Dull Tools and Dull Teaching

August 3, 2007

by Amri

I went on my mission in 1998. We had the old discussions. They were helpful at the beginning when we were trying to find our Japanese words but otherwise our mission president hounded us to use our own words. To use the discussions as guidelines. We were required to memorize the lessons and titles. The memorization of the actual words in the discussions just earned you a dumb little pin.

All this to say, I think they were pushing for more personal delivery in the discussions a long time ago and sincethat did not succeed they had to come out with the Preach My Gospel lessons, I can only think it is because 19 to 21 year olds are not the sharpest tools in the shed.

It seems common sense to me that a “discussion” would be a discussion rather than a person listening to memorized words. It seems common sense that it would be more personal if you’re sharing your own words.

Then I think of the models we have for teaching in the Church. Everyone is a teacher. Good, bad or ugly. I am ambivalent to this approach but it does mean you sit through a lot of bad lessons in the Church. With correlation and manuals, everyone is given the same lesson and the same words to teach. People rarely stray from this. I’ve even been chastised by people for straying from the words.  I have never taught anything heretical I just didn’t teach exactly what was in the manual. The manuals also get used year after year and so many people are familiar with the stories, anecdotes, object lessons associated with certain topics and scriptural passages. We memorize them, more or less. We even memorize the answers sometimes.

So while I do think most well-meaning, good-hearted missionaries are also slightly dull tools I also think it’s that they don’t know how to teach because they’ve never been shown how. The Preach My Gospel lessons seem like a meager bandaid for a cultural ill of lame teaching.



  1. You’ve stated the problem. What’s the solution? How do you teach 19 year old kids how to teach?

  2. What? We’re supposed to have answers on blogs? Well I never.

    I think more than anything we need to model better teaching. If all their classes aren’t full of people reading out of their manuals, missionaries will instinctively teach differently because they’ve seen it done differently.

  3. So the missionaries that grew up in the days before correlation were intinctively better teachers?

    I’m not really disagreeing with you on correlation. I think the best lessons in the church right now are given in Gospel Essentials to the newly baptized and the newly reactivated. The four year rotation in Gospel Doctrince is too fast in my opinion. You can never cover the lessons. Take 8-10 years to cover the same material and allow more time for class discussion. GIve the teacher more lattitude (under the watchful eye of the bishop, of course!).

  4. Maybe not instinctively better but I’m sure their instincts about teach were different than they are now.
    I did say that 19 year olds are also somewhat dull and that may or may not be fixable.

  5. Most 19 year olds would say that I’m the dull one! And my 17 year old would say I’m unfixable. On the other hand, my 24 year old daughter thinks that both her mom and dad have learned a lot since she became a mother.

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