In this Church of teachers, "we find ourselves in the roles as teachers from the moment we take our first breath of life," said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, addressing eight new presidents of Missionary Training Centers, and seven new visitors center directors and their wives gathered for training prior to embarking on their worldwide assignments.
Elder Perry quoted President David O. McKay who said, in a 1916 October general conference, "No greater responsibility can rest upon any man, than to be a teacher of God's children."
Devotion, Elder Perry continued, is the first essential in true love. To desire others to learn truth, and to live righteously, one must radiate such a desire in both word and deed.
"You have been called to be teachers to some of the most chosen of all of Father in Heaven's children. It is a sacred and holy calling," he said.
Elder Perry rehearsed "major steps … taken to increase the message being taught to the world.
"First, we raised the bar," he said. "We increased the requirements of those called to serve as full-time missionaries. Stronger worthiness requirements would be a new standard. We required a higher level of physical and emotional health. The quality of the missionary was greatly improved by requiring this higher standard in order to serve. This was followed by a change in teaching methods. Memorizing discussions gave way to teaching by the Spirit. This resulted in a more spiritual approach to teaching.
"Then a new guide to missionary service, Preach My Gospel, was prepared, directed by inspiration and revelation, and published," he continued, emphasizing one program of conversion, activation and retention was encouraged.
"The results have been most gratifying. Last year showed some very encouraging results," he said.
"Now we are ready for our next major initiative. It would be improving the teaching skills of our full-time missionaries."
To aid the new leaders in their charge, Elder Perry recounted five basics of teaching principles offered by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in a Worldwide Leadership Broadcast a few years ago.
First, prepare to be teachers
Speaking to a common fear that plagues many newly called teachers, Elder Perry quoted Moses in the Old Testament who protested his inability to the Lord by saying, "Who am I …"
"The Lord will put words in your mouth if you spend the time needed in preparation," Elder Perry said.
"We must be more effective in our abilities to teach so that many more will hear and heed our message of truth to stop this drift away from the these basic Christian principles," he said. "A good teacher will become acquainted with cultures, governments, living conditions, etc., as possible to establish common ground for a learning experience for your missionaries."
Second, teach from the scriptures
"How blessed we are to have the holy scriptures to give us a foundation from which to teach," he said. Using the scriptures, Elder Perry told how Alma felt to "try the virtue of the word of God," in teaching the Zoramites.
"Let us be certain our study and preparation will come from the words of the prophets," he said.
Third, teach by the Spirit
Revelation and inspiration can come in a second, or, on other occasions, it can require much prayer and study. "The important thing is when it comes be receptive to that still small voice when it is directing you. The Lord will give us the inspiration when needed to do His assigned work," he said.
Fourth, help the learnerassume responsibility for learning
"A teacher always gets more out of a lesson than a student," Elder Perry continued. "Sometimes the teacher is the learner, and the learner is the teacher."
Crucial to the process of teaching by the Spirit, cautioned Elder Perry, is to be patient and, above all, do not lose the Spirit. "We cannot in any way be offended or get angry or disappointed that we have worked so hard on our lesson, and it doesn't seem the students are with us. We just have to be patient and loving. More is happening in their hearts than we think."
Fifth, always end your teaching by bearing testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel.
"The Lord will be with you as you go forward to teach and bring the light of the gospel to this sacred calling you have received," Elder Perry concluded.