I am a Sunday School teacher in my ward. When I moved into the ward with my wife, my bishop asked me what calling I would like most. And I said Sunday School teacher. I like to teach, because I get less caught up in the hard part of administering—meetings and agendas and action items. Teaching the gospel helps me feel more excited about living it because I rediscover the gospel every day, and being a Sunday School teacher let me do just that. This year, we’re teaching out of the New Testament. I wanted to write some of my personal experiences that have come as I have studied the New Testament and the life of Christ.
On my mission, I really came to appreciate the importance of the Book of Mormon, and I knew that the Book of Mormon would help my investigators come unto Christ. I knew that it was a testimony that Christ had restored his Church. I knew that it had a special promise that no other book of scripture had, namely, that Holy Spirit would confirm its truth to the sincere reader. But I always had to go back to the New Testament, because it had the stories of Jesus. In order for me to appreciate the testimonies of Nephi and Alma, I had to know what Jesus Christ was like. If our view of Jesus Christ is reduced to a vague idea of good, then it is distorted. We need to constantly come back to remind ourselves of the character of Jesus Christ through his words and actions.
I remember coming to my mission president during an interview with a question that I had found on Church organization. I believe an investigator had pointed it out to me. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a Quorum of the Twelve Apostles like the Church in the New Testament. But it wasn’t led by a First Presidency. Peter, James and John led the Church, but they were members of the Quorum. Why is it different? My mission president told me, “The New Testament is written in the form of letters and journal entries. It isn’t a manual of church administration. Could you imagine trying to organize the Church with only the New Testament as guidance? The Doctrine and Covenants is written more like a manual, unlike the New Testament.” That gave me insight into the purpose and place of the Doctrine and Covenants. And perhaps why I always had trouble reading it! But it also made it clear to me why the New Testament will always be important. It is written like journal entries and letters, but these were men who had walked with Christ. The personal testimony of an apostle like Peter or John cannot be replaced. I want to know how they felt when they saw the Savior and when they talked with him.
There was a talk given by Elder Andersen a few years ago that expresses how the New Testament can be a living part of our lives:
“The stories of Jesus can be like a rushing wind across the embers of faith in the hearts of our children. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The stories of Jesus shared over and over bring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strength to the foundation of testimony. Can you think of a more valuable gift for our children?
“Are the life and teaching of Jesus Christ embedded in the minds and souls of our children? Do they think about the Savior’s life when they wonder what to do in their own lives? This will be more and more important in the years ahead.
“Do they know that Jesus often taught, “Ask, and ye shall receive”? Do his prayers of thankfulness and His pleadings to His Father flow through our children’s minds as they kneel in prayer with their own concerns?
“Have we told them of the love Jesus has for children, how He held them in His arms, prayed for them, and wept? Do our children know that Jesus stands ready “with open arms to receive [them]?”
“Do they take strength in the stories of Jesus fasting—as we teach them the law of the fast?
“In their loneliness, do children know the loneliness the Savior felt as His friends deserted Him ad as He asked His Apostles, “Will ye also go away?”
There is something special about the New Testament, specifically the four Gospels, that is different than all of scripture. It focuses on single events—moments—in the life of Savior. It doesn’t present with broad strokes the going-on of a people. It isn’t just a sermon or a presentation of doctrine. It is how to live the doctrine in everyday life. It shows that being a disciple happens in moments over the course of a lifetime. It is how we act when we see someone stuck on the side of the road. It is how we react when a sibling or a parent is angry or having a bad day. It is how we show kindness even when we ourselves are under stress. The Savior shows us how to live, and it is only by coming to know Him that we can truly say that we are disciples of Christ. That is why the New Testament is important to me.
And as I was typing this, my wife just realized our ward is no on the nine o’clock schedule. I won’t be teaching today, because I missed my lesson!