The development of the monumental “Come, Follow Me” integrated curriculum began years before it was released with the Sunday School general presidency intently searching the scriptures verse by verse, for hours a day, to identify all the doctrines being taught.
Once identified, these emphasized doctrines were then organized into lesson outlines. A group of diligent staff writers added the “flesh and bones” before each lesson was reviewed by many sets of eyes, edited, refined and sent out to be tested in stakes worldwide.
The rigorous process was a rewarding experience, said Brother Tad R. Callister, who served as Sunday School general president from 2014-2019.
Brother Callister, along with Brother Devin G. Durrant, first counselor, and Brother Brian K. Ashton, second counselor, were released as the Sunday School general presidency last April. The trio recently reflected on their years of service together, which included memories of working on two projects: “Come, Follow Me” and “Teaching in the Savior’s Way.”
An Intense and Unified Examination of the Scriptures
When asked about the development of the curriculum, Brother Callister focused on their “intense” examination of the scriptures, the unity of the staff and the revelation that followed. He explained: “Because the staff was so good we reached almost total unity. We were able to be candid with one another and reach the point where we say, ‘OK, I don’t care whose idea it is, let’s get whatever the best idea is and march forward.’ A nice spirit of unity prevailed.”
Developing the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum involved the time and efforts of many people, Brother Durrant noted. In addition to the presidency and the staff writers, the material was continuously reviewed by others in the Priesthood and Family Department, General Authorities, and other general auxiliary officers before it was tested by stakes around the world.
No One to Feel Left Out
Brother Ashton noted that while creating a curriculum for families, it was also a high priority to help single adults feel part of this new resource. To accomplish this, they intentionally included a cover photo of a single person and purposely used “individual” in the title. As he explained: “The curriculum starts with individual ideas for individual scripture study. The idea was to make sure that no one in the Church felt left out.”
The “Come, Follow Me” curriculum (New Testament version) was ready for release in January 2018, but only in English. The First Presidency decided to delay the release a year so it could come out in over 40 languages around the globe at the same time, Brother Durrant explained.
Navigating the Use of New Resources
Since the curriculum’s release, the Ashton family is one of many to navigate the ups and downs of adapting the resource to fit its needs. One humorous moment came when Brother Ashton’s 9-year-old son became frustrated and said, “I hate whoever developed ‘Come, Follow Me!'”
“We thought that was really funny,” Brother Ashton added.
Initially, the Ashtons let their five kids, ages 6 to 16, decide how they would proceed with “Come, Follow Me.” The Ashton children opted to study the whole lesson on Sundays and read the Book of Mormon on other days of the week.
This worked well for the older kids but not so great for the younger children, so they adjusted. They moved the family gathering spot to the kitchen table where the kids could have a drink or something to eat. After discussing that week’s two most important principles, the smaller children were dismissed (unless they wanted to stay), and the older children continued with the rest of the lesson. After a while, the younger children asked to stay for the entire lesson.
“President Russell M. Nelson said it would take time for families to figure out how to use ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and we’ve seen that,” Brother Ashton said. “Across the Church I’ve heard a lot of success stories and I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments. We’re still working on it.’ That’s OK. Just keep working on it.”
Teaching like Jesus Christ
The former Sunday School general presidency hopes their contributions to the manual, “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” will help gospel teachers to teach more like the Savior did. The Savior used multiple teaching methods, such as sermons, questions, parables, stories and visuals such as the lilies of the field or the fig tree, among others, Brother Callister said.
He suggested teachers consider these four questions when preparing to teach:
What doctrine can I teach by the Spirit?
What scriptures or general conference talks support it?
What inspired questions can I use to support the doctrine?
What teaching aids can I use to support the doctrines, such as music, art, parables, analogies, object lessons, etc.?
Gratitude for Wonderful New Tools
Looking back, each member of the former Sunday School presidency expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve.
“I feel gratitude that the Lord allowed us to participate in both ‘Teaching in the Savior’s Way’ and ‘Come, Follow Me,'” Brother Ashton said. “Hopefully those two things will help bring people in the Church closer to the Savior.”
“It was the Lord working with a lot of humans and their weaknesses,” Brother Durrant said. “But I think the Lord has provided His children with some wonderful tools to enhance scripture study and make it easier for families to have meaningful gospel conversations, as well as for individuals to deepen their personal conversion.”