The calling of a teacher is one of the most common, yet most influential assignments in the Church. Teachers of the gospel have a unique mandate and opportunity to help their students experience a change of heart and grow in their desire to repent. The process of change can be set in motion by a teacher inviting the Holy Ghost whose power “carrieth [the word] unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). Thus, along with expounding the doctrines of the gospel, teachers can motivate us to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ.
The great Master-Teacher Jesus Christ taught by precept and example, inviting His followers to do the things He Himself did. “Come, follow me,” “take my yoke upon you,” “learn of me,” “take up your cross” were His invitations to view His life of commitment to the Father and to emulate it. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38) was His life’s motto which He practiced perfectly. Christ’s sincerity, authenticity, and the absence of hypocrisy were among the qualities that riveted His followers’ attention to His teachings.
So it should be with all teachers of the gospel. Not only should they know the facts, but they should be living examples of every doctrine taught. In the words of Heber J. Grant, “No man can teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the inspiration of the living God and with power from on high unless he is living it.”
While leading a mission in Kyiv, Ukraine, my husband and I strove to not only teach the doctrines of the gospel to our missionaries, but to also exemplify these doctrines in our lives. It was crucial that whatever we asked our missionaries to do, we were willing to do ourselves. If we asked them to open their mouth on the streets and be courageous about talking to everyone, we also needed to do it and share our experiences with them. We always stressed the importance of practicing the doctrines they taught to investigators so they could teach from the sincerity of their hearts. If they wanted to be powerful teachers of the principle of repentance, they needed to learn to apply the power of Christ’s Atonement and exercise faith unto repentance in their own lives.
With the sincerity in gospel living comes the companionship of the Holy Ghost. “The Spirit shall be given unto [us] by the prayer of faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:14), but the efficacy of such prayer is predicated upon our obedience to the commandments and principles of the gospel. The same verse tells us that if we receive not the Spirit we shall not teach. This direct injunction names the most important element in our teaching, the Holy Ghost. Without His presence we are teaching “by some other way,” and “it is not of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:18). From the Savior’s example we see that His words were always accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit that pricked the hearts of those who had “ears to hear.”
“Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” said His disciples of His teaching (Luke 24:32).
In the early 1990s, I attended a student ward at Brigham Young University. My gospel teachers were young students like me. None of us were particularly knowledgeable in doctrine, but most of us were sincere in our testimonies and desires to live the gospel. Our dedication brought the Spirit into our teaching. I particularly remember one teacher in Relief Society who managed to bring the Spirit into every lesson. I remember her sincerity; I felt that she believed and practiced what she taught. Once, she related to the class her experience of running a marathon and feeling the Savior’s sustaining power when she barely had strength left to finish the race. I felt that she knew what it meant to endure to the end with the Lord’s help and that the Savior was her friend. More than 20 years later, I can barely remember the particulars of this teacher’s lessons; in fact, I can’t even remember her name. But I do remember the Spirit I felt in her classroom. This feeling prompted me to make changes in my life and to strive to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.
I hope that we always remember that the ultimate teacher is the Holy Ghost. Our job as teachers is to live the gospel so sincerely and to “treasure up in [our] minds continually the words of life” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:85) that we can count on His presence when we teach. Then, those who “have ears to hear” will learn the lessons intended for them and will be edified.
Sister Julia Klebingat was raised in Riga, Latvia. She joined the Church at age 19. She is married to Elder Jörg Klebingat, a General Authority Seventy. Elder and Sister Klebingat are the parents of three children.