Elder Uchtdorf champions ‘preflight checklists’ to better teach in ‘the Savior’s way’

As a seasoned airline pilot, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf knows well the absolute necessity of following preflight checklists — those routine tasks and procedures that help ensure the safety of passengers and crew during their journey.

Such preflight checks discipline pilots to keep their focus on the essential things that make for a successful flight.

“Just as a pilot has a specific guiding purpose, so do we as teachers of the ‘Word’: to bring souls closer to Christ. 

“Whenever we approach a teaching opportunity, that goal should be foremost in our mind. As teachers, do we have a checklist to help us focus on our sacred objective?” Elder Uchtdorf asked during a worldwide broadcast titled “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” made available on Saturday, June 11.

The event was designed for all members serving as teachers, either in their Church callings or in their homes.

A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Uchtdorf began his message by saluting all who answer to the title of “teacher.”

“Since all are teachers in one form or another, I should think my group of favorite people is quite inclusive. I love teachers. I love being around them. I owe more than I can ever repay to teachers who helped me develop into who I am today.”

Jesus Christ is the greatest of all teachers, he testified. The Lord is the ultimate example for all who want to improve as teachers and as individuals.

“Over the better part of the past 2,000 years, I don’t suppose there has passed a single second when, somewhere in the world, [Christ’s] teachings were not treasured, studied, pondered, repeated and modeled.”

Teaching in the Savior’s way

Elder Uchtdorf announced that the Church will publish a revised version of “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” this month.

“It is a guide for all who teach the gospel — in the home and in the Church,” he said. “It will be available in 70 languages on the Gospel Library app. Printed copies will follow in coming months.

“This resource draws on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as our guide and inspiration as teachers. It helps us focus on teaching the way He taught.”

Teaching is an expression of discipleship, he added. Teachers love, care for, bless and lift others. 

“In other words, if you are trying to love and serve as Jesus did, then you are a teacher, and ‘Teaching in the Savior’s Way’ is for you. I hope it will be a treasure to you, whether you are new to this journey or have been walking it for many years.”

Included in the revised version of “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” is a self-assessment that functions as a “flight checklist” for teachers. This self-assessment can guide introspection, reveal blind spots and prompt ideas on ways to improve.

“It can be as useful for teachers as the flight checklist is for pilots.”

Elder Uchtdorf then invited his broadcast audience to join him “in the cockpit” to perform a “preflight check for teaching” designed to help teachers prepare to teach in the Savior’s way.

Checklist item No. 1: Focus on Jesus Christ

By focusing on Christ, teachers ensure that the Savior is at the center of their teaching. Elder Uchtdorf then posed four key questions:

  • Do I teach about Jesus Christ no matter what I am teaching?
  • Do I emphasize the example of Jesus Christ?
  • Do I help learners recognize the Lord’s love, power and mercy in their lives?
  • Do I help learners intentionally strive to become more like Jesus Christ?

The gospel is so expansive that a person could spend a lifetime of study and scarcely scratch its surface, he added. So teachers must follow the Savior’s example and target the “bull’s-eye” at the center of His gospel: Love God. Love others.

“Other things may be interesting to us. They may even be important. But they are not the center. They are the supporting cast. They are the side dish on our menu, the sprinkles on our cake. They can add spice or variety, but they are not the main course.”

Elder Uchtdorf emphasized that the goal of teaching is always helping others draw closer to Christ by increasing their knowledge and love for Him — and by serving Him by reaching out in compassion to all His children.

Whenever a teacher is tempted to “veer off and get distracted” by a seemingly interesting topic, he or she should ask:

First, “Do I focus on the Savior, no matter what I am teaching about?” 

And second, “Is what I am teaching helping others to grow in their love for God and to show that love by loving and serving?”

“As teachers, we may speak with the tongues of angels; we may entertain, delight, amuse and astound. But if we have failed in keeping our focus on Jesus Christ, we have missed the mark and our teaching is only a shadow of what it ought to be,” he said.

“Always keep the focus on our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

Checklist item No. 2: Love those you teach

Elder Uchtdorf invited teachers to reflect on their love for those they instruct by considering a few questions:

  • Do I strive to see learners the way the Savior sees them?
  • Do I seek to know those I teach — to understand their circumstances, needs and strengths?
  • Do I pray for learners by name?
  • Do I create a safe environment where all are respected and know their contributions are valued?
  • Do I find appropriate ways to express my love?

“Every person we teach is a child of God and has a personality,” he said. “Do we see them the way our Heavenly Father does — as unique individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, trials and struggles? 

