Quotes on Teaching, Teachers

See also: D&C 43:8; 88:77

We are always just one generation away from extinction.  All we would have to do . . . to destroy this work is stop teaching our children for one generation.  Just everybody stop, close the books, seal up your heart, keep your mouth shut, and don’t bear a testimony.  In one generation it would be 1820 all over again. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “That Our Children May Know. . . ,” Speeches, August 25, 1981, p. 155

A public speaker, a teacher of the people, is held responsible before God and his fellowmen for the doctrine he teaches. — President Wilford Woodruff, May 14, 1882

Every human soul is teaching something to someone nearly every minute here in mortality. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, April 1983 General Conference

President [Gordon B.] Hinckley exhorted parents to teach their children such things as tolerance, civility toward others, respect and loyalty. — Church News, June 18, 1994, p. 4

Because a man has great schooling, is educated according to the ideas of the world, is not sufficient reason why he should be called to take charge of a class in any of the organizations or priesthood quorums within the Church.  Now, if he has scholastic ability and training, and along with it has faith in the principles of the gospel and in the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Prophet Joseph Smith, all well and good.  But if he is filled with all kinds of philosophy and notions and cannot accept the doctrines in the standard works of the Church, we do not want him, whether it is in our auxiliaries or the priesthood, or in our seminaries or institutes, that are given for the teaching of religious principles and to instill faith in the hearts of our young people. . . .

It makes no difference who the teacher is, if he teaches false doctrine, if he teaches that which has been condemned by the Lord, that is contrary to what is written in the revelations given to the Church, then he should not teach. — President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1954, pp. 21-22

We are constantly exerting ourselves to impress upon the parents of these, your myriad youth, that it is primarily parental responsibility to rear the children in faith and correct living, though we must be realistic and realize that many parents do fail in varying degrees to train their children.  Therefore, all other agencies dedicated to doing good must pick up the torch.  Chief of them all is the Church, and among its strongest agencies are the Seminaries and the Institutes.  We do not excuse the parents in their failures, but we must place the burden upon your strong backs to carry on.  Your work cannot be mediocre.  It must be brilliant and effective. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren,” Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, BYU, July 11, 1996

“Doth he teach it [the word] by the Spirit of truth or some other way?”  (D&C 50:17)  “If you teach the word of truth – now note, you’re saying what is true, every thing you say is accurate and right – by some other way than the Spirit, it is not of God.  Now what is the other way to teach than by the Spirit?  Well, obviously, it is by the power of the intellect.”  (Bruce R. McConkie)

If we rely on debate techniques or sales methods or group psychology, we are preaching the gospel in some other way, and it is not of God.

We must teach the gospel by the Spirit, and we must testify to the truth.  When this is done, the Holy Spirit will testify to the sincere seeker that the things that have been said are true. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, March 1997, pp. 8-9

Satan is certainly not subtle in his teachings; why should we be? Whether we are instructing our children at home or standing before an audience in church, let us never make our faith difficult to detect. Remember, we are to be teachers “come from God.” Never sow seeds of doubt. Avoid self-serving performance and vanity. Prepare lessons well. Give scripturally based sermons. Teach the revealed doctrine. Bear heartfelt testimony. Pray and practice and try to improve. In our administrative meetings let us both “instruct and edify” as the revelations say, that even in these our teaching may ultimately be “from on high.” The Church will be the better for it, and so will you, for as Paul said to the Romans, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in Conference Report, April 1998, 33; or Ensign, May 1998, 27

Teachers who are commanded to teach “the principles of [the] gospel” and “the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77) should generally forgo teaching specific rules or applications.  For example, they would not teach any rules for determining what is a full tithing, and they would not provide a list of do’s and don’ts for keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Once a teacher has taught the doctrine and the associated principles from the scriptures and the living prophets, such specific applications or rules are generally the responsibility of individuals and families.

Well-taught doctrines and principles have a more powerful influence on behavior than rules.  When we teach gospel doctrine and principles, we can qualify for the witness and guidance of the Spirit to reinforce our teaching, and we enlist the faith of our students in seeking the guidance of that same Spirit in applying those teachings in their personal lives. — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, November 1999, pp. 79-80

Simplicity will always trump complexity. — Elder D. Todd Christofferson

In times like ours we all need what Mormon called “the virtue of the word of God” because, he said, it “had [a] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them” (Alma 31:5).  When crises come in our lives – and they will – the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do.  Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear?  Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie – spiritually empty calories?  President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied (The Gospel Kingdom, p. 78).  During a severe winter several years ago, President Boyd K. Packer noted that a goodly number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay.  In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed.  Regrettably they had fed the deer but they had not nourished them.

