“Inservice Lesson 5: Introduction to Doctrinal Mastery,” New-Teacher Training Resource: A Teacher-Improvement Companion to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook (2016)
“Inservice Lesson 5: Doctrinal Mastery,” New-Teacher Training Resource
This lesson includes a list of activities that will allow teachers to practice the principles they learned in at-home learning experience 14. Some activities will be more meaningful if you invite teachers to come prepared having read a talk, watched a video, or engaged in a brief practice exercise. If needed, you may develop your own practice activities to fit the needs of the teachers in your class.
Purpose: To help teachers identify and better understand the prophetic principles at the foundation of Doctrinal Mastery by comparing our leaders’ teachings with the “Doctrinal Mastery Overview” handout.
Activity: Invite the teachers to read one or more of the following resources prior to the inservice period. These resources are available on the “Doctrinal Mastery Training Resources” page at doctrinalmastery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. You could also select other resources based on training needs.
Kim B. Clark, “Doctrinal Mastery and Deep Learning” (address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 17, 2017)
Dallin H. Oaks, “As He Thinketh in His Heart” (evening with a General Authority, Feb. 8, 2013)
M. Russell Ballard, “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st Century” (address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 6, 2016)
Chad H Webb, “Doctrinal Mastery” (address given at the Church Educational System training broadcast, June 14, 2016)
Invite the teachers to study the resource or resources for 10 minutes, looking for important principles and practices of Doctrinal Mastery. Invite the teachers to share their impressions in small groups or with the entire inservice group.
Purpose: To help teachers become aware of resources they can use to understand principles and practices of Doctrinal Mastery.
Activity: Invite the teachers to visit doctrinalmastery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Invite each teacher to choose two or three areas of interest to look at in depth. Suggested areas include the following:
Doctrinal Mastery Training Resources (a repository of all training resources that have been produced for Doctrinal Mastery)
What Is Doctrinal Mastery? (an overview the program)
Resources for Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge (a list of divinely appointed resources for acquiring spiritual knowledge)
Gospel Topics, Essays, and Other Resources (a list of other resources to enhance gospel learning)
Helping Others Acquire Spiritual Knowledge (how to respond to difficult questions with faith and love)
Briefly discuss how the teachers might use this website during the year.
Purpose: To help teachers better understand and plan when Doctrinal Mastery lessons will be taught throughout the year.
Activity: Invite the teachers to review the teacher manual for the current year’s course of study and Doctrinal Mastery pacing suggestions. Point out examples in the manual of how doctrinal topics are taught throughout the year. Show other examples of how doctrinal topics can be taught in a full-period lesson one day a week.
Invite teachers who have had experience teaching Doctrinal Mastery lessons to share what they have learned in planning and pacing these lessons. Allow teachers time to review their next month of lessons and then plan when they will teach Doctrinal Mastery lessons.
Note: Emphasize the following points:
The Doctrinal Mastery teacher material manuals are the primary source for pacing decisions.
Doctrinal Mastery lessons should be taught separately from doctrine and principles in the scripture block.
Principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge should be used in Doctrinal Mastery lesson practice activities.
Principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge should also be applied in many settings throughout the year as student have questions or concerns.
Purpose: To help teachers deepen their understanding of how to help students hold to the faith they have while seeking spiritual knowledge.
Activity: Invite the teachers to consider a few doctrinal, historical, or social questions or concerns they have recently heard about the Church. Write two of these questions or concerns on the board.
Invite someone to read aloud the following quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. … When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. … The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.
“… I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. … Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 93–94).
Watch the video “Act in Faith: The Stonemason” (4:58), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. In this video, a man building a stone wall finds rocks that don’t fit in the wall at first. Rather than throw these rocks away, the man waits until he finds a place where they will fit. As the teachers watch the video, invite them to look for principles or practices that illustrate Elder Holland’s direction to continue in faith when answers to questions do not seem to come immediately.
When you have finished watching the video, invite the teachers to share their insights and impressions.
Choose one of the questions or concerns on the board. Role-play with the teachers by taking the role of the student who is expressing that question or concern and inviting the teachers to practice helping you act in faith using Elder Holland’s counsel and the principles from the video.
After role-playing for several minutes, divide the teachers into small groups and have them repeat the activity with the other question or concern on the board.
To conclude, ask the teachers to share any final impressions, and then invite them to determine what they will do to apply what they learned during this practice activity.
Note: This activity follows the same purpose and format as practice activity 4. However, instead of using the “Act in Faith: The Stonemason” video to illustrate acting in faith while waiting for additional spiritual knowledge, use the following story written about Sister Camilla Kimball, wife of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985). When Sister Kimball had a gospel question she didn’t understand, she would write the question down, put it on a shelf, and press forward in faith until further spiritual understanding came.
“Sister Kimball says, ‘I’ve always had an inquiring mind. I’m not satisfied just to accept things. I like to follow through and study things out. I learned early to put aside those gospel questions that I couldn’t answer. I had a shelf of things I didn’t understand, but as I’ve grown older and studied and prayed and thought about each problem, one by one I’ve been able to better understand them.’
“She twinkles, ‘I still have some questions on that shelf, but I’ve come to understand so many other things in my life that I’m willing to bide my time for the rest of the answers.’
