The major role of a teacher in the Church is not just to convey information but to prepare the way so that members of the class can have a spiritual experience.
This is the view of the five General Authorities who serve as executive directors of the Church Curriculum Department: Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elders William R. Bradford, Gene R. Cook, Jeffrey R. Holland and Francis M. Gibbons of the Quorums of the Seventy."We have one desire in teaching anything, and that is that men might know the truth," said Elder Pinegar. "And since the mission of the Holy Ghost is to lead men to all truth, then the whole purpose of the classroom, as far as the teacher is concerned, is to bring the Spirit of the Holy Ghost there so that He can carry the message of truth into the heart of the student. Then bothteacher and student, as the scriptures say, can be edified together. (See D&C 50:13-22.)
"In knowing the truth, we may develop sufficient faith to come unto Christ and, through Him, come unto the Father. This is more of a continuous process than an event. A person, in talking about his testimony, may refer to a specific event or a series of events that led him to the knowledge or testimony that Jesus is the Christ. That individual may point to one or two events, but coming to that knowledge or gaining that testimony is a process that never really ends."
Elder Bradford said many people do not really comprehend what it means to "teach by the Spirit." He explained that when he was a missionary in Japan, he learned the Japanese have two different words for "light." One word, as used in dealing with rays of light, simply means the absence of darkness.
The other word means enlightenment – the clarity and understanding that come into the mind about a concept or particular truth. "It is this light that we are talking about when we talk about teaching by the Spirit," explained Elder Bradford.
To illustrate how the light of the Spirit can enter into teaching and learning situations, he used the example of a computer. When all its parts are functioning properly, an operator can use an access code and, by obeying the "laws" that govern its use, extract information from it.
"In mortality, the Holy Ghost stands as a mediator to see that those who are obedient to the law may receive full access, as far as it is expedient, to the Lord's work," said Elder Bradford. "The Spirit that comes into the mind is a communicative system that teaches concepts of truth. The Holy Ghost also stands as a guardian of sorts to see that the light of the Spirit cannot be accessed by those who are not fully obedient to the principles of the law."
Elder Bradford further said, "This light of the Spirit is divine. You cannot force the Spirit. The light of the Spirit will come to each person independently, upon divine principles, and those principles are outlined very clearly for us in the scriptures."
Teaching by the Spirit, continued Elder Bradford, requires "that a teacher not get so involved in a desire to transfer a mass of information just for the sake of conveying information."
Elder Cook said, "Teachers must remember that they are `instruments' in the hands of the Lord to assist Him in changing the hearts of men. The Holy Ghost is truly the teacher.
"Many times, the greatest things learned in a classroom or at home are not derived directly from the content of what the teacher or parent taught but, more important, from the Spirit of the Lord which was present. The Holy Ghost is capable of teaching the concepts of truth to all who seek His truth.
"Even though a teacher has an outline and a lesson manual to follow, he must be sensitive to the needs of the students
in the very moment' as some of those needs may be more dominant than what he intended to teach. If he will speak in the very moment, these words will be fulfilled: . . . treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted out unto every man.' (D&C 84:85.)
"These principles equally apply at home," Elder Cook continued. "The greatest need the Church has is for inspired mothers and fathers who teach with the power of the Holy Ghost to touch the hearts of their children, to change their hearts and cause them to repent and draw closer to the Lord."
Elder Holland also emphasized that teaching is not limited to the classroom. "In a sense, we are all teachers," he observed. "A stake president, a bishop, an elders quorum president, a Relief Society president, a General Authority – all are teachers.
"What all need to strive for is to have the power of the Spirit in their efforts, whether those efforts are from the pulpit, in the classroom, in a high council meeting, or in priesthood executive committee. Each needs to feel he or she has the power of the Holy Ghost, which will carry messages to the hearts of the children of men."
Elder Gibbons said, "When we teach in the Church, we're teaching spiritual concepts. The ultimate objective of any teaching is to inculcate in the minds of the students the fact that God really lives and the Holy Ghost is real, and it is the Holy Ghost who will lead them into all truth, whether it is things which have been, things which are or things which are to come.
"A teacher bears a heavy responsibility," Elder Gibbons continued. "Sometimes, I think we don't recognize that responsibility; we underestimate a teacher's importance and long-term influence. The Savior was the greatest of teachers. When we view Him as a teacher, that should help us recognize how important a calling teaching really is."