Becoming Inspiring Teachers

W. Jeffrey Marsh

W. Jeffrey Marsh, "Becoming Inspiring Teachers," Religious Educator, 6 no. 3 (2005): 59–72.

W. Jeffrey Marsh was an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was written.

What is it that motivates individuals to change for the better or inspires them to strive to become more Christlike? What is it that first plants the desire in people’s hearts to want to know the truth for themselves? The Prophet Joseph Smith answers, “Human testimony and human testimony only . . . excite[s] this inquiry, in the first instance, in their minds.”[1] Thus, the greatest purpose of teaching (or of sharing “human testimony”) is that of catalyst—that of change agent—to inspire, motivate, and guide others to a higher and better way of living.

The Apostle Paul teaches that “faith cometh by hearing . . . the word of God” (Romans 10:17). That being true, then the importance of great teachers, bearing witness of the word of God, cannot be overemphasized. Teaching is the greatest tool for imparting truth. As one educator observes, “For learning to occur, there has to be some kind of change in the learner. No change, no learning. And significant learning requires that there be some kind of lasting change that is important in terms of the learner’s life.”[2]

The pivotal role a teacher plays in imparting the word and bearing heartfelt testimony is a vital part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie notes:

I shall turn to that wondrous verse in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians in which Paul speaks of the kind of teachers who are involved in proclaiming the message of salvation to the world. He is identifying the true church. He is giving some of the essential identifying characteristics of the kingdom that has the power to save men. He says: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). . . .

I think this order of priority is perfect: Apostles, prophets, teachers. And that places you, because you are the kind of teachers that Paul is talking about, that makes you the third great group whose very existence establishes the truth and divinity of the work. This means that if you learn how to present the message of salvation, and in fact do it in the way that the Lord intends that it be presented, then you stand to all the world as an evidence that this is God’s kingdom.[3]

The scriptures provide several excellent examples of inspiring teachers. Alma the Elder converted at least 204 souls unto Christ at one time. “They were baptized in the waters of Mormon, and were filled with the grace of God” (Mosiah 18:16). The spiritual witness these converts received at the waters of Mormon made that place “beautiful . . . to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; . . . and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever” (Mosiah 18:30). Imagine what it would be like to have our students look back on personal conversion moments in our classrooms and have similar feelings.

Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah were also among the greatest teachers in the Book of Mormon. They “waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2–3; emphasis added). As a result, the Lord honored their preparation and promised them, “I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls” (Alma 17:11), and they were! (see Alma 19:31; 22:23). The result of their teaching was permanent conversion: “And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. For they became a righteous people” (Alma 23:6–7; emphasis added).

Helaman and his two sons, Lehi and Nephi, brought into “the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands” (Helaman 3:26). Enoch, over the process of time, brought his people into such a state of righteousness that they were translated and taken into heaven (see Moses 7:18–19, 21).

When we speak of inspiring teachers in our own day, names like Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, and Joseph Smith come to mind. Parley P. Pratt, himself an effective teacher, recounted an incident when he watched the Prophet Joseph Smith teach with power and with the Spirit:

While visiting with brother Joseph in Philadelphia, a very large church was opened for him to preach in, and about three thousand people assembled to hear him. Brother [Sidney] Rigdon spoke first, and dwelt on the Gospel, illustrating his doctrine by the Bible. When he was through, brother Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God. He commenced by saying: “If nobody else had the courage to testify of so glorious a message from Heaven, and of the finding of so glorious a record, he felt to do it in justice to the people, and leave the event with God.”

