Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

“Teaching by the Spirit,” Elder Cook calls it…

Posted by joespencer on March 2, 2007

Elder Gene R. Cook opens his book, Teaching by the Spirit, with a fascinating story. After giving his masterfully prepared homecoming talk after his mission, he was standing just outside the chapel being told over and over again by all the ward members that he gave a wonderful talk, and that he was such a good example to the younger boys, etc. Eventually everyone but one older member of the ward (a high priest) had said their congratulations and moved on to class or whatever. Then this man approached young Brother Cook and said: “I have just one question about your talk: why don’t you believe what the scriptures say about teaching by the Spirit?”

He describes the process he went through during the next week, preparing to speak with a member of the high council in another ward on the following Sunday. Reading carefully the scriptures about “taking no thought,” etc., he finally forced himself to prepare nothing, but only to pray and seek to commune with the Spirit. The next Sunday he stood up, rambled for about a minute, and then caught the direction the Spirit wanted him to go. After that meeting, he says, member of this ward came up to him in tears explaining that he had been an answer to this or that prayer, and one person even told him that he had quoted a full paragraph from her patriarchal blessing. Elder Cook says that he was, from that moment, completely convinced that the only way to teach is to teach by the Spirit.

But that leaves us with a question: what does it mean to teach by the Spirit? The very idea has a bad reputation do to some misrepresentation of it by the simply lazy. But what does it really mean to teach by the Spirit?

I’d very much like to hear others tear my ideas to shreds here, and I’d love to hear all that others have to say in response to the above question. Nonetheless, let me offer here what I think about this question.

My experience has been that the Spirit becomes involved in the classroom in two ways: first, the Spirit works upon the scriptures when we interpret them by study and also by faith; second, the Spirit works upon two or more people who are truly engaging one another. I suppose I can link these two up by saying that the Spirit is involved in communion, whether that is communion with God or with others. Most important to both of these types of communion, in my opinion, is that they rely on the word: we commune with God by study and by faith, and we commune with each other as we communally commune with God by study and by faith.

What I think this implies is that we have to do all we can in the classroom to get three barriers out of the way: any barrier that is keeping us estranged from God must be got rid of; any barrier that is keeping us estranged from members of the class must be got rid of; and any barrier that is keeping us from engaging the word must be got rid of. And really, I’m convinced that this last one entails the other two: if I and everyone else in the class is seriously involved in the scriptures, then the other two barriers have collapsed. Hence, to teach by the Spirit: to engage the scriptures quite seriously, by study and also by faith.

Briefly, then, here is what I see as the model teacher. She does not prepare a specific outline or a lesson. She has nothing before her in class but the class and the text. She spends all her “preparation” time studying, trying to understand the text or the subject matter to be discussed. She spend none of her “preparation” time organizing what she is going to say. She becomes familiar enough with the materials generally that she can feel quite free to follow the Spirit’s direction, wherever it might lead in the moment. She prays constantly that the Spirit can guide her in all of this study. Then she comes to the classroom and opens the lesson simply by getting into the text. Then she lets things go wherever the Spirit leads, wherever the winds desires to blow. She engages the members of the classroom quite seriously, taking every question seriously and dealing with comments charitably. She is most interested that whatever the Spirit is saying right then is the thing worth hearing. She is ready to be taught in that moment, to rethink everything she has ever learned at the whisper of the Spirit. She is unafraid to let discussion run rampant, and she is unafraid to stop discussion cold because the Spirit is pressing in a direction. She is willing to follow the Spirit’s nudgings in whatever direction: to go into the Hebrew roots here, to tie this to D&C 128 there, to do some hard rethinking of this doctrine here, to ask so-and-so specifically why he has that particular look on his face, to get passionate when the Spirit is strong, to speak meekly and calmly when the Spirit speaks softly, etc., etc., etc.

I find that, when this model describes me (except in that I am not a “she”), I learn a great deal on my feet, far more than I learn in “preparing.” And I find that the most happens with my students. And I find that there is a powerful sense of communion, that the people in the classroom feel a great deal closer to me. And I find that people come up afterward and say things like “that was an answer to prayer, etc.” I’m convinced.

But I’d like to learn more…

86 Responses to ““Teaching by the Spirit,” Elder Cook calls it…”

  1. robf said

    So Joe, how did this work discussing D&C 98 in seminary this morning?

  2. Matt W. said

    I frankly just don’t feel smart enough to work this way.

    1. I remember things better when I write them down.
    2. Preparing a lesson helps me bring my thoughts together and clarifies for me what I am talking about.
    3. Where is the line drawn? Should I go to my lesson without even knowing what scriptures we are going to talk about? If it’s ok to know which scripture to use, why isn’t it ok to have something prepared to talk about a little?
    4. What happened to “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”?
    5. Why can’t the spirit communicate what is needed prior to the lesson?

    Just some first reactions… I’m trying to go for “genuine” here. :)

  3. BrianJ said

    Joe: I don’t think I’m going to “tear you to shreds,” but here is some opposition:

    “She spend none of her “preparation” time organizing what she is going to say.”

    I don’t see how an outline blocks the Spirit. See Matt W, point #5 above. Okay, if the teacher creates an outline by the Spirit’s prompting, but then adheres to that outline during class despite the Spirit nudging otherwise—well then I see your point. But why not prepare something, but also be prepared to throw it out the window if so inspired in the moment?

    Two examples (of many individual examples) support the “prepare an outline” model:

    1) General Conference Addresses. With the exception of David B. Haight and maybe Gordon B. Hinckley (at times), it appears that all recent conference speakers have a pre-prepared talk that they follow very closely.

    2) Prophets in the scriptures themselves. I’ll take Moses as an example, who was told what to go and say to Pharoah beforehand. (Of course, that’s just the first example to come to mind; there are many others.) And yes, I know that Nephi’s clandestine tour of Jerusalem is a contrary example, but it leaves me saying, “Sometimes the Spirit helps you plan ahead, other times it wants you running ‘blind.'”

    Personally, I would balance your comments by allowing (not necessarily encouraging) outlines, but stressing the need to be willing to depart from them. And as an exercise, I would recommend that many (not all) teachers try to teach without their outline a few times—just for the experience of being so exposed that they have to reach for the Spirit. After that, I think they would be better able to recognize the Spirit with or without their outline. But I don’t think teachers need to abandon outlines altogether. (And the reason I wouldn’t recommend this to all teachers: there are those who are really struggling with their calling as it is, so I don’t think this “skill” is the most crucial for them.)

    Finally, I am a bit reluctant to ask the Spirit to come up with all of the ideas of what my class “needs to hear.” I’m thinking along the lines of the brother of Jared’s experience—the Lord basically saying, “Look, I want you to follow the Spirit, but come up with some of your own ideas too!”

  4. nhilton said

    BrianJ said it well.

    I, too, thought of the GA’s who all have pre-written talks. My high-counselman husband is instructed to read the written words he’s to present from the Stake rather than paraphrase them. Perhaps this isn’t applicable to a general church SS class, but perhaps it is.

    I do believe you must first fill the well before you can draw anything out. I’ve sat through many rambling lessons where the teacher comes expecting to be blown about instead of present a cohesive message.

    I also believe that the Spirit will do as much, or more, directing as you prepare privately for your class as he will during class. During class is sometimes a difficult time to continuously hear the Spirit speak. There are many distractions. If you’ve felt prompted to direct your teaching train a specific way during pre-class preparation you should definitely continue that path during class unless strongly prompted not to. This I say from experience. I’ve had equally as many people praise me for a lesson/talk that spoke to their concern that I’ve pre-preparred as those from which I “blow with the wind.”

    I love to “blow with the wind” out of sheer adventure. But sometimes it’s part of the task in teaching to stay on-topice. This, too, can be a challenge. Staying on-topic & engaging might be the challenge for you, Joe. :)

  5. Hmm. Actually I think I agree for the most part with all these comments so far, which seems to mean that I didn’t communicate very well.

    In preparing to teach (notice: not in preparing a lesson), I write quite a bit down. And I spend quite a bit of time bringing my thoughts together. Sometimes part of preparing to teach is even teaching the wall for a half hour. There is no line to draw, it seems to me: in preparing I’ve studied far too many scriptures to share during class, and the Spirit will probably drawn on a few them, and a few I didn’t realize could really open things up.

    In other words, what seemed not to come out in the post I wrote is this: one still prepares, but one prepares by studying the word, rather than assembling a lesson. On Monday I substitute taught seminary and taught section 85 of the D&C. Every hour was completely different, in terms of an outline, though many of the same ideas came out here and there. In one class, we began towards the end of the section; in another, we began with the first verse and worked right through it. In one class, we read about three verses from the section and spent the rest of the time in the books of Moses and Malachi. In one class we spent twenty minutes on verses 5-6. In another class we moved past those in fifteen seconds. The point is that the material is all there, like so much water for the Spirit to come down and brood upon. But I don’t decide beforehand how things should be structured. In fact, Monday was a fascinating experience as far as that goes, because I had never taken a whole lot of time to look at section 85, and because I did not outline or prepare a lesson, I came home having been taught five different ways to outline the section, maybe one of which I could have sorted out in preparation.

    I hope that is somewhat clearer. What I’ve found, personally, is that if I prepare an outline or prepare a lesson, I am far less on topic than when I teach by the Spirit. When I prepare something, I feel like I’m trying to construct an argument, or trying to make a logical series of steps towards a specific conclusion, and then things get too complex. And then when time is short or some such thing, the lesson falls apart. But when I go in simply having studied and learned as much as I can about the meaning of the materials to be taught, the Lord imposes upon me a very on-topic approach to the material. What I would have made a series of topics, the Lord makes one, bringing all things together in one in Christ.

