Nephi opens his final chapter with some misgivings. He wishes that his written words could be as impactful as his spoken words were:
Neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
(2 Nephi 33:1)
It’s an interesting passage, both because it reveals Nephi’s self-consciousness and because it highlights the value of the spoken word in preaching the gospel.
This verse has been quoted numerous times by general authorities of the Church. Today, I reviewed some of those instances. Here is what I learned:
1. When we teach by the Holy Ghost, our students can learn more than what we say.
One member testified: “As I listened to your address, I was astounded. … Your talk was personal revelation directly from the Lord to my family. I have never experienced such a strong manifestation of the Spirit in my life as those minutes when the Holy Ghost spoke directly to me.”
Another said, “I have never before felt so profoundly that a talk was being given to me.”
This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand. When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me.
What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel. That is why we make an effort to experience conference in a setting where the still, small voice of the Spirit can be clearly heard, felt, and understood.
(Elder Robert D. Hales, “Strengthening Faith and Testimony,” General Conference, October 2013)
2. As we teach, we should be mindful of the importance of helping our students feel the Spirit.
Teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It’s helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives.
Nephi taught that the role of the Holy Ghost is to carry the truth “unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). Our role as parents is to do all we can to create an atmosphere where our children can feel the influence of the Spirit and then help them recognize what they are feeling.
(Cheryl A. Esplin,” Teaching Our Children to Understand,” General Conference, April 2012)
3. Ultimately, the student must decide whether he or she will receive the Spirit. The teacher cannot force that to happen.
Nephi teaches us, “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter. Learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart.
(Elder David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, September 2007)
4. The Holy Ghost can guide us to teach in a way that helps our students open their hearts.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed because really, after all, they were His children before they were ours. As parents in Zion, you have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you pray for guidance, “it will show unto you all things what ye should do” in teaching your children. As you develop processes of learning, “the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children.”
(Elder Bradley D. Foster, “It’s Never Too Early and It’s Never Too Late,” General Conference, October 2015)
Today, I will remember the importance of the Holy Ghost in gospel learning and teaching. As I have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, and as I have the opportunity to learn the gospel from others, I will remember that the Holy Ghost can teach us far more than we can teach one another. I will strive to teach in a way that facilitates personal revelation.