We call lots of people to be teachers in church. But for adults, there is a trend to not teach anymore. Let me ask you this for those that attend church: When was the last time you learned something from a lesson in Sunday school, Relief Society, or Elders Quorum? The very definition of “teacher” is a person that imparts knowledge to others. It has gotten so bad in my Elders Quorum, that the person assigned to regurgitate a recent General Conference Talk is not even called a teacher anymore. The e-mail I got the other day said “Brother Smith will be facilitating a discussion of Elder Bednar’s recent conference talk…..”

I believe there is still teaching going on in Primary, and possibly the youth are learning something from class time, but I don’t know when the last time I was “taught” anything in Elders Quorum. Every time I’ve been asked to “teach” in EQ, I took it to heart and made sure everybody learned something new in class. The last time I taught, I reviewed the Essay on the Blacks and the Priesthood. I started by quoting Elder Ballard’s 2016 talk

It is important that you know the content in these essays like you know the back of your hand


I then asked for a show of hands who even knew the Essays existed. That was my first “teaching moment”, where I imparted knowledge that was new to them as all but a few raised their hands. They learned something new!

Why don’t we teach the adults of the church anymore? Have we already learned everything there is to know about our salvation? I do learn things every time I attend Elder’s Quorum, like Brother Jones is even a bigger Sabbath Day Pharisee than I thought, or that Brother Hall is still a bigot. But why can’t we learn something important? What has happened to our lessons that we don’t even have teachers anymore?

I’m old enough to remember seeing on my fathers bookshelf lesson manuals for Priesthood that were real lesson manuals, written by real people and not a correlation committee. Richard Poll talked about these glory days of lesson manuals in this 1986 Sunstone Article.

In the days when authors were identified, the lesson manuals of the Church auxiliaries and the Melchizedek Priesthood were written by a who’s who of the best educated men and women in the Church, many of them academics. The manuals, like the early seminary and institute texts, were often intended to stimulate and motivate rather than indoctrinate and pacify. I can only imagine the lively discussions that B. H. Roberts’s course of study may have engendered in some seventies quorums. I can testify to how exciting it was a generation ago to help young people see the implications of gospel principles through [O.C.] Tanner’s manual or Lowell Bennion’s The Religion of the Latter-day Saints.

“The Swearing Elders: Some Reflections,” Richard Poll, Sunstone (Jan 86)

Some of these old manuals that stand out to me include:

Rational Theology: As Taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by John A. Widtsoe, 

Teachings of the New Testament by  Lowell Bennion, 

Christ’s Ideals for Living by O.C. Tanner, 

Jesus the Christ by James Talmage (yes, it was the Priesthood manual in 1916 and again in 1963)

Do you think the church will ever move back to manuals like these? Real lessons, lively conversations, teachers that were more than “facilitators” or “discussion leaders”? Are the days of lessons that “stimulate and motivate rather than indoctrinate and pacify” long gone? Lastly, why are those days gone? Why are we only indoctrinated and pacified?