    So, I suppose I’m still not a fan of outlines. As for the Spirit teaching in advance: absolutely! The Spirit loves to teach you in every spare minute you take to study the material. But I’m skeptical about saying that the Spirit (at least, very often) will impose a structure on things in advance. Any “structure” I learn in advance, I assume, is one that the text or material itself has. In teaching, however, the Lord might lead me to work through that structure backwards, or to take up its center first and then hang everything else on it, etc. Does that clarify that?

    As for D&C 98 today, it was very interesting how it worked out. I had a class that was not very interested in learning (about half actually had their scriptures). The Spirit was a bit harder to catch, but it was there. And it led us to begin with verse 16, then to go to Malachi 4:1, 5-6 (which I hadn’t studied or thought about looking at until that very moment). Then we went back and looked at the law/constitution business, and we read it very differently from anything I had learned in preparing to teach. And then we took a look at the one-two-three-four times business, seeing how that fit into the themes of sealing, following the Lord’s will, and the twin commandments of section 97 (build a temple and keep the law of consecration), which I had not even really thought about in preparing to teach. In short, I learned a heck of a lot more in class than I learned in preparing….

  6. nhilton said

    Joe, as I read your clarification I better understand what you do to prepare. I don’t think many of us have the memory you seem to have regarding scripture. I am often aware of a scripture I want to study in conjunction with another, but I must spend some time locating it & this would be inappropriate if I were the teacher. (It happened to me on Sunday, I wanted to go to D&C 36 because I could pratically quote the verse I felt “inspired” to share, but forgot where to find it. I had read it just the night before & with all the scripture reading I can loose track of where something was unless I write it down.)

    I wish I could have been in ALL of your seminary classes. You’re surely a wonderful teacher. BTW, did you get those w/o scriptures engaged?

  7. brianj said

    Joe: After reading your clarification, I think I read you right the first time.

    “In preparing to teach (notice: not in preparing a lesson), I write quite a bit down.”

    I assumed you did. And it wasn’t totally an assumption: you’ve made comments to that effect on other posts.

    “But I’m skeptical about saying that the Spirit (at least, very often) will impose a structure on things in advance.”

    All along, this is what I’ve thought you’ve been saying. You don’t think outlines are “good.” And I’m fine with that, if you say that they don’t work for you, because you really are a special case (as nhilton points out), but my disagreement is that you want to apply this to everyone—or most everyone.

    I’m not really sure what is your background, but my guess is that you are a professional teacher and professional scriptorian (meaning that you study the scriptures as part of your work). Consider, in contrast, the bulk of teachers in the Church: little or no teaching experience, maybe 30 minutes per day of scripture study, and with normal human memory, etc. I just don’t think that the Spirit will use the ‘average’ teacher the same way the Spirit uses you.

    One reason I care so much about this: I really believe that many of the points you make would be helpful for any person willing to consider them. But I think the bias against outlines, against preparing a lesson, against going into class with a plan—I think that detracts from your point. You set up what I think is an impossible standard, and so you lose your audience. In other words, I’m imagining your post with the following emendation: “…the model teacher. She prepares an outline or even a lecture, if and as moved upon by the Spirit, yet she is continually open to that Spirit, throughout the study, lesson planning, write-up, the days between planning and teaching, and all through the lesson. She understands that what the Spirit prompted her to plan may be just for her benefit, and that the Spirit may have something very different in mind for the class. And so she is ready and willing to close her notes in class, and she reminds herself of this just before class begins. She becomes familiar enough with the materials generally….”

  8. Robert C. said

    I like the ideal that Joe is describing, though I think Brian is right that this is simply too terrifying of an approach for most people to take. So what I think is most constructive to think about and discuss is the reasons why the ideal that Joe is describing has so much merit.

    First, I find myself much more interested when as a student I feel like I have an opportunity to truly contribute. I don’t care who the teacher is or how exciting the lecture, when it’s just a lecture it’s so much easier for me to tune out and feel unengaged. And so, when I feel like a teacher is asking leading questions—that is, not really asking a sincere question, but a question that is leading to an outlined point she is trying to make—then I find this very off-putting. I think youth are esp. this way, they can tell when adults are really listening to their answers and truly reconsidering what their own position based on a comment they make or a question they raise, vs. trying to make all the learning happen one way (again, this has to be genuine, going through the motions of asking questions won’t work).

    Also, I’m not quite sure if this is how Joe meant faith, but I think it indeed takes faith—in the sense of walking into the unknown and not letting the fear of the unknown overtake you—to follow the Spirit the radical way Joe is suggesting. Again, I think Brian is right that all teachers have differing levels of faith—the point of the phrase “by study and also by faith”, it seems to me, must include this “not knowing beforehand what we’ll do.” I usually don’t have the kind of faith Joe is describing, you might say that my confidence has not yet waxed that strong yet, but I do find that the more outlines I prepare (that is, like Joe describes practicing teaching several versions of the same lesson to the wall) and the more I have truly feasted on the word (after all, becoming a great teacher is a lifelong process and I don’t think there are very many short-cuts), the more able I am to follow the Spirit “in the very moment”, in radical and unforeseen ways. And I think that it’s this unpredictability, this exciting, live-time interaction with the Spirit and the ideas that can make a dead-works feeling lesson turn into a lesson that has the life-giving Spirit truly there to truly enliven and enlighten all that are there.

    I like thinking about this in terms of responsiveness: the more responsive I am to the students and the spirit in the very moment of the class, the more loving I am—for what is love if it is not a response to another in need? I’ve thought of this when I read about BOM authors talking about the power of the spoken word in contrast to writing. When speaking, after each spoken word I can see how the others are responding (or not responding) and alter my subsequent words. When I write, I have to rely on my own thinking (and interaction with the Spirit) to guess how others will respond, and others will be more apt to feel that my writing is not really responding to their response to what I’m saying. This is, by the way, one reason I think the bloggernacle has thrived whereas other forms of Mormon publication have struggled (gross overgeneralization that I can’t really support, but my sense is that Dialogue has been trying to bridge this gap with their paperless papers and BCC papers, to make author-reader interaction happen more quickly than is possible than typically occurs a print journal). The point is, I think Sunday school students, whether they consciously know it or not, hunger for interaction with the teacher and hence the Spirit, and I think the scriptures themselves have types of this Spirit-letter interaction that is so relevant to the way we interact with others, esp. in teaching and speaking (and writing I would argue).

  9. Cheryl said

    This is a great discussion and very helpful to me.

  10. Robert C. said

    (In fact, while I’m on this soap-box/diatribe, I think “responsiveness to others” is a great hermeneutical approach to violence in scriptures: how responsive are we simply to ourselves vs. others and God? We do violence to the classroom when we are not responsive whereas we become peacemakers when we are able to respond sincerely and lovingly to others’ questions, comments and concerns, whether express vocally or not….)

  11. Kevin Barney said

    This is perhaps an ideal, but I’m always prepared to lecture the entire time if I have to. To some extent you are limited by the interest and preparation of your specific class. If they don’t dive in with you, you still have to be able to have *something* coherent to say. I think you need a back up plan if the whole teaching by the Spirit thing just isn’t working that week.

    (My first post-mission talk experience was very similar to that described by Elder Cook, BTW.)

  12. My background: seminary like any other kid, a year at BYU doing GE’s, a mission (Spanish-speaking to California), two and half years at BYU studying philosophy, opening a small used-new bookstore in Eastern Washington, switching that bookstore to an online format, volunteer teaching seminary for a year in the meanwhile, and now preparing (I hope) to begin a master’s program in library science.

    I hope it is clear that I am neither professionally trained in teaching (I learned to teach in the mission field and through two callings in the Provo 9th ward), nor have I had any training in religious studies, etc.

    Really, I began to think seriously about teaching by the Spirit about halfway through my mission. My mission president gave a few talks that profoundly changed the way I read the scriptures, and I began to realize that I had never taught by the Spirit. I changed the way I taught over the course of about two months. And the difference in real success I had was astounding. I fell in love with that kind of teaching. But because I knew so little, I began to realize that the Spirit could work all the more powerfully on me if I took the scriptures more seriously still. So I began to learn all I could. I decided to take up reading (I hated reading before I left on mission) when I got home, and I can’t stop. I decided to study Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, French, and even Egyptian. But everything I’ve learned in the scriptures is the work of an “independent scholar.”

    Hence, two further points I’d make (whether or not they are clarifications):

    First, I’m uncomfortable with outlines because I see the scriptures as suggesting I should be. I’d like to see arguments to the contrary, but I’ve been unable to read them any other way (D&C 38:30 is hardly a counter-argument: to be prepared there is hardly to have an outline; rather it is to “treasure up wisdom in your bosoms”). My first teaching calling in Provo was as teacher improvement coordinator, and we taught the Teaching, No Greater Call course continually. Because I was supposed to model teaching in my teaching, I began with an outline and the manual on the table. After a couple of weeks, I abandoned both and I’ve never looked back.

    Second, I don’t think I’m a “good” or “great” or “wonderful” (or any such thing) teacher. I hear that often enough, but I simply assume that that is because people are starving for what Kevin has called I-N-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N. I may have an ability to follow the Spirit, or I may be quite simply a crackpot who thinks he knows what he’s doing. Personally, I don’t think I have much in the way of self-presentation… but teaching isn’t about me: it’s about the scriptures and their meaning. My job is just to get into them as profoundly as I can (by study, and then also by faith), and then, with a prayer, stand up and think them together under the influence of the Spirit with a class. I’m not a good teacher in any technical sense (I break all the rules: all of them); I just take the scriptures quite seriously. I don’t use object lessons, I think I’ve told two stories in the past three years of teaching, I never use anecdotes from the lives of the prophets, I never quote anything besides the scriptures and Joseph and Brigham, I never include poetry or videos or pictures or music or visuals or anything, etc., etc., etc. I’m a terrible teacher. I just take the scriptures seriously. But in my opinion, that matters a great deal more than anything else.

