Sunday, March 25, 2012

Teaching and Agency

I mentioned yesterday in my Sunday Study Link Up that I was going to start studying the Teaching, No Greater Call manual (hereafter referred to as TNGC). Since the best place to start is the beginning I just read the first chapter. The first part of the manual is Part A: The Importance of Gospel Teaching in God’s Plan.

The first statement that really stood out to me in the manual was this “To be able to fully exercise our agency in righteousness, we must learn of the Savior and the doctrines of His gospel.” (p. 3). I read an absolutely fabulous post over on Faithful Freja about the fall of Adam and Eve and agency. Freja pointed out some important principles of agency:

1.) You must have a choice.
2.) You must know the alternatives.
3.) You must have an indication of divine will.
4.) You must have absolute freedom to choose.

In order to fully exercise agency it is not enough to simply have a choice. We have to know what the Savior wants us to do (have an indication of divine will). We cannot fully exercise our agency if we do not understand the principles of the gospel and the plan of salvation. It’s like the oft-quoted scene from Alice in Wonderland when Alice asked the Cheshire cat which direction she should go, and the cat replies, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.” There has to be some kind of understanding of what the right choice is, otherwise we’re not really making a choice – we’re just… doing whatever. (which seems like a kind of lame way to live)

As I read this chapter in TNGC, I was reminded of the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you were asked what you think the purpose of the Church is, what would you say?

Here’s what the Church’s official purpose is:

To “provide the organization and means for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. It provides the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to all who are worthy and willing to accept them.”

So the purpose of the Church is to teach the gospel. And then of course to administer the ordinances necessarily for exaltation. The Church exists so that the children of God can be taught. In TNGC the question is asked, “Can you imagine a duty more noble or sacred?” (p. 4)

This leads us to the question, “Who is a teacher?”

There were some scripture references given in TNGC that I would love to study but I don’t have time this evening. They basically teach us that Christ’s followers are expected to teach the gospel to their family, to other members of the Church, and to those who haven’t yet received the gospel. Remember that saying “Every member a missionary?” What is a missionary, really? Every member is a teacher – I would say first and foremost, a teacher. “The responsibility to teach the gospel is not limited to those who have formal callings as teachers.” If you think about how every person has their own perspective of the world and life, and no two experiences are the same, and we need to learn everything it makes sense that we are all teachers, but we all need to learn from each other.

We are called upon, as teachers, to “increase [our] understanding and improve [our] skill” as teachers. The Lord has taught us, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” As teachers, we must increase our understanding and our skill – and I believe we do that by following the Lord’s admonition. The most important principle in which we need to increase our understanding is that of the plan of salvation. That is the purpose of this life – to understand and follow the plan of salvation – but we cannot follow something that we do not understand.

As we seek first to obtain an understanding of the plan of salvation we will be blessed to be more effective teachers – whatever our circumstances may be.

How do you “increase your understanding and improve your skill” as you teach? In what ways are you a teacher?

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