The entire congregation was astounded; electrified, as it were, and overwhelmed with the sense of the truth and power by which he spoke, and the wonders which he related. A lasting impression was made; many souls were gathered into the fold. And I bear witness, that he, by his faithful and powerful testimony, cleared his garments of their blood.[4]

The promise is made in the scriptures that there will yet be other teachers with this same converting power: “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; . . . yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance” (Alma 26:22; emphasis added). These “thousands of souls” do not need to be converted all at once. They can be touched one by one, a few every semester, over the course of a teacher’s career. “We are strongly encouraged by various scriptures,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell reminds us, “to touch those within our present circle of influence rather than obsessively wishing for a larger circle.”[5] The worth of all souls is great in the sight of God, and He has made choice promises to those who bring even one soul unto Him (see D&C 18:10, 15). As we teach our own students today, we can learn how to touch hearts and convert souls, just as great teachers living in earlier times have done.

Abiding by the Precepts

Inspiring teachers encourage students to live the principles the students study. The personal application of gospel principles found in the scriptures makes a great deal of difference. For example, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that those who determine to “abide” (or personally apply and live by) the precepts (principles) they read in the Book of Mormon, will come to know God (see Introduction to the Book of Mormon, paragraph 6).

The door leading to eternal life hangs on that knowledge (see John 17:3). The Savior has promised that those who “receive [the Book of Mormon] in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life” (D&C 20:14; emphasis added).

Alma recognized the power that teaching the truth can have on the hearts of people when he gave up his political career as chief judge so he could spend all his time preaching the word (see Alma 4:18–20; 31:5). Spiritual strength comes into the lives of those who keep the commandments and apply the principles of the gospel. Thus, one of the great challenges of teaching the gospel is to plant a desire in the hearts of students to do more than listen and learn—they need to be motivated to abide by and apply the principles. While teaching the New Testament one year, CES instructor Rich Reading hung a large, brightly colored banner across the front of his classroom that read “What Would the Savior Do?” At the end of each class, he would ask questions such as “What would the Savior do today as a result of what we have talked about?” and “How will you be different today because of what we have discussed?” Gospel teachers reflect the power of their profession by focusing hearts and minds on the converting principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As President Ezra Taft Benson reminds us, “We should constantly ask ourselves, Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”[6] This attitude is especially important for those teaching the scriptures. We must find ways of helping our students own the blessings of the gospel for themselves.

Perhaps this is, in part, what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he reminded us that we have no right to claim the promises made to previous generations—we must lay hold on eternal lives for ourselves in our own day and time. “Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to his glory nothing doubting, he will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. . . . Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you.[7]

Note the variety of ways the Lord encourages us to “search” His words to discover “what portion of them belongs to” us:

  • Thou shalt meditate therein (see Joshua 1:8; emphasis added).
  • Feast upon the words of Christ, or behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do (see 2 Nephi 32:3; emphasis added).
  • Search them diligently (see Mosiah 1:7; emphasis added).
  • Lay hold upon the word of God (see Helaman 3:29; emphasis added).
  • Ponder upon the things which I have said (see 3 Nephi 17:3; emphasis added).
  • Study my word (see D&C 11:22; emphasis added).
  • Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life (see D&C 84:85; emphasis added).

As teachers, we can help our students learn to love the scriptures and, most importantly, learn how to apply the principles of the gospel in their own lives that they might be blessed.

For example, a teacher could say, “I am going to teach Malachi 3–4.” But why? For what purpose? To what end? What does this teacher want to have happen as a result of students studying these chapters? Various answers could be given. Notice how each decision about how to teach this lesson (listed below) is a determining factor in the experience students will have. A teacher could say:

  1. I don’t have control over what students do in their lives. I’m just responsible to teach the scriptures.
  2. I am going to teach the principles found in Malachi 3–4 and testify of their truthfulness. I will teach my students correct principles and allow them the agency to govern themselves, as Joseph Smith prescribed.[8]
  3. I am going to teach my students the scriptures, testify of the truthfulness of the principles in Malachi 3–4, and do my best motivate my students to pay their tithing honestly (see Malachi 3:8–12), to avoid losing hope (see Malachi 3:13–18), and to submit a family name to the temple to help fulfill Elijah’s mission (see Malachi 4:5–6).