“Are we creating a safe learning environment — a place where each person can feel secure and accepted?”

Students of the gospel, he added, need to know that their teacher loves them, values them and respects them.

“The Savior spent much of His time with the outcasts and castoffs of society. He could have lectured and condemned them. Instead, He embraced, healed and comforted them. 

“Yes, He taught them to ‘go and sin no more’. But to the sick, the sinners and the disabled, He spoke and acted out of love, compassion and respect.”

Gospel teachers can reflect Christ’s example when they treat others as prized children of God.

“As He loved, we love. As He lifted, we lift. As He taught, we teach. Let us remember to love, respect and lift those we teach.”

Checklist item No. 3: Teach by the Spirit

Elder Uchtdorf introduced the third checklist item by presenting another series of questions:

  • Do I prepare myself spiritually to teach?
  • Do I respond to spiritual promptings about the needs of learners?
  • Do I create settings and opportunities for learners to be taught by the Holy Ghost?
  • Do I help learners seek, recognize and act on personal revelation?
  • Do I bear testimony often and encourage learners to do the same?

Remember, only the Holy Ghost can convert a person to Jesus Christ.

“We can speak the words, but conversion is a matter of the Spirit,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “It happens when the Holy Ghost touches the heart and a person responds to His influence by following the Savior.”

A teacher’s job is not to convert — but to teach the “good news of Jesus Christ and His gospel that has been restored in our time. And it is our job to support and validate our words with our honest and sincere deeds.”

Elder Uchtdorf testified of the Holy Spirit’s power to speak to one’s soul. It can take an ordinary thought spoken in an ordinary work and “cause it to burn like fire.”

“Another person’s conversion is not dependent upon our eloquence or command of scripture. It’s not dependent on how well we teach or defend doctrine. It’s not dependent upon our intelligence, charisma or command of the language.

“All we need to work on is to know for ourselves. Then our Heavenly Father invites us to ‘open [our] mouth[s] at all times, declaring [His] gospel with the sound of rejoicing.’ If we do that, the Holy Spirit will testify of the truth.

“We don’t have to be anything more or less than who we are — children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.”

Checklist item No. 4: Teach the doctrine 

Teachers can know if they are following Christ’s example of teaching doctrine by asking:

  • Do I learn the doctrine for myself?
  • Do I teach from the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets?
  • Do I help learners recognize and understand truths in the scriptures?
  • Do I focus on truths that build faith in Jesus Christ?
  • Do I help learners find personal relevance in the doctrine?

The doctrine that teachers must share “is the word that proceeds from the holy scriptures and the mouths of apostles and prophets,” declared Elder Uchtdorf.

“It is they who have the right and authority to expound and clarify doctrine. And it is through them that God has always declared His word, giving guidance and understanding to His children.”

The Church’s central and saving doctrine is that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all.

Teachers need not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. “Rather, we must joyfully raise our voices in teaching His doctrine even when it may seem a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others.”

Checklist item No. 5: Invite diligent learning

Once again, Elder Uchtdorf introduced this checklist item with a few questions:

  • Do I help learners take responsibility for their learning?
  • Do I encourage learners to study the gospel daily?
  • Do I encourage learners to share the truths they are learning?
  • Do I invite learners to live what they are learning?

“Our spirits need constant nourishment so we can become the beings of light and glory God created us to become,” he said. “When we study and ponder the words of the prophets of God, we drink of living water and feast upon the word of Christ.”

Elder Uchtdorf then paraphrased a familiar proverb: 

“Teach a man the gospel and you have blessed him for a day. Teach a man to feast upon the word of God and connect with the Holy Spirit, and you have blessed him for a lifetime.”

The process of inspiration and personal revelation, he added, allows disciples to build their lives on the rock of the Redeemer. “Teaching the gospel is important. Teaching others to immerse themselves in prayer, seek the Spirit and apply what they have learned is equally important.”

Elder Uchtdorf concluded his instruction by promising a divine blessing:

“By laying hold upon the word of God and teaching others to do the same — by teaching in the Savior’s way — we show our love for God and for our fellow human beings.

“And as we walk that straight and narrow course, we take part in that holiest of callings to lead our own immortal souls and the souls of others towards the ‘right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out’” (Helaman 3:30).

Elder Uchtdorf was accompanied during the broadcast by his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf.

The event was conducted by Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency. Prayers were offered by Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon and Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace.

How to watch

The broadcast is available in various languages on:

Local leaders are encouraged to determine a viewing date and time that best serve Church members in their areas. Teacher council meetings may be an ideal opportunity to view the broadcast.