My wife and I taught the 13 and 14-year-old class a short time ago—Maddy and Tristan and Eliza and Shaun, two Sydnees and Josh and Trevor. We heard a story about a Sunday School teacher that told each student “I love you” every week. We adopted that strategy and our class blossomed.
We tried to recognize them and show curiosity in their interests. We truly loved each one of them, showed excitement in what was important to them, and testified of Christ and his goodness and gospel truths. Following the example of Sister Madsen, every week at the end of the lesson, my wife stood by the door of the classroom and told each student that she loved them as they filed their way to the next meeting. We hope it made a difference in their world. It literally changed our lives.
A friend of mine told how he interacts with his students each week. He finds out about their activities and discusses their interests. Then, when he teaches the lesson, he can make application to his students’ lives and draw conclusions that are significant and relevant to them.
During a severe winter several years ago, President Boyd K. Packer noted that a goodly number of deer had died of starvation while their stomachs were full of hay. In an honest effort to assist, agencies had supplied the superficial when the substantial was what had been needed. Regrettably they had fed the deer, but they had not nourished them.
When I was an impressionable young man in a small community down south, our seminary teacher influenced my whole life. He and his wife spoke in our branch some years ago. My father related what happened next in the following experience from his journal:
Her talk was on a matter I have long been concerned about. The problem comes into perspective at a sacrament meeting: Adults as well as children give tender loving praise for bishops, teachers, neighbors, and the prophet. But too few feel and express it for the Savior. We are not achieving our most important goal until we have established in the hearts of our children and the saints, an even greater love for Him.
Friends may betray us, spouses may leave us, health may fail, and our possessions burn up. But Christ, his promises, understanding, and love will never fail us. With some trials and most tragedies, only this can get us through. When we can take a thankless, demanding calling; give up something we wanted greatly, so we can pay our tithing; or help out someone who has badly hurt us and say “I wouldn’t do that for anyone except I’ll do it for Christ,” then the power for good that he can have in our lives is becoming a reality. He must be the foundation of our lives.”
To do this, we must listen to the Spirit, pray for each one of them, call our students by their names and impart to our children their importance in our families, and love them and tell them that you love them, then testify of the Lord’s limitless power and matchless love. You and they will feel the Spirit together “that all may be edified” Doctrine & Covenants 88:122
As you relate your testimony of the Savior, the Spirit of the Holy Ghost will testify of these truths and you and those you teach will all be edified. And what is good for the gander is also good for the goose, which is to say that what is true for your class is also true for your family members. Identify the influence of the Holy Ghost, ask your students to describe their feelings, and tell them they are feeling the Spirit when the Spirit is present.
Nephi taught that “[God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” Some things we truly may not understand, but like Nephi, we know God loves us. Our students and families need to know that. The Lord loves them and sees their inherent good, especially during tough times. The adversary will create obstacles to hedge their way and sow seeds of doubt. Yet when we have lots of questions and experience many challenges in life, we can hold on to the fact that God loves us.
Feeling His love encourages us all to press forward, reassures us that we are His, and confirms to us that He cherishes us even when we stumble and experience temporary setbacks. You are his messengers. You can change other’s lives—you will change your life—by loving your children and students and concentrating on teaching them the Savior is mindful of their needs and will provide a way for them to overcome hardship. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ in its pure and undefiled form.
And like Sister Madsen in the attached video, your students and children will know that someone is waiting there for them and will tell them regularly that they are loved. This is following the example of the Savior who is waiting for you and for me and for each one of His children with his arms extended still. Mosiah 29:20
Make sure your students and families know that.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.