Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Walter F. González, in “Teaching as the Savior Taught,” (Ensign, Sept. 2004, page 28) tells us that the Savior often taught by asking questions of the heart. Allowing our students to share their testimonies and personal feelings in the course of a lesson can deepen the impact of a lesson. Often the sincere testimony or heartfelt experiences of another can reach someone in a way no other teaching method can.
What kinds of questions reach into the heart? Often you can simply ask, “Would anyone like to share how this teaching has changed her life or the life of her family?” “Have you ever had an experience with this doctrine that made a difference?” What blessings do you find come into your life because you live this calling?” “Would anyone like to share how they gained a testimony of this doctrine?”
Sometimes these questions are best asked in advance so the students have an opportunity to ponder their answer. You might ask someone a week earlier to prepare an answer. You can also write the question on the board and draw attention to it at the start of the lesson, explaining that you will be asking sisters to share later in the lesson.
Elder González cautions, “All teachers need to understand that when feelings are expressed, we are standing on sacred ground. Feelings should not be demanded, but when shared willingly, they should always be respected and never criticized in any way.” Prepare in advance when you want to ask these questions, because you may have a student express negative thoughts or overly private experiences. In this case, you should know how you will change the direction of the discussion. If you phrase the question in such a way that a positive experience is obviously required, such as asking for blessings, you are less likely, but not unlikely, to get the wrong sort of answer.
If someone says they didn’t receive the blessings they expected after living the doctrine, be ready to remind students about God’s time as opposed to man’s time. Ask if anyone has an experience in which they had to wait many years for the promised blessing and bring the discussion back on track. Don’t downplay or discount the person’s frustration, but help them to hold on to their faith and wait. Share or ask for suggestions to make the waiting easier. Have in mind a scripture story or a story about a church leader that applies to the question and didn’t have an instant answer.
The personal testimonies of your students, and their sacred experiences with the gospel can enrich your class and make it one that will impact the testimonies of those who struggle.