    (P.S. As for whether the unengaged became engaged in yesterday’s lesson… of the eight or so who were not involved, about four became more or less involved by the end of the lesson. Two kids who I know are usually not involved in seminary in any way were very involved throughout. Who knows?)

  13. m&m said

    Joe: I find it interesting that you don’t quote anyone besides Joseph and Brigham. I consider words of living prophets to be scripture as well as the Standard Works…sometimes even more important than the standard works. That in and of itself makes me think that your teaching style probably isn’t for me…because when I teach, I spend a LOT of time in my preparation treasuring up THOSE words along with the scriputres.

    I also tend to agree with others that the Spirit can lead and guide even as someone prepares a possible outline, or as another uses different teaching styles. I don’t think what you have presented is “the one right way” to teach (although I’m not sure you are saying that it is), and I think the Spirit can be the teacher while using some of the more conventional approaches. If not, then we are all being led astray by what is usual and allowed and even encouraged, and I don’t think that’s the case. :)

    I think I’ve also hinted before that I’m a bit uncomfortable with the concept of abandoning what we are given as teaching tools as well (e.g., your TIC experience). I don’t think it is necessary to do things like that to be able to “teach by the Spirit.” I haven’t found that to be the case at all. But maybe we have different ideas of what that means, too.

    I guess I would agree with this: “my disagreement is that you want to apply this to everyone—or most everyone.” I completely agree that a teacher shouldn’t come ready to force something to happen in class (this is one downside with something like a movie or music…although those types of things can really bring the Spirit in a different way, too, if used correctly). But I think the Spirit can guide a teacher who has come prepared with a few more concrete ideas (or a bit more of a possible “plan”) than you seem to feel comfortable with. To each his own, I suppose. :)

  14. brianj said

    m&m brings up a point that I would like to have clarified. She writes, “I don’t think what you have presented is “the one right way” to teach (although I’m not sure you are saying that it is)…”

    But the way I am reading, you are saying exactly that: this is the one right way to teach (meaning, without an outline—no one is arguing that teaching by the Spirit is the one right way). Or put another way, I think you are saying that outlines are always “bad” or “inferior” or “block the Spirit.”

    If you can confirm that I am understanding you, then I can address your other concern: what I think the scriptures have to say about outlines.

    And thanks for the correction on your background. Of course, now I am just that much more impressed by your teaching ability! {smile}

  15. m&m said

    But the way I am reading, you are saying exactly that

    I would appreciate a clarification of this as well. I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt. :)

  16. Robert C. said

    I think Joe’s point (this is at least what I’m taking Joe’s point to be, and I think it’s a good point) is that teaching outlines are inherently anti-thetical to listening to the Spirit “in the very moment.” That is, an outline is a predetermined direction which contrasts with the idea of following the Spirt in the very moment. Now if outlining helps in your own personal study, I don’t think Joe’s against that. Rather, it seems he’s trying to point out that if you outline your lesson ahead of time, this fundamentally runs counter to the notion of following the Spirit in the very moment of teaching.

    I’m not as radical or bold (or faith-ful) in trying to implement this idea, nevertheless, I find that the more I recognize this fundamental tension, the more I will be ready to scrap my outline in favor of a new direction the Spirit directs. In my experience, the Spirit is a fickle thing and any little thing might spook it—that is, the more faith I have that the Spirit will help me in the very moment of my teaching, the more I think I will focus on deeply understanding scripture and the less I will be concerned about trying to predetermine what direction I should take with the lesson (theologically, if you believe God does not have perfect foreknowledge, then this makes even more sense: the Spirit might take you in radically different directions depending on who shows up to class that day, so the best preparation is to understand the scripture, not to prepare a specific outline).

    I trust Joe will distance himself from my comment if I’m taking this in a different direction than he meant.

  17. Robert, I think you’ve interpreted me quite well. I will address the question of outlines more directly in my next comment here in a moment.

    m&m, I quote Brigham and Joseph because I’ve read a lot more of them, and a lot more often, than I have most of the current prophets and apostles. There are exceptions. I have probably quoted just about everyone in the present First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve over the past twelve months in one classroom setting or another. But because many of them don’t publish books that I can study quite carefully, they are seldom so present to mind as Joseph and Brigham are for me. In other words, there is not so much a preference here or some kind of purism; rather, the Spirit draws Joseph and Brigham more easily to my mind than most of the current Brethren (Elder Holland is probably an exception… and Elder Bednar is quickly becoming one).

  18. Now, for outlines (and you can put manuals and everything else of this nature under the same heading)….

    What I am trying to express is this: the scriptures themselves (and I mean only the scriptures: I realize that there are statements to the contrary by the Brethren here and there over the years) describe “teaching by the Spirit” quite clearly to be something that does not–perhaps cannot–include prepared sermons, outlines, manuals, etc. I have yet to notice any scripture that suggests otherwise (though, as I say, I am quite prepared to see one that suggests otherwise; I can only plead that someone will show me a scripture that suggests otherwise, because if there is one, I am as bound that as I am to the scriptures I’m already thinking of here). As Robert says, prepared materials are antithetical to the nature of teaching by the Spirit. That seems quite clear to me.

    Now, a point of clarification must be made. I do not think that “teaching by the Spirit” is a “way of teaching.” Not at all. I don’t even know what it would mean to say something like that. The Spirit, when involved in a given lesson, might lead one in many different ways of teaching, but the Spirit Itself outstrips all of those ways. To “teach by the Spirit,” then, is to teach in whatever way the Spirit leads. I’m not, I hope it is clear, trying to oppose one way of teaching to another. In other words, the Spirit leads me to teach in one way, but the next person in another way. And I am quite happy with that. I had darn well better be! Who am I to question the Spirit?

    As to the point that has been raised several times about the Spirit helping you to prepare an outline. I certainly agree that that is possible. But I think we are misinterpreting the Spirit’s purpose if we think that any help we get during the week is some kind of sign that we are to stick to that outline. You simply can’t prepare yourself to teach whatsoever (even as I’m advocating here) without the Spirit! The Spirit improves the time you spend working on the scriptures/material during the week. Absolutely It must! Let the Spirit ever strive with us. But being led through an outline on Tuesday does not mean that the Lord has given me some kind of Ur-Text to be spoken or worked through on Sunday. It means that the Spirit is likely to provide me with three alternate ones on Wednesday, two more on Thursday, another two on Friday, three on Saturday, and several Sunday morning! Everyone of those should open the text/material up more and more for me, but make it more and more impossible to prepare some kind of all-governing outline. Only the Spirit searches the deep things of God: who am I? What I am suggesting is, I think, quite simple: the Spirit will work on us all week, perhaps even leading us through an outline. But I think the scriptures make it quite clear that the outline is a help for our understanding, not a guide for what should be spoken “in the moment.” And it is not a question of memory, as has been suggested: it is not my job to remember any of this, since the Comforter is the One who brings all things to my memory. I find that if I try to remember something in class (especially if I want to remember it because I found it interesting, important, or striking), I tend to be struck with a stupor of thought, and I use that last phrase for a reason.

    In short, I understand the scriptures to be saying quite clearly that teaching by the Spirit requires me to spend all of my time trying to obtain the word, and then I have the promise that my tongue will be loosed and I will have the Spirit and the power of God unto the convincing of men. If I spend my time trying to organize a presentation or to outline material, I have no such promise. And, having experienced both sides of this (oh, if I could show you a film of my whole mission experience!), I am quite sold on the scriptural version.

  19. m&m said

    But I think we are misinterpreting the Spirit’s purpose if we think that any help we get during the week is some kind of sign that we are to stick to that outline.

    True that can be, but on the flip side, preparing an outline (or studying and preparing and coming prepared with material and content) won’t necessarily be antithetical to being able to teach by the Spirit, either. When I taught GD, I came with at least a dozen pages of material that could be used. Sometimes it was relevant, sometimes it wasn’t. And sometimes a direction I felt inspired to take or prepare for has actually ended up being the right thing to do in class. We shouldn’t underestimate the Spirit’s ability to give us glimpses of what will be needed in that moment of teaching even as we are preparing. Of course that shouldn’t trump anything real-time the Spirit directs while teaching, but I think it’s incorrect to assume that He always will trump what we might have felt directed toward during the week. Don’t know if I’m making sense here….

    it is not my job to remember any of this, since the Comforter is the One who brings all things to my memory.

    This is good and amazing when it works.

    Another thought on outlines….
    I think one aspect of an outline that could be negative is if we limit ourselves to an outline in study and preparation and let that cart drive the horse, so to speak. (And I’m personally separating an outline from the manuals/assignments we are given…those should help us know what to focus on (the topic/chapters for that week), but I would see an outline as more of a list of possibilities that the Spirit has opened up, not a bounded, time-sensitive list of things that we feel pressed to cover. The Spirit should guide in study as well and open up many possibilities and truths, and then the Spirit can help us know what we should focus on in class, which may mean putting the outline aside and letting the flow of class go. I especially like it when this happens involving class participation and interaction. The Spirit is most powerful in my experience when He’s influencing and moving many people in class to speak and testify, not just the teacher — when it becomes an experience of people almost taking turns “teaching” and testifying, with the teacher just guiding the flow of things. Love that.

  20. Jeff Batt said

    I came to understand this principle in my mission. I have since been striving to perfect it as well as use it in any situation in my life.

    Think of a hobby that you love doing. Think of the time you have spent in learning that hobby and the time you have spent watching that hobby or learning about that hobby. You tend to talk to others about what you like about that hobby. For illustration purposes I will us football. (Even though I hate football) You watch the games, you learn the stats of your favprite players, and you talk endlessly with others that may be avid football fans. You read espn sports website, and activly think about football related subjects.

    What if someone were to approach you and say they wanted to talk about football. You get feelings of excitement and start to go off about your favorite team. Then they ask you to explain how the game works. Because you know the game inside and out, you are able to explian in detail, examples and rules about the game. How can you do this if you don’t have it outlined? Becuase you spent your time in learning the game. Thinking about the game and playing the game. You have become a expert in talking to others about football.

    Relate this to scriptures. Lets say you love the scriptures, you spend your free time learning, listening to talks, and activly seeking the doctrine. You get excited to talk to someone about the gospel and are constantly thinking about it throughout the day. You at any time will be able to explain what you have learned and share what you have studied.

    If a teacher actively thinks about and their lesson, if they talk about it and really studies it and comes to know it. Then God has given us a promise. That he will in that very moment bring the words to our rememberence. Your ability to speak by the spirit is on how well you know what you are talking about. The spirit cannot bring something to your remeberence, if there is nothing there to bring.

    I was commsioned by my mission president to just memorize one scripture and ponder over it before I came to a zone conference. I memorized it and then thought of it throughout the day. I found that I was able to see examples and applications of that scripture that I had never thought of. I talked with my comapnion about the scripture constantly, and found his insights to be very helpful. I indulged myself in that one scripture.

    When the conference cam, I was called on to get up and say the scripture and then to teach the scripture. I had not given any thought on a detailed outline of what I was to say, I pointed out one thing to start out with and then found that the spirit brought another thought to my mind, and then another, and then another. I had for the first time given a talk that I had did not write out. I felt the spirit stronger than I have ever had before. My mission president got up afterwards and said, you will be prepared to give a talk anytime and any where.

    In mine and my wifes first ward, we were asked to speak. This was shortly after I had read Gene R Cook’s book. I just got up with my scriptures in hand and a example in my mind. I found that I did stumble at first, but then I also was able to tell, that instead of trying to spill as much info as I could, that I kept it very simple. I focused on important details, so instead of getting a overload of detail, the audience got a simple powerful message. Of course this was not becuase of any fancy words or profound way of speaking (I have always had a speach impediment so I know it wasn’t becuase I am a great speaker.) But it was becuase I gave a simple clear message, that was backed by the spirit with full force. I was then pulled aside by one of the bishopric. He was the same age as me. He told me that he had not seen anyone give that good of a organized talk without refering to any notes. Nothing was organzied, I just allowed the spirit to teach what it wanted to and pull out of my memory what it wanted to, I was able to do this becuase I took the time to study and put the thoughts and scripture in my mind before hand by simply just doing normal study.

    I recommend all to read Gene R Cooks book.

  21. brianj said

    Joe: Thanks. I think you (and Robert) have “drawn the line” very clearly. I will think about how the scriptures address this soon, but in the meantime, could you address this concern of mine (quoting from #3, above): With the exception of David B. Haight and maybe Gordon B. Hinckley (at times), it appears that all recent General Conference speakers have a pre-prepared talk that they follow very closely. Is this practice antithetical to preaching with the Spirit?

  22. Cheryl said

    I want to offer an alternative point of view.

    I teach from my notes and the scriptures, nothing else. The notes – which I pass out as handouts – also focus my class on the scriptures. This helps enormously because I don’t get off-topic stories or conversation, and I believe the notes engage my students in a way that me just standing up in front of the class would fail to do.

    The notes demonstrate to the class that the scriptures can be understood intellectually, as well as spiritually, and I believe they both need and want this. There is such great hunger in our wards and branches.

    Since there is no way we can discuss everything in the material, I do have to pick and choose what we’re going to cover. I usually have a pretty good idea of this by Sunday morning.

    Interestingly, and frequently, what I have focused upon is also highlighted in the sacrament meeting talks, so the change from sacrament meeting to GD is often smooth and connected.

    So I am committed to teaching with notes, and with the scriptures. It works for me. More than works, actually. I love teaching this way, I feel the Spirit is present, and my students are engaged.

    I also want to say that I believe in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. As I face my class each Sunday morning, believing that each one that is there is hungering and thirsting . . . I believe that the Spirit can multiply my small effort, so that there is an abundance of spiritual food, enough for each person, and when we are done, there is enough to gather some up, and store away for thought during the week, each in our own way, according to our own needs.

    The notes help with this too. I know some of my class members are taking them home and reviewing them and thinking about them, because they tell me they are.

    This is not to say I am discounting Joe’s experience or the others of you who don’t use notes or outlines. One of the things I love about this blog is the way it gives each of us to speak our truth and share what we know and how we are experiencing our lives as teachers and our lives as spiritual human beings within the framework of the church. As I’ve read the posts in this discussion item, I’ve re-examined my own teaching style – I do want to do those things that invite the Spirit as the mind-opener, the master teacher. And I’ve committed to being more flexible as I teach and listen more completely to that same spirit myself.

    But I will still use notes.

  23. Cheryl said

    #10 RobertC
    I love this comment. And I agree with it.

    One of the things about starting a conversation about mimetic rivalry and violence, and then including scriptural violence, is that you begin to see applications of this everywhere, all the time, all day long. And then you begin to see a personal application: in my case, how I participate in this, how I do violence to other people, all the time. And then I begin to repent . . . and seek a way out of the whole setup.

    Which is why I also loved the conversation on the triads in the Sermon on the Mount. That interpretation of the Sermon also demonstrated the vicious cycles of human life, and the transcendent way out (if I understood the conversation correctly).

  24. Jeff Batt said

    Cheryl. I agree with you. Each teacher has a differant way of teaching. I think the key point is that you are passionate about what you are teaching. Whenever a teacher has passion for what he or she is teaching. Than my attention is beyond alert.

    I think that for some, notes can be considered a crutch to not passionately study the topic at hand. They may say in their mind (Well I will have my notes in front of me, so I don’t really need to learn study more) That to me is where the problem lies.

    Then again, I have also heard talks where the speaker did not have any notes prepared and tried going off on their own, but it has gone nowhere but story after story that does not have to relate to the topic. That to me is bad as well.

    So the great point here is how much effort, passion, study time, and seeking of the spirit the person does before they speak. Now keep in mind, that it is also good to be attentive enough to the spirit while you are teaching to follow the spirit, even if it leads you off the prepared lesson. That is also very important.

    It all comes down to where your heart is, if your constanatly seeking the Lords will, or your own. If your seeking how to teach what he would have you teach.

    Brianj; Elder Cook, also brings up that point in his book about the General Authorties preparing their talks in General Conference. It is true that they do, Elder Cook mentioned it to be more for translating purposes, since they have to submit it before hand to the translators. It is a very good book. Although again.

    The passion about the topic you are presenting is key. If you love what you are talking about then it will peak the listeners interest.

  25. m&m said

    And I’ve committed to being more flexible as I teach and listen more completely to that same spirit myself.

    Copy that. :)

  26. Ah. I see one thing that I was still miscommunicating, and it has come out nicely: notes. Cheryl has made it explicit, and I think I’d like to read m&m’s most recent comment in the same light (twelve pages of material as twelve pages of notes). I would like to draw a sharp distinction between notes and outlines. Here’s why:

    Notes–especially in handout format, like what Cheryl has shared with us before–can be a wonderful thing. Notes simply become further text (even if they are private). I’m fine with that. I don’t think notes curtail the Spirit (as long as they are not an outline in disguise!); rather, they are just another thing for the Spirit to take up. And I’m quite happy with that. Now, I don’t personally use notes (I specifically take unmarked scriptures with me when I teach). But I don’t think they are a problem. Or rather, I think they are unlikely to be a problem, though they can impose if one allows them to do so (I guess that’s what I mean by “an outline in disguise”). But I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with having a few pages of notes on the table that, when the Spirit points you to them, can be taken up so that you can make reference to something else (I don’t expect anyone to memorize entries from a dictionary, a lexicon, etc., or the minutiae of a structural reading you encountered during the week). Notes are fine, but they are not an outline: they are footnotes you can make reference to when the Spirit directs (like most of the verses in the given passage, etc.). I don’t think it is antithetical to the Spirit to have a video prepared, or a song ready, etc. But I would be very wary of planning to do any of these things. They just become part of the open text the Spirit can improve upon.

    I hope that clarifies things: I don’t have a problem with having extra stuff around, things the Spirit teaches you about during your preparation, just in case; but I do think the Spirit can be kept out of a lesson when these things are decided upon in advance when the Spirit might push you in another direction in the moment. Does that make more sense?

  27. Brian, about general conference.

    That is a good question. I’m trying to recall which GA I heard talk about this very concern…. I don’t recall. Whoever it was, he was expressing his own concerns about it, but he essentially said that it is part of the nature of (1) the worldwide Church and (2) the technological state of things. I suppose I regard it in much the same way. President Rasband and Elder Nash recently came to our stake conference, and it was amazing to watch them teach without any preparation in any way at all (I know they did it this way, because Elder Nash commented on President Rasband’s doing so, and President Rasband commented on Elder Nash’s doing so). In other words, the GA’s are quite aware of the limitations being imposed upon them by the General Conference format, but there seems to be little that can be done about it. Isn’t it significant that President Packer and Elder Holland were so “unprepared” in the leadership broadcast?

    Speaking of which, we haven’t made nearly enough reference to that during this discussion: Sister Beck (I think it was) asked about this very question. She asked whether an outline or a manual wasn’t contradicting the scriptures. Elder Holland did not answer her directly. And that was quite fascinating to me. It spoke volumes to me, in fact. Two facets of it especially: first, that an auxiliary president could have a question about this issue suggests to me that the question has not really been asked often enough; second, that Elder Holland never really answered it suggests to me that he recognized the tension but felt too committed in two directions at once, or some such thing. Might we not see some major changes in emphasis in the next little while?

  28. By the way, I’ve watched Jeff Batt teach, and he definitely teaches by the Spirit, and with power. It was actually he who told me about Elder Cook’s book, and it was actually he who loaned it to me. You can all blame him. :)

  29. Robert C. said

    Great comments everyone. Jeff, I esp. liked the football analogy, I think it’s a great way to think about the natural excitement we should be striving for (isn’t that a great contradiction in terms—striving for a natural excitement?!). And I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you meant real football, as in the sport most Americans refer to as soccer….

  30. Jeff Batt said

    You think I would have meant futbol, since I served a spanish mission and that was true football. But I was meaning American Football. I think it works with soccer or futbol as well.

  31. Jeff Batt said

    Sorry Joe, I actually thought of your teaching style as I read it. I thought, hey Joe would love this. It is a great book and I would recommend it to all.

  32. nhilton said

    Joe #27, In speaking with my uncle, Ron Rasband, when he was eating dinner at my house a couple months ago, he told me about some of his “preparation” for meetings such as the one you attended. This included researching family history which stories he has used in his talks. It’s the kind of preparation we’ve been talking about in that we feast upon the word, all kinds of good words including but not limited to scripture, until we’re filled to overflowing. Once filled, we have something from which to draw.

    I see a difference between teaching styles necessary for audience/classroom styles. If we’re speaking to/with a class as somewhat of a moderator, an outline or even notes might not be necessary because it’s so conversational and open to flexibility. However, if we’re giving a talk–a monologue–we’re it! There is no pause for reflection, no back & forth of the spoken word like a tennis match. You have no time to catch your breath. In this case, as with the GA’s, I think it’s prudent to begin with an outline. Often we hear people say from the pulpit that they preparred one thing but are saying another…this is fine, but obviously they came preparred and were receptive & willing to let the Spirit direct them before & during their message.

    Joe mentioned teaching the same seminary lesson to sequential classes and how each time the same material was presented & evolved through the class period differently. This is how Uncle Ron is able to give an “off the cuff” talk to your conference attendees. He has filled the well & drawn it out so many times that it’s second nature. This comes from practice as well as preparation.

    Additionally, Uncle Ron is a veteran speaker. His business background makes him comfortable in front of an audiences and gives him an added edge in delivering a compelling message. I think most of the GA’s have this kind of pre-training that makes them stellar in the public arena. I don’t think its really fair to compare the average church member & their teaching/talking abilities with any GA.

  33. Karen Spencer said

    Here are some quotations from the Leadership Broadcast on Teaching:

    “Elder Holland: What if we try to teach without the Spirit or are unmindful of or unreceptive to the Spirit? What is the Lord’s verdict on that kind of teaching?
    Sister McKee: “And if it be by some other way it is not of God.”
    Sister Beck: So does this mean that if I sit down and study my books and manuals and I write up an outline and have my plan, I can’t teach that? I prepare, but do I have to be ready to set it aside and be directed by the Spirit with the preparation I have?”

    “Sister Beck: I prepared; I worked on it. But then, if someone in my class has had a challenge that week, that changes the dynamic of the lesson. Help me understand how I know where the blend comes of being prepared and being guided and directed to say what comes into my heart at that time or to use a different scripture.”

    Elder Holland’s response was: “We have prepared, but we are open to the Spirit, and we have that freedom to move where we should go at that given hour, in the moment of our delivery.”

    I just cut and pasted a few things – you can read the whole discussion, including comments that sound very similar to everyone’s on this thread, at http://www.lds.org

  34. Jeff Batt said

    Very good quotes Karen! I found them very interesting. Thank you. It’s good to hear your comments, since youare Joes better half.. Hehehe Just joking! Thank you

  35. Jeff Batt said

    nhilton, you bring up a excellent point. Every teacher does have differant ways of preparing and each teacher also has differant amounts of practice as well. Oppurtunities to speak or teach are a huge element in teaching. “Uncle Ron” or Elder Rasband Obviously has had much experience. (He is a excellent speaker by the way). I think if we always strive for oppurtunities to speak than we can also improve our way of speaking. Elder Cook also brings up not using any outlines or notes in sacrament meetings. He states that if needed than to use them, but I feel his main emphasis is to not constrict yourself to staying on the notes, and being flexible to what the spirit wants to be said.

  36. nhilton said

    I also think this is an evolutionary process we’re aiming at. I can’t imagine a youth speaker getting up in front of the ward & speaking as directed by the Spirit…at least not my kids! First of all, they’re nervous & they might be struggling just to look at the congregation. Second of all, they’re new at delivering a religious message to people they assume are on a higher plain in all ways than they are. I encourage my children to prepare their talks beforehand & even practice them in the mirror. Sometimes they’ve memorized them so that they have no excuse for looking down at their notes during their entire talk. I think we’re all “youth” speakers sometime during our lives and striving to emulate the things Cook’s book describes. But it’s the end-goal & sometimes the getting there takes practice & time. I don’t look down on anyone for using any kind of notes during a lesson or talk–in fact, I appreciate their forethought and dilligence in taking their responsibility seriously.

  37. m&m said

    Your clarification about notes vs. outlines was helpful. I still don’t agree that outlines should be completely and necessarily banned, but I do agree with a lot of what you say. :) I really do wish there was a little more willingness in classes to not feel pressed to “get through the material” and when there is a lot of specific, outlined prep, that is often what I see. I’m one who prefers a flow of good discussion, and allowing Spirit-filled discussion to continue, regardless of if any other “points” are covered in class. So, I think in many ways I’m in agreement with the spirit of what you are saying.

    I think regarding Sacrament Meeting talks, I know for me, if I’m given a certain amount of time, I will be a lot more likely to want to know what I’m going to say out of respect for the meeting and the time/schedule. I think that is yet another reason why Gen. Conf. talks are prepared…everything is timed to the minute because of the station broadcasting. We don’t have the luxury of going with the flow time-wise like they did in the early church, or perhaps even what you might have in a different setting. Some meetings demand some organization, or at least encourage it. I’m not saying it’s not possible to come without anything specific and still stay in a time constraint, but for most people, that will be quite difficult.

    I agree with what nhilton said about this certainly being a process. People will of necessity start with prepared, outlined talks and lessons, because I think this all takes practice, and can’t really be taught (and I’m not convinced it should be…still mulling over that…just because I think it can also be a disaster sometimes if someone doesn’t come prepared and starts to ramble…I would rather have an outlined talk or lesson by far.) In the end, though, I think that there needs to be a lot of patience for all levels of teaching/speaking abilities. The Spirit can still bless such a sincere effort and we should be doing our part to receive by the Spirit (a la Brother Merrill in GC), regardless of teaching style that may be “used.”

    One last thought…I think the concept of teaching by the Spirit may be best encouraged at home, where time constraints and large groups (often hindrances to these kinds of efforts) are replaced by more intimate settings and individualized relationships that make spiritual connections between people more possible. Less structure is imposed by definition, which I think can make it easier to teach this way. For me, this is where the blessings of teaching by the Spirit are felt to a significant degree…and these are situations that aren’t dependent on a calling and where feedback might be more immediate as well. I think we should be motivated to treasure up the word of God for our families more than for any other situation.

  38. I like the direction things have gone here. I agree with everyone that there are stages in which we “need” to use outlines, prepared messages, notes, etc. And I’m fine with that. I certainly agree that it is better to use an outline than simply to ramble about nothing. In fact, let me offer a reading of an all-too-often read but all-too-seldom understood scripture.

    “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” Now, the situation is quite clear: the Lord is speaking to the elders specifically, and about their preaching duties. So already, we are not speaking to the general public. But let’s say we’d like to “apply this to our everyday lives,” for whatever bizarre reason. :) The Lord says that when we stand up to teach, we are to pray for the Spirit, and if we do not receive it, we “shall not teach.” That last little bit can be understood two ways. It can be read as a commandment: “if the Spirit doesn’t come, then the Lord is sending you a very clear message that you must not get up and say anything.” Or it can be read as a prophecy of sorts: “if the Spirit doesn’t come, you are free to stand up, but you will blabber on and on and no one will be taught.” One can see how the former is connected more closely with the original context of the scripture: when the elders are out preaching, if they pray and do not receive the Spirit, the Lord does not want them preaching to this particular crowd, for whatever reason; and they are to move along to another place and situation. The latter seems to me to be the necessary reading if we are “applying this to our everyday lives.” The point seems clear in such a situation: the Spirit has not come for whatever reason (now it might be the teacher’s fault, the students’ fault, or whatever), but you still have an assignment, and so you get up and blah blah blah until you sit down, wondering why you just suffered through the experience.

    The reason I’ve tried to think carefully through this scripture out loud is this: it nicely sets up for an engagement of the clarifications being offered in the last few comments here. It suggests, perhaps, that there are three levels of teaching in the Church (tel, terr, cel?). At the lowest level is the one who would teach by the Spirit but who, after praying, does not receive the Spirit. This person stands up and blah blah blahs for the forty minutes assigned. At the highest level is the one who would teach by the Spirit, prays, and receives. In between, however, is the person who does not receive the Spirit but has something substantial to say nonetheless. That is, I think that someone without the Spirit but with something interesting, informational, or inspiring to say is always better than someone with nothing to say whatsoever. But let us not, for fear that we might always be at the bottom of this triad, avoid the possibility of being at the top of it.

    Perhaps that best explains my concern with outlines, etc. It is a kind of settlement for the terrestrial, when we have been commanded to seek the celestial. I would rather teach a gibberish-ish lesson once in a while than an outlined lesson every week (and believe me, because I always try to teach by the Spirit, I have those gibberish-ish lessons once in a while).

    Now, that said, I must confess that I make no distinction between talks and lessons. If anything, I think a talk requires less outlining, fewer (if any) notes, etc. Mostly this is because we are to be speaking in the Spirit that is promised in the ordinance we have just wrapped up. The structure of the sacrament meeting is quite clear: we come to sing and shout praises about the altar/throne of the Lord, and whoever speaks in that meeting stands in as voice for that most holy, circular prayer. Sacrament meeting talks should be spoken in that Spirit, it seems to me.

  39. Matthew said

    It is surprising to me how much consensus there is at the end of the day on this topic. It sounds like all agree that in the best scenario teachers do not take thought about what they will say ahead of time (an outline), but they do prepare so they are ready to speak on the topic.

    And it seems all agree that different of us are at different places and all are not ready to do this right now. In other words we all seem to agree that the “take no thought” scripture isn’t applicable to all of us. So some will prepare outlines, write every word down, memorize or whatever because they aren’t ready for the “celestial” version.

    If we put this all together it seems that the key is to stretch ourselves here.

    Now I like the way this all falls out but if I step back I’m not sure I am comfortable with the following result: this suggests that my previous stake president (a very capable person who certainly couldn’t have excused himself because he wasn’t ready for speaking without an outline) shouldn’t have given his talks in the way he did. But, I loved those talks. They were great, and I felt the spirit was strong. And we can’t caveat this one based on technology/world-wide structure. Of course I get that not everyone heard my stake president but I would guess that there are examples where you’ve all had similar experiences. So I think there must be more to the story.

    But still, the personal take away for me is that I need to do more preparation and less outline in getting ready for my next talk.

  40. brianj said

    Joe, #27. You write: “Isn’t it significant that President Packer and Elder Holland were so “unprepared” in the leadership broadcast?”

    Let me follow Karen’s excellent idea and quote from Elder Holland in the Training Broadcast (I’m interjecting my comments between paragraphs):

    “You can see from these materials spread out on this table that I am trying to prepare a lesson. Does it look familiar? It’s today’s lesson—a lesson for all of you. Preparing for any class is hard work, and it takes time. In that regard, may I encourage you to start thinking about and planning early for any lesson that you are to give.”

    Okay, so no explicit endorsement or condemnation of outlines/lesson plans.

    “For example, if I were going to teach a class on Sunday, I would read through and begin praying about that lesson the Sunday before. That gives me a full week to pray, to seek inspiration, to think, to read and watch for real-life applications that will give vitality to my message. You won’t finalize the lesson that early, but you will be surprised to find how many things come to you during the week, how much God gives you—things that you will feel to use when you do finalize your preparation.”

    Still sounds like Joe’s model: learn as much as you can. But implied is that the teacher is studying about a particular topic (e.g. faith, tithing, food storage, Alma 1-4, etc.). So already the teacher has predetermined what he will teach.

    “In discussing preparation, may I also encourage you to avoid a temptation that faces almost every teacher in the Church; at least it has certainly been my experience. That is the temptation to cover too much material, the temptation to stuff more into the hour—or more into the students—than they can possibly hold! Remember two things in this regard: first of all, we are teaching people, not subject matter per se; and second, every lesson outline that I have ever seen will inevitably have more in it than we can possibly cover in the allotted time.”

    Definitely no condemnation of outlines there—just a warning on using them properly.

    “So stop worrying about that. It’s better to take just a few good ideas and get good discussion—and good learning—than to be frenzied, trying to teach every word in the manual. In these materials lying before me, I already have three or four times the content that I can possibly say or share with you today in the allotted time period of a classroom hour. So, like you, I have had to choose and select; I’m holding some material over for another day. (emphasis added)

    Now this is even more an endorsement for outlines: Elder Holland admits to creating one of his own. And, as the emphasis indicates, he has selected ahead of time certain things he plans to bring to class, and certain things he will leave behind.

    “An unrushed atmosphere is absolutely essential if you are to have the Spirit of the Lord present in your class. Please don’t ever forget that. Too many of us rush. We rush right past the Spirit of the Lord trying to beat the clock in some absolutely unnecessary footrace.”

    And here is where he ties in outlines/plans to the Spirit. He ends this teaching section by making a point: the Spirit trumps your outline.

  41. brianj said

    Matthew: “It sounds like all agree that in the best scenario teachers do not take thought about what they will say ahead of time (an outline)….”

    I do not believe that that is the “best scenario.” I am not sold on Joe’s telestial, terrestrial, celestial hierarchy of teaching styles.

  42. brianj said

    About General Conference (#24 and #27): Yes, I’ve heard that the prepared talks are for the sake of translators, but (with respect to Elder Cook), I don’t buy it. I don’t know when the practice began, so I’m not arguing that. But I’m imagining this conversation in among the Quorum of the 12:

    “We have a problem with translators not keeping up with speakers in GenConf.”

    “Well, why don’t we just prepare talks ahead of time?”

    “But that is the antithesis of following the Spirit!”

    “Too bad: immediate translation is more important than speaking with the Spirit. We’ll just have to do without the Spirit in our meetings. All in favor….”

    Sorry, I know I’m boarderline absurd (though you can decide on which side of the border), but I have a hard time believing that the brethren would willingly or unknowingly sacrifice speaking with the Spirit in the most important talks they give all year.

  43. m&m said

    I am not sold on Joe’s telestial, terrestrial, celestial hierarchy of teaching styles.

    I’m not either. :)

    Now I like the way this all falls out but if I step back I’m not sure I am comfortable with the following result: this suggests that my previous stake president (a very capable person who certainly couldn’t have excused himself because he wasn’t ready for speaking without an outline) shouldn’t have given his talks in the way he did.

    I’m not sure we should be getting to this result. I don’t like the idea of us sitting back and analyzing other people’s teaching and talking styles, and assuming that there is a “best” way to give a talk or lesson, or that the great talks we have heard by others “shouldn’t” have been given in the way they were. The best way is with the Spirit, but I’m just not convinced that there is only one way to do that (being without an outline or whatever).

    Seeing Elder Holland’s words helps keep things in perspective, methinks. I think part of why the whole of Joe’s model doesn’t sit with me is because it’s something we really aren’t encouraged by our leaders to do. In fact, if anything, we are encouraged to come prepared with some sort of outline or plan of some sort…AND to listen to and follow the Spirit (i.e., to NOT be bound fast to that plan…to be open to the Spirit’s direction). I think both are possible maybe even usually necessary to make for a good lesson/talk, and I really think the Spirit can help us as we do create a plan. And I’m not sure we should jump and say that therefore, we are being encouraged to live according to some “lower law” principle of teaching. If it’s good enough for Elder Holland, it seems it should be good enough for us. :)

    I’m wondering if the scriptures in the PoGP about creating things spiritually before making them temporally might be a scripture that could support the idea of having some sort of plan in mind when coming to teach. ??

  44. brianj said

    Joe: as for scriptural support for outlines/lesson plans:

    I’m thinking in general terms here. Moses, for example, was told what to go say to Pharaoh, then he went and said it. We see the same pattern when he is in the desert receiving the law (Exodus 20-31). Of course, once he gets back to camp (class), he doesn’t hesitate to change his message when he witnesses the state of affairs (is this the ultimate example of throwing out a lesson plan?). (I’m partly being facetious with that example, by the way—the two tablets were hardly a mere lesson plan).

    Samuel the Lamanite, on the other hand, was told to just go and preach to the Nephites, and that his mouth would be filled. Why not send him like Moses? or vice versa?

    I think parts of Isaiah read more like “This is what I want you to go say to Jerusalem,” (the lesson plan model), and others read as Isaiah’s on-the-spot prophecies. Hosea reads as the lesson plan model: he was told what to go and say/do beforehand.

  45. brianj said

    nhilton: “The best way is with the Spirit, but I’m just not convinced that there is only one way to do that”

    I agree.

    “I’m wondering if the scriptures in the PoGP about creating things spiritually before making them temporally might be a scripture that could support the idea of having some sort of plan in mind when coming to teach. ??”

    VERY interesting idea.

  46. m&m said

    but I have a hard time believing that the brethren would willingly or unknowingly sacrifice speaking with the Spirit in the most important talks they give all year.

    …or that, if it were really that important for us to scrap any plan or outline, that they would leave us without that direction. :)

  47. brianj said

    Joe: one more thing. I want to stress (again) how much I agree with the other parts of your message, how helpful I think they could be to anyone. I should also say that you and I probably look pretty much the same when we teach: scriptures open before us, some notes on the table behind us, a map tucked under a chair just in case that certain verse comes up and we feel the need to use the map, and so on. (And I know you would have the manual tucked into your bag, like I do, if you were at liberty to do so.)

