“Instructions for Teachers,” Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material (2017)
“Instructions for Teachers,” Doctrinal Mastery D&C and Church History Teacher Material
The Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion states: “We teach students the doctrine and principles of the gospel as found in the scriptures and the words of the prophets” (Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion , x). In seminary this is primarily accomplished through a sequential study of the scriptures, following the natural flow of the books and verses of a volume of scripture from beginning to end. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized that “this is the first and most fundamental way of obtaining living water” (“A Reservoir of Living Water” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Feb. 4, 2007], 3, lds.org/media-library).
Another way we help students understand, believe, and live the doctrine of Jesus Christ is through Doctrinal Mastery. Doctrinal Mastery supplements the sequential study of the scriptures by providing opportunities for students to study the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ by topic.
The sequential study of the scriptures and Doctrinal Mastery are separate and distinct but complementary activities. Both are important elements of students’ experience in seminary. Through sequential scripture teaching, students and teachers study doctrine and principles of the gospel as they emerge from and are illustrated by the scriptural text. Through Doctrinal Mastery, teachers and students examine the doctrine of the gospel topically, using multiple scripture passages to help teach these truths.
President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught why this doctrinal method of study is also beneficial: “Individual doctrines of the gospel are not fully explained in one place in the scriptures, nor presented in order or sequence. They must be assembled from pieces here and there. They are sometimes found in large segments, but mostly they are in small bits scattered through the chapters and verses” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” in Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings [Church Educational System manual, 2004], 68–69).
Doctrinal Mastery builds on and replaces previous efforts in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, such as Scripture Mastery and the study of Basic Doctrines. Doctrinal Mastery is intended to help students accomplish the following outcomes:
Learn and apply divine principles for acquiring spiritual knowledge.
Master the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the scripture passages in which that doctrine is taught. This outcome of Doctrinal Mastery is achieved as students do the following:
Develop a deeper understanding of each of the following nine doctrinal topics:
The plan of salvation
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
Prophets and revelation
Priesthood and priesthood keys
Ordinances and covenants
Marriage and family
Understand the key statements of doctrine identified in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section of the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document and in each of the nine doctrinal topics.
Know how key statements of doctrine are taught in the doctrinal mastery scripture passages and are able to remember and locate these passages.
Explain each key statement of doctrine clearly, using the associated doctrinal mastery passages.
Apply the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their daily choices and in their responses to doctrinal, social, and historical issues and questions.
Seminaries and Institutes of Religion has produced instructional materials to help teachers and students accomplish these outcomes. These materials include the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document and the Doctrinal Mastery teacher material. (Note: Doctrinal Mastery teacher material will be available for each of the four seminary courses.)
The Doctrinal Mastery Core Document is addressed to students. It consists of (1) an introduction that explains what Doctrinal Mastery is and how it will be helpful to them, (2) instruction that teaches them principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge, and (3) a section on the nine doctrinal topics previously listed. Each doctrinal topic includes statements of doctrine that are relevant to the students’ lives and are important for them to understand, believe, and apply.
Some of the doctrine and principles in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” and “Doctrinal Topics” sections of the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document are called key statements of doctrine. These key statements of doctrine have doctrinal mastery scripture passages associated with them that help to teach certain aspects of the statement. There are 25 doctrinal mastery passages for each course of study (Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants and Church History), for a total of 100 scripture passages. A list of these passages is provided at the back of the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Helping students to remember and locate these passages and to understand how the passages teach the Savior’s doctrine is an important part of your work as a teacher.
Each of the 100 doctrinal mastery passages is used to help teach only one statement of doctrine in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. For example, Joseph Smith—History 1:15–20 is cited in doctrinal topic 4, “The Restoration,” to help teach the truth that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in response to Joseph’s prayer, and They called him to be the Prophet of the Restoration. However, this doctrinal mastery passage could also be used to help teach the truth in doctrinal topic 1, “The Godhead,” that there are three separate personages in the Godhead: God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. Therefore, this doctrinal mastery passage is listed as a related reference in that topic.
Noting where each doctrinal mastery passage is cited allows you to know in which learning experience that particular passage will be treated in the Doctrinal Mastery teacher material for the current year’s course of study. In the preceding example, Joseph Smith—History 1:15–20 will be treated in the learning experience for “The Restoration” in the Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material.
Although there is a learning experience taught for acquiring spiritual knowledge and for each doctrinal topic during every course of study, only the key statements of doctrine that are associated with the doctrinal mastery scripture passages for that course of study are emphasized in the Doctrinal Mastery learning experiences for that school year. The key statements of doctrine are bolded and embedded in the text of the lesson.
The doctrinal mastery curriculum consists of 10 learning experiences to be covered during the year’s course of study. (The learning experiences are the teaching material for “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” and each of the nine doctrinal topics.) In many cases, the instructional material for each learning experience will need to be taught during more than one class session.
