Lesson 4: Teaching by the Spirit
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“Lesson 4: Teaching by the Spirit,” Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 4,” Missionary Preparation


Teaching by the Spirit


Successful missionaries understand that “when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). By themselves, missionaries cannot bring the blessings of testimony and conversion to another person, no matter how expert or experienced they are. Only the Holy Ghost can bring true conversion. When investigators feel the Spirit working within them, or when they see evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually, their faith in Jesus Christ increases, and they are more likely to be converted.

Advance Preparation

Suggestions for Teaching

Teaching by the Spirit

Explain to students that President Brigham Young once spoke of his conversion to the gospel and of the missionary who helped him to gain a testimony. Then show the video “A Man without Eloquence” (6:06). Ask students to pay attention to how the Spirit influenced President Brigham Young and helped him to become converted.

After watching the video, ask the following questions:

  • How did hearing the humble man bear his testimony help Brigham Young become truly converted?

  • From Brigham Young’s experience, what principles do you learn about teaching by the Spirit? (Students may identify these principles: Teaching by the Spirit can lead to the conversion of others; when we teach by the Spirit, we must be sincere and speak from the heart; we must be humble [see D&C 136:33].)

Give students a moment to study Doctrine and Covenants 42:14; 50:13–14 and 17–23, looking for the Lord’s instructions to those who teach His gospel. Then ask:

  • What principles of teaching the gospel are given in these revelations? (There are several correct answers that students may give. Answers might include the following principle: The Lord has commanded that the gospel is to be taught by the Spirit and by no other way.)

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 50:22, what happens when a missionary teaches by the Spirit? (Both the missionary and the investigator “understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” Clarify for students that teaching by the Spirit can only occur when the Holy Ghost is present and felt by the teacher, the learner, or both. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

Remind students that the presence of the Spirit is not always manifest through emotion and tears. If needed, read to the class the following from President Howard W. Hunter:

Hunter, Howard W.

“Let me offer a word of caution on this subject. … I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.

“I have watched a great many of my brethren over the years and we have shared some rare and unspeakable spiritual experiences together. Those experiences have all been different, each special in its own way, and such sacred moments may or may not be accompanied by tears. Very often they are, but sometimes they are accompanied by total silence. Other times they are accompanied by joy. Always they are accompanied by a great manifestation of the truth, of revelation to the heart” (“Eternal Investments” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 10, 1989], 3; si.lds.org).

To help students better understand how the Holy Ghost can influence teachers and learners, write the following scripture references on the board, or distribute them to students on a handout. (Note: provide students with the references only; the material in parentheses is for the benefit of the teacher):

Assign students to study these scripture passages in pairs. Have one student in each pair look for ways in which the Holy Ghost might influence a gospel teacher while the other student looks for ways in which the Holy Ghost might influence someone who is being taught. Then have them discuss with each other what they learned. After each pair has had sufficient time to discuss what they learned, ask questions like the following to help them further analyze what they read:

  • According to the verses you studied, what are some ways in which the Spirit influences those who teach? (As students respond, you might ask them in which scripture passages they found their answers.)

  • How does the Spirit influence others to become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

  • How do these passages demonstrate why it is important for missionaries to teach by the Spirit?

Inviting the Spirit as You Teach

Tell your class that Preach My Gospel has several sections that explain what missionaries can do to invite the guidance of the Spirit as they teach. Divide your class into small groups of no more than four students each. Assign each group to study one of the following sections of Preach My Gospel:

  1. “How to Begin Teaching,” pages 176–77 (not including the Activity box)

  2. “Adjust Your Teaching to Meet Needs,” pages 177–78 (not including the Activity and Scripture Study boxes)

  3. “Teach for Understanding,” pages 182–83 (not including the Scripture Study box)

  4. “Listen,” pages 185–86 (not including the Activity box)

Write the following instructions on the board so the groups will know what they are to do:

Read your section of Preach My Gospel.

Discuss in your groups what principles you read that allow missionaries to be more effective teachers and to have the Spirit with them as they teach.

After allowing sufficient time, ask a student from each group to summarize how the skill they read about can contribute to a missionary’s ability to teach with the Holy Ghost. Assign a student to summarize important points on the board. As groups summarize their ideas, consider asking questions like the following:

  • How might beginning a lesson in a proper manner invite the Holy Ghost to accompany the teaching of the lesson?

  • How might keeping the gospel message simple invite the Holy Ghost to teach and edify an investigator?

  • How does keeping the lesson focused on the needs of the investigator invite the Holy Ghost?

  • How would listening to what an investigator says contribute to a missionary’s ability to teach by the Spirit?

To help students see what some of the above teaching skills look like, show the video “Teach People, Not Lessons: Jynx” (6:34). Encourage students to look for evidence that the missionaries were teaching by thy Spirit. Students might specifically watch to see how the missionaries used the skills the class studied in Preach My Gospel and how using these skills invited the Spirit into the missionaries’ teaching.

After watching the video, discuss the following:

  • What did the missionaries do in their teaching that allowed them to teach by the Spirit?

  • What evidence did you see that Jynx was learning by the Spirit?

Before continuing, give students a moment to write down an answer to the following question:

  • How will you apply the principles we have discussed so far in this lesson?

