David J. Ridges, a returned missionary from the Swiss/Austrian mission, had not planned to work for the Church Education System (CES), he was going to teach German.
Early in life he was very busy, what with working at a printing press, completing his degree in German and minor in physics at the University of Utah, taking care of a young family, and planning his German student-teaching classes at Kearns High School. That summer to make ends meet, he took his family to Wyoming, where he was a lumberjack.
Just before the school year started, CES offered him a concurrent student-teaching job at Kearns High School along with his one teaching German. But it was in the seminary classroom he fell in love with “teaching kids and helping them with ah-ha moments in the scriptures.” However, he reminded us that every teacher has at least one disruptive student.
In David’s case, he challenged the rowdy teen to best of ten games in ping-pong. David said that 49 games later he might have won one game of the fifty they played. Even so, this forged a relationship with that boy. It helped him to understand his home life and challenges. And, it was in that seminary classroom he learned early how to relate to kids and touch souls.
That next year, of 21 CES applicants, he was one of three chosen to work for the Church, but not before another year of lumberjacking. Little did he know that that job would make him “cool” to the kids in East Carbon, his first seminary assignment.
With just 54 students, CES could barely justify a teacher and he was about to discover that the students had “run off” the previous two teachers in short order. His troublemaker there was a big guy who had broken two front teeth in a challenge to walk through the drywall in a motel’s walls; he missed and hit a stud. For this kid, chess won him over to David, but not without a few losses again.
Their bond, however, was forged roughhousing, which led to David breaking a rib. After that, the student was his vigilant protector. The inverse was true too as David discovered the teen’s problems were centered in his inability to read and write. “The kid was smart at chess and memorized all the right answers from Church history, but could not read test papers!” David took the time to give him tests orally and the youth earned his first A ever, in fact, David said, “It was an A+. Not only did he know the answers, but he knew all the details of Chruch History too.” So began his 35-year career with CES.
From East Carbon to Seminary Principal Price, and to BYU for three years to earn a master’s degree. As a Masters, his career took a sharp turn writing curriculum for the Church in Seminary and Sunday School, all the wondering about Isaiah.
3 Nephi 23:1 1AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
“Knowing what Isaiah can do for us is one thing, but for many members of the Church, understanding the writings of Isaiah is quite another thing. Many years ago when I first remember reading 3 Nephi 23:1, I thought to myself, ‘If the Savior says that the words of Isaiah are great, then there must be something wrong with me because I don’t understand most of them. Perhaps I am not spiritual enough, or the Holy Ghost can’t work with me, or whatever.’ At any rate, it was a concern to me that I found Isaiah so difficult to understand.
“Several years later, I attended a summer class for seminary and institute of religion teachers that was being taught by Brother Ellis Rasmussen of the BYU religion department. With Brother Rasmussen’s first words, Isaiah came alive for me. As I recall, he quoted the first line of Isaiah 53:1 where Isaiah says, ‘Who hath believed our report?’ And then he explained that it is just another way of saying, ‘Who believes us prophets anyway?’ Just like that, the key for understanding Isaiah was turned for me. It was possible to understand it! I listened with rapt attention and made many tiny, short notes in my scriptures during Brother Rasmussen’s classes.”
That was the beginning of ten-year effort on his part to “search Isaiah diligently” using Great are the Words of Isaiah by Monte Nyman and Victor Ludlow’s Isaiah Prophet, Seer, and Poet. Soon he was teaching Isaiah at BYU’s education week and in Institute classes.
In one of those honors Institue classes students, were encouraged to “micro scrunch” their notes, as he described it, into their scriptures. They took great pride in those notes, however, when they had to miss a class there was a gap in those notes. This bothered the students enough, they prevailed on him to post his notes online so those absent could “make-up” their notes. Little did he know, that was the birth of what would become the first of his 33 publications.
Here is an example of his notes from Isaiah 1:3
3 he ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib [manger]: but Israel doth not know [know God], my people doth not consider [think seriously, Israel—animals are wiser than you are!].
A friend saw his typed up pages for missing students and prevailed on him to write Isaiah Made Easier. That friend even financed the first printing, but it was not long before Cedar Fort Publishing printed a second release of, Isaiah Made Easier. At 62 he retired from CES and began publishing his other class notes, which became the 33 books mentioned above; lucky for him, his wife enjoys his writing and editing it.
In addition to writing books, he has written curriculum for Sunday School and served a second mission for CES senior missionary assignments.
Isaiah Scholar Skim
- Bachelor in German / minor physics from BYU, but most undergradute work was at the U of U.
- Masters from Brigham Young University in educational psychology with a minor in Church history.
- 60 hours post masters work
Sparked focus on Isaiah
- I knew the basics but wanted to be more confident to teach seminary. That summer class for seminary and institute of religion teachers, taught by Brother Ellis Rasmussen. This is where Isaiah came alive for me. His quote of Isaiah 53:1 was the key for me understanding Isaiah; I knew it was possible to understand it!
Isaiah in one sentence
- Most people have a cultural aversion to Isaiah after coming to it in 1 Nephi, but we are commanded to read it.
Memorable Teaching Experiences
- I love helping students have an ah-ha moment when I can open a concept for them. Things like though your sins are scarlet and colorfast, they can be white as snow through the atonement of Jesus Christ; though wool from a sheep is dirty, with repeated washing, combing and working into yarn, a beautiful white garment will result, that’s how repentance works, it takes work but can make you clean.
Peers he admires
- Victor Ludlow
- Monte Nyman