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What one Sunday School teacher did to help light the fire of testimony in his teenage class

I have questions. Lots of them. I always have. For as long as I can remember, I have believed in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and I have had an insatiable appetite for truth and a burning desire to know more about Them. Over the years, this gift has brought many blessings and some challenges.

As a child and young teenager, I asked all of my Primary, Sunday School and Young Women teachers a lot of questions — questions that would be considered “deep” for a child. They fulfilled their callings faithfully and blessed my life in indescribable ways, yet they often did not have the answers I sought. At times, this made church a difficult experience for me.

This is by no means a criticism of any of those wonderful teachers; at age 11 I was asking questions that I still don’t know the answers to a couple of decades later. I remember complaining to my mom one Sunday after Church: “Why do I even go to Church if no one can answer my questions?” She compassionately listened to my frustrations and witnessed of the importance of following the Savior at all times.

Heavenly Father sent me one of the greatest gifts of my teenage years in the form of a Sunday School teacher named Brother Brent White. Shortly after Brother White and his family moved into the ward, he was called to be my Sunday School teacher. When he was sustained in sacrament meeting, I remember thinking, “Who is this guy in the blue framed glasses? Should I really give him a try?” It sounds so silly to my adult mind now, but that was my thought as a 14-year-old. And I am grateful I did “give him a try.”

On his first Sunday as my teacher, he started the class by asking, “Does anyone have any questions?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “Really?” I thought. “OK, let’s do this.” I sat up in my chair and raised my hand. He called on me and the questions began. I honestly don’t remember my first question. But I remember his response: “Wow, that’s a really good question. Let’s turn to Doctrine and Covenants.”

“We truly wanted to learn the doctrine.”

I turned to the reference and there was my answer — right in the scriptures. That verse led me to another question, which I asked right away. And that was the pattern for the rest of the class. I don’t think I even let anyone else in the class talk that day. I kept firing questions and he kept taking me to the scriptures.

That became a normal Sunday for our class, but the other classmates started joining in as well. Soon enough, even those of us who used to have to get escorted to class by the Sunday School president were now running to class after sacrament meeting. We truly wanted to learn the doctrine.

Brother White would regularly take us to the scriptures and the words of prophets. He would lead discussions that allowed us to think and share and ask more questions. If he didn’t know something, he would tell us he didn’t know. And then he would invite us to keep thinking and would give us more questions to consider about that topic. I was OK that he didn’t know all the answers — I didn’t expect him to know everything. He testified that Heavenly Father wanted to teach us and wanted to help us understand truth as we are taught repeatedly in the scriptures. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).

He also helped us learn by teaching. When he was sick or out of town, instead of getting another adult to substitute, he would ask one of us to teach. The first time he asked me, I felt surprised, nervous and super excited. I don’t really remember how it went, but I know I loved it. I now even wonder how much of that experience contributed to my desire to become a teacher by profession.

Some of us class members were so engaged that the 40-minute Sunday School session was often too short for all we wanted to learn. Brother White would allow us to come to his home on Sunday nights, and we would continue our questions and conversations from class. He took time to help me understand — lots of time.

I felt my small flame of a testimony growing into a blazing fire that year because of my Sunday School experience. We knew he loved us, and we loved him. I am eternally grateful for Brother White and the way that he led me to the Savior and assisted Him in my personal conversion

Lori Newbold serves as the director of training services for Seminaries and Institutes and is a member of the Young Women general board.

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