With a group of repeat students who call themselves "Isaiah Trekkies," it's obvious why David Ridges keeps teaching at BYU Campus Education Week.
"He's a good teacher, and they want to learn, and he has a very personable way of relating to them," said his wife, Janette Ridges. "Plus, he has studied long and hard his whole life, and he is prepared to give them doctrine, not just opinion, which is what they are there for."
For the past 28 years, David Ridges has captivated crowds at Education Week, and this year is no exception. Using the skills he gleaned during his 35 years in the Church Educational System, this retired teacher-turned-author's primary goal is to bring the scriptures to life for those he teaches.
Ridges didn't always intend to make a career in church education. After completing his mission in Austria, he attended the University of Utah to major in German and minor in physics with the hope of teaching German at the high school level.
His plans changed one day when he felt a strong impression to look into teaching seminary. Although he did not expect anyone to answer on a Saturday, he called the seminary headquarters, and a man answered and started Ridges on the path to teaching seminary.
Ridges spent the next three-and-a-half decades teaching seminary, writing CES curriculum and working with the special needs seminary program before finishing his career at the Orem Institute of Religion.
Throughout his teaching career, Ridges never intended to become an author — it seemed to just happen. Inspired by Ellis Rasmussen of the BYU Religion Department, Ridges spent 10 years studying Isaiah off and on, verse by verse. He developed a method of putting notes in the scriptures he calls "microscrunching," which he taught to his institute classes as a way to put the scriptures in terms they could understand. Upon popular demand for his notes, he self-published them as a study guide in 1992.
It wouldn't be for another 10 years that Ridges' writing career truly took off. The editor of the publishing company Cedar Fort, who lived in their ward in Springville, Utah, approached Ridges' wife in the grocery store and mentioned that David should continue to write. Cedar Fort republished his guide to Isaiah, and he has since published 20 books in eight years, as well as new editions of his older guides. Ridges' motto for these guides has become "easier, not easy."
"You still have to work and study and the Holy Ghost has to be the teacher, and hopefully I can just set the stage and help the process," Ridges said.
Throughout his time teaching at Education Week, Ridges has used his experiences to feed his writing and vice versa. This year, he plans to teach 12 classes over four days, each relating to the research behind one of his books.
For his lectures on the plan of salvation, Ridges has modified his book "65 Signs of the Times" and collected more than 120 quotes from the scriptures, general authorities and church manuals. He uses the material to take his students through a discussion from premortal life to post-exaltation. Many people return year after year, which Janette said is so they can "fill in the blanks" of the "big picture."
By addressing approximately eight chapters each year, Ridges has covered every verse in Isaiah at some point during his years at Education Week. This continuing coverage of Isaiah has earned him devoted students who call themselves "Isaiah Trekkies" and return each year to fill their Bibles with Ridges' "microscrunching."
Many people, like the "Trekkies," have taken time to thank Ridges for the lessons they have learned. "Whenever that happens … in my own heart and mind, I give all credit to God, but give him a little prayer of thanks that I get to be on the team," Ridges said.
Ridges, who compared teaching at Education Week to "teaching in the city of Enoch," hopes that those who attend his lectures come out not only with an increased testimony, but also with "an increased understanding of the big picture of the gospel" and the feeling that scripture like Isaiah and Jeremiah can be understood and enjoyed.
As he returns to Education Week for his 28th time, Ridges said he hopes to once again teach what he knows with the Spirit.
"And after all those years, he still gets just as nervous," Janette Ridges said.