An Evening with a General Authority
Doctrinal Mastery and Deep Learning

Doctrinal Mastery and Deep Learning

An Evening with Elder Gerrit W. Gong

Address to CES Religious Educators • February 17, 2017 • Salt Lake Tabernacle

My dear brothers and sisters, I rejoice in this opportunity to be with you this evening. Before I introduce Elder Gong, I would like to share a thought that I hope will be helpful to you and to your students.

I first want to express my love for you and my gratitude for what you do. You do a great work in God’s kingdom and in the lives of your students. I love you, and I pray the Lord’s choicest blessings will be with you and with your families.

I want to say a word tonight about Doctrinal Mastery. What I say will apply especially to those of you who are teaching seminary, but it really applies to all of us.

Doctrinal Mastery is a program in seminary with three objectives: first, to help our students learn how to acquire spiritual knowledge; second, to help students know and understand the Savior’s doctrine—that means both to know true doctrine in their minds and to understand true doctrine in their hearts, and we want it to be deep in their hearts; and third, to help the students learn how to apply the doctrine in their lives, both to live it themselves and to use it to answer questions their friends may have or to teach and help others know the truth.

Doctrinal Mastery was introduced worldwide last fall. I want you to know and feel in your hearts that it has come by revelation from the Lord; it is a miracle. I have reflected often on how it came and when it came and why it came. I have come to see Doctrinal Mastery in the larger context of Church education and the great work of the Lord in the earth.

I believe that Doctrinal Mastery helps our students grow in knowledge and understanding of doctrine and helps them learn how to use that knowledge and understanding in their lives. But it does more than that. It also teaches our students the Lord’s way to learn deeply in any kind of knowledge and at any time in their lives.

Learning is deep when it increases our power to do three things: (1) to know and to understand; (2) to take effective, righteous action; and (3) to become more like our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.1

Deep learning must be done in the Lord’s way, through the power of the Holy Ghost and through active, diligent study and teaching of one another, attended by the grace of Jesus Christ. This is true for any kind of knowledge and for any time of life.

This is exactly what we teach our students in Doctrinal Mastery (and, I hope, in everything we teach). Doctrinal Mastery, therefore, is a gateway to lifelong, deep learning.

I want to close my remarks with two invitations. The first is to those of you who teach seminary. My beloved brothers and sisters all over the world, I hope your students see that you are teaching them how to learn in the Lord’s way. Teach them that they need to learn deeply in both spiritual and secular knowledge all through their lives. Help them see that graduation from seminary is not the end. We want them to graduate from institute, and we want them to pursue education beyond high school. You are helping them to do both of those things and to lay a foundation for lifelong, deep learning by teaching them how to learn in the Lord’s way.

My second invitation is to those of you who teach institute. My beloved brothers and sisters, please help your students learn in the Lord’s way. Please help them see the value and power in their lives of graduation from institute. Institute graduation represents the completion of a systematic, extensive study of the gospel. Graduation from institute will solidify their gospel understanding, deepen their testimony and their commitment to the Lord, and help them to know and love Jesus Christ.

I know that if you act on these invitations, the Lord and Savior will bless you and your students. I bear witness that our Heavenly Father lives and loves us. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I know He lives. I know that in Him and through Him we all can learn deeply all through our lives, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. The pattern of “know, do, become” has been used widely as a framework for leadership development and in discussion of the Lord’s plan for the spiritual development of His children. See Thomas S. Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 60–62, 67–68; and Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32–34. For an in-depth treatment of each of the elements of this pattern, see the three-volume series by David A. Bednar: Increase in Learning (2011), Act in Doctrine (2012), and Power to Become (2014).