The first learning experience focuses on helping students learn and apply principles related to acquiring spiritual knowledge. This should be taught within the first two weeks of the school year. It will help students catch the vision of doctrinal mastery. In addition, the principles taught in this learning experience provide a foundation that will be built upon and revisited during the subsequent nine learning experiences that will be taught during the remainder of the year.
Each of the subsequent learning experiences is based on one of the nine doctrinal topics listed previously. They are designed to help students understand the Savior’s doctrine more deeply and apply it more readily in their lives. Each of these learning experiences consists of three main parts: “Understanding the Doctrine,” “Practice Exercises,” and “Doctrinal Mastery Review.”
The “Understanding the Doctrine” part of each learning experience includes a series of learning activities, or segments, that can be taught during one or more class sessions. These activities will help students develop a deeper understanding of each doctrinal topic and specific key statements of doctrine associated with each topic.
“Understanding the Doctrine” segments begin with a study of the doctrinal topic in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. In addition, the segments focus on particular key statements of doctrine associated with the doctrinal mastery passages specific to the volume of scripture for the year’s course of study. For example, in the learning experience for “The Godhead” in the Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material, teachers are instructed to help students master Doctrine and Covenants 29:10–11 and 130:22–23. As students study the New Testament and Book of Mormon during other years of their seminary experience, they will focus on additional doctrinal mastery passages that help teach other key statements of doctrine associated with the topic “The Godhead” in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document.
In the “Understanding the Doctrine” segments, students are encouraged to locate, mark, and study doctrinal mastery passages so they can use them to teach and explain the key statements of doctrine the passages help teach. You may want to add additional learning activities as needed to help students master the key statements of doctrine and the doctrinal mastery passages that help teach them.
Most learning experiences provide at least one practice exercise for students. These exercises typically consist of case studies, role plays, scenarios, or questions that students can participate in or discuss together in small groups or as a class. These exercises are vital to helping students understand how the doctrinal statements they have been learning are relevant to modern circumstances. You may adapt the practice exercises according to the needs and interests of your students. The exercises also emphasize how the doctrine students have learned can bless and assist them in living the gospel and explaining their beliefs to others in a nonthreatening, inoffensive way.
Before each practice exercise it is important that you review the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge with your students. Because the practice exercises are vital to helping students remember and then apply what they have learned to their everyday circumstances, please ensure that you provide sufficient class time for students to complete these exercises.
The purpose of the Doctrinal Mastery review activities is to help students accomplish the following outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery: Know how the key statements of doctrine are taught in doctrinal mastery passages and be able to remember and locate those passages; explain each key statement of doctrine clearly, using the associated doctrinal mastery passages; and apply what they learn in their daily choices and in their responses to doctrinal, social, and historical issues and questions (see “Introduction to Doctrinal Mastery” in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document).
Frequently reviewing the key statements of doctrine and the doctrinal mastery passages used to teach them will help students in their mastery efforts. (However, be careful not to allow doctrinal mastery review activities to overshadow sequential scripture teaching or the intended outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery.) Two types of review activities are included in each Doctrinal Mastery learning experience: brief review activities and cumulative reviews.
The brief doctrinal mastery review activities are included to help students locate, remember, and master the doctrinal mastery passages and the key statements of doctrine those passages help teach. These brief reviews are intended to be taught after students have participated in the “Understanding the Doctrine” segments of the various learning experiences. They are not intended to last longer than five minutes each and should be used at the beginning or end of a class in which a regular sequential scripture lesson from the Doctrine and Covenants is taught.
The cumulative doctrinal mastery reviews are located at the end of each learning experience. They are designed to help students review all of the doctrinal mastery passages they have studied to that point in the school year. These longer reviews are intended to be taught on days scheduled for Doctrinal Mastery, but they can be taught on other days if teachers choose to shorten regular sequential scripture lessons.
Doctrinal Mastery is implemented differently based on the type of seminary program students are enrolled in: daily seminary (early-morning and released-time programs), online seminary, or home-study seminary.
Doctrinal Mastery does not replace sequential scripture teaching in seminary. It is anticipated that you will spend approximately 40 minutes of class time per week throughout the school year on Doctrinal Mastery. Implementing Doctrinal Mastery while teaching the Doctrine and Covenants sequentially will require you to start class on time and use your classroom time efficiently. Please note that the brief doctrinal mastery reviews are intended to be spread throughout the week and the time for these activities has not been calculated into this 40 minutes.
The number of weeks spent on each of the 10 Doctrinal Mastery learning experiences will vary depending on the number of key statements of doctrine and doctrinal mastery passages to be emphasized and studied for that doctrinal topic. Some topics will be adequately covered in one week, while others will require additional weeks to complete (see the “Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Doctrinal Mastery Pacing Guide” near the end of this section).
Doctrinal Mastery has been designed for a flexible approach to using class time. Each Doctrinal Mastery learning experience is divided into multiple parts that can be taught either in a single class session, taking 40 minutes, or dividing up the Doctrinal Mastery segments and teaching them throughout the week. Each learning experience is divided into segments that can generally be completed in 5 to 20 minutes each. Ideally, each 40-minute learning experience would be covered within a week’s time, in addition to teaching the brief reviews during sequential scripture lessons throughout the week.
