[The following is an excerpt from a book C.S. Bezas has written for parents, teachers, and youth leaders Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers. Whereas the content is specifically geared for gospel teachers, the content is important for us all to remember!]
Moroni advises us: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father,…neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Mormon 9:31). It is profitable for us to learn from the scriptures so we do not repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before. How exciting to share this with our students – so that they too can profit thereby.
Whereas the Corinthian saints in New Testament times often struggled with physical sin, the Colossians saints seemed attracted to internal sins – those of pride, intellect, and superior wisdom. In his letter to these saints, Paul taught of the danger of outward ceremonialism in lieu of reliance on and union with Christ (Bible Dictionary, p. 746). We can and should learn from the text of his letter to the Colossians saints; in Colossians 3:16 we have Paul’s beautiful admonishment of the following, his advice to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom….”
As seminary teachers, we want our students to avoid any mistake possible. Thus, we cannot allow our students to look at their scriptures in apathy. Otherwise they are missing out on one of the most potent tools the Lord has given his children to learn and to use to return to him. That is why it is an essential task for seminary teachers to emphasize reading the word of Christ. And we’re not just to give lessons that teach about Christ; we’re to enthuse our students to study about Christ.
The Lord has given us one integral handbook with instructions for life while away from his presence: the scriptures. The scriptures contain essential directions on how to live joyfully, how to avoid unnecessary danger while here on earth, and specific instructions on how to return to our Father’s presence.
A Powerful 3,600 RPM Saw.
Just as I’d hate to operate a “heavy-duty, double-bevel sliding compound miter saw” without first reading its instructions, I’d hate to negotiate the complexities of this life without the Lord’s instructions! Can a powerful 3,600 RPM saw really be any more dangerous than life in today’s world? Yet people seem more likely to read a saw’s instruction book than to read the Lord’s instruction book, the scriptures.
The world our students face is not what it was when we were youth. The choices youth today are required to make come in dizzying speed and peril. Wise scriptural counsel can make all the difference. For example, when a peer tells a student of ours, “God can’t be found,” our student can know the truth. They can respond, “God is not hiding. In fact, he has promised, ‘Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’” (D&C 88:63).
Knowledge of another verse could be helpful if a student’s boyfriend were pressing her for physical relations. Whether or not our student shares the verse with him, she can repeat it in her heart: “…prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean; that I may testify unto your Father, and your God,…that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation;…” (D&C 88:73).
There are other temptations in the world I do not desire to discuss, because to do so would not be delicate. But if students read their “handbook to life” on a consistent basis, they will know their scriptures and those scriptures in turn can help them during perilous times. Living this way, they will be far more likely to center their life on Christ, as Paul importuned his saints (and us) in his Colossians letter. As their teachers, we will not always be available to aid them, nor will their parents. But we certainly can leave a legacy of value for the scriptures.
The Lord’s handbook, that priceless compilation of prophetic utterances, means more to me personally than anything in this world. Today’s youth can feel the same way. They will achieve this by searching it, trying out the scriptural teachings for themselves. As they do this, Christ’s word will dwell richly within them.
A student reading from these pages just a few minutes a day will find greater insights and peace than from any other source, other than perhaps prayer and/or service. Our students need to experience the fruits from gospel scholarship to know those fruits, to appreciate them, to savor them. Think about it – can an individual remain apathetic to the scriptures and still remain faithful to the Lord through the years? I’m not so sure. There is actual power given us to dismiss sin when we are daily learning of the Lord and his ways via his scriptural texts, coupled with prayer.
Leave a Legacy.
As gospel instructors, if we are not using the scriptures in our classes, what are we doing? Talking about the scriptures is not the same thing as reading from them. There is a difference and our students deserve the latter. Just imagine if you were the first gospel teacher in their life to take this seriously – to actually teach from the scriptures, rather than just about them. You will leave an immeasurable love of God’s word for your students.
The students who are willing to walk privately on their own through the scriptural arbors of the Lord’s fields are those students who do not faint under the heat of the world’s sun. At some point a student must determine if they will rely on Christ’s word, not on the work, the effort, or the testimony of another. Indeed, the point of spiritual success begins with a youth enthused enough about the gospel (or at least willing enough to trust), that they take of their personal time and use it for private gospel scholarship. These are the students who will reap dividends throughout their lives as they continue to study the word of the Lord in private sessions with Him.
The Colossian saints were admonished to let the word of Christ dwell richly within them. It is the same for us today. As a starting point, the church as a whole has been asked to read the scriptures together in family units. We are to discuss them and make application of their teachings, thus strengthening the family bond. But not all families do this. And can any group scripture study match the potent hours of private scholarship – when a soul seeks comfort, knowledge, or direction through quiet solace with God’s sacred scriptures and the Lord himself?
When are our students going to learn the joy private scholarship brings? Group study is one thing; private scripture study is something quite different. As we encourage our students to develop a habit of personal scripture study – reading the assigned scripture text in each current year of focus – we give our students a treasure which is immeasurable and which will enrich their lives for all their days on earth.
Notice the difference in the youth who have chosen to enjoy the lush fields of planted gospel truths. The difference is clear; the fruits are strong and apparent in their lives. These are youth whose hearts are filled with the words of Christ; these are youth who can sing of his grace and rejoice in his strength, walking confidently back to his presence.
The apostle Paul admonished the Colossian saints to let the word of Christ dwell richly within them; let us do the same for our students! We do this:
- By actually teaching from the scriptures themselves during class time.
- By having personal study time ourselves each day and then sharing those moments with our class (thus they see us setting the example). In other words, “You know yesterday, I was reading in D&C 36. I was so moved when the Lord told Joseph Smith…” We then proceed to share a moment that strengthened us or a decision that came, because of our private scripture study.
- By inspiring the students to follow suit. One way we can do this is by providing a few minutes during class for students to share their “ah, ha’s!” which came while privately reading in the scriptures the day before. Soon the students will begin to look forward to these class times, in which a few verses are read, testimonies are shared, and lives are strengthened.
When we do our part as seminary teachers, we will strengthen our students in the process the apostle Paul spoke of. We will help our students to have “…the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly in all wisdom….” (Col. 3:16). And as Moroni stated in Mormon 9:31, our students will have been able to learn from the experiences of those in the scriptures and be wiser for them! What better reward could there be as we aid our students in their journey back home to heaven!
Watch for C.S. Bezas’ new book, Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers, available in LDS bookstores and online.