I love what President J. Reuben Clark said of our youth well over a half century ago. The same thing can be said of new members. “[They] are hungry for the things of the spirit,” he said; “They are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.  You do not have to sneak up behind [them] and whisper religion in [their] ears; you can bring these truths [out] openly” (“The Charted Course of the Church in Education”, p. 4, 9). — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, pp. 26-27

 

As President Monson has taught:  “The goal of gospel teaching . . . is not to ‘pour information’ into the minds of class members. . . . The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).

When Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph, he not only taught him key doctrines of the Restoration, but he also told him that “God had a work for [him] to do” and promised him that his name would be known throughout the world (see Joseph Smith – History 1:33). All parents and gospel teachers are messengers from God.  Not all of us teach future prophets, as did Sister Gertsch and Moroni, but we are all teaching future leaders of the Church.  So we teach key doctrine, invite learners to do the work God has for them, and then promise that blessings will surely come. — Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe, “Teaching Helps Save Lives,” General Conference, October 2009

Don’t try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are. Dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is. Don’t worry about the location of the lost tribes or the Three Nephites.  Worry a little more about the location of your student, what’s going on in his heart, what’s going on in her soul, the hunger, sometimes the near-desperate spiritual needs of our people.  Teach them.  And, above all, testify to them.  Love them.  Bear your witness from the depths of your soul. It will be the most important thing you say to them in the entire hour, and it may save someone’s spiritual life.”  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Teaching and Learning in the Church,” Liahona, June 2007, 72; Ensign, June 2007, 104) — Joshua J. Perkey, “Getting the Most Out of Gospel Principles,” Ensign, January 2011, p. 49

God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation.  We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries.  My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets.

We should follow Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians: “Be no more . . . tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  (Eph. 4:14)

The winds of false doctrine that are blowing today both outside and a few within the Church are far more dangerous to the ultimate salvation of mankind than are earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters.  These winds can uproot people if their roots are not firmly anchored to the Rock of our salvation, which is the teachings and the gospel of Jesus Christ. — Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Deep Roots,” Ensign, November 1994, p. 75

 

For each of us to “come unto Christ,”  to keep His commandments and follow His example back to the Father is surely the highest and holiest purpose of human existence. To help others do that as well – to teach, persuade, and prayerfully lead them to walk that path of redemption also – surely that must be the second most significant task in our lives. Perhaps that is why President David O. McKay once said, “No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman] than to be a teacher of God’s children.” 

We are, in fact, all somewhat like the man of Ethiopia to whom Philip was sent.  Like him, we may know enough to reach out for religion.  We may invest ourselves in the scriptures.  We may even give up our earthly treasures, but without sufficient instruction we may miss the meaning of all this and the requirements that still lie before us.  So we cry with this man of great authority, “How can [we understand,] except some [teacher] should guide [us]?”  — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, p. 25

No greater responsibility can rest upon a man, than to be a teacher of God’s children. — President David O. McKay, LDS General Conference, October 1916

Teaching is a sacred calling, a holy calling.  The thing I think I would tell teachers is that they never teach alone.  They never have to be alone.  The Lord has promised that in the scriptures.  Alma said the Lord granteth unto all nations, in every tongue, teachers (see Alma 29:8), and the Lord said, “Teach ye diligently and my grace [will] attend you” (D&C 88:78).

I don’t know how to teach the gospel without a constancy of prayer.  You can speak a prayer, but you can also think a prayer.  A lot of times when I’ve been teaching a group or a class I’ve just been praying inwardly, “How can I get through?”  And I don’t know how to do it other than having that power available. — President Boyd K. Packer Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Teaching and Learning, February 10, 2007

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).  He also declared that “the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (D&C 42:12).            Your assignment is to help others understand the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings and the scriptures.  Do not set this book aside or prepare lessons from other materials. Dedicate a significant portion of the lesson to reading Joseph Smith’s teachings in this book and discussing their meaning and application. — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), vii–xiii

In the present turmoil of events, with crisis following crisis, it is especially important that master teachers look ahead and exercise their important functions as builders of the future.  In two fleeting decades, those who are now kindergarten children will be young men and young women who are either assets to society or liabilities.  The influence of teachers in fashioning personality and in shaping careers can hardly be overestimated.  It makes no difference whether or not she or he is teaching literature or mathematics or science or any other subject of the curriculum.  The teacher must win from students the faith that moves mountains.  When the teacher succeeds, near-miracles happen.  Suddenly a pupil is awakened to an enthusiastic interest in some aspect of learning and begins to read widely without being urged.  Another discovers in himself powers that he did not know he had.  Another decides to seek better companions.  In a flash of inspiration, still another makes a decision that leads to a lifetime career. — President Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, January, 1990

