Thou Art a Teacher Come From God
Elder Thomas S. Monson
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 104-108)
President Smith, when I am in your presence I think of the principle of courage, for it was 15 years ago in the building to the south of us, the Assembly Hall, when you presided at a conference where I was called as a member of the stake presidency. I remember the day well. I was singing in an Aaronic Priesthood chorus. I was a bishop, and bishopric members always sing when the Aaronic Priesthood participates.
As President Smith stepped to the pulpit, he read my name as a member of the stake presidency. It was the first notification I had had of my appointment. He then used these words to introduce me: "If Brother Monson would now like to accept this calling, we would be pleased to hear from him."
May I quote to you the last line of the hymn we had just concluded singing: "Have courage, my boy; have courage, my boy, to say no." I used as my theme that bright June day: "Have courage, my boy, to say yes," and it requires courage every time I stand at this pulpit.
New adult magazine
My brethren, tonight we have heard stimulating messages relating to a magazine for our small children and another magazine for our youth. Speaking as an adult, your thought and concern could well be, "What about Mother and me?" To this question I would reply: "Let not your heart be troubled. (John 14:1) You, too, will have your magazine."
The new adult magazine will replace three well-known publications: the Improvement Era, the Relief Society Magazine, and the Instructor. However, the most outstanding and useful features of each of these excellent publications will be retained and become a vital part of the new magazine. The readership audience will be the adult membership of the Church.
Just as a new city or child receives a name, so must the new adult magazine. The selection has not been made without thorough study and much prayer. You will recognize the name. The prophet Isaiah particularly stressed its significance. He declared that the Lord will lift up "an ensign to the nations"; ye shall "be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill." (Isa. 11:12; Isa. 30:17) And in this dispensation, the Lord spoke: ". . . Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her; And she shall be an ensign unto the people." (D&C 64:41-42) The name of the new adult magazine will be The Ensign of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its contents will be as a beacon upon the top of a mountain and as an ensign on a hill, that the adults of the Church might be more adequately prepared to be examples to their children and to the world.
Several significant questions have accompanied the announcement in the Church News relative to the new adult publication. Perhaps a review of them would be helpful:
Question #1: Who should subscribe to the Ensign?
Answer: The First Presidency is encouraging every English-speaking family in the Church to be a subscriber. Month-for-month subscription credit on the new adult magazine will be given present subscribers to the Era, Instructor, and Relief Society Magazine. For instance, when the Instructor ceases publication December 31, those subscribers who have perhaps three issues due them on their present Instructor subscription will receive, without charge, three issues of the Ensign. The same applies to the Era and Relief Society Magazine as they conclude their publication at the end of the year.
Question #2: What will be the annual subscription price of the Ensign?
Answer: In the past we have rather expected our families to subscribe to all three adult publications, which at present rates amounts to $10.50. Families will now pay just $4.00 for the Ensign—a savings to families of $6.50.
Question #3: Will lessons for Relief Society appear in the Ensign?
Answer: No. These will be published in lesson manual style as is presently the practice in other auxiliary organizations and in priesthood quorums. The sisters should note, however, that the Relief Society lessons for the period January 1, 1971, through August 30, 1971, will already have been published in the Relief Society Magazine, concluding with the December issue.
Question #4: What will be the anticipated beginning circulation for the Ensign?
Answer: The Ensign will be the largest in circulation of the three new magazines, with an initial print order or press run of over 325,000 copies.
Question #5: Who will have the responsibility of publishing the Ensign?
Answer: The magazine will be published under the supervision of the First Presidency. Members of the Council of the Twelve and other General Authorities who have supervisory responsibility for Church programs for adults will have special assignments with the magazine, as will the presidencies and superintendencies of auxiliary organizations at the level of the general boards. The correlation program secretaries also will play a vital part in producing the publication. The Ensign will have a talented and experienced staff, headed by Doyle L. Green as managing editor, with M. Dallas Burnett as associate editor.
Question #6: What will the magazine contain?
Answer: The Ensign will be written in such a way as to enhance its use. There will be articles on home teaching, family home evenings, missionary, welfare, and genealogical work. Leadership and teacher development will also be vital features. Material from the Ensign will be used widely in every teaching classroom of the Church, including that special classroom called home. In addition, there will be fiction, poetry, and those feature articles which have been so popular in the present adult publications.
This, then, will be The Ensign of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—your adult publication. Subscribe to it. Read its contents. Apply in your lives its lessons. You, too, will then be as an ensign, even the light of the world, a city of righteousness set on a hill that cannot be hid. (Matt. 5:14)
Quality of teaching
As mentioned, information about the new teacher development program will be one of the features contained in the Ensign. The First Presidency has asked that I now introduce to you this inspired new program, which has the potential to improve the quality of teaching throughout the Church.
Brethren, have you as a father ever asked your son this question: "Dick, how did the Sunday School class go today?" Young men, on occasion have you answered: "Not so good, Dad. My teacher didn't show up"? Perhaps your reply was: "My teacher, Brother Campbell, tries hard, but he just doesn't communicate."
If we are honest with ourselves, some version of this same dialogue has been heard in every Latter-day Saint home. Nor is it restricted to Sunday School, but it also extends to Primary, MIA, Relief Society, and the quorums of the priesthood.
John Milton described this plight in these words: "The hungry sheep look up but are not fed." (Lycidas.) The Lord himself said to Ezekiel the prophet, "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that . . . feed not the flock." (Ezek. 34:2-3)
Skilled teachers needed
Are wise shepherds, even skilled and righteous teachers, needed today? Our fast-moving jet-propelled world harbors pressures and temptations not previously known.