Helping Investigators to Recognize the Spirit

Ask several students to take turns reading aloud the section “The Power of the Spirit in Conversion” on pages 92–93 of Preach My Gospel (not including the Activity and Scripture Study boxes). Have the rest of the class follow along and mark phrases that describe what an investigator must feel in order for conversion to take place. Then ask:

  • What do investigators need to feel in order for conversion to take place? (Make sure students identify the following principle: If investigators feel the Spirit working with them, they are more likely to become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

  • How might you tell when an investigator is feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost? (Possible answers: the missionary feels the Holy Ghost; the investigator feels safe asking questions, wants to learn more, and is willing to make and keep commitments; there is understanding, a feeling of joy, and a closeness to God; and there is deeper friendship between the missionary and the investigator.)

  • Elder M. Russell Ballard taught, “Experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word” (“Now Is the Time,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 75). What can a missionary do to encourage investigators to experiment upon the word?

Explain to students that one of their most challenging roles as missionaries will be to help investigators recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost and then to help them to act on those thoughts and feelings. By inspiration through the Holy Ghost, missionaries can know what spiritual promptings an investigator needs to receive in order to be converted, and they can facilitate an environment where those promptings can occur.

To demonstrate how this can be done, show the video “Teaching about the Holy Ghost and Prayer: John” (5:00). Invite the class to look for how the missionaries helped John learn to recognize the Spirit.

After the video, ask the following questions:

  • How did the missionaries help John to recognize the Spirit?

  • What did the missionaries do to help John know how to receive answers from the Lord?

Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 11:12, and then have them discuss the following question in pairs:

Acting on the Promptings of the Spirit

Display the following, and have a student read it aloud:

Scott, Richard G.

“Communication with our Father in Heaven is not a trivial matter. It is a sacred privilege. It is based upon eternal, unchanging principles. We receive help from our Father in Heaven in response to our faith, obedience, and the proper use of agency” (Richard G. Scott, “How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 47).

Then ask:

  • In what ways can our communication with Heavenly Father become trivial? What can we do to keep our prayers more meaningful?

  • What does it mean to you that “we receive help from our Father in Heaven in response to our faith, obedience, and proper use of agency”? (Though they may use different words, students will likely respond with something like the following: We receive help from our Father in Heaven when we focus on increasing our faith, obedience, and proper use of agency. Write this principle on the board.)

To help deepen student understanding of this principle, display the following two quotes by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and have a student read them aloud to the class:

Packer, Boyd K.

“This voice of the Spirit speaks gently, prompting you what to do or what to say, or it may caution or warn you.

“Ignore or disobey these promptings, and the Spirit will leave you. It is your choice—your agency” (“Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60).

Packer, Boyd K.

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. …

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

  • What do you learn from these teachings of President Packer?

  • Since the Holy Ghost speaks gently, what kinds of things can make it difficult to hear or recognize the Spirit in today’s world?

As students respond, consider discussing how the excessive use of electronic devices might make it difficult to recognize the Spirit. (For more on this topic, see Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” [Church Educational System devotional for young adults, May 4, 2014].)

Next, consider reading the following statement from Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Scott, Richard G.

Humility is essential to the acquiring of spiritual knowledge. To be humble is to be teachable. Humility permits you to be tutored by the Spirit and to be taught from sources inspired by the Lord, such as the scriptures. The seed of personal growth and understanding germinate and flourish in the fertile soil of humility. Their fruit is spiritual knowledge to guide you here and hereafter.

“A proud individual cannot know the things of the Spirit. Paul taught this truth, saying:

“‘The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. …

“‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:11, 14)” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 87).

  • What role does humility play in our ability to receive and recognize promptings of the Spirit?

  • Have you had experiences when you were directed by the Spirit? What did it feel like? How did you know it was the Spirit? (See Moroni 7:13.)

If time permits, divide your class in half. Explain to your students that they are going to look at two scriptural case studies to see how the Lord’s Spirit directed the work of His servants. Have half of the class read Acts 4:5–13. Tell this half of the class that in Acts 3, Peter and John healed a man. In Acts 4, they were arrested and brought before Jewish leaders for questioning about the healing. Have the other half of the class study Acts 16:6–15. Tell this half of the class that these verses are about Paul during one of his missionary journeys. Assign both halves of the class to look for how the Holy Ghost helped either Peter or Paul to preach the gospel. After sufficient time, ask students to report on how the Holy Ghost guided Peter and Paul respectively. Then ask:

  • How did Peter and Paul use their agency to follow direction from the Spirit?

  • What evidence is there that Peter and Paul were following the Spirit?

  • What specifically happened to Peter in Acts 4 and to Paul in Acts 16 because they each followed the direction of the Spirit?

  • How have you been blessed by following the direction of the Holy Ghost?

Conclude by inviting students to testify how the Lord has blessed them through His Spirit. Ask them to consider how learning more about teaching by the Spirit has affected their desire to invite others to Christ. Assure them that as they seek the Spirit in their lives, they will increase their ability to teach by the Spirit.

Invitations to Act

Invite students to prepare to teach the gospel by the Spirit by completing one or more of the following suggested activities:

  • Watch some of the episodes of The District (found on LDS.org) as you prepare to serve a mission.

  • Practice different ways to begin teaching a lesson with a few of the powerful Spirit-inviting phrases in Preach My Gospel, pages 176–77.

  • Ponder and pray about a person you would like to strengthen in the gospel. Pray about a gospel message you could share with this person. Share the message and your testimony with the person, either face-to-face or through social media.