Education Week: Sunday School Presidency emphasizes Christ-centered teaching with new manual

Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace speaks in the Marriott Center for Education Week. President Pace and his first counselor discussed changes to the Sunday School manual in their address. (Abigail Gunderson)

Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.

In their Education Week address on Aug. 15, Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace and his first counselor Milton Carmago discussed recent changes to the Sunday School manual and how these changes will help teachers and learners grow closer to Jesus Christ.

The Sunday School manual “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” was last revised in 2016 and the newest edition is now available online. The revisions are meant to bring a renewed focus on the Savior in church lessons and connect Sunday School curriculum with seminary and institute.

President Pace noted that since the Church has transitioned to a home-centered, church-supported teaching pattern, the “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” manual is a good resource for those teaching in the home as well. The manual includes practical suggestions for teaching in different settings, including at home and in a virtual lesson.

President Pace said the revised edition is meant to encourage all who teach in the Church to keep Christ and His doctrine at the center of lessons and teach in a more Christlike way.

“We realized there’s something very important that’s missing,” he said. “Since we’re teaching in the Savior’s way, we need to focus more on Jesus Christ.” 

In reworking the manual, the Sunday School Presidency worked with the seminary and institute presidencies to create a cohesive, Christ-centered curriculum across the Church.

“No matter what we are teaching, we’re teaching about Jesus Christ,” President Pace said referring to the changes.

Pace said teachers should help those they teach —whether in a Church classroom or at home— have meaningful experiences that will allow them to grow their relationship with Jesus Christ. He referenced the story of Daniel in the lions’ den, and said while it’s good to know such stories in the scriptures, “it’s even more meaningful if we recognize that Jesus Christ can help us in our figurative den of lions.” 

Pace compared the renewed focus on Christ in Sunday School to President Russell M. Nelson’s call to use the full name of the Church, and reminded the audience to be careful about omitting Christ from lessons. He said if members are careful about how they refer to the Church, they should be equally careful about what they teach in the Church.

Milton Carmago, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, focused on practical ways to keep Christ at the center of lessons and teach as He did. First and foremost, Carmago said it is important that students recognize their teachers’ concern for and interest in them.

“I would say the first principle of teaching in the Savior’s way is love those you teach,” he said. He also taught three more ways to teach more powerfully, including teaching by the Spirit, teaching doctrine and inviting diligent learning.

Carmage said loving the people one teaches, includes getting to know them, praying for them and trying to lift them spiritually.

“You can look for ways to understand their background, talents, interests and needs and you can find out how they can learn best,” he said. “Help them believe and understand that they are children of God and they are quite important —very important— in the Lord’s mind and heart.”

No matter how powerful, Carmago reminded the audience the lesson is only effective if applied. He explained how inviting diligent learning can help learners grow personally from the things they learn in class.

“Invite them to share what they learn,” he said. “Invite them to live what they learn.” 

Faced with the perhaps daunting task of being a more Christlike teacher, President Pace encouraged those called to teach in the Church, as well as parents and individuals, to be patient with themselves and celebrate diligent effort.

“The miracle is found in the consistent effort, not in perfection,” President Pace said.

As Sunday School curriculum continues to develop, President Pace invited the audience to reach out with questions and comments about the new manual by emailing .

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