More than $500 million a year are spent on pornographic literature by which evil men try to "dig gold out of dirt." Magazines, movies, TV programs, and other mass media are frequently utilized to lower moral standards and induce improper behavior. Crime and delinquency are rampant. Spiritual values are questioned. The effective teacher is desperately needed to help us understand what is genuine and important in this life and develop the strength to choose the paths that will keep us safely on the way to eternal life.
Knowing this situation and sensing the need for effective action, the First Presidency in October 1968 called a committee to work to improve the quality of teaching throughout the Church. They counseled that the program should:
1. Be priesthood sponsored and Churchwide;
2. Help teachers and leaders to improve;
3. Assist prospective teachers to begin their assignments with the training and spiritual understanding necessary to be effective.
Importance of teaching role
In January of this year, in an interview published in the Deseret News, President Joseph Fielding Smith and his counselors stressed anew the importance of the teaching role. I quote:
"Teaching members of the Church to keep the commandments of God was described by the new First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as its greatest challenge."
The goal of gospel teaching today, as emphasized in the teacher development program, is not to "pour information" into the minds of class members. It is not to show how much the teacher knows, nor is it merely to increase knowledge about the Church. The basic goal of teaching in the Church is to help bring about worthwhile changes in the lives of boys and girls, men and women. The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles.
Teacher Development program
To help achieve this goal and meet this aim, we now introduce to you, the priesthood, the new teacher development program of the Church.
On Thursday, October 1, 1970, in a special seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve, the teacher development program was presented in detail. These devoted and capable brethren will, in the next six weeks, outline the program to stake presidencies; and then, January 1, 1971, it will commence. During the first six months of 1971, when the General Authorities visit each stake quarterly conference, they will emphasize this program and will report on its implementation.
A cardinal principle of industrial management teaches: "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates." I think the visit to your stakes by the General Authorities will bring the desired acceleration.
Time dictates that my introduction of the program itself be presented in headline form:
1. The new Churchwide program is priesthood sponsored and supersedes any other teacher training program now in use.
2. The stake president has responsibility for teacher development in his stake. He will call a member of the high council to be stake teacher development director. This high councilor should be an outstanding teacher who has the ability to motivate and inspire.
3. The bishop has responsibility for the teacher development program in his ward. He will call a capable bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood to be the ward teacher development director.
4. Similar responsibility will rest with mission presidents, district and branch presidents in the missions of the Church.
5. The new teacher development program consists of three parts: (a) the basic course; (b) inservice program; (c) supervision (to be introduced September 1, 1971).
6. The basic course is designed to help prospective and current teachers to acquire knowledge and develop skills, that they might become more effective. It will be conducted over an 11-week period, usually during the Sunday School hour, and involve perhaps eight persons interviewed and called, by the bishop, to the course. The instructor of the basic course will be the ward teacher development director.
7. The inservice program will be an outgrowth of the basic course and will encompass both spiritual principles and teaching skills. The inservice lessons will be offered ten times per year for instructors in all priesthood quorums and auxiliaries.
8. The manuals for the basic course and the inservice program are now ready for distribution. The administrative manual will be sent to appropriate stake and ward leaders at no cost to them. A special order form will be sent to each bishop, that he may order the necessary materials to implement the program. Funds for same may appropriately come from ward and stake budgets. Individuals may then make payment to the ward or stake for their personal binders and materials. Quantity purchasing has provided minimum unit costs.
9. The program allows for considerable flexibility. In most areas of the Church, the program should operate on a ward level. However, options are available for the basic course and in-service lessons to be conducted on a multi-ward or stake level where necessary.
10. The program uses the strengths and resources of small group participation, with emphasis on doing and participating in real learning experiences.
Tested on pilot basis
This, then, is the new teacher development program. It has been pre-tested on a carefully supervised and controlled pilot basis in the Monument Park, Walnut Creek, and Gunnison stakes and the Victoria District of the Alaska-British Columbia Mission. Will it bring forth in your ward or stake the hoped-for results? Listen to the testimonies of but two who have completed the course:
"For the first time in my life I have an idea of how to teach."
"Like all blessings in the gospel, this program will be only as helpful as those who use it will make it. There will be those who will say, 'I am a master teacher. I don't need this.' They will gain nothing. There are those who will say, 'I'm too busy for this. The Church has too many meetings.' They will gain nothing. There will be those who will say, 'Here is an opportunity to learn.' They will gain much, and the Lord's work will move ahead."
Invitation to become participants
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each member, each priesthood bearer, will likely have an opportunity to become a teacher. There is no privilege more noble, no task so rewarding. May I extend to you, my brethren of the priesthood, a sincere invitation to become participants in the teacher development endeavor. May I challenge you in the words from the epistle of James to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22), remembering:
I hear and I forget;
Others then will follow your example. Teaching will improve. Commandments will be lived. Lives will be blessed.
The Master Teacher
In Galilee there taught a master teacher, even Jesus Christ the Lord. He left his footprints in the sands of the seashore, but he left his teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom he taught. He instructed his disciples of that day, and to us he speaks the same words, "Follow thou me." (John 21:22) Then, as now, foolish, unwise persons will stop their ears, close their eyes, and turn away their hearts. Let us remember, there is no deafness so permanent as the deafness which will not hear. There is no blindness so incurable as the blindness which will not see. There is no ignorance so deep as the ignorance that will not know.
May we, like Thomas of old, not doubting but believing, respond, "Let us go." (John 11:16) Yes, may we go forward in the introduction and implementation of this new program for teacher development. As we do so, in this spirit of obedient response, it may be said of each teacher as it was spoken of the Redeemer, ". . . thou art a teacher come from God." (John 3:2) May this be so, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.