“Learning Experience 14: Introduction to Doctrinal Mastery,” New-Teacher Training Resource: A Teacher-Improvement Companion to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook (2016)
“Learning Experience 14,” New-Teacher Training Resource
This learning experience covers the following concepts:
Understanding the purposes and desired outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery
Learning and applying divine principles for acquiring spiritual knowledge in Doctrinal Mastery
Mastering the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ
Implementing Doctrinal Mastery in the classroom
Note: This learning experience provides an overview of Doctrinal Mastery principles and practices. For an in-depth review, please see the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document, the “Doctrinal Mastery Overview” handout, and doctrinalmastery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
As teachers in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, we seek to help students build their foundation upon Jesus Christ by helping them understand, believe, and live according to His doctrine (see Helaman 5:12). However, today teachers and students alike face great challenges in building faith in Jesus Christ. Consider some examples of these challenges in your life and in the lives of your students. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described some of the challenging circumstances that students and teachers face:
“Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church. …
“… Not all of your students have the faith necessary to face the challenges ahead. …
“[We live in a day] when students have instant access to virtually everything about the Church from every possible point of view. Today, what they see on their mobile devices is likely to be faith-challenging as much as faith-promoting. …
“In light of these challenges, the Board of Education recently approved an initiative in seminary called Doctrinal Mastery. … This new initiative will focus on building and strengthening our students’ faith in Jesus Christ and fortifying them with increased ability to live and apply the gospel in their lives. …
“This initiative is inspired and timely. It will have a wonderful influence on our young people” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 26, 2016]).
To help you better understand the Doctrinal Mastery initiative, watch the video “What Is Doctrinal Mastery?” (3:53), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. As you watch, keep in mind the following questions:
Why is Doctrinal Mastery inspired and timely for today’s youth?
What are the desired outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery?
Doctrinal Mastery focuses on two outcomes:
Learning and applying divine principles for acquiring spiritual knowledge
Mastering the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the scripture passages in which that doctrine is taught
These two outcomes are complementary and can help students build their foundation upon Jesus Christ and His doctrine. As students achieve these outcomes, they deepen their conversion and can help others do the same.
In this learning experience, we will examine each outcome of Doctrinal Mastery in more detail, see how they are implemented in a classroom setting, and better understand how students can be more fully blessed by Jesus Christ and His doctrine.
The first outcome is to help your students learn and apply divine principles for acquiring spiritual knowledge. God knows all things and is the source of all truth. Because He loves us, He wants to help us find truth as we strive to know and understand His doctrine and as we seek answers to our questions and concerns.
As you work through this section, consider some of the questions and concerns that your students might have, such as: “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” “Did Joseph Smith practice polygamy?” and “Does God love me?”
The following three principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge can guide teachers and students alike as they seek to learn and understand eternal truth, resolve questions and concerns, and make decisions in their daily lives:
Act in faith
Examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective
Seek further understanding through divinely appointed sources
Each of these principles is further explained and illustrated in the following sections.
When we act in faith, we trust God and turn to Him first through sincere prayer, study, and obedience. We rely on what we already know to be true and continue to seek answers. We trust that our questions and concerns will be answered and resolved in the Lord’s timing.
Watch the video “Act in Faith: The Stonemason” (4:58), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. As you watch this video, look for how our questions and concerns can be resolved over time by continuing to act in faith.
By examining questions, concerns, social issues, and historical events in the context of the plan of salvation and the Savior’s teachings, we invite the Holy Ghost to help us see things as the Lord sees them. We focus on the important aspects of the gospel and aren’t distracted by less-significant details.
Watch the video “Examining Questions with an Eternal Perspective” (2:56), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. As you watch this video, look for how we can reframe questions and concerns (or see them differently) and view ideas based on the Lord’s standard of truth rather than accepting the world’s premises or assumptions. As you watch, keep in mind the following question:
How does understanding Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and His doctrine help your students better view their questions and concerns with an eternal perspective?
Record your responses to this question in a study journal or another place where you can refer to them and share them with your inservice leader or group.
When we seek further understanding through divinely appointed sources, we obtain spiritual knowledge through the Holy Ghost, scriptures, prophets, parents, Church leaders, and other trustworthy sources. As we learn from these sources, we learn to recognize and discern truth from error.
Think of the divinely appointed sources that you and your students might use to seek further understanding, such as the scriptures and the messages from general conference. Also consider other trustworthy sources you could use, such as the sources in the “Gospel Topics, Essays, and Other Resources” page on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
The second outcome of Doctrinal Mastery is mastering the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By mastering the doctrine, students can become proficient at using principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge in their search for truth.
