The Sunday School general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has new leadership. The reorganization was announced by the First Presidency during general conference Saturday, 5 April 2014. Tad R. Callister, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy, was sustained as the general Sunday School president, with John S. Tanner as first counselor and Devin G. Durrant as second counselor. Tanner and Durrant are currently serving as mission presidents through July in São Paulo, Brazil, and Dallas, Texas, respectively.
“I couldn’t be happier than with the two counselors that I have,” said Brother Callister, who was released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy following his six years of service.
The new presidency succeeds Russell T. Osguthorpe, Sunday School general president; David M. McConkie, first counselor; and Matthew O. Richardson, second counselor, who have been serving since April 2009.
Brother Callister said one of the priorities of the new Sunday School general presidency is a continued focus on the year-old youth Sunday School curriculum. “We’re trying to follow in the Savior’s footsteps of teaching, which involves inspired questions. It involves participation; it involves teaching to convert people, not just to teach them — to help them to understand and feel the Spirit of the gospel in their lives,” he said. “The prior general Sunday School presidency has just done a terrific job in that regard.”
The new online curriculum for the youth, Come, Follow Me, was implemented last year and was updated for 2014 with the latest talks from general conference and Church-produced media. “I’ve attended a number of the young women and young men’s classes,” said Brother Callister. “Last week, I attended a Sunday School class, and I think there’s a definite shift from the lecture method to a participation method. I think there’s a definite shift from just teaching a lesson to trying to customize it to the needs of the students in the class.”
“I think we’re just going to raise up a generation of youth that are the finest teachers in the world, the finest parents in the world because they’re now getting this experience as youth and not having to wait until adults or later in age to find out how effective teaching and understanding can be,” added Brother Callister. “I think there’s an increased focus to try and bring about conversion and not just pass on information.”
Brother Callister hopes a program similar to the youth curriculum will soon be available for adults. “The same principles that have been involved in the youth classes are now being applied with the adults, and it’s being tested and I’m sure there will be some refinement, but the basic principles will stay,” he said. “It’s designed to help teach those same principles to our adult teachers, and we hope they will catch the spirit of it as our youth have caught the spirit of it, and hopefully to incorporate these same gospel principles in the home.”
Brother Callister said the Sunday School program brings people to Christ, who the Bible explains is the master teacher. ”Anytime that we try to emulate the Savior, we’re on good ground and productive ground,” he said. “And if we teach the doctrine [of Jesus Christ] clearly and concisely and with the [Holy] Spirit, it can help bring about that change that will make us more Christlike.”