Guest Stand: Teaching the Doctrine of Christ

doctrine“…we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”
– – A Plea to my Sisters, Elder Russell M. Nelson, CR October 2015 – –

A question has been burning in my mind.

Are we teaching the doctrine of Christ?

When we go to church on Sunday are we hearing and teaching the doctrine of Christ?  In our homes, are our children hearing the doctrine of Christ taught to them?

With all of the news of women in the world searching for something, I have turned my thoughts to Relief Society, and just church in general.  Through the years, I have spoken with and read about several women who “avoid Relief Society.”  I myself have had experiences of leaving Relief Society feeling worse than when I came or coming home from church exhausted rather than rejuvenated (Primary!!).  Part of this could be my own personal preparation (or lack thereof), but ultimately I feel uplifted and strengthened when a lesson is founded upon the teachings of our Savior rather than focusing on how we should be living.  With such a focus, Relief Society can quickly become a place where we compare and compete, sharing stories to “one up” each other. Our church meetings can be devoid of that motivation which inspires us to become better and to feel unified.

I remember a friend saying once, “I love General Conference because I leave feeling like I need to do better but also that I can!”  This is how our weekly meetings can be as well.  When focused on the doctrines of Christ, we can go home with the determination to change what’s needed rather than feeling shamed and discouraged that we will “never measure up.” Bishop Dean M. Davies recently explained, “Sometimes our attendance at meetings and our service in the kingdom may lack the holy element of worship. And without that, we are missing an incomparable spiritual encounter with the infinite – one we are entitled to as children of a loving Heavenly Father (CR Oct. 2016).”

And so I ask again: Are we teaching the doctrine of Christ?

In our most recent General Conference, Elder Brian K. Ashton shared of when Christ came to visit the Nephites, he and the Father first testified of Christ’s divinity and then Jesus taught the people of the doctrine.  His doctrine. Says Elder Ashton, “The scriptures define the doctrine of Christ as exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end (CR Oct. 2016).” This is the doctrine!

And yet, oftentimes when we hear “teach the doctrine” we may automatically think, “stay away from sensationalism and false doctrines” or “stick to the manual.”  Yes, we do need to follow this counsel, but teaching doctrine is so much more than just worrying about what not to teach.  I believe thinking only of what not to teach could also lead us to more debilitating thoughts such as, “I can’t study beyond what the manual says” or “I can only ask the questions posed therein.”  And these types of statements could lead us to a fear of actually learning and studying out the subject on our own.  Fear?  Yes, fear that we might stumble on those sensational and false teachings or fear that we don’t know enough or fear that we won’t teach a good lesson without following the manual verbatim. Thus our lessons lack the gold that comes from deep, personal study of the topic.

Of course, maybe the issue lies more in just not knowing how to study and seek out truth.  Can we find the courage to learn and seek out the truth for ourselves so our lessons are filled with the richness of the gospel? The Church has more resources out there than ever before!  There is so much doctrine to be studied.  And if we are searching the right sources (conference talks, scriptures, church magazine, lds.org, etc.), we are going to find the right answers and be inspired as to what parts of the subject our students need. More importantly, a true study of the principle to be taught will lead to gaining a greater testimony of the subject ourselves.

Teaching in the Savior’s Way councils and the youth’s Come Follow Me curriculum are the Church’s way of not only improving teaching but of creating deeper learners of the gospel.  They are no longer holding our hands and spoon feeding us the questions and answers.  They are inviting us to be seekers of truth, “agents unto ourselves.”  Are we following their lead?

When not focused on the doctrine of Christ, our church instruction can sometimes become application heavy.  We have a tendency to focus on what we should do or where we’re lacking when we don’t even yet understand the doctrine begin taught.  Maybe we do this because an application is more tangible and seemingly within our control. Maybe we do this because coming to understand the doctrine as a means of transforming our lives takes more time and more energy.  Yet we have been taught “It is the doctrine of Christ that allows us to access the spiritual power that will lift us from our current spiritual state to a state where we can become perfected  like the Savior (Elder Ashton, CR 2016).”

I’m not saying we should never share ideas or that application is unnecessary.  An application is a vital step in any lesson we teach.  However, the foundation of our lessons must be based upon the word of God and the blessings that come from living those teachings.  After all, “‘Teach[ing] one another the doctrine of the kingdom’ is a way to love and serve each other (Elder Robert D. Hales, CR Oct. 2016).”

Just think about these words from Teaching, No Greater Call: “The word of God can have a powerful influence. Sometimes we may be tempted to think that those we teach would rather talk about something else or be entertained. But effective parents, leaders, home teachers, visiting teachers, and classroom teachers in the Church know that when they teach the doctrine by the Spirit, those they teach are often awakened to a desire for the things of God (p.50, italics added).”

What a beautiful promise!

And so, this is what I believe…

If we are teaching the doctrine of Christ in our homes, our children will come to know Christ.

If we are teaching the doctrine of Christ in Relief Society, our sisters will leave feeling uplifted rather than downhearted.

If we are teaching the doctrine of Christ in our Sacrament meetings, we will feel unified!

If we are teaching the doctrine of Christ in our quorums the brethren will leave motivated to fulfill their Priesthood responsibilities.

If we are teaching the doctrine of Christ in our youth classes, this next generation will go out into the world with firm foundations on which to stand!

It is imperative that we become seekers of truth and this might require us to step deeper into our personal study of gospel principles. “Centering our teaching on the truths of the gospel is the only way we can become instruments in God’s hands to help instill the faith that will lead others to repent and come unto Him (TNGC, p. 51).”

Julia HathawayBorn and raised in Northern California Julia Hathaway set off to meet her husband at Brigham Young University.  Met him she did and they quickly became the parents of six beautiful children (with another on the way!).  Julia graduated with a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development and has since been raising her family, writing, teaching, speaking, and leading discussions based on motherhood and the gospel.  When she’s not doing that she enjoys reading (a lot!), camping, hiking, and yoga. Julia believes in strengthening families by strengthening mothers first! Read more about that on her blog www.spirituallymindedmotherhood.blogspot.com.

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