Blessings of Sunday School

"The first time that I confidently felt that Jesus is my Savior — and that I did not need to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ — came as a result of a Sunday School teacher."

That testimony, from a bishop recalling his early teens, is a direct and powerful assertion of the blessings the Church's Sunday School can bring into our lives.

The teacher, Brother Havens, "knew that teens sometimes struggle with things they don't need to struggle with . . . and doubt things they don't need to doubt. He knew that we had strong testimonies, but we didn't realize it. So his Sunday School lessons were designed to create experiences for us that would help us realize how much we really knew, how strong we really were, and to cause us to become confident in the Lord."

In so doing, Brother Havens invited the teens into a setting where they had to decide if they were willing to declare publicly their testimony of the Savior.

"For a brief moment," the bishop recalled, "as I wondered whether I should raise my hand, a million thoughts and feelings flashed through me. In the pressure of the moment, I looked down deep into my soul and was spiritually transformed . . . by a powerful, yet still, small voice. The Spirit helped me to realize that . . . I knew about faith, repentance, forgiveness, the Atonement, revelation, prophets and the priesthood.

"I confidently raised my hand as a symbol of my faith in and love for Jesus Christ."

Sunday School is not where Latter-day Saint parents send their children to learn the principles of the gospel. Nor is it where Latter-day Saint adults go to satisfy their gospel study needs. Rather it is a help, an aid, a springboard, if you will, for home-centered and individual gospel study — study, that with the help of inspired teachers such as Brother Havens, leads to testimony and Christlike action.

Church members' insights about Sunday School seem to fall into some common categories, such as:

"When the Sunday School teacher is prepared, the class augments my personal study. I come away knowing more than I did when we began."

"Hearing and learning from my peers in the class both increases my gospel knowledge and strengthens my testimony of the Savior."

"The influence of the Spirit (or lack thereof) makes (or breaks) a successful Sunday School lesson."

Church members' specific comments about the Sabbath teaching are also worth noting:

"I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the gospel with those who know more than I."

Truth be told, any student of the gospel could offer that same observation. Even the most learned student of the scriptures might well learn from the humble insight of a new member, while a long-time member might increase his or her scriptural understanding by hearing prophetic teachings accumulated in the study guide.

"Sunday School helps me focus on specific aspects of the scriptures."

Sometimes individual study needs some external direction. While the Holy Spirit is the best source of such, Sunday School can help provide appropriate opportunities.

"The experiences of Sunday School are many and the influences are subtle."

What more could a gospel student ask? There need be no flash of light or voice of thunder, just continual subtle influences that change one's life and draw him or her closer to our Heavenly Father.

"Because I know what we discuss in Sunday School each week, I try to read the assigned scriptures before class."

While, initially, that might be a Law-of-Moses approach, those who try soon realize that their scriptural reading becomes more than just filling an assignment. Following the prompting of the Holy Ghost, they learn to love a daily diet of scripture reading and come to realize that it is more fulfilling than virtually anything else on that day's schedule.

Sunday School, then, is a wonderful way to fulfill this admonition from the Lord:

"And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other. . . .

"And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me." (D&C 43:8-9.)

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed