When I was called to teach Relief Society, my first thought was, “I can’t teach Relief Society. I don’t have cute things to decorate a table with—if I even knew how to decorate a table.” A conversation with a friend reassured me that a good Relief Society lesson needed to be spiritual, but frilly was only optional. I was relieved. I’m not a frilly person.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of watching gifted teachers give lessons in very simple ways—with a few pictures from the gospel art kit, perhaps a single object for an object lesson, and of course, a set of scriptures. There is something special about those simple lessons.
When I first joined the church, I was puzzled by the simplicity of our chapels. There are no pictures, no statues, never more than perhaps two tasteful vases of flowers. In time, I came to understand and value their simplicity. I realized that with all distractions removed, the focus was entirely on the message being given. I’ve tried to take that into my lessons as well.
Our purpose in presenting a lesson is to share the gospel. An elegant table might be traditional in many of our organizations, but it draws attention to us, inviting admiration of our beautiful belongings and great decorating skill. Anything that draws attention to us draws attention away from the Savior and the gospel. As we concentrate on juggling the many materials we brought, we’re distracted as well, concentrating more on scripting than on following the promptings of the spirit.
As you read the lessons in the manual, notice that they seldom call for a large number of visual aids, except for the very youngest children. They are written in a simple manner, with an emphasis on scriptures, general authority quotes, and discussion. If we can resist the temptation to purchase outside resources, fill the time with elegance and to show our skills to the world, we can duplicate the simplistically powerful teaching experience the Savior had in mind when He helped the writers create the lessons.
If you’re accustomed to fancy lessons, considering testing a simpler version. Study the lesson as it’s written. Read the instructions at the front of the manual to see how the church would like you to present it. Then, experiment with ways to teach that use a small number of visuals and that stay true to the lesson as written. Eventually, you’ll find a simple style that meets the goals of the church that also feels comfortable to you.
Remember: The focus is on the Savior, not on you.