Obviously, decisions made prior to teaching a lesson may determine its spiritual impact. Even teaching the scriptures can be done without power—if the goal is not predetermined. We can teach for understanding and comprehension, or we can teach for understanding, application, and conversion.

The same is true of teaching all other scriptures and gospel principles. The more we encourage students to allow the word to work itself into the fiber of their souls (or become a part of their character), the greater the rewards. When the Savior taught the Nephites and Lamanites at the temple in the land Bountiful, He said: “Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (3 Nephi 12:20; emphasis added). The implication is that those who keep the commandments they learn about will enter into heaven.

Four Key Questions to Answer

Inspiring teachers have four key decisions to make before teaching. These four decisions determine the spiritual strength of the lesson. If the essence of effective teaching is to bring about change in the hearts and minds of others and if the purpose of teaching gospel principles is to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then teachers should ask themselves these four questions as they prepare to teach: Why am I going to teach? What am I going to teach? How am I going to teach? And how will I testify of the things I have taught and teach my students to testify of the truths they have learned?

Why am I going to teach?

This is the first important question every teacher should answer. Inspiring teachers make a determination to touch the hearts of those they are charged to teach—and they make that decision before they enter a classroom. Years ago I was walking between the Church Administration Building and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Unexpectedly, one of the doors in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building popped open, and out strode Elder Marion D. Hanks. We were alone on the sidewalk, walking stride for stride. He smiled, and I introduced myself. He asked what I did, and I replied, “I teach seminary.” His voice boomed with enthusiasm, and he asked, “Why?”

That is a great question for every teacher to consider. Why? Why are we teaching? What do we want to accomplish in the classroom when we teach? Students come to us with predisposed expectations and approaches to learning. By answering the “why” question for our students, we can help them better see where we are headed and where we want them to go. Defining our expectations and learning outcomes (or what it is we want to occur as a result of our teaching) brings greater parity to our lesson, meaning that our ultimate goals are aligned with our lesson methodology, thus strengthening our presentation.

Whether conscious of it or not, inspiring teachers seem to answer the question, “Why am I going to teach this group of people?” Sometimes they even announce the “why” as they begin their teaching session.

King Benjamin, for example, called his people to gather at the temple in the land of Nephi and then announced why he wanted to talk with them: “My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view” (Mosiah 2:9).

Knowing why you want to teach makes a huge difference in the what and how you will teach. During 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith had been forced into hiding because of unlawful mobs who were attempting to kidnap him. He could not appear in public to teach the Saints, so he wrote letters containing his counsel and inspired instructions. In the opening paragraph of one of these letters (now canonized as scripture), the Prophet testified that he was moved to teach them about the principle of baptism for the dead. Why did he choose to teach this gospel principle at that time? He said he chose to do so because he was impressed by the Spirit to do so. “That subject [baptism for the dead],” he wrote, “seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest, since I have been pursued by my enemies” (D&C 128:1). Sometimes we teach a certain topic simply because the Spirit prompts us to do so.

The greatest “why” of teaching was given by the Savior. On the day the Church was organized, He declared that we are to “invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59). On the last page of the Book of Mormon, Moroni sealed his testimony with the following plea, which beautifully sums up the main reason why we teach:

Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; . . .

And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32–33)

At the end of the semester, our students should not only have a deeper understanding of the scriptures and gospel principles we taught but also have a greater love for the Savior than when they began the semester. As the prophet Abinadi notes, if we teach the scriptures but do not strengthen testimonies about Jesus Christ, then we really do not understand them (see Mosiah 12:25–27), for all prophets have written the scriptures to bear witness of Christ (see Jacob 6:8; 7:11). Elder Dallin H. Oaks has noted a tendency to diminish the divinity and mission of our Savior in our teaching. He says: “I suggest that many Latter-day Saints are not yet aware of our unique position and our special responsibilities to testify of Christ. I suggest that we are not yet doing all we should.”[9]

What am I going to teach?

