When teachers wish to "teach by the Spirit," they should understand they have a great responsibility to prepare and study in order to receive the promptings of the Spirit.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorums of the Seventy and an executive director of the Church Curriculum Department said he feels there are three kinds of preparation a teacher of the gospel has to make:- The teacher needs to prepare personally to be worthy to teach. "This would involve living a worthy life and keeping the commandments, and it would involve prayer and appropriate fasting," said Elder Holland. "It would involve all the things we would need to do in our personal lives to be worthy so that we could have the Spirit of the Lord with us. That would be true of all members of the Church, whether or not they are called as teachers."
- The teacher should study the scriptures. "This is essential, particularly in a course such as the Gospel Doctrine class. Teachers should learn the scriptures, be well-versed in them, be able to use them in the classroom, be able to use them to answer questions that arise in class, and focus on the scriptures as a source of the Spirit. The scriptures themselves convey a powerful spiritual experience, as all missionaries can attest when they get an investigator to read the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon.
"An added blessing to using the scriptures in the class is that when the class is over, members are able to take those scriptures home, back into their lives and use them through the week, to remember the lessons that were taught, and to have access to their wisdom and counsel. Using the scriptures gives the classroom experience greater longevity because the scriptures are carried back into daily life."
- The teacher, after having prepared personally and after having studied the scriptures, should carefully select supportive materials. "The idea of preparation is very deep and very broad," said Elder Holland, "but I think we have not always had our priorities straight. We may have started with this last step first and hoped that the first and second steps would come along. Supportive materials should be just that – supportive. They should be only as scaffolding is to a building. The scaffolding never was intended to be the main structure."
Elder Holland said a teacher cannot separate study and faith. "We read in the scriptures, `And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.' (D&C 88:118.)
"That is the combination required. If there is a danger in some of our classes, it might be found in such thoughts as, `If I study enough and get enough supporting materials, then I will have a blockbuster of a class.'
"But true teaching will not take place without the faith, without the spirituality, without the centrality of the scriptures.
"The greatest instructional power is going to come from the manifestations of the Holy Ghost. That is the most powerful and binding teaching influence anyone can have."