The following are three important elements of mastering the doctrine:
Understand doctrinal topics and key statements of doctrine
Know doctrinal mastery passages
Explain and apply doctrine
In addition to principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge, students will study nine doctrinal topics. Each doctrinal topic includes statements of doctrine that are important for students to understand, believe, and apply. Some of these statements of doctrine from the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document are called key statements of doctrine. These key statements are associated with doctrinal mastery scripture passages that help to teach certain aspects of the statements of doctrine.
There are 25 doctrinal mastery passages for each course of study (100 passages total). These scripture passages help to teach aspects of the key statements associated with each doctrinal topic. For example, the following key statement of doctrine is associated with a doctrinal mastery passage from the doctrinal topic “The Atonement of Jesus Christ”: “[Jesus Christ’s] sacrifice benefits each of us and demonstrates the infinite worth of each and every one of Heavenly Father’s children (see D&C 18:10–11)” (Doctrinal Mastery Core Document , 6). Helping students to remember these passages, locate the passages, and understand how the passages help teach the Savior’s doctrine is an important part of your work as a teacher.
An important part of mastering the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being able to clearly explain each key statement of doctrine and understand how the doctrinal mastery passages help teach those key statements. When students understand doctrine and can locate and remember the doctrinal mastery passages and their associated key statements of doctrine, they can better apply the doctrine and explain it to others. As President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (“Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
Now that you understand of the outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery and how they can help students build their foundation on Jesus Christ, we will examine how they are to be used and taught in the classroom.
The Doctrinal Mastery curriculum helps teachers and students learn and apply principles related to acquiring spiritual knowledge and the nine doctrinal topics. The key components of the curriculum include:
Understanding the doctrine: A series of learning activities or segments that helps students develop a deeper understanding of each doctrinal topic, the associated key statements of doctrine, and the associated doctrinal mastery passages.
Practice exercises: Exercises that consist of case studies, role-playing, scenarios, and questions to help students apply the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge and the doctrine to modern circumstances and relevant questions.
Doctrinal Mastery reviews: Activities that help students locate, remember, and master key statements of doctrine and the associated doctrinal mastery passages.
Your students will be blessed as they incorporate principles and practices of Doctrinal Mastery throughout their lives.
Watch the video “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge: Madison’s Story” (8:36), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. In this video, a young woman named Madison uses principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge to receive answers to her questions and to teach and help others know the truth. As you watch, keep in mind the following questions:
How can Doctrinal Mastery help your students build their foundation on Jesus Christ and His doctrine?
How can principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge help you to lead a student to learn truth and discover answers to his or her questions?
How can principles of Doctrinal Mastery assist students in helping others to acquire spiritual knowledge?
The following considerations will help you best use Doctrinal Mastery in your classroom. Seek the Lord’s help and the guidance of your local coordinator to determine how to best implement Doctrinal Mastery in your assignment and for your students.
Use the “Doctrinal Mastery Overview” handout that is provided in the appendix of this manual to review and remember each component of Doctrinal Mastery and how each component complements the others.
Doctrinal Mastery and sequential scripture teaching are separate and distinct, and both are important elements of students’ experience in seminary. In order to successfully teach both, you will need to carefully plan your lessons using the suggested pacing guide, balanced with your local needs.
Concepts and principles of Doctrinal Mastery, however, can still be applied during sequential lessons or other settings throughout the year as questions or concerns arise in class. Emphasizing doctrinal mastery passages as you encounter them in your sequential study of the scriptures 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.
Doctrinal Mastery builds on and replaces the Scripture Mastery program. Scripture mastery content in prior publications should be replaced with doctrinal mastery activities and scripture passages.
For more insight and guidance, visit doctrinalmastery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Doctrinal Mastery is an inspired initiative to bless our students as they progress and face difficult challenges.
Doctrinal Mastery focuses on two outcomes: (1) learning and applying divine principles for acquiring spiritual knowledge and (2) mastering the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the scripture passages in which that doctrine is taught.
Helping students achieve the outcomes of Doctrinal Mastery will help them build their foundation upon Jesus Christ as they come to understand, believe, and live according to His doctrine.
“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” (Kim B. Clark, “Doctrinal Mastery and Deep Learning” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 17, 2017]).
To conclude this learning experience, write down some things you will do based on the principles you have learned today.