SALT LAKE CITY — When LDS seminary and institute students returned to their religious education classes this fall, they found a revised Scripture Mastery list awaiting their study and memorization.
Of the 100 scriptures on the list, 34 have changed.
Chad Webb, administrator of seminaries and institutes of religion for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that in an attempt to "harmonize Scripture Mastery with the nine basic doctrines of the church used in the new youth curriculum," 34 passages have been replaced. Additionally, eight other scripture references have been altered, with verses added or taken away from the material to be memorized.
"The passages that have been eliminated are all wonderful, powerful scriptures that should be studied, enjoyed and appreciated," Webb said. "We made the changes in an attempt to align our Scripture Mastery scriptures more closely with the new youth curriculum."
The LDS Church Educational System introduced its Scripture Mastery program 50 years ago as a collection of important passages that should be underlined and memorized, Webb said. Today the list includes 100 scripture passages, 25 from each of the four, year-long courses of student study for seminary and institute students — Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants/Church History.
While the program has evolved through the years, it has become a traditional part of the seminary and institute curriculum, regardless of whether the students are involved in early morning, released time or home study programs. The concept, according to the Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, is to help students be "able to find scripture verses, understand what they mean and apply them in (their) lives."
Tweaking the scripture list, Webb said, doesn't change the program; it only adjusts the focus a little.
"Our idea was that a young person would be able to go through seminary and then say, 'I can explain in my own words these basic principles and doctrines, and have the Scripture Mastery references understood and even memorized so that I would be able to teach somebody else my beliefs about these basic principles,’ ” Webb said.
The doctrinal focus of the new Scripture Mastery scriptures complements the youth curriculum that was introduced earlier this year for LDS Sunday School, Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Young Women class instruction. The new curriculum aims to help young people internalize LDS teachings and doctrines in a way that inspires personal spiritual growth and enhances their ability to share what they believe with others.
“The [youth] need to have conversion in their hearts,” said Elder Adrián Ochoa of the church's Second Quorum of the Seventy during a panel discussion on the curriculum at BYU Women's Conference in May. The simultaneous advent of the new youth curriculum along with several tweaks and adjustments in CES programs — including the new Scripture Mastery scriptures — is what Matthew O. Richardson of the church's general Sunday School presidency called "a perfect storm where many things were coming together all to create this wonderful experience that’s unfolding and will yet unfold.”
The nine basic doctrines that have been identified in the new youth curriculum are:
The Plan of Salvation
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Dispensation, Apostasy and Restoration
Prophets and revelation
Priesthood and priesthood keys
Ordinances and covenants
Marriage and family
Webb says the objective of Scripture Mastery in seminaries and institutes is for young people to be able to rely on the teachings of the scriptures in a personal moment of need — and to be able to share their beliefs with others. For example, if a young person is questioned about the Mormon concept of God, he or she would be able to say, "I can explain to you my belief in the Godhead in my own words, and I have scriptures that I've memorized that I can use to teach and testify of those ideas."
Webb said the change in Scripture Mastery scriptures has been considered for several years, and has received input from several church departments and the Church Board of Education, which includes members of the LDS First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and church auxiliary leaders. They also received input from youth focus groups and current seminary teachers.
"We tried to determine what would be best for our seminary and institute students," Webb said. "We wanted to determine what scripture references would best help young people be able to understand the doctrines of the church, and teach those doctrines to others."
Webb added that it is hoped that the Scripture Mastery scriptures will bless the lives of young people of the church by bringing "these truths to their remembrance in times of need, and giving them courage to act in faith."