If you choose to teach Doctrinal Mastery on the same day that you will also be teaching a sequential lesson on a scripture block, be careful not to allow the amount of time spent teaching Doctrinal Mastery to infringe upon the time needed to teach the scriptures sequentially. (For example, 5-minute “Understanding the Doctrine” segments should not regularly last 20 minutes, leaving little time to teach the Doctrine and Covenants sequentially.) In addition, it may be helpful to explain to the students that they will work on Doctrinal Mastery for a certain period of time (such as 5 or 10 minutes at the beginning of class) and will then study a particular scripture block (such as Doctrine and Covenants 9) for the remainder of the class session.
Although there may be times when you or your students recognize connections between the Doctrinal Mastery material you study and a particular scripture block, avoid improperly imposing principles and key statements of doctrine from the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document onto a scripture block. Doing so can prevent students from understanding the intent of the inspired author of the scripture block.
In addition to addressing doctrinal mastery scripture passages topically as a part of Doctrinal Mastery, you should emphasize those same passages as you encounter them in your sequential study of the scriptures with students. Doing so will help students gain a greater understanding of the context and content of each passage, as well as magnify the importance of the truths each passage teaches.
In daily seminary, Doctrinal Mastery builds upon and replaces the scripture mastery program. For those doctrinal mastery passages formerly identified as scripture mastery passages, the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual contains suggestions and learning activities that will help you give the passage an appropriate emphasis in your sequential scripture study with students. Where the doctrinal mastery passages are new, the teacher manual will not identify the passages as such; it will be important for you to emphasize the passages effectively and appropriately as a part of sequential scripture study.
Some scripture passages are identified in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Manual as scripture mastery passages but are not doctrinal mastery passages. These passages should no longer be emphasized according to the scripture mastery instructions in the manual, but they should be covered in the normal flow of sequential scripture study.
Because you will need the limited classroom time allotted for Doctrinal Mastery to focus on a study of the doctrine and the doctrinal mastery passages and to complete the practice exercises and review activities, you likely will not have time to help students memorize entire doctrinal mastery passages in class. However, because the memorization of scripture passages can bless students, you may invite students to memorize doctrinal mastery passages outside of class.
The number of weeks spent on each of the 10 learning experiences in the Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material varies, depending on the number of key statements of doctrine and scripture passages to be studied for the doctrinal topic. Approximately 40 minutes per week should be spent on Doctrinal Mastery using the following learning activities:
Understanding the Doctrine segments
Doctrinal Mastery cumulative review activities
For example, in the accompanying pacing guide, two weeks are given for Doctrinal Mastery activities related to the Godhead. During the first week, you could cover part 1 (segments 1–5), along with the two brief reviews to be done during other class sessions. For the second week, you could cover part 2 (Practice Exercise and review activities).
Reviewing the curriculum in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual for the upcoming week alongside the Doctrinal Mastery learning activities contained in this Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material will help you plan for and allot class time to Doctrinal Mastery. It will be important for you to identify portions of the regular sequential scripture lessons that can be summarized to create time for Doctrinal Mastery learning activities, including the practice exercises and reviews.
The following is a suggested pacing guide for Doctrinal Mastery learning experiences taught during the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History school year:
Doctrinal Mastery Material to Be Taught
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Parts 1–2
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Part 3
The Godhead, Part 1
The Godhead, Part 2
The Plan of Salvation, Part 1
The Plan of Salvation, Part 2
The Plan of Salvation, Part 3
The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 1
The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 2
The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 3
The Restoration, Part 1
The Restoration, Part 2
The Restoration, Part 3
Prophets and Revelation, Part 1
Prophets and Revelation, Part 2
Prophets and Revelation, Part 3
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Part 4
Priesthood and Priesthood Keys, Part 1
Priesthood and Priesthood Keys, Part 2
Priesthood and Priesthood Keys, Part 3
Priesthood and Priesthood Keys, Part 4
Ordinances and Covenants, Part 1
Ordinances and Covenants, Part 2
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
Marriage and Family, Part 1
Marriage and Family, Part 2
Marriage and Family, Part 3
Commandments, Part 1
Commandments, Part 2
Commandments, Part 3
Doctrinal Mastery Cumulative Review
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
No assigned Doctrinal Mastery
Doctrinal Mastery learning activities will be incorporated into the online seminary lessons. If you teach an online seminary class, it will be helpful to review the previous section on “Doctrinal Mastery in Daily Seminary” to help you understand important principles and practices that could be adapted and applied in an online seminary environment.
At this time the materials that home-study teachers and students use have not been updated to include Doctrinal Mastery content. Therefore, teachers and students should continue to use the current home-study materials and included scripture mastery activities. Until the home-study materials are updated, teachers are encouraged to provide students with copies of the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document and to encourage them to study it and the doctrinal mastery scripture passages on their own.