Every member of the Church teaches for virtually his whole lifetime.  We are teaching when we preach or speak or respond in meetings, for preachers are teachers. The similarity of the words preach, teach, and speech is not accidental.  When we are speaking and preaching, we are teaching. — Elder Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently (1975), pp. 2-3

May God always be with us and help us to do his service and increase our testimonies; bring to us a testimony that Joseph Smith was the instrument through whom God restored the gospel and the priesthood.  If that were not true, we would have nothing. It is true, and you should so teach the youth.  Do not be fearful to tell the facts about your religion.  Teach Jesus the Christ, the Son of God; teach Joseph the Prophet; teach God as a being who loves his children; and by your own lives and examples see that your children know that that is what you believe.  And you teachers, see that your students know that is what you believe. — President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, April 1948

Be open and candid in your relationships with others.  So many of life’s difficulties are brought about by being double-minded.  Let us learn to say it as it is.  Think of Peter’s extreme discomfort when the Master addressed him after Peter had been teaching a false concept:  “Thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of man.”  (Matt. 16:23.)  From that moment, Peter was a greater disciple. The person who is open and honest will be vindicated.  Time is his friend.  Trust is his reward. — Elder Hugh W. Pinnock, General Conference, April 1982

We learn to do by doing.  If we study the gospel to teach it we have acquired knowledge, for where we carry the lantern to light the path of others we light our own way. As we analyze and arrange the scriptures to present an acceptable lesson to others, we have clarified our own minds.  As we explain that which we already know there seems to come to us an unfolding of additional truths, and enlargement of our understandings, new connections and applications. Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 530

Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. The Savior has told us to feed his sheep.  I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis.  We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen.  We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come. — President Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, 1980, p. 67

“I fear,” he said, “that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or a meeting, and then return home having been largely [uninspired].  It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time . . . of stress, temptation, or crisis [in their life].  We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit,” he said, “and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen.  We often do vigorous work,” President Kimball concluded, ”to get members to come to Church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.”  On this subject President Hinckley himself has said, “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church.”  May I repeat that.  “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church.  Eternal life,” President Hinckley continued, “will come only as men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives.  They cannot be coerced into righteousness or into heaven.  They must be led, and that means teaching.” — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, pp. 25-26

Listen for new ideas, things that may come to only you.  They may not have anything to do with what we are saying.  But that is how the Spirit works.  Be open to promptings about how you can teach. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, February 2007

After he [Lorenzo Snow] was baptized and confirmed, he eventually turned his interest more to “the education of the Spirit” (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Mar. 31, 1868, 2) than to “book studies.”  (In Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 28.)  In this pursuit, he never lost his thirst for learning.  For example, when he was 80 years old and serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he stood before the Saints at the October 1894 general conference.  Reflecting on the discourses his less experienced brethren had delivered earlier that day, he said, “Some ideas were advanced that I never thought of before, and they were very profitable.”  (“Glory Awaiting the Saints,” Deseret Semi-Weekly News, Oct. 30, 1894, 1)  Six years later, when he was President of the Church, he attended a conference conducted by the Sunday School organization.  After hearing others speak, he finally stood at the pulpit. He began his address by saying: “I have been perfectly delighted and surprised at what I have seen and heard. . . . Indeed I may say, that I have been instructed; and if I, a man of eighty-six years, can be instructed, I see no reason why adults generally cannot derive profit as well as pleasure from attending your meetings.”  (“Tithing,” Juvenile Instructor, Apr. 1901, 214-15) Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 1

The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement – mentally, physically, morally and spiritually.  No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint. (“‘Mormonism’ by Its Head,” The Land of Sunshine, Oct. 1901, 257) Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 1

If we teach righteousness, let us also practice righteousness in every sense of the word; if we teach morality, let us be moral; let us see to it that we preserve ourselves within the bounds of all the good which we teach to others.  I am sure this course will be good to live by and die by, and when we get through the journey of life, here, what consolation it will be to us to know that we have done as we have wished others to do by us in all respects.

We have more friends behind the veil than on this side, and they will hail us more joyfully than you were ever welcomed by your parents and friends in this world; and you will rejoice more when you meet them than you ever rejoiced to see a friend in this life; and then we shall go on from step to step, from rejoicing to rejoicing, and from one intelligence and power to another, our happiness becoming more and more exquisite and sensible as we proceed in the words and powers of life. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:130

Teach your children from their youth, never to set their hearts immoderately upon an object of this world. Discourses of Brigham Young, 207

Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church.  The Savior has told us to feed his sheep.  I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed.  It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis.  We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen.  We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come. — President Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, October 1980, p. 67

We worship a Lord who teaches us precept by precept, brethren, so even when we are teaching our children the gospel, let’s not dump the whole load of hay. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Conference Report, April 2004