February 9, 2013
LEARNING IN THE LORD’S WAY: At the Start of a New Year . . .
A new year has begun. The number itself – 2013 – feels unlucky. No surprise in a superstitious culture that builds hotels without 13th floors (a feat magically accomplished by numbering the floor above the 12th as 14 and pretending it is so).
In the Kingdom of God, 2013 is already a good year. It is the Year of the Youth. For a decade or more we have been watching our youth falling away in droves – not just in our church but in all churches. We were warned years ago that what we were then doing in our homes would not be sufficient. We tried, and some tried very hard, but the enemy got above us. This is the year things change as our youth “become converted to the gospel through learning and teaching in the Savior’s way.” This is the year they learn to exercise faith and do the hard mental work of being hungry, active, self-directed learners. This is the year the gospel moves from their heads to their hearts. This is the year they become mission oriented and step forward as an army of righteousness.
Of course these changes will require good training in the wards and stakes as well as teachers who are willing to change old thinking and old methods for new, inspired approaches. And of course there will be wonderful successes in some places and less success in others. Homeschoolers have an opportunity and a responsibility here. We have already experimented with force and freedom methods of learning. We already know how to do hard things, be self-directed, think outside the box, take risks, fail and try again; and we already know the pure joy of being in the presence of a child when the light of new learning fills his mind.
If you have a calling to work in the youth program, bless you! If not, remember in your prayers the of adults who have only known “acted upon” methods and now have to change their thinking. Those of us who are blessed to attend Sunday School and Relief Society or Priesthood meetings can support the teachers as they learn to become facilitators. We do this by studying the lesson ahead, pondering the questions, bringing our manuals to class, and being prepared to help the Holy Ghost be the teacher.
The new program will invite positive changes in our church and family cultures. Are we willing to make those changes, whatever they may turn out to be? Will the adults be able to keep up with the youth? As homeschoolers, we know what joy awaits as every home becomes a school.
Here is a very brief, and probably inaccurate, peek at recent history from my perspective:
In 1997 Elder Bednar, whose educational and professional background was in organizational communication and behavior, became the President of Rick’s College. In 2000 the college became BYUI. New buildings and a temple have been built, the student population has greatly increased, and a new Learning Model has been introduced.
In 2004 President Bednar said, “It should be obvious to all of us that something spiritually significant is taking place in Rexburg, Idaho.” He also spoke of BYUI as a “Disciple Preparation Center.” Then he said, “Ultimately, the best Disciple Preparation Center is located within the walls of our own homes.” That concept made me feel that homeschoolers should connect our homeschooling efforts with BYUI in some way, that we should steer our own course toward their light. We couldn’t yet see that light; we just knew it was there.
Then last Christmas and again this Christmas, Elder Bednar published his wonderful books, Increase in Learning and Act In Doctrine. and the light became more visible to the whole church.
BYUI has also developed a program called Pathway in which students not on campus can attend two years of college at home, through their local Institute. A missionary couple is called to direct the program and the students meet together once a week. Pathway is now available in over 75 locations around the world. My daughter is in the only “Over Thirty” group in Utah, and she loves it.
In 2003 the Church held the first worldwide Leardership Training. In 2007 President Packer and Elder Holland presented the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Teaching andLearning. The video doesn’t seem to be on the church website anymore, but the text was published in the June 2007 Ensign as “Teaching and Learning in the Church.”
In 2004 changes were made in the General Sunday School. The Teacher Development position, which was disconnected and ineffective (I know; I once held that calling) was eliminated and the Sunday School Presidencies were given the responsibility of teacher training — and they’ve done a wonderful job. In my stake the Sunday School Presidency is strong and effective and things are happening.
In 2004 the Missionary Department presented Preach My Gospel, a book and a program that revolutionized the mission field and probably made the lowering of the missionary age requirement possible.
A few years ago changes were made in how Seminary is taught.
Watching all these changes has been exciting, even though we see just the small pictures and have no real idea of the back-stories or what our Apostles do with the other 99% of their time. And now we are making a giant move forward with the new youth program, “Come, Follow Me.” How blessed we are to be members of this church. Or, as an Institute teacher put it, what a Majestic God we have!
One Final Thought
I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of days ago and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to work on this article. As I typed “Come, Follow Me” something happened — my attention was drawn to the comma. The comma matters! A comma is a separator, a signal to pause. “Come Follow Me” without the comma is a simple command that can easily be said harshly or without feeling. If we respect the comma we must pause after “Come.” That forces us to say the title slowly and gently. “Come, . . . . Follow Me.” We hear the Savior’s voice! It is an invitation. We are commanded, but He will not force. Lord, How is it that thou canst weep? I gave unto them agency. All I want is that they love one another and choose me. (see Moses 7:29,32-3)
His invitation is to our youth. They are His. Our job is to love and teach each other in His way in our callings and in our families. A little comma, the size of a mustard seed, perfectly explains how His Way feels.