I know were not supposed to rank callings in the church…but I’ve got to do it here. I think I’ll be justified in this case seeing as that Paul does the ranking for me when he’s addressing the Corinthians.
Have you ever asked someone what their calling was and noticed the difference in their reply depending on the perceived importance of that calling? “Oh…yeah…well…I’m just a Sunday School teacher…not much to it.”
Funny…that same person invited an entire posse to come and watch him take the stand when he was called in to the bishopric a few years back. “Congratulations brother so and so…”
Why are administrative callings sometimes treated as a public inauguration, but the ever important calling to teach the 14 and 15 year olds met with indifference? Why the lack of back-slapping for that new calling to teach the temple prep class? It’s a cultural thing…with no doctrinal justifications. The scriptures paint an entirely different picture of the importance of teachers.
Let me go back to Paul. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles…” (1 Cor 12:28) Elder McConkie said to “Note the order of propriety. In the true Church apostles are first; they hold the keys of the kingdom, receive revelation for the Church, and regulate all of its affairs in all the world as they are guided by the power of the Holy Ghost. Next to the apostles stand the prophets, every prophet ministering in his own place and sphere. After apostles and prophets come teachers. Every teacher is expected to be a prophet and to know for himself of the truth and divinity of the work. Indeed, in the true sense, a teacher is greater than a prophet, for a teacher not only has the testimony of Jesus himself, but bears that testimony by teaching the gospel.”
So why is it that when someone gets called as a gospel teacher, sometimes they begin to slack? Not too long ago I was called to serve as the Ward Sunday School president. Some of my friends joked with me that I had just become the official “bell-ringer,” “hall-monitor,” and “role-keeper.” Someone even came up to me and made a joke that the Ward Sunday School President was where they called “in-active men to serve in order to make them feel important.” We all had some good laughs and I dropped a few jokes on myself at my own expense in the process as well. No harm intended.
But through all of that, I realized that one of the most serious flaws in our church culture is the unspoken…and sometimes spoken devaluation of gospel teachers. Even if it’s just in jest, I realized that this feeling of unimportance manifested itself through the level of consistency shown among some of the teachers in their ward callings. It has become quite the regular thing for teachers to call regularly at 10 p.m. on Saturday night to bail on their class the next morning. Sometimes teachers just flat out never show up without letting anyone know. They figure that it’s no big deal and that “brother so and so can just put a movie on for the kids.” Meanwhile, the kids get used to a bunch of adults, “throwing something together” at the last minute to “keep them busy.” But these kids aren’t stupid! They know when they’re being placated or babysat for. Their perception of the importance of their class was based on the consistency and preparation of their teacher.
A couple years ago, I attended a CES training in which a young stake president, who also happened to be an institute director, stood up to give some remarks about the calling to be a teacher. He said that “it’s hard for me to call new bishops…but I lose sleep over the responsibility to call a new seminary teacher. You are that important.” I loved hearing this…
There is no doubt that administrative positions such as an Elder’s Quorum President, Relief Society President, or Bishop is important as indicated by this stake president. But think about it. How often does the general population of the ward really and truly interact with those leaders? Many of those callings are focused on the temporal welfare of members of the ward, but the teachers of the ward are are literally responsible for the spiritual nourishment of every man, woman, and child in that ward. If the teachers slack, or view their calling a ancillary…what do we have? Without dedicated and effective teachers, the general body of the church would diminish and crumble from a lack of spiritual enthusiasm and doctrinal understanding. We won’t need administrative callings if church members testimonies don’t stay strong.
Consider the seminary teacher who is with the youth every single morning of their high school life. Is there any greater influencer for the youth of this church than their regular weekday and Sunday teachers!? As much as we’d like to hope that parents spend a dedicated 45 minutes a day in gospel instruction…do you think that is an actual reality? No. Probably not. It would be nice…but probably not.
The teachers of this church have a duty, a responsibility, and an opportunity that is unparalleled in this church. Sometimes that fact gets lost in the cultural hoopla of other callings and their associated importance. The gospel teacher has got to be on their game, and the rest of the church has got to back them up and give them the support they need. This is especially true for the teachers of the youth.
There was a day when it was cool to be a master teacher. We should do whatever we can as a church to make it cool again.