As he took the stage to begin his remarks, Brother Matthew O. Richardson said he needed to begin in the same place he’s begun for the past three years — when he received his current calling as second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. After being called and set apart by the First Presidency, he and the other presidency members were instructed to help improve the teaching and learning in the Church and in the home.
In his BYU Campus Education Week presentation Aug. 15, Brother Richardson noted that as he and the presidency members have tried to aid individuals throughout the world with this prophetic mantra, they have found that people are hungry to improve their lives but don’t always know how. One young Armenian mother told him, “I want to be a mother in Zion, but I have no idea what that means. I have no idea how to do it but I know in my heart of hearts that I want to be a mother in Zion. Please, teach me how.”
Brother Richardson quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley who said, “Eternal life will only come when men and women are taught with such effectiveness that they change and discipline their lives.”
“They’re not just taught; they are taught with effectiveness and the outcome of this is that they do something. … Effective teaching is always going to be connected with change,” noted Brother Richardson.
Brother Richardson presented three basic pillars that provide the foundation for solid teaching — where, what and when. Where are you going to teach? What are you going to teach? When are you going to teach it?
Teaching can be hindered if not founded on all three pillars. For example, sometimes individuals will try to sway someone in the heat of anger. It may be a great lesson (what) but the timing (when) is off.
Brother Richardson then focused his remarks on the “where” pillar of teaching — specifically, teaching and learning in the home.
“It is the home environment that becomes the critical, the golden place, for effective teaching and especially for learning,” Brother Richardson said.
“President Hinckley said, ‘I believe our problems, almost every one, arise out of the homes of the people’ (October 1998 general conference). If there is to be a reformation, if there is to be a change … if there is to be a return to the old and sacred values, it must begin in the home.”
Brother Richardson said parents can facilitate learning in the home in many ways.
“Look for opportunities to teach. Provide opportunities to teach. Remember the three great pillars: There is a time, there is a place and there is a message to be taught.”
As an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU, Brother Richardson said he often hears his students say, “But, Brother Richardson, that doesn’t work in the ‘real’ world.”
Explaining that their definition of “real” is what they are experiencing in their own homes, Brother Richardson asked, “Can you see why home is a great place for teaching? Because home is where we manifest ‘real’ life. It’s our living experience. It’s where we put what we learn to the test in living. We’re not just talking about family prayer; it’s in the home we’re either doing it or not.”
Brother Richardson explained that it is only through agency that learning and teaching are connected. “We can teach but, ultimately, learning is going to be an act of personal agency and that comes in many different forms. When they choose to listen, when they choose to observe, when they choose to do, when they choose to experiment.”
The more opportunities that allow personal agency to be exercised the greater learning individuals have, he said. “When we ask them to do something, to experiment, to be able to participate, when we’re constantly inviting them to use their agency to think, to use and to do, we start to find learning.”
In closing, he said, “Brothers and sisters, I testify that as we employ effective teaching, agency, as it is employed, learning takes place. And when real learning takes place, conversion happens. We change our lives.”