24 And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
25 And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.
26 And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?
27 And he said, Yea.
28 And Ammon said: This is God….
In this passage, Ammon models an important principle of effective teaching: you have to meet your students where they are. We learn in stages, and it is often necessary to master one concept before we are ready to learn the next. As the Apostle Paul taught, we need milk before meat. (See 1 Corinthians 3:2.)
It follows that you need to build on your students’ background and experience. Standing in front of a group of students and telling them what you know may or may not be beneficial to them. The only way to be sure is to listen to them and to start with concepts they can relate to.
Was King Lamoni’s Great Spirit identical to Ammon’s understanding of God? No. Was He substantially the same? Yes. Lamoni recognized the Great Spirit as the creator and governor of the world. By adopting Lamoni’s terminology and paradigms, Ammon was able to teach him far more than if he had started by saying, “Your concept of a Great Spirit is wrong. God isn’t like that.”
Today, as I have opportunities to teach others, I will respect their unique backgrounds and will build on their understanding instead of trying to replace their understanding with my own.