It almost goes without saying that personal scripture study matters in your teaching. But I emphasize the word almost.
Several years ago, before I taught seminary, another seminary teacher shared an idea that stuck with me. She said, “Even though I prepare and teach seminary lessons daily, I still try to have personal scripture study outside my lesson preparation.”
I remember distinctly questioning that comment. I didn’t doubt the value of the additional study, but I wondered if it was necessary. I didn’t know how much time she put into her lesson preparation, but I assumed that any time in the scriptures was good. To me, it didn’t matter whether it was time spent in her lesson or not.
A Look From the Other Side
But looking at the situation from the other side, I now see her wisdom. Scripture study for lesson preparation is valuable, necessary, and enlightening. It improves teaching for obvious reasons. When you know the scriptures in your lesson, you are able to share them more confidently. But participating in personal scripture study—especially accompanied by personal prayer—helps you in added ways. It helps you discover answers to personal, immediate questions in your own life. It also teaches you the language of the Spirit, broadens your view of the Savior’s message, and adds greater depth to your teaching. The more familiar you are with the scriptures in general, the more the Spirit can “bring all things to your remembrance” as the Savior promised (John 14:26).
President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When we combine scripture study with prayer, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.”
Personal scripture study matters. It can add two things to your lessons.
First, when you know the stories, principles, and promises in the scriptures, you can respond to questions and turns in the class discussion with the words of the Lord. Rather than feeling glued to specific verses in a lesson outline, you can turn to other verses or stories to teach a truth. These additional verses can testify to the truth of the principle and allow the Spirit to guide the discussion. But that can only happen if you are familiar enough with the scriptures to be that instrument. That requires daily, detailed study of the scriptures, accompanied by prayer.
Second, when you spend more time in personal prayer and scripture study, your love and enthusiasm for the scriptures will grow. And that love and enthusiasm is definitely contagious in your classroom.
Recently, in one of our ward teacher council meetings, we talked about engaging class members in class discussions. A fellow class member shared that growing up, he had a Sunday school teacher who loved his corvette. He was enthusiastic about his corvette. He often talked about his corvette and their class discussions often returned to the topic of his corvette. This class member recalled, “I don’t remember much about what he taught us in that class, but I remember that he really loved his corvette.”
What an interesting observation. We have to love the gospel and the scriptures as much as that particular teacher loved his corvette. At the end of day, we want our class members to know that we love—LOVE—the things we are teaching about God, His Son Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, and the gospel. They will only know we love what we are teaching if that love shows. And that love can only show if we love the scriptures and intimately know them through our frequent personal scripture study.
Make the Time
You may not think you have time for personal scripture study—especially if you spend time in the scriptures for your calling. But if you are willing to sacrifice for this personal study, your teaching will improve. And you will have the added bonus of becoming more acquainted with God.
Take a few minutes to jot down your observations about your personal prayer and scripture study. Do you feel like you are giving your personal scripture study adequate attention? Could you be more regular in your habits? What is working well for you right now? What could you improve?
I invite you to share your comments below so we can learn together.