The Role of the Teacher
May 1974

“The Role of the Teacher,” New Era, May 1974, 10

The Role of the Teacher

As I reflected upon this subject, a story that I had recently heard by an unknown author came to my mind.

Many years ago in the foggy city of London a young man supported his widowed mother and five brothers and sisters by going to the train station at night and meeting people and then guiding them to their various destinations with his lantern through the narrow, foggy streets. On one occasion the young man was approached by a stranger who asked to be taken to a particular area of the city. It was extremely foggy and the cobblestone streets were dangerously slippery. The boy agreed to the proposition, even though it meant placing his own life in jeopardy. The two of them started out, the boy, lantern in hand, leading the gentleman. After hours of walking they arrived at their destination. Once there the gentleman gave the young man the promised reward. The lad graciously accepted his earnings and walked briskly back to the station. He no sooner arrived at the station than several people came forward out of the fog, each giving the young man a like amount of money. At first the boy refused to accept the money because he felt he had not earned it. Finally one of the strangers explained: “We were all lost in this fog and had no idea where we were. Then we saw your lantern and followed your light in the distance. We only wish to repay you for guiding us to safety. Had we not followed you, we would still be lost out there in the fog.”

When helping those who are lost to find their way, the ordained teacher may not be aware of the other lives he influences for good at the same time. As he magnifies his priesthood through service, he is a light for others to follow.

Many of us have had the opportunity of visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City. On the west wall of the Temple are several items of interest. One of these is a representation of the constellation Ursa Major. Its symbolism was explained by President Harold B. Lee in an address given before a mission presidents seminar on Sunday, July 2, 1961. In introducing his talk President Lee explained that during the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, the architect, Truman O. Angell, had been asked by Brigham Young to write an article for the Millennial Star in hopes that this would help the Saints abroad sense the need for contributions to the building project. In his article Brother Angell described the symbolism of some of the exterior parts of the Temple. President Lee further described Brother Angell’s article by saying:

“There are the sunstones to represent the celestial, the moonstones, and the stars. Now you have all seen those, and there are other things there; but there is one other thing that he mentioned that has particular significance that I ask you to think about here. He said that on the west end of the Temple, underneath the tower or the battlements as they are referred to, just underneath the square of the Temple, there will be depicted the constellation which the astronomers would call Ursa Major—we call it the Dipper—where the pointers will be pointing to the North Star; that was to symbolize and suggest to the mind ‘that, through the Priesthood of God, the lost may find their way.’”

Teachers as a vital part of this priesthood force are to guide, direct, instruct, and enlighten others. As they do so, they will help the lost find their way.

Ordained teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood are assigned to perform home teaching, prepare the sacrament table, act as ushers, and to perform all of the duties of the deacon when called upon to do so. As they diligently perform these duties, they fulfill the sacred charge given them by the Lord to “watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them.” (D&C 20:53.)

All of the duties of the teacher are important. In general conference in October 1970, Bishop Victor L. Brown said, “The Aaronic Priesthood is not a make-work activity designed to keep young men busy and out of trouble. It is a segment of the government of the kingdom of God on the earth. Those holding it are empowered to perform the duties that will aid the Lord in accomplishing his work and his glory. …” (CR, Oct. 1970, p. 125.)

In the performance of home teaching the teacher has a special opportunity to bless the lives of others and lead them to eternal life. An acquaintance of mine told me of an experience that will help to illustrate this point. “Recently,” he said, “a man and his teacher-age son were assigned to our family as home teachers. We knew of the father’s dedication to the gospel but did not know what to expect from his son, although the young man’s appearance and conduct seemed to reflect the same dedication. During their first visit with us, I kept my eye on this young man. Though reasonably quiet, everything that he did or said brought dignity to the priesthood he bore. Soon they learned that our young son had passed away a year ago and that we were expecting another child. From that moment on they were a special part of our lives as they prayed for and encouraged us. At the conclusion of that first visit I asked the young man to offer a prayer. In his prayer he asked the Lord to sustain us in the loss of our son and to bless the child that soon would be born. He specifically prayed that my wife would have no difficulty in delivering the baby. My wife and I were overcome by the sincerity and sensitivity of this young teacher. During the days and weeks that followed these brethren inquired about us regularly (more often than once a month). Following the birth of the baby, the young man, with his father, brought a gift. As we all knelt in prayer the teacher expressed his gratitude to the Lord for the safe delivery of the child.” Here is a young man who understands the importance of the assignment given him by the Lord. Other examples could be given. Home teaching is just one way in which we can use the priesthood to bless the lives of others.

A teacher has a special role in the Church. His office is a necessary appendage to the Aaronic Priesthood. (D&C 84:30.) Because the office is necessary, so also is the one who fills it. The teacher must understand that just as he needs the Church, so does the Church need him.

A teacher should understand his role in the Church. Some of our number display a casual attitude toward the performance of priesthood duties. One of the reasons for this is their lack of understanding of the assignment that has been given them. We can best understand our role as we become involved in the performance of our specific duties.

I sincerely pray that the blessings of the Lord will be with each teacher that he may understand his role and fulfill it in a way that will bring honor and glory to himself and to his Father in heaven.

Illustrated by Ted Henninger