"What desiresth thou?"
I am in the Relief Society Presidency in my ward and like many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have been thinking about the Come Follow Me change in church curriculum for the 2018 year.
What will this look like?
Why this change?
How will this work?
I knew that this change was needed but it felt awkward and to be honest a little scary.
While thinking about this I found an interesting comparison in the Book of Mormon.
as I came across the account of Lehi's dream.
After Lehi shared his dream with his sons, Nephi prayed to know more about the meaning of his Father's dream. He was taken in a vision by the Holy Ghost, who was in the Image of a man, into a high mountain. The Spirit then teaches him. (1 Nephi 11)
Isn't it magnificent? Here we have the opportunity to learn how the Holy Ghost himself teaches- We get the opportunity in our church meetings to feel his influence but here we have the grand opportunity to see the Holy Ghost in action as a missionary and teacher and to observe his actual techniques! YES PLEASE!
The first thing the Holy Ghost does is he asks Nephi "What desirest thou?" (1 Nephi 11:2)
He doesn't stand and tell Nephi what he needs to hear, he doesn't suppose he knows what Nephi should hear, (even when he could, I am sure) but again he simply asks. "What desirest thou?"
This gives Nephi an opportunity to be invested in the moment, to use his agency and to become part of the process.
Isn't this a more effective way of teaching? Isn't this more converting for the hearer?
The spirit then continues his teaching which usually starts with questions and Nephi continues to respond with answers.
This technique results in a constant feedback loop that helps Nephi understand the principles he learns.
The Spirit then asks Nephi another time "What desirest thou?" (1 Nephi 11:10) and the process continues. There is also rejoicing (1 Nephi 11:6), visual aids (a vision), and the use of scriptures (1 Nephi:13:20). There is also an invitation to act (1 Nephi 11:7).
So what does this have to do with the new Sunday Curriculum?
I believe everything! I will insert my thoughts in the examples below.
The First Sunday - We "Counsel together about local responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges and make plans to act." - In short we ask..." What Desirest thou?" adding a topic to our sisters, brethren." and then we follow up with discussion, invitation and follow up.
The Second and Third Sundays - We "study recent general conference messages chosen by presidency or group leaders or, on occasion, by the bishop or stake president". In other words, there is no lesson manual but we do have the general conference messages. We are also counselled to follow the example of the spirit and ask questions and have discussions. We make it an interactive process as the Spirit did with Nephi. A constant feedback loop with those we teach. Leading with discussion.
(BTW- Just a side note ----I would love to see this be like a miniature book club with our sisters, except with conference addresses, to have them read and discuss the conference talks as they would a favorite book. Wouldn't that be great!)
The Forth Sunday- Address a topic chosen by the bishopric. The next few are all about the Sabbath Day! This will be so great!
With this new curriculum we are invited to use all of these elements displayed to us by the Spirit. specifically counseling and invitation.
I love this example of Nephi being tutored by the Spirit on how to teach in order to help others come closer to Christ and to be apart of the learning process. So often we hear fantastic examples of Christ teaching, which is what this curriculum is ALL ABOUT. But I loved this example and the feedback loop that is demonstrated here in the scripture with Nephi and his teacher. I believe we can apply it to the new curriculum.
Below is some information I give to my teachers on teaching a powerful lesson and keeping it interactive. If sisters and Brethren participate they can feel the spirit. These techniques have proven to be very effective in our classes. I thought I would share.
Teaching a Powerful Lesson- “Involving Sisters (and Brethren) In Lessons”
Main Goal: To give opportunities for sisters for feel the spirit and become converted to the gospel.
One of the most powerful ways to help our sisters feel the spirit is when we give them the opportunity to testify of truths of the gospel. When we do this, these truths are confirmed in their hearts by the Holy Ghost.
Ways to provide sister's opportunity to bare testimony
- Ask questions- and wait for the answers. Make sure to wait past the moment of discomfort. Most sisters don’t want to be the first to speak up so they wait to see if anyone else will speak. If a teacher continues on because she feels uncomfortable with the silence we never get to hear from these sisters who hold back. Make peace with silence. Smile and wait. Rephrase the question if needed. Give these sisters an opportunity to speak up. (See quotes for examples of great questions).
- Pair and share- Have sisters answer questions or discuss topics with one or two sisters sitting closest to them. This gives sisters an opportunity to feel included in the discussion without taking a forefront role. It also helps them to build friendships.
- Write down thoughts- Ask sisters to write what they are thinking. You can ask them to write thoughts, goals or even letters to people. This gives them an opportunity to formulate thoughts in a non threatening way. Writing is also a form of bearing testimony.
- Small group discussion-Splitting into groups to discuss questions is a great way to help sisters feel included and loved. Be aware of sisters with special needs who can not turn around or move or hear. Have mobile sisters move to the sisters that cannot move as easily.
