Changes to Seminary and Institute Curriculum and Calendar

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: We’re delighted to be with you today and to share this opportunity to make an announcement. I’m joined by Sister Bonnie Cordon, Young Women General President and a member of the board of education; Elder Kim Clark, Commissioner of Education; and Chad Webb, the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes. 

    We’re thrilled to make an announcement today. We’re representing the First Presidency of the Church and noting a major adjustment to our seminary curriculum. In January of 2020, we will shift from a school-year calendar to an annual calendar, thus allowing us to align seminary curriculum with Come, Follow Me, the curriculum that’s just been recently announced. 

    So for that year, as it affects seminary, we’ll be studying the Book of Mormon. And that will give us an opportunity to be on the same footing with the adults of the Church and the other youth of the Church who will be studying the Book of Mormon in Come, Follow Me. In each subsequent year, we’ll be making that adjustment as each curriculum year comes around. We’re going to make a half step toward that in the summer of 2019. In June of this year, we will shift and start to study the New Testament. That’s the curriculum year that we’re already on with Come, Follow Me. We won’t be able to do all of it, but we’ll do the first half, and that will allow us to be in play for the curriculum that will then start in 2020, as I’ve just announced. 

    This is going to require some modification of the curriculum. We’re going to go deeper on some matters. It won’t be sequential study; it will be more doctrinally based and always focused on the Savior. Whatever the course of study, it will be focused always on the scriptures, and whatever the scripture is, it will still be focusing on the Savior and His teachings. It will be more in depth and will have some chronological sense to it. It will focus on the weightier matters of the law that will help our young people. 

    We think it is a tremendous development at this time when our young people need ever more strength. We think this is a wonderful alignment to bring that coordination with what the rest of the Church is doing. And we believe that it’s going to be wonderfully symbiotic with the home-centered concept—Church-supported, home-centered—and now to that we add seminary-supported, home-centered gospel study. We thank you for all that you do to make this happen. We’re grateful that we can participate in this program. And we’ll ask Chad Webb, our administrator of Seminaries and Institutes, to lead us through any discussion you’d like, Chad, on this announcement.  

    Brother Chad Webb: Thank you. I’m sure a lot of our teachers and maybe even parents and priesthood leaders and some of the youth themselves will have some questions about what this change means. You said that we’ve talked about this for a lot of years. A lot of people have discussed this possibility, and so I guess my first question for the group would be, “Why now? Why would this change come now?”  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Elder Clark?  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: Well, I think it’s because the prophet of the Lord stood up in general conference and said, “We need home-centered, Church-supported gospel instruction. In fact, we need home-centered church.” And because he said that, it changed everything.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yup.  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: It just changed everything. I mean, we’ve looked at this for years and always thought, “Oh, it’s too hard.”  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yeah. (Chuckles)  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: But then, when he said that, we started thinking about it and realized, “Wait a minute; we can change this around and just say, ‘We’re going to do this.’ We’re going to do this, and then we’ll figure out how to make it happen.”  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: How to do it. How to do it.  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: I think he changed everything.  

    Sister Bonnie H. Cordon: One other thing with that is that he called the youth to be part of this work. And so, as the youth are learning and studying in seminary, there is also a call for them to come home and to be part of the teaching and to be part of that great movement at home. So by taking what they’re learning in seminary and being able to bring it home to teach their younger brothers and sisters and to share it with their parents, it will be strengthening the home.  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: Tremendous.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: I think one of our associates asked me just a minute ago what item in our current revelatory moment was the most exciting—which one is of the greatest interest? And it struck me that maybe for me the element that is most exciting is the backdrop to it all, and that is that the Restoration is ongoing—the total is greater than the sum of the parts. The Restoration, revelation, and prophetic leadership are very much alive and well, and that’s the overlay on any number of these developments that we’ve had, even in the last few months.  

