Helping Our Students Become Spiritually Self-Reliant
barbara e. morgan
After Nephi heard his father tell of his dream, Nephi explained that he too desired to “see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him” (1 Nephi 10:17). As a result of the messengers—both the angel and the Spirit—using fundamental teaching principles in a divine pattern, Nephi did see, hear, and know by the power of the Holy Ghost of those things that he desired. As we teach using the fundamental principles taught by the Spirit and the angel, we too can help our students to see, hear, and know by the
power of the Holy Ghost those things which are of greatest value to them, thus helping them become spiritually self-reliant.
Spiritual Self-Reliance Nephi’s dream came because he desired, as Joseph Smith and others did, to
know for himself. This spiritual process of coming to know for oneself is taught throughout the scriptures. Adam and Eve, the brother of Jared, Peter, and many others sought to know for themselves and were granted that blessing.
Your content ghe Prophet Joseph Smith, for example, was an expert not only at teaching truth but in showing us how to obtain truth for ourselves and to have our own personal experiences with God, or to become spiritually self-reliant. Joseph Fielding McConkie expertly taught:
The prophetic efforts of Joseph Smith did not center in sharing his spiritual experiences but rather in the effort to qualify us to have our own spiritual experiences. The emphasis of his ministry was not on what he had seen but on what we could
see. . . . Critics of the Church have made a lot of fuss about the fact that we have so few contemporary accounts of the First Vision. But that rather makes the point. Joseph was talking more about what we could do than what he had done. We have a dozen revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that invite us to see God. Joseph invited us to check him by having our own Sacred Grove experience. The validity of an experience is if it can be repeated. A good seed not only bears good fruits but it
always bears the same fruits—regardless of who plants it.1 Just as Joseph Smith had his own experience and then tried to show us how to have our own personal experiences, Nephi too was trying to have his own experience and then teach us, the readers, to do the same. The scripture could have simply read, “I desired to see, hear, and know the things of my
father by the power of the Holy Ghost, and my desires were granted by the Lord.” Instead, however, we are taught by Nephi how to receive our own revelation, and by following his example, we then can help others receive theirs. Thus we are helping them become spiritually self-reliant. It seems that Nephi’s emphasis on the process he went through to see, hear, and know is equally as important as what he actually saw, heard, and knew. Is this not what we are also about—trying to have our own spiritual experiences and becoming personally self-reliant, acting rather than being acted upon, and then helping
others do the same? Like Nephi, our students need not only to be taught what the Holy Ghost is but to feel it as well. They must not only be told what the fruit is but taste it.
Note that Nephi did not merely want to listen, look, and read; he wanted to hear, see, and know. It was Nephi’s desire to become spiritually self-reliant. Our students desire the same. It is our responsibility as teachers to help them get there. As religious educators, many of us are aware of the important role of Spirit, the teacher, and the students in the teaching and learning process.
We cannot underestimate the importance of any of these roles, but the role of the Spirit is especially critical to be understood as we, as teachers, try to better understand our role and the role of the studentsoes here.