Teachings of Presidents

“Introduction,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2011), iv–ix

“Introduction,” Teachings: Wilford Woodruff, iv–ix


The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series to help you deepen your understanding of the restored gospel and draw closer to the Lord through the teachings of latter-day prophets. As the Church adds volumes to this series, you will build a collection of gospel reference books for your home.

This book features the teachings of President Wilford Woodruff, who served as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from April 1889 to September 1898.

Personal Study

As you study the teachings of President Wilford Woodruff, seek the inspiration of the Spirit. Remember Nephi’s inspired promise: “He that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19).

At the end of each chapter, you will find “Suggestions for Study and Teaching.” These questions, ideas, and scripture references will help you understand and apply President Woodruff’s words. Consider reviewing them before you read the chapter. Also ponder the following questions while you study:

  • What principle is President Woodruff teaching? What can I learn from this?

  • How might President Woodruff’s teachings help me in my personal life? How might these teachings help me in my responsibilities at home and in the Church?

  • What should I do as a result of the things I have learned?

Teaching from This Book

If you serve as an instructor in Relief Society, elders quorum, or high priests group, you will have the opportunity to teach from this book. The following guidelines will help you.

Focus on President Woodruff’s Words and the Scriptures

The Lord has commanded that we teach “none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught [us] by the Comforter through the prayer of faith” (D&C 52:9).

You may at times be tempted to set this book aside and prepare lessons from other materials. But your assignment is to help others learn the gospel through President Woodruff’s words and the scriptures. Center each lesson on the quotations in this book and the related scriptures at the end of each chapter. Dedicate a significant portion of the lesson to reading and discussing President Woodruff’s words.

Encourage participants to study the chapters before Sunday meetings and to bring the book to church. When they read in advance, they will be better prepared to participate and to edify one another.

Seek the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

As you pray for help and prepare diligently, the Holy Ghost will guide your efforts (see Alma 17:2–3; D&C 11:21; 42:14; 88:77–78). Through a still, small voice to your mind and heart, He will help you select the quotations from the book that will encourage others to learn and live the gospel.

When you teach, pray that the power of the Spirit will accompany your words and the class discussions. Nephi said, “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; see also D&C 50:13–22).

Prepare a Lesson Outline

As the Spirit prompts you with ideas for teaching, write those ideas down so you will be able to remember them. Before you teach, prepare a written outline to organize the ideas into a lesson plan. Consider using this simple four-step approach:

  1. Study the chapter. Read the chapter to become familiar with President Woodruff’s teachings. Follow the counsel under “Personal Study,” on page v.

  2. Prayerfully select the statements that will be most helpful for those you teach. Study the chapter at least once more. Review the bold subheadings, which highlight the principles you should teach. Ask the Lord to guide you in selecting the statements that will best help members learn and apply those principles. Because each chapter contains more information than you can cover in one class period, you should not feel obligated to teach all the principles or use all the statements.

  3. Decide how to teach the statements. Once you have selected statements, you are ready to plan ways to teach them. Prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance as you do so. Look for ideas in “Suggestions for Study and Teaching” at the end of the chapter. Remember that your teaching should help members understand, discuss, and apply President Woodruff’s words.

  4. Write an outline to organize your ideas. A brief written outline will help you organize your ideas and conduct the lesson. Your outline should include three main parts:

    • Introduction. Prepare a brief introduction to help members focus their attention on President Woodruff’s words.

    • Discussion of President Woodruff’s teachings. Write your plans for teaching the statements you have selected. You may want to divide this part of your outline according to the principles in the chapter’s bold subheadings.

    • Conclusion. Prepare to briefly summarize the principles you have discussed and bear testimony of those principles. You may also plan ways to invite others to share their testimonies.

Conduct Edifying Discussions

The Lord revealed principles of effective teaching when He said, “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege” (D&C 88:122). The following guidelines may help you encourage and conduct edifying discussions:

  • Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. He may prompt you to ask certain questions or to include certain people in the discussion.

  • Help participants focus on President Woodruff’s teachings. Have them read his words to generate discussion and to answer questions. Politely redirect discussions that begin to stray from the topic.

  • Testify frequently of the truths that are discussed. Invite participants to share their testimonies as well.

  • As appropriate, share experiences that relate to the principles in the chapter. Encourage others to share experiences as the Holy Ghost prompts them to do so.

  • Do not talk too much. Encourage others to share their thoughts, ask questions, and teach one another.

  • Do not be afraid of silence after you ask a question. Participants often need time to think or to look in their books before they share ideas, testimonies, and experiences.

  • Acknowledge all contributions to the discussion. Listen sincerely, and seek to understand participants’ comments. Express gratitude for their efforts.

  • When participants share several ideas, consider asking someone to list the ideas on the chalkboard.

  • Do not cut a good discussion short in an attempt to cover all the material you have prepared. What matters most is that participants feel the influence of the Spirit and grow in their commitment to live the gospel.

Good questions can lead to thoughtful learning, discussion, and application. At the end of each chapter in this book, you will find helpful questions in “Suggestions for Study and Teaching.” Refer to these questions often. As needed, you may also develop your own questions. Prepare questions that will lead members to search, analyze, and apply President Woodruff’s teachings, as shown below.

  • Search questions will encourage participants to read and discuss President Woodruff’s statements. For example, you might ask, “What can we learn from President Woodruff’s counsel about sharing the gospel?”

  • Analysis questions will lead participants to ponder President Woodruff’s teachings and to deepen their understanding of gospel principles. For example, after participants have answered the search question above, you could ask, “Why is missionary work such a joyful experience?”

  • Application questions will help participants see how they can live according to President Woodruff’s teachings. For example, you might ask, “What are some specific things we can do to share the gospel?”

Information about the Sources Quoted in This Book

The teachings of President Woodruff in this book are direct quotations from his sermons, published writings, and journals. In quotations from his journals, the punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and paragraphing have been modernized. Other quotations have retained the punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and paragraphing of the original sources unless editorial or typographic changes have been necessary to improve readability. For this reason, you may notice minor inconsistencies in the text. For example, the word gospel is lowercased in some quotations and capitalized in others.

Also, President Woodruff often used terms such as men, man, or mankind to refer to all people, both male and female. He frequently used the pronoun he to refer to both genders. This was common in the language of his era. Despite the differences between these language conventions and more current usage, President Woodruff’s teachings apply to both women and men.