    Brother Chad Webb: Thank you. So what blessings do you see coming to the youth because of these changes?  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Bonnie, you started that; you’d better finish it. (Chuckles) 

    Sister Bonnie H. Cordon: Well, you know, one of the blessings that I think is very obvious is the simplification. In fact, we get letters—and many of you have received the same letters that we get—from the youth saying, “What should I study?” We recently got one; in fact, I have it right here—we should just read this quickly. This was from a cute gal. A mother wrote in: “After our family Come, Follow Me lesson last night, we were talking about reading the verses from the upcoming week’s New Testament lesson on our own. My 14-year-old daughter came to me afterwards, and I could tell she was a little upset and confused. She said, ‘Mom, I don’t know what to do. You asked us to read from the New Testament. I have to read the Doctrine and Covenants for seminary, and I’m trying to finish the Book of Mormon to get my Young Women medallion. I don’t know what to do and what not to do.’” Well, I think this simplifies it for our youth as they come together, and they can be studying the same book with their family, at seminary, and at church. And they can add to their testimony in each spot.  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: I think—I’ll say one thing about what Sister Cordon said. As you simplify that experience for the young people so they’re in a book of scripture for the whole year, we are also, through the curriculum, going to make it so that they go deeper into doctrine. And that’s been an objective of this change—instead of covering lots of things, you know, a little bit, we want to cover a few things really deep. That’s because we know that our young people need to be more deeply converted unto the Lord Jesus Christ. And they need to have personal spiritual experiences with the scriptures. And we feel that by going a bit deeper, we can help them do that. So I think that’s another benefit from this change.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yeah, I love that.  

    Sister Bonnie H. Cordon: Magnificent change.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: You know, one thing that I hope in my heart comes from this—and I really think it will—is that the home-centered, Church-supported idea really expects that something will happen in the home and in members’ lives throughout the week. Well, I don’t know whether it’s going to happen for other people, but it’s going to happen for a seminary student.  

    Brother Chad Webb: Yeah.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: You may have the best example in the Church of how to make sure it’s a weekly, a throughout the week experience—setting a standard, if you will, for everybody else. Because that’s seminary. And we’re going to get this five days a week—we’re going to get it seven days a week. And I just kind of hope that’s going to be a pacesetter for everybody else in the Church—that it’s really going to matter all week long. I love that about seminary.  

    Brother Chad Webb: Thank you. Maybe I can just underscore something that’s been said. We’ll still be in a course of study. We’ll still go through the Book of Mormon or the New Testament, right?  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Right.  

    Brother Chad Webb: It won’t be quite as sequential as it has been in the past, where we start in chapter 1 and go verse by verse. But we’ll still have an overview. The students will understand the storyline of the scriptures. But as Elder Clark said, we’ll not just take topics—maybe in the past, for example, 30 or 40 years ago, we taught topical lessons. And then we’ve been teaching sequential lessons. And this is kind of blending the best parts of both of them. We’re rooted in the scriptures, teaching the gospel as found in the scriptures, but doing it in a way that we look for those themes and points of doctrine that are most significant for young people. We’ll help them still love the scriptures and be tied to what the scriptures teach, but we’ll do it in a way that’s most relevant to them and be teaching them the things that are of most worth at this time in their life. What else would you say about that, about the curriculum changes?  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: So one thing that’s important, I think, for people to realize, especially the young people, is that Doctrinal Mastery, which has been such an important development over the last couple of years, will now be fully integrated into the curriculum in a way that hasn’t been possible before. It won’t just be something where you’re doing this, and then you stop and do Doctrinal Mastery. Doctrinal Mastery will just be integrated into the flow of the curriculum. So I think that’s one thing. 

    The other thing is that we really want the young people to continue to dive deep into the scriptures, and to read them, and to pray about them, and to learn, and to have the Spirit teach them in the scriptures. But we also want them to be able to see the power that comes from weaving different books of scripture together. So while we’re studying the Book of Mormon, we can gain insight from the New Testament. We can gain insight from the Pearl of Great Price. We can gain insight from the Old Testament. So we’ll be able to do that, I think, in the way we design the curriculum. We also hope that—and this is speaking to the teachers—that we’ll do away with the idea that you have to cover material. We’re not really about ”covering material.” We want to dive deep into some things—get a flavor for the flow of the book, the way it was written—and yet give the students an opportunity to really dive deep and really understand the doctrines of the gospel. We want the students to live them—to really learn how to live the principles. And then we want them to become what the principles help us become. So when we study forgiveness, for example, we want to know about the doctrine of forgiveness. We want to learn how to forgive. And we want to become a forgiving person. And that’s the focus of this curriculum—that we take it all the way to becoming, and we help the young people really begin to become who the Lord wants them to be.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: One of the things I think that’s going to be of real interest to the First Presidency—who raised this with us when we talked about the new policy—is that this concept, the very one Elder Clark’s just described, will allow us, at least in the case of the Doctrine and Covenants, to do more with Church history. If you’re taking a cluster of scriptures and going deep—we haven’t always been able to do too much with history as we run through the sequential work of the Doctrine and Covenants. But here, if we’re choosing and providing context, you could do quite a little bit with Church history. And I think that was of particular interest to the First Presidency.  

