A Series of Talks given before a Class of S. S. Officers and Teachers in Weber Stake

by David O. McKay

June 20-Aug. 1, 1906

The Sunday School Lesson

I. What a Lesson Is

  • A lesson is a portion of something--a book, or scripture, or an incident given to teach a truth.
  • No matter where the lesson is taken from, it should be looked upon as a unit, and should be comprehended as such, though it is made up of many parts. The relation of these parts to every other part as well as to the whole should also be given.

II. Where the Lesson is Taken From.

  • There are two great sources, from which we get a knowledge of God, viz: Nature, or the history of God's creation; and (2), Scripture, or the history of God's dealings with man.
  • These sources, with what man has thought and done about them, furnish circumstances or material for lessons.
  • The circumstances are but a means to an end.

III. Why Lesson is Given.

  • "To teach the children how to worship, and to know what to worship, that they may come to the Father in Christ's name, and receive of His fulness." Doc. and Cov. Sec. XCIII. :19-40.
  • The element that gives this is the aim, or spirituality of the lesson. The Aim is to the circumstances in the lesson, what the spirit is to the body--it is the vital part.
  • Illustrations--(1) "Baptism of Jesus." (2) Woman of Samaria. (3) Letters of a Merchant to His Son.
  • Assignment: The Rich Young Ruler and Zacheus.

IV. Grouping as an Aid in the Preparation of S.S. Lessons.

  • It has already been shown that the S.S. lesson is composed of two elements, viz: the circumstances and the aim or lesson truth.
  • Grouping the circumstances aids in seeing their relation to each other and to the truth.
  • Illustrations--"The Body."-- I. The head: (1) Cranium. (2) The face. (3) Ears. II. The Trunk: (1) Spinal column. (2) Ribs. (3) Sternum. (4) Pelvis. [2] III. The Limbs: (1) Upper. (2) Lower.
  • "Lump of Clay."
  • Suggestions: In a general way, a group may be made whenever there is a change in scene or circumstance.
  • Grouping is the relative arrangement of topics and sub-topics in the lesson.
  • Distinguish between outlining the subject or title of the lesson and outlining the aim. Do not outline the aim, but outline to the aim.

V. How to Select an Aim.


  1. Study the limitations of the Subject.
  2. Get the mental picture, not a page image.
  3. Choose aim from entire lesson, not from an incidental part.
  4. Study limitation of the lesson.
  5. Choose aim that appeals to you.
  6. Keep the application in mind.
  7. Let your aim contain or be a moral truth.
  8. Let your aim for each lesson, though a series of lessons might be on the same topic.
  9. In choosing aim keep the same point of view.
  10. Nearly all aims contain two elements--the condition and the result.

Illustrative Lessons

First Intermediate Department.

Lesson 22. Sub.: Paul at Berea and Athens. Text: Acts XVII.: 10-31.

I. Review of Paul's Testimony.

II. At Berea.

  1. Paul and Silas in the Synagogue.
    1. Reason
  2. The believers.
    1. Their searching of the scripture.
  3. Persecution.
    1. By whom.
    2. How prompted. (Ignorance.)

III. At Athens

  1. Affected by ignorance and idolatry.
  2. In the Synagogue.
  3. At market place.
  4. With Philosophers.
  5. On Mars Hill.
    1. The sermon

Aim: A testimony of the Gospel brings intelligence and a desire to bless others.

Parent's Department

Subject: What should be Taught in the Home.

Text: See below.

I. Love of God.

  • "Covereth all transgressions"--Proverbs X-12.
  • Essential to salvation.
    • Matt. :VII. :21--"Not every one."
    • II John, VI--"This is love that we should walk after His commandments."
    • I John, V.:3-4--"This is Love of God that we keep His commandments."
    • I John, 1.:6-7.
  • Makes earthly things seem insignificant.
    • Mary anointing Jesus' feet.

II. Love of Parents and Kindred.

  • Command of God.
  • Safeguard from evil.
    • If a child loves its parents it will keep their commandments.
    • Love makes obedience lighter than liberty.
  • The true element of soul growth.
    • Illustration, The Acorn.

