I have been thinking about gospel learning and teaching a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how the gospel has been presented to me and how I’m sharing the gospel with those I must teach (like my children, etc).
I have to admit, I’m not always very receptive when the message of the gospel is given in a gloomy-lectur-y way. I wish I could say that I was always better at being receptive even if the message is given in a way that seems to rub me wrong. But it takes me a lot of journal-writing and prayer to sift through a message that seems full of doom and criticism to finally get through to the Spirit of what was being taught.
I have been thinking about this because I know that those who give these messages don’t mean to give them in a dooms-day way. I think that they mean to be motivating the listener to understand the need for obedience and the gospel. I also know that as a teacher – and especially as a teacher of children and youth – I think that I need to make sure my approach is hopeful without being “sugar-coated.”
Today, I came across the following scripture, and learned the pattern that I’ve been searching for! (yay for scriptures!)
Pattern for God-like Gospel teaching
- Make sure that your teaching is done with the Spirit and with purpose – King Benjamin delivers a message to the People – as prompted by the Spirit. He begins his address to the people
“And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: 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
– at this point, the people know exactly why King Benjamin is addressing them. I admit that this may not always be necessary…I mean, if you are teaching a class, the students already know why you are speaking to them. However, remembering your purpose will always help you to keep the Spirit when teaching.
- Take the time to relate to the people you are teaching. – King Benjamin is such a great example of this. Even though he is the king, he recognizes, genuinely, that he is no different than many of them. His assignment may be different, but his value and status as a Son of God is the same as the value of any other man or woman. He shares:
“I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.
But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me. – Mosiah 2:10-11
As I think about why King Benjamin would express this so explicitly, I think that it is because his admission – helps to let the message of the gospel go to the People undistilled. He is as reliant on the mercy of the Savior and the blessing of God, even as king, as any of the other people. How on earth can the people be expected to recognize their own “nothingness” if King Benjamin doesn’t do so.
When we preach the gospel, we need to remember that our talks or lessons are to be given – not in a prideful or hierarchical way, but we should be giving these messages as humble servants of God.
- Be receptive to the Spirit – understand the message that you need to give. King Benjamin continues in His address, bearing testimony of the Savior, and delivering a message directly from God.
“For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.” – Mosiah 3:4
While we may not see an angel and get express instruction on teaching people, we may still have this responsibility or charge. For example, as a mother, I am responsible for teaching my children the gospel – I need to declare the gospel so that my children can be filled with joy. Additionally, I have been called and set apart as a leader to the Young Women. It is my duty to declare this message to them – as prompted by the Holy Ghost. And, if I’m living worthy of the Spirit, then the Holy Ghost will direct me. I have many opportunities to teach -through formal assignment, precept, and example. And the message we teach is the Lord’s. It is His gospel. His good news.
- Let the Spirit do the work. Sometimes this takes a lot of faith, but we need to let the Spirit do the work of delivering the message we give to the hearts of the listeners. After King Benjamin gives the first part of His address, the Spirit begins to work on the listeners. They begin to understand their weakness. They begin to understand that they are natural men – enemies to God. They realize that they need the Savior. Their reaction is recorded as follows:
“And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. – Mosiah 4:1-2
– the people “fear” the Lord – or, in other words, they “reverence” Him. They begin to understand their dependence on Him, but they also feel the Love and mercy that He has for them.
I have experienced this. The amazing thing about the gospel and Jesus Christ is, when we feel the humility that God would have us feel, it isn’t degrading. We recognize our weakness, we recognize His blessing and mercy to us, and we are filled with overwhelming humility – Wow! He really loves me. I will share one experience:
When I was single, I was praying a lot. I wanted to be married. I wasn’t desperate to be married. I wouldn’t marry just anyone. But being a single mother to two children was extremely difficult. There was too much to do. There were lonely nights. There was pain and grief.
Over time, I started to date this guy. Things started off well, but they ended quite sourly. I didn’t always conduct myself in a way that was worthy of the companionship of the Spirit. Dating after you’ve been married can be pretty…difficult.
Anyways, I repented, and moved forward. I broke up with that dude. I realigned myself with the Lord with a fervent promise to fight to have the Spirit every single day.
Life went on.
Not long afterwards, I met another dude – “homey.” And he was a blessing like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I love my children. I love my family. But I’ve never felt love and companionship like I did as I started getting to know and courting Homey. It was completely amazing. We started making plans to get married, and I knew, through the blessing of meeting Homey, that the Lord was approving my repentance, my life, and my dedication to Him.
I will never forget that moment. As I looked at the picture, I felt like the woman, who washed Christ’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. My sins, which were many, were forgiven (see Luke 7:47).
I knew that the blessing that I was experiencing – meeting Homey, and ultimately marrying him were miracles. I knew that Christ had made every good thing in my life possible. I knew I was nothing without Him. I knew that even though I wanted to do what was right, I was weak and imperfect. I knew that I needed the Lord. It was the Spirit that taught me this truth. The Bishop may have helped be the vehicle to this message, but he couldn’t “force me” into learning it. He patiently let the Spirit do His work.
When we let the Spirit teach, it always goes a lot better. King Benjamin didn’t manipulate the people. He didn’t spell out what they needed to do, specifically, to put off the natural man. He didn’t tell them how to dress, what time to show up to church, or what they should study for FHE. He taught them correct principles: Be meek, Be submissive, Be patient, and Be full of love. The Spirit brought this message to the hearts of the listeners and instructed how each of them could apply the principles taught personally.
Because they had this experience with the Spirit, their love and reverence for the Lord grew. They understood their need for Him. Because the Spirit was teaching them, King Benjamin could give a general address that would effect each listener personally If we follow this pattern when we teach, then our children and those we are called to serve will also receive specific tutelage from the Master Teacher through His Spirit.
- Remember that this is Good News! Gospel teaching doesn’t stop at the recognition for us needing the Savior. In fact, the most important step comes last! Gospel teaching is complete when we convey the message of hope and joy.
The people of King Benjamin, after hearing the words of King Benjamin and covenanting to come unto Christ have the following experience:
“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” – Mosiah 4:1-3
The people were filled with peace and joy. These are the fruits of the Spirit! They did not leave this situation dwelling on their nothingness. They didn’t feel hopeless, miserable, or good-for-nothing. They weren’t consumed with guilt. They understood that they fell short, but they also truly understood the role of the Savior in their lives – that He would perfect them.
This had also happened in my life. Because of the blessings of the Savior, I was filled with peace and hope. I was also blessed with a physical blessing. I knew that Jesus Christ loved me, His atonement was accessible, and I felt so much joy. Courting Homey was one of the happiest times of my life. The Lord, through His mercy, worked a miracle in me and my life.
This is the kind of result we should strive for when we are teaching the gospel. Those who are faithful that hear the message should be filled with hope and vigor. They will recognize their need for the Savior, but won’t dwell on their shortcomings. Instead, they will dwell on the hope of our Savior – on His mercy and atonement. They will know that, despite their nothingness, God will turn them into something. While we can’t force a person to come unto Christ, I think that we should dwell on the hope of the gospel, rather than our natural state and imperfection. It is important for us to understand our need for a Savior, but the fact that perfection is possible through the atonement is the hopeful message that really motivates us to choose the Right. The gospel message is good news: glad tidings. When we teach, we cannot forget this part!
Super long post, I know…but I hope it is helpful to someone (other than me).