    Brother Chad Webb: I think the other thing that we were very excited about, which you have mentioned as well, is the focus on the Savior in each of the books of scripture. The very intent for which the scriptures were written, and as the scriptures themselves teach, was that the prophets’ role is to testify of Jesus Christ. And so instead of teaching just the doctrine or the mechanics of living the gospel, we’re to focus on His example, to focus on the power that comes from Him and from living the commandments that He teaches. Finding Him everywhere in the scriptures will be another blessing of this change.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: It’s very exciting.  

    Sister Bonnie H. Cordon: Another blessing that will come as students continue to learn of Christ and as they are testifying of Christ in seminary is that that power will come to them and they will bring that power to their homes. They will get a chance to testify of that deep doctrine that they’re learning and will become more like Christ and will share that with their family. And that experience will just enlarge their souls, because there’s something different that happens when a youth hears himself or herself talk about Christ.  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yeah.  

    Sister Bonnie H. Cordon: It changes who they are as they realize, “I have a testimony.” 

    Brother Chad Webb: That’s wonderful. I think it would be good to ask a couple of practical questions. I’m sure some teachers are thinking these things, and so let me ask in their behalf. First of all, does this change the age or the time of year in which a student will begin seminary?  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: Well, let me take that one. I think the answer is no. We’ll continue to have students start with their school year. So if you’re starting the beginning of secondary school or high school in, say, the fall—in August or September—then that’s when you’ll start seminary. And you’ll go on and do that part of the scriptures that’s for that year, and then you’ll start a new book of scripture in January. And in the Southern Hemisphere, where students start in January, February, they’ll just start then, when they’re starting secondary school, and then just go through the year. So I think the answer to that is “no change.”  

    Brother Chad Webb: Wonderful. Thank you. Another practical question would have to do with our course credit requirements. Certainly in the Come, Follow Me program they’re studying a course of study, a book of scripture. And we’ve had the requirement to read that book of scripture during a given course of study. And so do those requirements—the reading and assessments and other things—stay the same, or are there any changes there?  

    Elder Kim B. Clark: Well, you know, I’m touched that you’re asking me these questions, since you’re in charge of seminary. But I think the answer again is no. The students are going to be required to read the book of scripture and take whatever the appropriate assessments are in their seminary program. So we’ll keep that in place.  

    Brother Chad Webb: Thank you; I appreciate that. I think that’s just an important thing to discuss, because a lot of people will be asking that. But it’s also important to understand that a big part of students’ experience, both at home as well as in seminary, is in their personal study. It’s in their relationships and experiences with their families, which will for sure be strengthened by this new focus, but it’s also in what they’re learning and studying privately. And the scripture study skills that they’re acquiring and all of that will certainly still be a part of it. So thank you. 

    We really appreciate what you’ve shared with us today; thank you. And I wonder if we could invite Elder Holland to share any closing remarks you would like to give?  

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Sure. Thank you, Brother Webb. Sister Cordon and Elder Clark, thank you. I appreciate the privilege. Once I thought I was going be a seminary guy. But I suppose the Brethren exercised damage control and got me out of the classroom. But any chance I could get back in—I love it. And I thought maybe we could conclude today by talking of these teachers all over the world, literally, who provide this great strength for the youth of the Church. This scripture passage has always meant so much to me as I have taught, and as I teach now. And I share it as a concluding thought regarding curriculum development and a new emphasis in seminary: 

    “These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; 

    “For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; 

    “Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36). 

    What a privilege it is every day to do that for the youth of the Church. And what a blessing for the youth of the Church to feel that every day they can hear the voice of the Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.