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2 things that will help you become a more powerful teacher

The other day I called my childhood home and my mother answered the phone. “Hey Mom,” I said. “Is Dad around?” She simply replied, “He volunteered again.”

I heard someone once say, “Preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” That is my dad; a Christlike man who has spent his life volunteering, serving, guiding and teaching me how to be more like the Savior.

Everyone is a teacher. In fact, it seems that we are all teaching something all the time. How could we become more influential as teachers both in our homes and at church? My father is a powerful teacher in so many ways, but I would like to highlight two.

First, he lives the gospel. Second, he asks questions and listens.

Live the gospel

I have spent my life watching my dad go to the temple, read scriptures, pray, fast and minister to those around him. He has shown me, through his example and his words, that the real instructor is not the teacher but the Holy Ghost.

A teacher filled with the Holy Spirit will have a more powerful effect upon those they teach by the environment they are able to create. The goal of a teacher is to bring people to Christ, the Holy One who helps us to become holy. President Boyd K. Packer said, "Power comes when a teacher has done all that he can to prepare, not just the individual lesson, but in keeping his life in tune with the Spirit."

Ask questions and listen

One day I walked into the kitchen with a problem on my mind. I sat down and began speaking to my father. "Dad, I have a problem. What should I do?”

He sat for a moment, looked at me, thought, and then he asked, “What do you think you should do? How will that choice affect you?” He went on to help me solve my own problem, but the interesting thing was he never gave much advice. He usually just asked questions and listened.

The Savior asked inspired questions like, "Lovest thou me?" (John 21:16). Then He waited for a response. Waiting provided an opportunity for the Spirit to teach His disciples. Those who had ears to hear would have their hearts changed. As teachers, do we have ears to hear? Are we willing to ask and listen? When we ask inspired questions and then let the Spirit work on the heart of the learner, testimonies are strengthened, hearts are healed and God answers prayers.

My dad's example has blessed me even in my profession. One night I was working late as an administrator of an assisted living community. I was tired, worn out and wanted to go home. I went behind my office door and saw Francis, a caregiver, sitting down, not passing out residents' medications. Frustrated by what I saw, I ignored the situation.

"Sermon on the Mount," by artist Harry Anderson.
"Sermon on the Mount," by artist Harry Anderson. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked by the same hallway and Francis was still sitting there, only now she was talking on her cell phone. That was it! The residents needed their medications. “Doesn’t she understand?” I thought.Irritated, I started walking quickly towards her. She was caught off guard, a little nervous and quickly put her cell phone away.

Right when I was about to reprimand her, a question came out first: “Francis, how are you?” She paused, and then softly said, “I hurt so bad.” I said nothing, but sat down on the floor next to her and listened. She reached down with her left hand and held mine. For the next 10-15 minutes, all we talked about was how bad she hurt, how she was a diabetic, how she needed knee replacements and how that particular night she was in a lot of pain.

As I listened, my heart was changed, I was there for her, I felt her pain and I saw her differently. A simple question changed both of us. Caring more about her rather than the need to correct her created a choice experience where both of us were edified. I never said anything to Francis about passing out medications, but as I was leaving she said, “I guess I will start passing out the meds.” Often the most impactful lessons are the ones that are felt more than heard.

I am grateful for my father, a powerful example of teaching in the Savior’s way. The Savior needs more men and women like him.

— Sam Stoddard serves as the Young Men president in the Teton River Ward in the Rexburg Idaho Henry’s Fork Stake.

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