This year in seminary, the students are being introduced to “Doctrinal Mastery” which replaces the familiar “Scripture Mastery” program. Doctrinal Mastery allows the students to acquire spiritual knowledge for themselves through the Spirit and divinely appointed sources. It’s primary purpose is to help students learn, understand, apply and share the correct doctrine of the Church.
As a seminary teacher, the positive change in the classroom environment this year (and it was wonderful in classes previous!) has been strong and unmistakable! The students sense a higher expectation and they are reaching to meet it. They are craving knowledge, understanding and a deeper testimony of the doctrines they are now studying in great depth.
For instance, we are currently studying the Godhead. Soon the students should have a better understanding not only of who the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are, but they will be able to locate scriptures to back up that doctrine, which they can use to share with others!
The Spirit always accompanies these discussions of truth. They feel it and I feel it. Doctrinal Mastery is truly an inspired and greatly needed program!
I did not know this change would bring about such a different feeling in the classroom. I did not anticipate the level of engagement and eagerness to learn that our class would experience. But what I knew least of all, what I had no idea of – was how it would affect and change – me.
I submit that Doctrinal Mastery is not just for the youth! I have had several instances, just in the past several weeks, where I have drawn on it – relied on it actually. It was comforting to know I could pull out my doctrinal mastery reference guide as I searched for answers to doctrinal questions!
For example, the missionaries asked me to attend a lesson with them recently. They explained to me that the woman they were teaching had the following questions:
- Where in the Bible does it mention the Restoration?
- What scriptures back up that we lived with God before this life?
- How do you know God’s church has current apostles and prophets?
As soon as they gave me these questions I became excited! Not because I knew the answers, but because I knew where to find them! In the Doctrinal Mastery reference guide (which is so tiny it can fit in your wallet!) it outlines scriptures which back up the following doctrinal topics:
- The Godhead
- The Plan of Salvation
- The Atonement of Jesus Christ
- The Restoration
- Prophets and Apostles
- Priesthood and Priesthood keys
- Ordinances and Covenants
- Marriage and Family
From using this resource, I immediately found scriptures in the Bible which teach about our premortal life, the need for a Restoration and how Christ’s church is built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets! I had all the information I needed to begin my study and feel calm and confident going into the lesson with this good woman! I was not scared or nervous (an unusual experience for me.) I was actually excited to share what I had learned and what I knew to be true! It was the Doctrinal Mastery resource which helped me feel this way!
Anther example of using Doctrinal Mastery would be its use in Family Home Evening! This program is designed to teach true, undiluted doctrine. What better place to teach these beautiful truths than in our homes? The wonderful thing is, these truths can be discussed at any age! Small children, teenagers, young adults, and older adults will all benefit from mastering the doctrines of the gospel.
In addition to the doctrinal topics listed above, it is recommended we add the Gospel Topic essays, found on lds.org, to our doctrinal study. These 11 essays explain what may be considered sensitive or controversial topics. The essays include:
- Are Mormons Christian?
- Becoming Like God
- Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
- Book of Mormon Translation
- First Vision Accounts
- Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women
- Mother in Heaven
- Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints
- Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Race and the Priesthood
- Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham
Elder Ballard counseled us as seminary and institute teachers to know the content of these essays “like the back of our hand.” I believe the same can hold true for any member of the Church. Mastering Doctrine is not just for seminary students or teachers. We should all know the truth, so we can live it, draw from it, and share it.
The change from scripture mastery to doctrinal mastery was intended to increase the learner’s ability to find answers to spiritual questions and understand the doctrines of the gospel more fully. I believe this is important for everyone so we can be rooted, firmly, in our own testimonies, so we will not be shaken when winds of uncertainty blow, and so we can share the truths of the gospel with those who know not where to find it!
I believe Doctrinal Mastery is so much more than a nice seminary program. For me, it is a comforting resource, a testimony building experience, and a life-long quest.
(To learn more about Doctrinal Mastery, click here.)
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