Teaching, learning 'by the spirit'

"Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

"And if it be by some other way it is not of God."And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

"If it be of some other way it is not of God. . . . "

"Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together."

D&C 50:17-22

The power of the Holy Spirit, often emphasized in missionary work, is equally essential in both teaching and learning the "word of truth" during this year's study of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Church leaders have frequently spoken about teaching and learning by the Spirit.

"Our preaching and our teaching must be by the power of the Holy Ghost," said President Ezra Taft Benson. "We must ever remember that in this glorious work, the most essential element is the Spirit." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 313.)

President Spencer W. Kimball commented, "I fear that all too often many of our members come to Church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. . . .

"We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to Church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come." (October 1980 Conference Report.)

Elder Wm. Grant Bangerter, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy, observed: "Central to the calling to administer the gospel to all people, living and dead, is the power of the Holy Ghost. My experience tells me that many who labor in the callings of the priesthood lack insight into this. . . and are unable to be as effective as they ought to be."

When a teacher or a missionary is effective, it is because "the Holy Ghost has come into the presence of those who are teaching and those who are listening and has given them a witness of the mind and will of God," said Elder Bangerter. (April 1980 Conference Report.)

Elder Henry B. Eyring, then of the Presiding Bishopric, explained in the April 1991 general conference that the Holy Spirit identifies that which is true.

"It is the Spirit which will bear record to your heart as you read the scriptures, as you hear the Lord's authorized servants, and as God speaks directly to your heart. . . . The scriptures. . . describe the Holy Ghost this way: `Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest. . . ." (D&C 85:6.)

"Now, I testify it is a small voice. It whispers, not shouts. And so you must be very quiet inside. . . . You will act after you have listened because when you hear His voice by the Spirit you will always feel that you are impelled to do something. . . . Do you notice how much of it is an urging to do something for someone else? That is no surprise. . . . God loves His children more than any earthly parent, so think what your kindness to His children means to Him."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve, in an address to missionaries June 21, 1988, at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, explained: "The Lord's way of teaching happens through the instrumentality of the Holy Ghost. At the close of His ministry, the Savior promised His apostles that He would pray unto the Father `And he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.' (John 14:16-17.)

"The Lord's way of teaching and understanding the gospel is through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit guides us in what we should teach, brings all-important gospel truths to our remembrance, and then testifies of the Father and the Son and affirms the truth of what we have taught under the influence of the Spirit," said Elder Oaks.

He emphasized, "If we are to teach by the Spirit, we must be worthy of the companionship of the Spirit, we must be obedient to the commandments of God, we must be prayerful, and we must be prepared with a knowledge of doctrine. . . ."

He said the Lord has commanded His servants in this day: "Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life." (D&C 84:85.)

Elder Oaks added that "careful preparation is required for those times when we are not given the specific words to speak," and "we must always be prepared to proceed on the basis of our own best judgment. As we do, we can grow in faith and spirituality on the one hand and in mortal experience on the other. . . . As the Lord said in one revelation, we must proceed `according to judgment and the directions of the Spirit.' (D&C 62:8.)

Recognizing the Spirit is basic for those who want to be guided by the Spirit, said Elder Oaks. "I know from experience that some seasoned members of the Church do not know when they are receiving a witness of the Spirit. One member recently asked me why it was that most members of the Church seem to enjoy spiritual performances, doctrinal talks, and Church meetings when these are not enjoyed by persons who are not members. He seemed surprised when I suggested that members enjoy such things because of the feeling the Holy Ghost gives them by testifying of the truthfulness of their content, whereas that feeling is not available to persons who do not have the Holy Ghost."

Elder Oaks suggested that perhaps lifelong members don't recognize the testimony of the Spirit because they have had it so often they take it for granted. "Perhaps they are looking for something startling and different," he said.

Members may not recognize the "burning in the bosom," he observed. "If I thought this scriptural burning only referred to caloric heat, I would have to say that I have never had a burning in the bosom either. In fact, the verb "burn" has several different meanings in the scriptures. In some passages it clearly refers to the kind of burning caused by combustion. However, when "burning" is joined with the nouns "heart' or "bosom" it is a figurative phrase, not a literal one.

"For me the witness of the Holy Ghost is an intense feeling of serenity or well-being."

Elder Oaks listed several ways to apply the principles upon which teaching by the Spirit is based. These ways are:

Being well-prepared. "This preparation needs to be spiritual, by worthiness and obedience and prayer. . . . A teacher's potential to hear and follow the promptings of the Spirit increases as he thoroughly learns his material. But this also requires the well-prepared teacher to relax his adherence to the written text."

Meeting the needs of the person being taught. "We must always remember that a good teacher focuses on the needs of the person being taught, not on the lesson material or the performance or needs of the teacher.

"Gospel teachers must edify, and that makes them responsible to see the resulting understanding in the persons they have taught. If we are responsive to the promptings of the Spirit, we will be aided in achieving that great goal."

Testifying of gospel principles. "When we speak principles of the gospel that are true, the Holy Ghost testifies to their truthfulness, since another of His missions is to lead us into truth.

"The Lord commanded this method of teaching in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and accompanied it with a great promise: `For I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment - that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and in the spirit of prayer, in bearing testimony to all the world of those things which are communicated unto you." (v. 61.)

Being honest in teaching. "The Spirit will be offended and withdraw if we engage in deception."

Being meek as we serve. "The gospel must be preached with meekness."

Laboring unselfishly for the love of Christ and not for personal gain.

Elder Oaks also counseled: "Remember also to be cautious in sharing spiritual experiences. The Prophet Joseph Smith was told, "Trifle not with sacred things." (D&C 6:12.) Speaking of the "signs that follow them that believe," the Lord commanded members of the Church "that they shall not boast themselves of these things, neither speak them before the world; for these things are given unto you for your profit and for salvation." (D&C 84:65,73.) - John L. Hart

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