. Todd

“For the gospel to be written in your heart, you need to know what it is and grow to understand it more fully. That means you will study it. When I say ‘study,’ I mean something more than reading. It is a good thing sometimes to read a book of scripture within a set period of time to get an overall sense of its message, but for conversion, you should care more about the amount of time you spend in the scriptures than about the amount you read in that time. I see you sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more. Studying in this way, you may not read a lot of chapters or verses in a half hour, but you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 11. For additional study ideas, see Elder Richard G. Scott, “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 45–47).

Help students analyze Elder Christofferson’s statement by asking the following questions:

  • What actions did Elder Christofferson identify that can lead to greater understanding of the scriptures?

  • How do these actions better permit the Holy Ghost to teach you?

  • How has one or more of these actions helped you deepen your understanding of the gospel?

Explain that it is helpful when studying the scriptures to understand how the Holy Ghost communicates with us. Divide the class into pairs (perhaps the same pairs from the previous activity). Write the following scripture references on the board, and ask students to copy them into their study journals or on a sheet of paper: Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3; 9:7–8; 11:12–14; and 138:1–2, 11.

Give students time to study these passages and mark words or phrases that describe how the Holy Ghost communicates with us. They might also write a few notes in their study journal about what they learn from these passages. Ask students to discuss with their partner what they marked in these verses and what they learned. After allowing sufficient time, ask the following questions:

  • What words or phrases did you find that describe how the Holy Ghost communicates with us? (Write students’ responses on the board.)

  • How has the Holy Ghost taught you in one of these ways and deepened your understanding of a gospel doctrine or principle? What specific experiences have you had?

Invite students to turn to page 22 of Preach My Gospel, and have a student read aloud the first four bulleted items under the heading “Study Ideas and Suggestions.” Consider asking the following:

  • How might these recommendations affect a missionary’s ability to effectively share the gospel with others?

  • How could you adapt these ideas and put them into practice now as prospective missionaries?

  • How could improving your scripture study skills and habits contribute to your success as missionaries? (Students will likely state a principle similar to this: As missionaries develop habits of effective gospel study, they will be taught by the Spirit, their experience will be more rewarding, and they will be better prepared to teach the gospel.)

Divide the class into groups of three or four. Ask each group to divide among themselves the six subsections under “Study Ideas and Suggestions” on pages 22–24 of Preach My Gospel, and have group members study their assigned subsections. Some group members may need to study more than one subsection. Appoint a leader in each group to direct a discussion about what group members learned and what they can do now to make their gospel study more powerful and effective. After the groups have had time to discuss, ask the class:

  • How have these study skills or habits helped you to study the scriptures more effectively?

To help students personally apply what has been discussed, give each student a copy of the “Personal Scripture Study Habits” handout. Give the class several minutes to complete the activity in the handout.

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130

After allowing sufficient time, ask students to share any thoughts or insights they gained from this exercise. Encourage them to follow through with incorporating the scripture study skills and habits they selected into their personal study. Assure them that as they do this, the Holy Ghost will enlighten their minds and increase their understanding of the gospel.

Help the class understand that in addition to how they study, when and what they study are also very important in helping them be effective missionaries. Have class members turn to page viii in the introduction of Preach My Gospel and look over the Missionary Daily Schedule found in the “Personal Study, Companion Study, District Meetings, and Zone Conferences” section. Then ask:

  • How does the Missionary Daily Schedule illustrate the importance of gospel study?

  • How could having consistent daily scripture study now prepare you for this rigorous schedule as a missionary?

Scripture Marking

If you have enough time remaining, consider showing the video “Advice for Studying the Scriptures” (2:07) to help the class think of ways in which they could improve the way they mark their scriptures.

After showing the video, ask:

  • What did you learn from Elder Bednar that would help you improve your scripture study?

  • What is the purpose of marking the scriptures? (To help you recall what you have learned later when you need it again.)

  • Why is it important that missionaries have an effective way of recalling what they have learned?

Live What You Learn

Have a student read to the class the first paragraph under the heading “Live What You Learn” in Preach My Gospel, page 19. Then have a student read aloud John 7:17. Help students identify a principle taught in Preach My Gospel and John 7:17 by asking:

  • What difference is there between knowing about the scriptures and living the teachings found in the scriptures? (Though they may use different words, students should understand this principle: When we live according to gospel teachings, the Holy Ghost will testify of the truth of those principles and will strengthen our faith, knowledge, and testimony.)

Explain that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the importance of acting on what we learn. Display the following quotation, and ask for a volunteer to read it aloud to the class:

Bednar, David A.

“As gospel learners, we should be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only’ (James 1:22). Our hearts are opened to the influence of the Holy Ghost as we properly exercise agency and act in accordance with correct principles—and we thereby invite His teaching and testifying power” (“Watching with All Perseverance,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 42).

  • What does it mean to be doers of the word and not hearers only?

  • How does acting in “accordance with correct principles” deepen our understanding in a way that study alone cannot?

  • How has acting in accordance with correct principles allowed you to gain a deeper understanding and testimony of a gospel principle you were seeking to live?

Have a student read the second paragraph on page 19 of Preach My Gospel while the class follows along, looking for additional ways that living the gospel affects missionaries’ hearts and abilities. After reading, ask the following questions:

  • What additional blessings come to missionaries when they live gospel principles that they know are true? (Help the students state this principle: As missionaries live the gospel, the Holy Ghost increases their desire and ability to share the gospel.)

  • As you have been preparing to serve a mission, how has the Holy Ghost increased your desire to serve?

Inviting Investigators to Attend Church

Missionaries help investigators progress toward baptism by inviting them to keep commitments. For example, explain to students that when investigators attend church, they can receive increased revelation through the Holy Ghost and desire to draw closer to God. Attending church can help investigators gain a testimony of the restored gospel and prepare to be baptized.

Demonstrate how to invite someone to attend church. First, briefly share the blessings that come through church attendance. Then use the missionary pamphlet The Restoration (pages 22–23) to explain what happens during sacrament meeting. Then demonstrate how to extend an invitation to an investigator to attend Church meetings. Following your demonstration, have students practice role-playing the steps you demonstrated with a partner. Allow each of them to take a turn to briefly share the blessings they receive through church attendance, to explain what happens during sacrament meeting, and to invite the other person to attend church.

Testify of the gospel doctrines and principles covered in the lesson.

Invitations to Act

Invite students to make personal gospel study a priority as they prepare to serve a mission. The following suggested activities might help students focus on learning with the Spirit:

  • Establish a habit of daily personal gospel study, including studying and pondering the Book of Mormon.

  • Pray at the beginning of your personal gospel study to invite the Spirit to help you. If you have not yet done so, begin to use a study journal during your personal gospel study.

  • Choose one of the gospel study ideas and suggestions found on pages 22–24 of Preach My Gospel, and incorporate it into your personal study this week.


Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130
Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Rel 130