Aim: Love of God and of Parents is the fundamental principle of character.

Illustration: The Ten Commandments

Application: The love of God can be developed in the home by (1) teaching children to pray; (2) by attending to evening and morning prayers. (3) by always asking a blessing on the food. (4) by teaching children lessons showing God's goodness, etc.

Love of parents may be developed (1) by loving children; (2) by guiding children's wills; (3) by consistency; (4) by sincerity, etc.

VI. The Illustration. How to Illustrate the Aim.

  • What it is.
    • Another lesson or circumstance that proves the same truth that the lesson develops. (This should be studied just as the lesson is.)
  • The Illustration may or may not be given; but it should always be prepared. it is another means to an end.
  • Where chosen:
    • Preferably from modern Church History, or personal experience. This, however, cannot always be done.

VII. The Enforcement.

  • What it is:
    • That stage in the recitation when the members of the class express a belief or a disbelief in the aim; or whether they do not know whether they believe it or not.
  • When given:
    • Just before making the application.

VIII. The Application--How to Apply the Aim.

"The emotion that springs from the search for truth is next to the purest joy in the world--the application of truth to the good of others."--Parker.

  • Definition.
    • As applied to Sunday School work, the application is that stage in the presentation of the lesson when the teacher names or has children name specific instances into which the aim may be introduced for practical uses. It is the pointing out of the avenue of action. The means of expressing a noble feeling.
  • Difference Between Aim and Application.
    • The Aim is the lesson truth, which may be only seen and felt--it may be only subjective.
    • The Application, from pupil's standpoint, is the outward expression of the feeling.
  • Suggestive Helps in Making the Application.

    Since all action affects either self or others, or perhaps both, we may make use of some truths in applying them in

    • Duties to self.
      • 1. Physical self-Cleanliness, temperance, neatness, regularity.
      • 2. Intellectual self-Love for knowledge, pure thoughts, motives, etc., etc.
      • 3. Moral self-Prayer, humility, unselfishness, honesty, honor, etc., etc. and
    • Duties to others:
      • 1. In the home--Obedience, thoughtfulness, courtesy, self-denial to father, mother, brothers and sisters, visitors, peddlers, agents, delivery boys.
      • 2. On the playground--Cheerfulness, self-restraint, thoughtfulness, etc., etc.
      • 3. At school--Attitude toward teachers, attitude towards fellow students.
      • 4. At Church and Sunday School--Punctuality, order, reverence, attention, prayer, etc.
      • 5. At Socials--How to treat hostess, attitude towards guests, and furniture.
      • 6. On the street--Politeness, dress, boisterousness, etc.
      • 7. In business--Honesty, promptness, politeness, consideration.
  • General Suggestions:
    • a. In making the application, call up new mental pictures. To do this, use specific rather than general terms.
    • b. For specific instances, draw from child's life as indicated above.
    • c. The teacher should first apply the truth himself, then he can adapt it to the lives of his children.
    • d. Before making the application be sure the child is convinced of the truth to be applied.
    • e. The child should be led to discover for himself, the opportunity to apply the truths taught.
    • f. The teacher should see clearly, and should write in the individual outline, the specific instances the child is to discover.
    • g. Distinguish between the moralizing on a truth and the applying of a truth.
    • h. Write the application on each outline, confining it, usually, to two or three lines.

A Suggestive Outline

IX. Mary Anointing the Feet of Jesus.

  • Text: John XII :1-8. Mark XIV :3-9. Matt. 26:6-13.
  • Time: Six days before crucifixion--April 1, A.D. 30
  • Place: Bethany--Simon's house.
  • Review: Jesus and the little children.

I. The Entertainment.

  • 1. Why given.
  • 2. Nature of.
  • 3. Martha's part. (Manifestations of love.)
  • 4. Mary's part.

II. The Anointing.

  • 1. How prompted. (Introduction of worldly things.)
  • 2. The ointment.
    • a. Cost.
    • b. Its worthlessness compared with Mary's love.

