Holding a large print edition of the scriptures overhead for dramatic effect, A. Roger Merrill, general president of the Sunday School, said, "Above all, use the manual. And this is the manual."
Looking to the life of the Savior as recorded in the New Testament as the course of study for 2007, Brother Merrill hopes members of the Church will remember first and foremost that the canonized word of the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets should be the core of gospel study.
"The teacher's manual is also very helpful," he added, giving a nod to the inspired aid of the teacher and student supplements.
The life and teachings of the Savior provide the greatest example we have to meet all the purposes of life and eternity, he added. "During times of challenge, often the most comforting words for me have come from the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament."
To emphasize the significance of studying the life of the Savior, Brother Merrill noted a conference address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, who said in October 2003: "Of the many magnificent purposes served in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, one great aspect of that mission often goes uncelebrated.... It is the grand truth that in all that Jesus came to say and do, including and especially in His atoning suffering and sacrifice, He was showing us who and what God our Eternal Father is like, how completely devoted He is to His children in every age and nation. In word and in deed Jesus was trying to reveal and make personal to us the true nature of His Father, our Father in Heaven."
"The key," continued Brother Merrill, "is to understand the 'why' and the 'what' of His teachings. When that is understood, the purpose becomes clear, it provides focus.
"It is helpful," he said, "if members will set prayerful objectives of what they will work on to improve, and then study each week to learn what the Savior has taught about these matters."
In this perspective, he added, "The New Testament is unique. It offers understanding of His mortal ministry. It is a marvelous opportunity to know Him better, just as He prayed in the Intercessory Prayer that life eternal is to know the true God."
"The New Testament is the first witness of Jesus Christ," said Daniel K. Judd, first counselor in the Sunday School General presidency. "We see Him progress through mortality, as a baby, then a child and finally as an adult, as we progress. We learn of His life, of His fatigue and need for rest, travels and His relationship with His family and, above all else, His atoning sacrifice and resurrection."
Turning to Sunday School teachers, Brother Judd, a teacher by profession, said, "We often make two mistakes as teachers. Either we are under prepared, disqualifying ourselves for companionship of the Holy Ghost, or we are over prepared and feel secure in our knowledge and duty bound to follow the lesson we've designed to the point that we fail to follow spiritual promptings or recognize the teachings the Lord would have delivered."
At the beginning of the teacher's manual is a section devoted to the improvement of teaching, said William D. Oswald, second counselor in the Sunday School presidency.
Its prominent position accentuates the desires of Church leaders to constantly strive for high quality teaching.
"'Helps for teachers,' outlines a variety of areas to improve teaching," said Brother Oswald. Teaching is spiritual work, he said, emphasizing that fasting, study and prayer are requisites to receiving the Spirit, without which there can be no teaching (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:14).
Teachers prepare by obtaining His word through scripture study, "then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21).
Manuals, continued Brother Oswald, contain more information than will typically be used in one class period. Quoting from the manual, he counseled teachers to seek the Spirit of the Lord in selecting the material that best meets the needs of the class.
Asking questions and encouraging a class discussion create a forum for learning by the Spirit where members can liken the scriptures to themselves and receive revelation, Brother Oswald said.
Sunday School plays a crucial role in helping members understand the gospel, said Brother Merrill. It is an hour of studying pure doctrine. There is never a lack of meaningful material, he continued. The gospel is wide and deep and always has more for us to plumb.
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The New Testament
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