The “what” to teach is the heart of the lesson. Inspiring teachers decide what matters most, what would be most helpful for their students to learn. They select the ideas, principles, doctrines, scripture insights, and historical events or context that are most meaningful for their students. Many things could be taught, but we must focus on the things that matter most. “Students will always learn something, but good teaches want their students to learn something important or significant, rather than something relatively insignificant.”[10] Elder Henry B. Eyring counsels: “As you prepare a lesson, look in it for converting principles. Most of your students want to do the right things, but they need the conversion that comes from doing the right thing in faith. A converting principle is one that leads to obedience to the will of God, always in faith and sometimes to the point of sacrifice.”[11]

Most teachers devote an extraordinary amount of time to study what they are to teach—and an infinite variety of levels of knowledge are possible on any given topic. As we prepare, we might ask ourselves, “Am I teaching the most important information related to this principle? Can I help my students draw nearer to the Savior by what I present? Will they be more appreciative of His atoning sacrifice and the great and eternal plan of happiness as a result of what we study?” As President Harold B. Lee reminds us, we are not just to teach the doctrines so plainly that our students understand them “but [we] must teach the doctrines of the Church so plainly that no one can misunderstand.”[12]

So how do we choose which principles to teach or how much emphasis to give each principle? The prophet Jacob said he had been consecrated as a teacher. He then tells us how he learned what to teach: “Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (Jacob 1:17; emphasis added).

Jacob prayed for the Spirit to know what to teach so he could reach his people. “Wherefore, I must tell you the truth,” Jacob said, “for behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people” (Jacob 2:11).

Today’s teachers have been given a similar promise: “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85). Prayers on behalf of our students and pleadings for guidance about what we are to teach them will be answered. As a paraphrase, James says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous teacher availeth much” (see James 5:16). Elder Russell M. Nelson shares an experience when he learned the importance of prayer and study to know what he was to teach:

Some of you many wonder—and I’m often asked even by my family—how the Brethren choose that subjects on which they will speak at general conference. The answer is “We get on our knees and we pray and we work and we try this thought and that thought and work and slave—tear papers up—start over again until we have that sweet witness of the Spirit that we are receiving the inspiration that the Lord would give.”

Let me recite just a little illustration to assist you in understanding this important issue. I think it was about two months ago Sister Nelson and I were invited at the last minute to go to a solemn assembly. One of the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve had received this assignment many months before. At the last moment, he was given an assignment that took him elsewhere, and so Thursday in the temple, the Brethren said, “Brother Nelson, we’d like you to take the assignment that Brother so and so was supposed to have. . . . I was eager to have that privilege. I went over to the brother whose place I was taking and I said, “Can you tell me what it’s like to speak at a solemn assembly? What had you planned to say?” He said, “I’ll give you my outline if you would like.” His outline was to tell the story about Brother Brown and tell the story about Sister Jones, and tell the story about this experience and that experience. He said, “If that’s of any value to you, you can have it.” I said, “Thank you very much.” I realized that I couldn’t get much help from [his outline].

Friday evening before the solemn assembly, to be attended by all the priesthood leaders of fourteen stakes the following morning, I was on an airplane with Sister Nelson and with President Hinckley. I leaned over to him seated right in front of me, and I said, “President, I’d be pleased to receive whatever instruction you would like to give me—I’d be most grateful for it. Please!” He said, “Talk as long as you want on any subject you want.” I knew it was a two-hour meeting, and I tested him a little, and I said, “Would you like to me to talk two hours?” He said, “Yes, if you are up to it.” Then, he looked at me in all soberness and seriousness and he said, “You are the servant of the Lord. You give the message the Lord wants you to give.” That was my direction. That’s the direction the Brethren get from the First Presidency.

We got to St. George to the motel about ten o’clock at night. I kissed my sweetheart goodnight, tucked her in, and then prayed. I don’t think I went to bed that night. I sat up in that room pouring over the scriptures, studying, searching and writing. It came, and the following morning President Hinckley called on me to be the first speaker. I gave the message that came between midnight and 5:00 a.m. We are the Lord’s servants.[13]

How am I going to teach this lesson?

The how of a lesson is the pedagogy, methodology, approaches, and learning activities used to engage students in learning. Because students have a wide variety of spiritual needs, learning activities need to be suited to their particular and immediate interests. This is one reason we should never teach from old notes. Inspiring teachers look for things that are relevant to the group they are addressing. Each lesson, no matter how many times it has been taught before, can be approached with fresh enthusiasm.

To be most effective, we should ensure that the how of a lesson involves some element of discovery on the students’ part. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says:

Now as you develop these [scripture study] skills, . . . please encourage your students to develop them as well. Invite them to read more slowly and more carefully and with more questions in mind. Help them to ponder, to examine every word, every scriptural gem. Teach them to hold it up to the light and turn it, look and see what’s reflected and refracted there. For some student, on a given day with a given need, such an examination may unearth a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price, a pearl beyond price. Walt Whitman once described reading as a gymnastic struggle, one in which, if we do it right, our mental and spiritual muscles are stretched and strengthened forever. Now, we need to be able to coach our students in those kinds of scriptural calisthenics.[14]

Elder Boyd K. Packer further describes why our students need to be given the opportunity to become engaged learners: “Spiritual self-reliance is the sustaining power in the Church. If we rob you of that, how can you get the revelation that there is a prophet of God? How can you get answers to prayer? How can you know? If we move so quickly to answer all your questions and provide so many ways to solve all of your problems, we may end up weakening you, not strengthening you.”[15]

President David O. McKay also encourages this kind of teaching: “There are three things which must guide all teachers: first, get into the subject; second, get that subject into you; third, try to lead your pupils to get that subject into them—not pouring it into them, but leading them to see what you see, to know what you know, to feel what you feel.”[16]

But how can we help students “capture” and “own” ideas? Dr. Walter Gong suggests that the word capture implies grasping or taking hold of something. It suggests an active mind rather than a passive one—a conscious organizing of what we read or hear so we can make sense out of it and then create a framework or structure for remembering and using it.[17] According to Dr. Gong, students demonstrate they have “captured” something best when they can share it with others.

To help students become engaged in more significant learning, try “pair-sharing.” Encourage deep engagement by taking a few minutes in class to allow each student to share something with another student. For example:

  • What is the greatest insight you gleaned from your reading during the past week or since the last time class met?
  • What is the most important thing you learned in class today?
  • What is one question you would like to have answered from today’s presentation?
  • What is the most significant insight you came to understand as a result of being in class thus far this semester?

To begin a pair-share, have students pair up and introduce themselves to each other, and then have one student share the answer to the question you have posed while the other listens. After one minute, have students switch roles, and instruct the other student to be the listener. Invite several students to share with the entire class what they were taught.

Pair-sharing is a quick, summative way for students to interact with each other and process what they are learning. The technique takes only a few minutes but yields high “capture” dividends.

In A Current Teaching Emphasis for the Church Educational System, Elder Paul V. Johnson indicates that teachers “are to help students learn to explain, share, and testify of the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel. We are to give them opportunities to do so with each other in class. We are to encourage them to do so outside of class with family and others.”[18]

Pair-sharing parallels a pedagogical methodology instituted by the Savior among the participants in the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. He instructed that when they met together, they were to allow each to share insights with the others: “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesman 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 [person] may have an equal privilege” (D&C 88:122).

As we share with one another ideas and testimonies, we need to learn how to do so in a way that is not offensive to the Spirit. For example, the sharing of highly personal spiritual experiences may not be appropriate or wise. This type of teaching tends to focus the spotlight on the teacher rather than on the gospel or the Savior. A better approach is to find an experience in the scriptures that parallels our own and then teach it and bear testimony that it is true. This approach, more appropriately, puts the focus on the scriptures and on the principles and prophets found in them. Inspiring teachers learn how to step out of the light so the light can rest on the Savior and His gospel more frequently.