III. The Protest.

  • 1. From whom. (Love for worldly things inferior to love for Christ.)
  • 2. How prompted.
  • 3. From what heart.

IV. Jesus' Attitude.

  • 1. Towards the two hearts.
  • 2. Towards the poor. (The two contrasted.)
  • 3. Towards the incident.
  • Aim: Love for Christ and His works makes worldly things seem insignificant.
  • Illustration: Zaccheus.
  • Enforcement:
  • Application: A love for Christ and His works may be obtained by knowledge of his attributes; (2) by prayer; (3) by doing every duty faithfully, etc., etc.

X. The Presentation.

  • In Regular Departments.
    • (1) Object. (2) Favorable conditions. (a) Personal appearance, (b) Seating of pupils.
    • Methods: (a) Having pupils read. (b) Lecturing. (c) "Drawing out" method. (d) The teaching method.
  • In Parents Department.
    • Talks or papers on topics assigned.
    • General discussion on application of truth developed.

XI. The Assignment.

(Note--Either have pupils copy assignments in note books, or furnish each with hectograph copy.)

  • Subject: The Darkness, Storms and Terrible Destructions at the Redeemer's Death.
  • Text: III Nephi, VIII
  • Aim: God controls the elements and the earth to further His purposes in the destiny of man.


  1. How many years elapsed between Samuel's prophesy and the events mentioned in this lesson?
  2. What principle of the Gospel was emphasized by Samuel?
  3. Note the condition of the people in regard to this principle.
  4. Note whether the storm and earthquake were produced naturally.
  5. Study the extent of the destruction.
  6. Compare this account with modern accounts of earthquakes.
  7. Now that these people were shown God's power, what do you think the Father desires them to do?

Illustrative Lesson

  • Subject: See above.
  • Text: See above.
  • Time: 38 years after Samuel's prophesy.
  • Place: American continent.
    • I. Condition of the people. (1) regarding prophesy. (2) Spirituality.
    • II. The Great Storm. (1) Time. (2) Nature of. (1) Tempest, whirlwind. (b) Thunder. (c) Lightning. (d) Fire. (3) Extent.
    • III. Effect upon inhabitants.
      • Saw God's power.
      • Destroyed wicked.
      • Impressed all with dependence.
      • Realized importance of repentance.
  • Aim: See above.
  • Illustration: The stilling of the Tempest.
  • Enforcement:
  • Application: The purposes of God are: (1) to have man pure; (2) to have man acquire knowledge [8] of the Gospel.


The primary object of the PRESENTATION of a Sunday School lesson is to develop in the hearts of the children a love for truth. The assignment is a means of teaching them how to get the truth. The teacher should know that her pupils have the circumstances in the lesson before she attempts to draw out the truth of it. In making the assignment, assign points to use in developing the aim. The assignment should be made to the entire class; however, some special point may be assigned to a special student. The assignment should be considered at Board Meeting before it is given to the class.

XII. Conclusion.

  1. Lessons in the home:
    • Need.
    • How they may be given.
    • Difficulties in presenting them.
    • Help from the parents' class.
  2. The teacher's influence.

"No stream from its source

Flows seaward, how lonely soever its course,

But what some land is gladdened. No star ever rose

And sea without influence somewhere. Who knows

What earth needs from earth's lowest creatures? No life

Can be pure in its purposes and strong in its strife,

And all life not be purer and stronger thereby."

"Therefore, press on, and reach the goal,

And the gain the prize and wear the crown;

Faint not, for to the steadfast soul

Come wealth, and honor, and renown.

To thine own self be true, and keep

Thy mind from sloth, thy head from soil,

Press on, and thou shalt surely reap

A heavenly harvest for thy toil."

David O. McKay. Outlines of "The Sunday School Lesson": A Series of Talks given before a Class of Sunday School Officers and Teachers in the Weber Stake June 20 - Aug.1, 1906. n.p. (Church Archives M257.32 O94 1906)