  48. m&m said

    Reading brianj makes me worry that I may be misunderstood as disagreeing with all of what Joe says, and I really don’t. I think teaching by the Spirit is very, very important, and that being bound to an outline can very possibly squelch the Spirit. I just think, though, that outlines/plans and the Spirit aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. All in all, though, I think on the whole, teachers in the church could use more reminders about not being bound to their outlines than about creating good outlines. :) So there is some level of agreement there to be sure.

  49. brianj said

    One more thought on outlines: This is actually the way the Church is moving, if we take the missionary program as a guide. We used to follow pre-set lessons—sometimes word for word. Now the missionaries are encouraged to prepare lessons that are tailored to each investigator. Note that they are still entering the home (classroom) with a lesson plan, but it’s one that they created specifically for that investigator through prayer and inspiration instead of mass publication. I don’t have my “Preach My Gospel” manual handy, but I remember this new program being presented as a way for the missionaries to better teach by the Spirit.

  50. Cheryl said

    I just wanted to share a practical result of this discussion. As the discussion has proceeded I’ve felt I’ve been sitting in a room with teachers who really care and who have real knowledge about their materials – it has been delightful.

    Today I took my notes and distributed them as usual but did not decide on which part of the scriptures/notes to emphasize until I sat in sacrament meeting and listened to the theme/tone of the meeting. Based on sacrament meeting, I began my SS lesson. (I actually had been moving in this direction for several weeks, but this discussion firmed up my desire to do this).

    This IS a scary way for me to teach. Trained in formal debate and extemporaenous speaking, outlines are everything to me, even if the outlines are just in my head. I feel out of control letting go of that. But I did let go today, more than before.

    It seemed to go well. I hope so, anyway. But I will teach this way for several weeks before I take a step back and reevaluate.

    But another interesting thing – the verse I ended with in GD was the opening verse in RS.

    So I felt there was a continual seemless flow – from sacrament meeting/testimonies to GD to RS.

    It was a good Sunday at church.

    So this is my report . . .

  51. brianj said

    Cheryl: Hooray!

  52. robf said

    Anyone have the reference for Joseph F. Smith’s injunction along hte lines of “don’t prepare a talk, prepare yourself to talk”?

  53. Jeff Batt said

    The main catch is exactly that. Prepare yourself… Also be prepared to go off the prepared outline if you are directed.

  54. m&m said

    But another interesting thing – the verse I ended with in GD was the opening verse in RS.

    So I felt there was a continual seemless flow – from sacrament meeting/testimonies to GD to RS.

    I LOVE it when this happens! :)

  55. I spent quite a bit of time last night on a walk with my wife, thinking through comments 39-53. And I’ve got a lot to say, but I think I’d like to displace it to another post, because there aree some complex points to be made, and no threads on this blog get far beyond 50 comments. So watch for a post on the nature of the Spirit, and hopefully this discussion will continue.

  56. Robert C. said

    Tangentially related, here is some discussion of the training broadcast over at T&S.

  57. Jeff Batt said

    m&m. I love it when that happens! You know that the spirit has lead you to that. Thanks for sharing that.

  58. m&m said

    Actually, Jeff, you can thank Cheryl. I quoted her. :)

  59. joe m said

    this post started by quoting Elder Gene Cook. He was an area authority when i served my mission, and i got to see him speak twice: once in zone conference to just the missionaries, and once at a fireside to members and investigators. He definitely taught by the spirit, but i have never heard anyone speak before or since who was as familiar with scripture as he was. not only did he know where everything was located in the scriptures, and have new insight on many passages, but his fingers found passages with speed and accuracy that could only be achieved through uncountable hours of study. I don’t know if any of you have ever watched a rubik’s cube speed solver, who seems like a magician while he solves the cube breathtakingly fast and with unerring vision. Elder Cook was like a speed cuber with the Book of Mormon. He didn’t prepare his talk for us; his lifetime of study and service was the preparation for his talk. To teach by the spirit you have to know the spirit. to know the spirit you have to know god’s word (although there are many who know god’s word but not the spirit). so, if your intent on sundays is to teach by the spirit, but you don’t give your due diligence, good luck. whether you outline or not, prepare a talk word by word or not, aren’t as important as knowing your material inside and out so that when the spirit does move you to emphasize something unexpected or moves your lesson in a new direction, you are ready and are able to respond.

  60. Jeff Batt said

    Joe M. That is very good insight. Very good! I felt like shouting amen at the end of reading it. Thank you for that. I agree with that 100%. I wish I had the oppurtunity to hear in person Elder Cook talk. He came to my stake a month before I came home from my mission, my dad was the stake secatary and he has some amazing personal stories that have changed my parents life. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Elder Cook and hope to one day meet him. Thank you for sharing how he teaches.

  61. brianj said

    Joe M: “whether you outline or not, prepare a talk word by word or not, aren’t as important as knowing your material inside and out”

    That seems like a very high standard, excluding all but a very select few in the Church. I think you were more correct when you wrote:

    “To teach by the spirit you have to know the spirit.”

    Of course, one way to know the Spirit is, as you say, “to know god’s word,” but are there other ways?

  62. robf said

    For most of us, if we spend half the time studying the scriptures that we currently spend watching TV, we’d be more than prepared to teach like Joe is advocating.

  63. m&m said

    Of course, one way to know the Spirit is, as you say, “to know god’s word,” but are there other ways?

    I think it’s like was mentioned in another thread on the Spirit. We can study, but also LIVE so that the Spirit fills our lives. We can “always remember Him” (I’m always so struck that this is the only covenant repeated in both sacrament prayers, which covenant(s) is/are associated with the promise to “always have His Spirit.”) We can seek to do what Jesus would do. We can pray and ask for the Spirit to be with us. We can repent (turn (back) to God) constantly, multiple times each day as we notice that we might be wandering slightly.

  64. Cherylem said

    I just got of copy of TEACHING BY THE SPIRIT, by the way.

  65. Jeff Batt said

    Good, you’ll love it!

  66. Jeff Batt said

    One thing that bugs me is when people put such low expectations on themselves. Of course the leaders of the church know the scriptures, they study and ponder and the scriptures is their lives. Of course it also comes with years of doing that. But who is to say that we cannot become scholars of the gospel as well. I think that when people think, “oh, I will never be that way, they have spent hours upon hours learning”. Which may be true but we can come to know God, just as well as anyone else.

    I see too many people not even try because they think to themselves that they will never reach a certian point so why bother. We are not here to be perfect NOW! We are here to be perfect, which I beleive comes with striving and not ever giving up. Running the good race, not stopping, or if we do stop, get back up and keep trying. Perfection will be reached by someone that is constantly striving and will keep getting back up once they fall down.

    There is a excellent quote in a movie one guy asks a boy who fell down. “Why do we fall?, so we can learn how to pick ourself back up” What a powerful life lesson, why do we fall short of almost anything, so we can learn to pick our selves up and keep trying. That determination will lead to us learning how to reach our goal. Even if we may not be scholars or experts in teaching, I would suggest that the sky is the limit. Never limit yourself, for you are God’s child with unlimited potential. I’m not sure exactly why I felt writing exactly what I did, but I feel such as though to many members limit their potential, especially in teaching, to thoughts such as “I’m not a good teacher, I just don’t know enough. I will never know as much as others in my ward.” That thinking stops progression and does not inspire you to become better.

  67. robf said

    Jeff, thanks for the Batman reference. And I think you are right. Its not like someone gets made an Apostle or 70 and then has lots of extra free time to dive into the scriptures. If anything, they are busier than most of us. We can, and should, all be equally versant in the scriptures.

  68. joe m said

    robf, #62: that’s the truth, myself included.

  69. Jeff Batt said

    robf I couldn’t help but watch that movie, considering my last name and all. That line really stuck out in my mind.

  70. Matthew said

    I made one (poor) attempt at summing things up. I wonder at least if we all agree that sometimes the Lord doesn’t want us to even think about what we are going to say (D&C 100:6) and other times he tells us ahead of time what he wants us to say (BrianJ gave several good examples from the scriptures). If so, we all can agree that there is no single position on whether to prepare an outline ahead–sometimes it should be done and other times it should not.

    Now a separate comment. I agree very much with all the points about how we should prepare and all learn as much about the scriptures as we can. And it was also pointed out that general authorities often have a background where they are comfortable speaking in public and this is why they can speak off the cuff.

    But let’s look back at D&C 100:6 and ask ourselves why the Lord did ask them not to even think about what they were going to say?

    One reason is, as has been pointed out already in the post, that by thinking about what we are going to say we may be less open the Spirit in the moment. But there is another reason–one that cuts at the idea that this is a strategy that should be used only by those who know the scriptures inside and out and come from a background where speaking in public is easy. Another reason is to show that the words spoken don’t come from the speaker. It is to give a sign of revelation to the speaker–or to put it another way to ask the speaker to put faith in the fact that the Spirit will provide what is needed in the very hour. The point is to show that the Spirit can put thoughts and words in our minds that are absolutely and entirely not from us.

    We should not read the fact that the Spirit can bring things to our remembrance as a limitation on what the Spirit can bring to us.

  71. brianj said

    Matthew, #70: I agree with your comments on D&C 100:6. Thanks.

  72. Cherylem said

    I read Elder Cook’s book and I am not so much in love with it as Joe Spencer is. I did find his points about teaching in the moment and listening to the Spirit scripturally sound and very very valuable and I take these to heart, so my following points in no way discount that experiential advice.

    These are my two caveats:

    1) Like what seems always, the simple faithful teacher is promoted over the too intelligent college professor. Isn’t it ever possible to have a spirit-filled, faithful, knowledgeable, intelligent teacher held up as an example? Like Elder Cook himself, for instance? Or at the least, to show two different but equally spirit-filled ways of teaching: one simple and faithful, one more intellectual – and both have value as long as the Spirit is present?