- Ask sisters in advance to share thoughts- Be careful with this because sisters tend to take large amounts of time when asked to prepare in advance even when you tell them only 1 minute. But this is a powerful way to help a sister ponder the topic of discussion and prime her mind for the truths of the lesson. It can also add variety to your lesson format.
- Don’t “get to every part of the lesson” (It is okay to leave quotes unread, and sections uncovered. Follow the spirit and lean towards following the flow of the class. As sisters testify of principles of the gospel the spirit has the opportunity to confirm these truths to their heart's. Always pray for the spirit and listen to the promptings throughout the lesson. Lead the discussion as the instructor but follow the spirit.
- “Over prepare but under deliver.” Always plan on delivering much less of the material then you have prepared. Over prepare for your spiritual benefit so you have a good digestion of the material but pray to follow the spirit in the classroom and plan on following the flow of the discussion and delivering much less of the material that you covered in preparation.
- Try to take on the position of group moderator, conversation guide or discussion leader instead of only teacher. Give sisters ample opportunity to discuss the lesson material and share personal experiences.
- Stay with materials found on LDS.org. These include scriptures, lesson manuals, conference talks. When appropriate books by apostles or prophets can be used but other materials should be used with caution. You can mention them or things that you learned from them in personal study but they should not be the main focus of the lesson or be used in large sections. Talk with the relief society presidency if you have questions.
- Include personal experiences. To see how the Lord has worked in your life is one of the most powerful things that you can share.
Quotes on teaching a powerful lesson:
“Never, and I mean never, give a lecture where there is no student participation. A ‘talking head’ is the weakest form of class instruction. ... Ensure that there is abundant participation because that use of agency by a student authorizes the Holy Ghost to instruct. It also helps the student retain your message. As students verbalize truths, they are confirmed in their souls and strengthen their personal testimonies” (Richard G. Scott, “To Understand and Live Truth,” Feb. 4, 2005).
“When you encourage students to raise their hand to respond to a question, they signify to the Holy Spirit their willingness to learn. That use of moral agency will allow the Spirit to motivate and give them more powerful guidance during your time together. Participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize and feel what spiritual guidance is. It is through the repeated process of feeling impressions, recording them, and obeying them that one learns to depend on the direction of the Spirit more than on communication through the five senses” (Richard G. Scott, “Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led,” August 11, 1998).
“Avoid ... the temptation to cover too much material, the temptation to stuff more into the hour – or more into the students – than they can possibly hold! .. We are teaching people, not subject matter per se; ... An unrushed atmosphere is absolutely essential if you are to have the Spirit of the Lord present in your class. ... Don’t try to do too much. ... If we can get one thing across, one idea, one principle, something sterling and significant ... be assured” (Elder Holland, W Leadership Training, 2007).
“For you teachers of the Church, the principal goal of your lessons is the conversion of hearts. The quality of a lesson is not measured by the number of new pieces of information that you give your students. It comes from your capacity to invite the presence of the Spirit and to motivate your students to make commitments” (Gérald Caussé, CR, Oct. 2008).
“Above all, testify to them. Love them. Bear your witness from the depths of your soul. It will be the most important thing you say to them in the entire hour, and it may save someone’s spiritual life. ... Never let your faith be difficult to detect. ... Avoid self-serving performance and vanity. Don’t try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are. Dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is” (Elder Holland, Worldwide Leadership Training, 2007).
“The very process of formulating a question, raising a hand, asking a question and listening attentively is an expression of faith. This principle of seeking learning by faith invites individualized teaching by the Holy Ghost” (David A. Bednar, Address to Australian Saints, April 2008).
“As teachers, we must require our students to think. ... After discussing each story, we were asked questions such as ‘What does that mean to you?’ ‘How does this scripture–or story or principle–relate to your life?’ ‘How can you apply this teaching in your home?’ ‘How do you feel about it?’ I found in my own home with my boys that once I asked these questions they began to live and feel what they were being taught” (Elder Robert D. Hales, “Teaching By Faith,” Feb. 1, 2002).
“To ask and to answer questions is at the heart of all learning and all teaching. The Master asked, answered, and sometimes chose not to answer questions in his ministry. ... Some questions invite inspiration. Great teachers ask those. Here is a question that might not invite inspiration: ‘How is a true prophet recognized?’ That question invites an answer which is a list, drawn from memory of the scriptures and the words of living prophets. But we could also ask the question this way, with just a small difference: ‘When have you felt that you were in the presence of a prophet?’ That will invite individuals to search their memories for feelings. After asking, we might wisely wait for a moment before calling on someone to respond. Even those who do not speak will be thinking of spiritual experiences. That will invite the Holy Ghost”(President Henry B. Eyring “The Lord Will Multiply the Harvest,” Feb. 6, 1998).