Embarking on a yearlong study of the New Testament, Latter-day Saints have before them a renewed opportunity to learn of and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, members of the Sunday School general presidency said.
Brother Tad R. Callister and his counselors, Brother John Sears Tanner and Brother Devin G. Durrant, recently spoke with the Church News pertaining to the 2015 course of study in Sunday School gospel doctrine classes throughout the Church.
“We become like that which we love and admire,” observed Brother Callister. “If we can help the people love and admire the life of the Savior, and take that love into their homes, then just naturally they will become more like the Savior and want to do the things that He wants done. And that requires very good teachers and very good listeners.”
Brother Tanner said that for him, the New Testament is a unique volume of scripture.
“I love it, because it’s the only source where we really see and read about Jesus’ mortal ministry,” he said. “For us who want to become like Christ, studying the New Testament is a chance to see how He acted and interacted with people on this earth after His pre-mortal existence as a spirit and before He was resurrected. We get the chance to hear the testimony of people who rubbed shoulders with Jesus, who knew Him when He walked the earth. They walked with Him. They ate with Him. They sat at His feet. They heard Him, and they saw how He responded to other people.”
Brother Durrant said that, as with many other things in life, in studying the New Testament one gets out of it what one puts into it, “and as we study the New Testament, it’s a great opportunity to come closer to the Savior.
“But the difference may well be in the preparation that we put forth before we arrive in class. To a degree, we’re accustomed to going to the class to be fed. With the gospel, and with the New Testament in particular, here is an opportunity to have the Spirit touch your heart during the week as you prepare for that experience that you will have on Sunday. As we prepare, the Spirit touches us, our testimony is deepened and the experience on Sunday is richer because of our preparation. That’s not only because of the teacher, but because we’re able to contribute more, to give our insights and share our experiences.”
Brother Callister expressed some advice for teachers of the New Testament gospel doctrine course as they begin to prepare each lesson. He said that before reading the lesson material in the course manual a teacher should first read the scriptures that pertain to the lesson, then pray and ask for inspiration.
“We’re hopeful that teachers will start preparing their lessons at least a week in advance — knowing that the Holy Spirit can work on them throughout the whole week — and not just leave it to one compressed two-hour period of time on Saturday.”
Approaching lesson preparation in that manner, a teacher will always be preparing a lesson, even as he or she goes about activities in the course of a day, Brother Callister observed.
Echoing remarks from his counselors, Brother Callister said, “We hope that the learners will take a new vision and say, ‘I want to contribute to this class; I want to participate. I want to do more than just sit through a 40-minute session. I’m going to study in advance; I’m going to listen intently; I’m going to try to raise my hand to participate.’”
Further, Brother Callister said, the presidency hopes that gospel doctrine class members will take what they have learned and felt, a better understanding of the Savior, into their homes to bless the lives of family members.
In response to a question about whether there are New Testament themes that might be regarded as timely today as well as timeless, Brother Durrant said, “The Savior invites those who He is with to follow Him. His is a gospel of action.”
He cited John 7:16-17, wherein the Savior said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
Brother Durrant said the doctrine of Christ pertaining to developing faith in Jesus Christ, being baptized, understanding how the Holy Ghost can bless lives and the concept of enduring to the end is beautifully taught in the New Testament.
“For me, one of the best formulas for enduring to the end is found in the Sermon on the Mount,” he said. “I come back to the point of this being our opportunity to do the things that Jesus Christ asked us to do. If we have any question about the doctrine, live it. In living that doctrine, we come to know of its veracity, of its divinity.”
Brother Callister said an appropriate New Testament theme for today is found in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
“We live in a day in which materialism or intellectualism becomes the primary drive in life for some,” he said. “The Lord says there will be competing interests, but spirituality is what we should seek first, and if we do, all other good things will come to us. Christ in effect is saying that materialism is nothing. ‘All that I have will be yours.’ Intellectualism is nothing. The Holy Ghost will guide you to truth in all things. Everything that you ever want will come to you in tremendous proportions by seeking first the kingdom of God.”
Brother Tanner referred to the response given by the Savior to the question, “Which is the great commandment in the law?”
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).
Brother Tanner commented, “You feel the Savior’s invitation reaching across the centuries and across the miles from Galilee to every individual to love Him and to love our Heavenly Father and to love His children. Almost everything I can think of that is important in life somehow fits under those injunctions.
“The apostle John, in writing his epistles, emphasized that. Paul said, regarding the greatest of gifts, all things will be done away with, but charity endureth, and in the last day, it will be well with us if we possess that pure love of Christ.”