Never in any dispensation have the scriptures been in such a readable, accessible form to lay members of the Church, to every man, woman and child, and to the world, said President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve.
"Surely we will be held accountable if we do not read them," he emphasized to seminary and institute teachers at the annual Church Educational System satellite broadcast Feb. 10."And surely you will be held accountable as professional teachers if you do not wholly invest your students in them."
President Hunter commended instructors who dedicate their lives to strengthening the future of the Church. "No financial or worldly dividend of any kind can compare with the satisfaction you feel in shaping these young lives for good," he noted.
"You are making a great investment in these students and a great investment in the future strength of the Church. You will enjoy a great personal return on that investment - the knowledge that you have assisted directly in the eternal salvation of men and women, and the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth."
President Hunter said CES teachers are not just allowed, but are required, to be immersed in scripture day in and day out.
"My, what a privilege! What an influence to feel the word of God rising up from all dispensations - coming to your eyes and your mind, and lodging permanently in your heart."
President Hunter counseled the educators to teach students to gain confidence in the strengths and truths of the scriptures, and to become confident between the covers of the scriptures.
"Show them daily, hourly that you trust in the scriptures just that way, that you yourself are confident that the scriptures hold the answers to many - indeed, most - of life's problems. So when you teach, teach from the scriptures."
He said, "Our young people in the Church will be very much like young people out of it, if our students do not establish some mastery of the Standard Works."
He spoke of a genuine danger of allowing students to build an allegiance to a teacher, rather than inviting them directly to Christ.
"You won't always be available to these students," he explained. "You can't hold their hands after they have left high school and college. And you do not need personal disciples."
He encouraged teachers to "give them gifts that will carry them through when they have to stand alone."
Teachers should also have the Spirit of the Lord in their teaching. "There is so much in this world that destroys the Spirit, and so much that would keep us from having it," he observed. "We need to do everything possible to let them feel the sweet, reassuring presence of the Spirit of the Lord."
And not only should teachers not try to teach without the Spirit, but also "we really can't teach without it."
He offered as a word of caution that "the Spirit of the Lord often does bring with it great emotion, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself."
He said that as teachers teach purely with honest conviction, "students will feel the spirit of truth being taught to them, and will recognize that inspiration and revelation have come into their heart. That is how we build faith.
"Stay solidly on solid principles, teach solidly out of a pure heart. Then the Spirit will penetrate your mind and heart and every mind and heart in your audience as well."
He noted that despite the numbers of members in the Church, that the most important aspects of the gospel, such as ordinances, are always done individually.
"Try the best you can to think of your studentsT individually, to let them feel something personal and special in the concern of their teacher. . . . Look and probe for those who are hanging back, who are shy and retiring and perhaps troubled in spirit.
"Watch for the opportunity to eventually touch everyone personally during the course of your term."
He encouraged the instructors to make every effort to invite "the lost sheep back into the fold." President Hunter noted that, "An immense price has been paid by our Savior for every one of us, and it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to assist Him in the work of the Atonement.
"Do all you can do to fortify the strong ones and re-anchor the wayward ones at this age. It will be infinitely harder, sometimes nigh unto impossible, to successfully reach them later."
He concluded by telling educators that "you are vitally important to the great educational plan of this Church, and you reach out into our high school and college students at a crucially important time in their lives."
"God bless you to live in such a way as to alter the course of the world for good."
Tips to teachers
In his address, President Hunter urged teachers to:
- Teach students to have confidence in the scriptures: Confidence that answers to questions of life are found in the scriptures, and a sense of confidence in their ability to use the scriptures.
- Base teachings upon scriptures and the Holy Spirit, not upon personal charisma. Teachers should not allow the outward manifestation of emotion, which can accompany the Spirit, to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.
- Take time to teach students in an individual way, and reach out for those who are slipping away.
- Represent in their own lives what they are trying to teach others to be in their lives.