    After all, the gospels were written by extremely literate, intelligent people. The apostle Paul was nothing but uber-smart. Does their intelligent, literary writing diminish the Spirit? I don’t think so. I think we have a too much us (we simple and faithful) against them (we prideful intellectuals) in the church. Whenever I start a new teaching calling, I have to overcome the bias that intellectual teaching is non-spiritual and even evil. It makes me tired.

    2) Any book the length of this one and as doctrinally oriented could probably have at least some women doctrinal teachers as primary sources or examples – Sr. so and so taught this way, Sr. so and so had this experience while teaching. Sr. so and so explained this doctrine while being “in the moment.” As we teach our gospel to non-members, I think we have to remember that at least in our country, we are way way way beyond the point of having only male examples of good spiritual intelligent doctrinal teaching – and yes, women who are looking for a spiritual home do look at those things. This is really a blind spot in church teaching and publishing, in my opinion. (As a matter of curiousity, were there any women among the group that created the manuals?)

    Those are my concerns with what is otherwise a very fine book. Since we were having ward conference this last Sunday and I didn’t have to teach, I accepted an assignment to speak at a small inner-city ward – remembering the conversation on this topic, I spoke completely without notes or outline. . . but I did know what I was going to talk about in advance. In fact, the Spirit had been preparing me for this talk for some time, in advance . . .

  73. brianj said

    Cherylem: thanks for including the book review. I have experienced difficulty with the problems you describe in both points.

  74. brianj said

    As a side note: This discussion got me thinking about how I rely on the Spirit in my classroom. I’ve mentioned several times that I give out notes a week ahead and then begin class by simply asking the class what they want to discuss/question. I really felt that was bringing in the Spirit. But here is irony: pondering and praying about this, I felt that I was actually avoiding the Spirit by doing this. Here’s the thought that come to me:

    “Brian, you are making the class members stretch themselves at the beginning of class, reaching out to feel the Spirit and share their thoughts, and that is a very good thing. But you are not doing the same. Rather, the onus of discovering the Spirit’s plan for the class is placed on the class members, and you (as the teacher!) merely have to ‘pick up the tune.'”

    So I repented. I started class by standing there in silence, looking down at my notes and asking God to tell me where to begin. The discussion that followed was marvelous—I had one of those “epiphanies”—you know, where a verse that never made sense suddenly made perfect sense (which I will post soon).

    Don’t get me wrong: I know that the Spirit wanted me to start my class periods in January and February by turning it over to the class. But at some point that was no longer the Spirit’s desire, but I was missing it because I had become set in my ways (which were originally the Spirit’s ways). In fact, I felt that the Spirit will soon again instruct me to begin class by asking the students what they want to discuss—but I will be more attentive.

  75. Matthew said

    Great insight Brianj. Thanks for sharing with us.

  76. joe m said

    Today, while on a long drive, i thought this way:

    sunday school teachers do not ask to be sunday school teachers. the calling to teach is at times more for the teacher than for the class. I’m sure that my time as teacher has generally been more beneficial to me than to my class, even though i sought the guidance of the spirit and members of my classes were deeply touched by the lessons at times. there were also times when I had deeply meaningful spiritual confirmations and insights, but my class was unresponsive. there are other occasions when i actively, diligently sought the guidance of the spirit on a particular lesson but received nothing, so far as i could tell.

    By ‘teaching by the spirit’ do we mean that the class partakes of the spirit, or that we feel the spirit while we teach? if we mean that the class partakes, see Gal 3:2. Can we as teachers help the students hear with faith? how? also, can we as students sit through a slow or possibly boring lesson, any maybe a deeply intellectual and stimulating lesson, and hear with faith? what a difference that must make.

    Finally, if you’re frustrated because you’re doing your best but do not feel the explicit guidance of the spirit during a lesson, remember DC 58:26-27.

  77. joe m said

    typo, #76, para. 2: any = and.

  78. nhilton said

    Brianj #74 Your sharing sparked a memory of a friend who told me each day she began by praying that her will would be “emptied” and replaced by the Lord’s will. I think this is relevant to us, as teachers & students as we begin any class. We always begin with preconceived ideas about EVERYTHING. Hearing the Spirit requires “empty ears.” I, too, have gotten into ruts in my teaching now & then. I appreciate having things “shaken” up to help me be more atuned to inspiration instead of the “vain repetitions” in my teaching. Thanks for the reminder. Man…I really need this reminder DAILY!

  79. Cherylem said

    Thanks for sharing the moment of silence at the beginning of class. I’m going to implement this myself.

    Regarding who benefits most from a good teacher – the teacher or the class – I think this is not always clear. I think a good GD teacher, for instance, is often there because members of the class NEED good clear teaching, and the call to that teacher is in direct response to the needs and prayers of the class. Also a good GD teacher can impact the entire rest of the ward: sacrament talks and other lessons improve, because good teaching is being modeled. Scriptures are being studied differently, and new meanings are arising in the increasingly receptive minds of the ward members. Spirituality and the love of Christ also expand throughout the entire group.

    Sometimes I have an image of the Holy Spirit in my mind – not what the Holy Spirit looks like, but an image of the “person” of the Holy Spirit walking through the rows of my class members, touching them, whispering in their minds. I hold this image in my head while I prepare and while I stand up in front of them saying things. I try to talk quietly and unhurriedly, giving room for people to comment freely when they desire.

    It is often an exhausting experience, but I have to say I love it, and while I do benefit as the one who prepares the materials, I actually do believe there are class members who are, perhaps, benefiting more – because they are the ones being whispered too, and because several of them now are also coming prepared, and because God loves them and speaks directly to them through the medium of GD class, and then, throughout the week, through the medium of their own study and prayers.

  80. Cherylem said

    Joe M – great scriptures for the matter at hand. Sometimes when we do not *explicitly* feel the guidance of the spirit, the spirit is still there, strongly. I think we need to trust that where the scriptures are, the spirit also is, even if we don’t always “feel” this.

    And in fact, maybe we have come full circle – how do we define the presence of spirit? For me, if I have prepared to teach, even if I feel flat while the actual class is going on, I really do trust the spirit to do its work, in spite of me. And a nonresponsive class is really not an indication of the spirit or lack thereof, because so much of “spirit” goes on internally.

    I think we prepare, we teach, we trust.

  81. After Cheryl’s book review, I had to go back to my original post and see whether I ever said I loved the book. Thank the heavens I didn’t! In fact, I only read it once, and a number of years ago (I think it was my sophomore year at BYU… and I was hardly aware of questions of sexism at the time). I wasn’t particularly impressed by the book as a book, but by the clarity of the idea he was presenting. And in fact, I’m fascinated that I simply didn’t remember that it participated (even implicitly) in the anti-intellectualist spirit that pervades the Church, because I was very involved in that question at the time I read the book. Hmmm….

    I’m tempted to begin writing about anti-intellectualism, but I’ll force myself to refrain (I have some very, very strong feelings on that). I am lucky in my present ward, though, I must admit. Most all of the older members of our ward are the last generation’s world class scientists who all settled here because they were recruited for the Hanford project fifty and sixty years ago. It’s almost uncommon not to have a PhD in our ward! So I don’t have to face the anti-intellectualism when I teach in this ward, though I’ve certainly faced it over and over again elsewhere. Of course, when I work with the missionaries here….

    Brian, thanks for sharing that experience. I had one of these epiphanies on Thursday. I was asked to substitute teach seminary and I was given D&C 93 to teach. I have spent years trying to figure out what on earth is going on in section 93, and I have always been completely overwhelmed by what it is saying. Hours and hours and hours of careful thinking have never brought me any closer. I went into the classroom with nothing at all to teach, and I explained to the class that we were all in this together, because I have never been able to make any sense of section 93. And we just started working through it together after a prayer of faith. The Spirit came in incredible power, and after first period, I understood more about section 93 than I had come to in years of returning to it. The same sort of a thing happened in every class period, and I learned more and more and more. By the time the day was done, I had come (at last) to an understanding… at least a basic one (but I never even had that before!). Now, let someone ask me to teach D&C 88, so I can sort that out too!

  82. robf said

    So Joe, when will we see your D&C 93 thoughts on the wiki?

  83. Hmm…

  84. Robert C. said

    BrianJ #74: Thanks for sharing this revelation. For some reason this gave me some good (though somewhat unrelated) ideas for how to implement this with my short-attention-span 12-year-old boys.

    nhilton #78: Thanks for the reminder, I think this idea of emptying onself is useful. Is it scriptural? (That’s not a leading question, I’m sincerely asking.)

    Joe #81: I was lucky enough to grow up in a similar environment in Idaho Falls (for similar reasons—we often had engineers transferring in and out of the tri-city area to work on related projects, in IF it is, or at least was, the Idaho National Engineering Labratory, a good aporetic name I’ve always thought, with the state-national tension…).

    Please, please, please share your new insights on D&C 93, here or at the wiki.

  85. Cherylem said

    #81 Joe Spencer –

    Well, it is a good thing we all have a sense of humor . . . and I do stand corrected. Gratefully so.

    And I too want to read your comments about D&C 93.



  86. Bob said

    #72 There are women in the groups who prepare the priesthood and relief society manuals based on the prophets’ teachings.

    Aren’t the scriptures themselves a group of outlines?

    “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” The preparation that works best in banishing fear is pondering the scriptures and the lesson manual, after all there are points the Lord wants the class to understand. That doesn’t mean reading the manual but it does mean having the discussion in the general area so the spirit can speak on those points.

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