Teaching the Savior's way: Church leaders introduce new youth curriculum
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A new Church curriculum for Young Men, Young Women and youth Sunday School classes is designed to follow a pattern of teaching established by the Savior and intended to help Latter-day Saint youth gain a lifelong conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The new "Learning Resources for Youth" will replace existing manuals; Church units will begin using the curriculum in January 2013.
"The new curriculum integrates basic gospel doctrines, as well as principles for teaching in the Savior's way ...," said the First Presidency in a letter dated Sept. 12, 2012, announcing the change. "The focus is on strengthening and building faith, conversion and testimony, using the most current teachings of the General Authorities and General Auxiliary Presidencies. ... We are confident the new curriculum will bless youth in their efforts to become fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The curriculum, which will be translated into 23 languages, will be available online to incorporate recent teachings of living prophets and new media resources. It is intended to follow patterns of teaching established by the Savior and can be tailored by teachers and youth leaders to encourage young men and young women to use the scriptures, share real-life experiences and ask questions.
"The youth of today are exceptional," said Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy. "They are hungry for spiritual things. The 'Learning Resources for Youth' is a tool for parents, teachers and advisers to tap into the deep natural spiritual inclinations of the youth and help them to act for themselves in ways that will deepen their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The curriculum — which can be found on lds.org/youth/learn and in a limited number of printed manuals — is intended to cause a shift from stand-and-deliver gospel teaching to gospel-centered conversations between youth and leaders. Training for the new curriculum will be conducted by priesthood leaders, from General Authorities to stake presidents to stake and ward councils. Since the resources are available online, parents can keep up on what their children are learning and even use it in their families. Then they can incorporate the monthly lesson topics into, for example, family home evening or dinner table discussions.
Six stakes — in Brazil, Peru, Philippines, Florida, Utah and Washington — have been working with the curriculum for the past year. An additional 46 stakes began using the curriculum in June.
"This is going to work very well — the Church is hungry for this," said Brother Russell T. Osguthorpe, Sunday School general president.
The changes will allow the Church's seminaries, youth Sunday School classes, Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes to share common principles and doctrines for gospel learning and teaching. "It will be a blessing for all, not just the young people," he added.
The curriculum is designed to allow young people to better develop their abilities to learn and teach the gospel. It can help them prepare to be effective, Christlike teachers as they serve missions and in their future homes.
Recently, Brother Osguthorpe visited a priests quorum that had been selected as a pilot class to use the new curriculum prior to its general implementation. The quorum was learning about the purpose of the fast. After sharing instruction on the topic, the quorum adviser invited pairs of priests to visit the elders quorum and high priest group in the ward and share a brief lesson on what they had learned.
"I watched as two priests stood and taught about the law of the fast," he said.
The priests then returned to their quorum where they shared their experiences with the other young men. In conclusion, one of the young men invited each priest to prayerfully fast in order to strengthen his own testimony. This is the kind of youth teaching and leadership the new curriculum is intended to invite.
While the curriculum may be different than what has been used in the past, "this is not a new way of teaching," said Brother Osguthorpe. "It's how the Savior taught the gospel."
Such Christlike instruction involves teaching doctrine in ways that the learners can relate principles to their own lives. It's essential that teachers and advisers prayerfully seek to develop personal relationships with each member of their respective classes to be inspired on how best to deliver each Sunday lesson.
"We are inviting young people to contribute more than ever before," he said.
Teachers can also support one another and work together as they serve the youth. Brother Osguthorpe said ward and branch Sunday School presidencies would also play a pivotal role in the success of the new curriculum. Presidency members can visit classrooms and "find the good" in each class. They can then work closely with the ward council to share success stories and exchange ideas.
The new curriculum will also allow young people more opportunities to share their thoughts and testimonies with one another. There is power to be found when young men and young women are unified in sharing their testimonies with one another, said Brother Osguthorpe.
He added, it's hoped that the new curriculum will allow young people to recognize the hand of the Lord in their lives. When teens know that the Lord is working in their own lives, their faith increases exponentially.
Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, said the new curriculum will be a blessing to leaders, youth and the Church.
"It will bless those who lead the discussions with rich preparation materials, current words of prophets, seers and revelators, and rich media resources delivered online," she said. "This new approach to learning will bless individuals and families."
She called the new curriculum a "unified effort to help our youth become actively engaged in their learning and to act and not be acted upon," and said the Church is "asking leaders to flip the focus of the Church classroom from teacher-centered to youth-centered — to wake up the natural curiosity of our youth, to encourage questions, to let the students be the teachers, to linger on a gospel topic long enough to come back and share experiences applying that doctrine in their lives, and to be taught by the Spirit."
Basically, she added, "we are providing a way for our youth to 'seek learning by study and also by faith' (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). It is an intuitive approach in which we focus on the Savior, the greatest teacher, and emulate Him in the classroom as well as in all our interactions with the youth."
She said the curriculum provides a way for the Church to teach youth, not lessons.
"This is an amazing time," Sister Dalton said. "It is a time when the youth will need to be familiar with the whisperings of the Spirit, to learn to receive, recognize and rely on the Holy Ghost. The Spirit will be the teacher."
Each month the youth will study one doctrinal topic. A leader or parent will then be able to choose among several lessons on that doctrine, and spend as much time as is necessary to ensure that each individual is progressing in his or her understanding, explained Sister Dalton. The youth will then be able to apply what they learn on Sunday in their lives.
"My prayer is that this curriculum will change behavior because of the understanding the young women will have of the doctrine," she said. "But it will not just be an intellectual understanding, it will be understood through application in their lives."
Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president, is confident the new teaching resources will allow each Aaronic Priesthood holder to better understand his relationship with the Lord.
"These resources are going to help young men become active learners in their quorum meetings," he said. "The [lessons] are suited for the way young men learn."
The new teaching resources, he added, will also help deacons, teachers and priests better utilize the Duty to God program and its pattern of learning, acting and sharing. In fact, one lesson each month doubles as a Duty to God lesson.
It's hoped that the new teaching resources will allow quorums to function at their optimal level. Advisers are encouraged to enlist the help of young men who are Aaronic Priesthood quorum leaders as they develop each week's lesson.
Brother Beck again emphasized that instructors should work to develop a close relationship with each young man in the quorum.
"The young men will open up when they know that advisers really care about them."
The online lesson resources encourage advisers, teachers and students to share lessons from the own lives to edify and strengthen the entire quorum or classroom. "It's one thing for a teacher to tell a story out of a book — it's another to tell their own story," said Brother Beck.
Teachers or advisers might worry that the young people in their class might not be willing to open up and share their own thoughts or experiences, he explained. Don't force it, he advised. Instead, prayerfully seek out and implement Christ-like teaching methods to reach each class member.
Brother Beck said instructors could start by making the classroom a safe place — a forum where young men or young women can freely share their comments and experiences without fear of being mocked.
As with the Duty to God program, the new teaching resources will be best utilized when parents are involved. Brother Beck is excited that the lessons will be dynamic. New additions, such as clips from recent general conference talks, will be regularly added to allow the lessons to remain timely and relevant.
Ultimately, the new teaching resources will help all involved — students, teachers and parents — as they navigate their own personal journey of testimony and faith.
"Our ultimate objective is that these [tools] will lead to conversion," said Brother Beck.
Following are highlights of the new curriculum for Young Men, Young Women and youth Sunday School classes.
The First Presidency announced the new curriculum in a letter dated Sept. 12, 2012.
Youth leaders will begin using the curriculum in January 2013.
The curriculum will be translated into 23 languages.
Although printed manuals will be available, the curriculum is designed for distribution on the Internet, where regular updates allow for the incorporation or recent teachings of living prophets and new media resources.
Curriculum can be found at lds.org/youth/learn.
Youth instructors will be asked to shift from a "stand-and-deliver" teaching style to gospel-centered conversations that encourage youth participation.
The new curriculum is based on Christlike teaching principles and doctrines that are shared across Young Men, Young Women, Sunday School, seminary and the family.
Teachers will be asked to teach as the Savior taught by loving their students and prayerfully preparing each lesson. Youth leaders will teach as they are guided by the Spirit, use the scriptures, encourage the youth to share real-life experiences and ask questions.
The goal of the new curriculum is to encourage lifelong conversion in youth. The focus is on strengthening and building faith, conversion and testimony.
The same unit will be addressed each month in Young Men, Young Women and youth Sunday School classes.
The curriculum — which includes learning outlines — is flexible so teachers can respond to the needs of the youth in their ward.
Youth Sunday School study will no longer be a chronological study of the scriptures, but of doctrinal topics found in all the standard works and connecting what is being learned in Young Men, Young Women, other Church settings and the family.
As part of the curriculum, youth will be invited to participate in learning and teaching.
Seminary teachers will continue to teach the scriptures sequentially using seminary manuals, but will reinforce the curriculum taught to the youth on Sunday.
Area and local leaders will provide training meetings to introduce leaders and teachers to the new curriculum before the end of 2012.