How will I testify of the things I have taught and teach my students to testify of the truths they have learned?

To teach by the Spirit is to testify of the truth. The Holy Ghost is a testator, and when the Spirit accompanies our teaching, testimonies will be strengthened. The Prophet Joseph Smith declares: “If I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, . . . and any man who says he is a teacher or preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophesy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”[19]

President Spencer W. Kimball describes how we can best testify of the truths we teach:

Do not exhort each other; that is not a testimony. Do not tell others how to live. Just tell how you feel inside. That is the testimony. The moment you begin preaching to others, your testimony is ended. Just tell us how you feel, what your mind and heart and every fiber of your body tells you.[20]

Now, you are going to give your testimonies this afternoon. I hope that you’ll just open your hearts and let us look inside, . . . will you? Just open them up wide and turn on the lights and let us see your hearts, . . . how you feel. A testimony is not an exhortation; a testimony is not a sermon; none of you are here to exhort the rest. You are here to bear your own witness. It is amazing what you can say in thirty seconds by way of testimony, or in sixty seconds, or one hundred and twenty, or two hundred and forty, or whatever time you are given, if you confine yourselves to testimony. We’d like to know how you feel.[21]


Spiritual power is inherent in the word of God; moreover, converting power is inherent in the words of teachers (see D&C 100:5–8). “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:13–14; emphasis added; see also 3 Nephi 19:28).

Teaching others is a sacred, spiritual trust. Inspiring teachers are those who teach to reach and who fill their students’ hearts with the desire to come unto Christ and be saved. The Lord will not leave us alone in this important work. The Lord was a teacher, and He promises, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you” (D&C 88:78). His grace is an enabling power that will give us the ability to do more than we could ever do on our own. The Lord will send the Holy Ghost to bear witness that what we teach is true. The Spirit will carry our lessons into the hearts of our students and enable us to teach with converting power and to touch hearts in ways that promote lasting change and deepened commitment to the eternal truths of the gospel.


[1] Joseph Smith, comp., Lectures on Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 2:56.

[2] L. Dee Fink, “What Is ‘Significant Learning’?” handout in author’s possession, 3; emphasis in original. Dr. Fink is the author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2003).

[3] Bruce R. McConkie, “The Foolishness of Teaching” (Salt Lake City: Church Educational System, 1981), 2; emphasis added.

[4] Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 260–61.

[5] Neal A. Maxwell, Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 156.

[6] Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 59.

[7] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 11.

[8] See Journal of Discourses (Liverpool: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853–56), 10:57–58.

[9] Dallin H. Oaks, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” CES Fireside for College-Age Young Adults, Brigham Young University, June 6, 1993, 5.

[10] Fink, “What Is ‘Significant Learning’?” 1.

[11] Henry B. Eyring, remarks at An Evening with Elder L. Tom Perry, February 2, 1996, Salt Lake Tabernacle.

[12] Funeral Services for Carol Anniett Clayton, Salt Lake City, February 1963; as cited in Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 459.

[13] Summarized from Russell M. Nelson, “A Call to Serve,” March 31, 1985, Salt Lake University Institute of Religion devotional, published with permission.

[14] Jeffrey R. Holland, CES videoconference, June 20, 1992, videocassette.

[15] Boyd K. Packer, “Self-reliance,” Ensign, August 1975, 87; emphasis in original.

[16] David O. McKay, “That You May Instruct More Perfectly,” Improvement Era, August 1956, 557; emphasis added.

[17] Adapted from Walter Gong, San Jose State University.

[18] Paul V. Johnson, A Current Teaching Emphasis for the Church Educational System (Salt Lake City: Church Educational System, 2003), 2.

[19] Smith, Teachings, 269.

[20] Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998), 138.

[21] Spencer W. Kimball, unpublished fireside address, Los Angeles, California, January 2, 1959, 9.