“Reverently, she shares one experience of how a question was answered. At one time she served as a guide on Temple Square, a missionary responsibility she took seriously. Suddenly, one morning as she was dressing to go, she was struck by a shattering question: ‘“How do I know that Joseph Smith actually saw the Savior and the Father? How could I know such a thing?” I wondered how I had the temerity to say that this thing actually happened. I was terribly disturbed. I knelt and prayed about it, but left the house still troubled by that question.
“‘I can still feel the sensation I had when I stood up to tell the Joseph Smith story that day, as I’d told it so many times before. Suddenly I had a manifestation—a burning within my bosom—that was so assuring, so reassuring, that I had no question in myself that this was actually the testimony that is promised if you seek and really want to know.
“‘What’s amazing to me is that I’d never thought of that question before. My testimony was just such a fact of my existence. And then the question and the answer came in the same day! I wasn’t a youngster either. I was a mature woman, married for years’” (Lavina Fielding, “Camilla Kimball: Lady of Constant Learning,” Ensign, Oct. 1975, 62).
Purpose: To help teachers see how a careful review and presentation of the plan of salvation in the classroom can help their students view life with an eternal perspective.
Note: Prior to the inservice period, invite the teachers to read the following quote by President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“A brief overview of the ‘plan of happiness’ …, if given at the very beginning and revisited occasionally, will be of immense value to your students.
“I have an assignment for you. You expected that, didn’t you? You are assigned to prepare a brief synopsis or overview of the plan of happiness—the plan of salvation. Design it as a framework on which your students can organize the truths you will share with them.
“At first you may think that a simple assignment. I assure you, it is not. Brevity and simplicity are remarkably difficult to achieve. At first you will be tempted to include too much. The plan in its fulness encompasses every gospel truth. …
“This may be the most difficult, and surely the most rewarding, assignment of your teaching career.
“Your overview of the plan of happiness should be but a sweeping glance across the unfolded scroll of scriptural truths. Your students can thereafter locate themselves in respect to the plan.
“Young people wonder ‘why?’—Why are we commanded to do some things, and why we are commanded not to do other things? A knowledge of the plan of happiness, even in outline form, can give young minds a ‘why.’ …
“… Provide a basic feeling for the whole plan, even with just a few details, and it will help them ever so much more. Let them know what it’s all about, then they will have the ‘why.’
“Most of the difficult questions we face in the Church right now, and we could list them—abortion and all the rest of them, all of the challenges of who holds the priesthood and who does not—cannot be answered without some knowledge of the plan as a background.
“Alma said this, and this is, I think of late, my favorite scripture, although I change now and again: ‘God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption’ (Alma 12:32; emphasis added). Let me say that again: ‘God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.’ Now, let me say it again: ‘God gave unto them commandments, AFTER having made known unto them the plan of redemption.’ …
“You will not be with your students or your own children at the time of their temptations. At those dangerous moments they must depend on their own resources. If they can locate themselves within the framework of the gospel plan, they will be immensely strengthened.
“The plan is worthy of repetition over and over again. Then the purpose of life, the reality of the Redeemer, and the reason for the commandments will stay with them. Their gospel study, their life experiences, will add to an ever-growing witness of the Christ, of the Atonement, of the restoration of the gospel.
“I was really tempted to prepare a brief overview of the plan of happiness as a model for you to follow. And then I thought better of it. You need to prepare the outline yourself. Only then will you present it persuasively. I repeat, it will not be easy. I should think it will take you several months, if you do it right. It will require study and prayer and work. There is no question but that you will learn more in the process than any one of your students will learn. The very doing of it is your reward” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Great Plan of Happiness” [address given at the Church Educational System Symposium, Aug. 10, 1993]; see also Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings (2004), 69–70).
Invite the teachers to begin to prepare a brief outline of the plan of salvation as instructed by President Packer and bring it with them to inservice.
Activity: Divide the teachers into groups, and invite them to share their brief outlines of the plan of salvation with one another.
After sufficient time, ask the teachers to share insights and impressions from their experience. You might ask some of the following questions:
How does a careful study of the plan of salvation help you better prepare to teach your students?
How can a better understanding of the plan of salvation help you prepare to teach your students the principles and practices of Doctrinal Mastery?
How can you help your students use the plan of salvation as a primary method of examining questions and concepts with an eternal perspective?
Point out the plan of salvation lesson located in the teacher manual for the current year’s course of study. Invite the teachers to become familiar with that lesson. Emphasize its importance in helping to fulfill President Packer’s invitation to prepare and present a brief overview of the plan of salvation to students.
Purpose: To help teachers practice skills associated with examining questions and concepts with an eternal perspective.
Activity: Invite someone to read aloud the following quote by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency:
“Because of our knowledge of [the plan of salvation] and other truths that God has revealed, we start with different assumptions than those who do not share our knowledge. As a result, we reach different conclusions on many important subjects that others judge only in terms of their opinions about mortal life. …
“[Our young people] will often be better off to respond by identifying the worldly premises or assumptions in the assertions they face and then by identifying the different assumptions or premises that guide the thinking of Latter-day Saints” (Dallin H. Oaks, “As He Thinketh in His Heart” (evening with a General Authority, Feb. 8, 2013).
Watch the video “Examining Questions with an Eternal Perspective” (2:56), available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Invite the teachers to look for how the counsel given by Elder Oaks corresponds to how the young woman in the video thinks about the beliefs or assumptions that may have influenced her friend’s question about God and then examines the question with an eternal perspective.
After the video, ask the teachers the following questions:
Why do you think it was helpful for Lauren to think about the beliefs or assumptions that may have influenced her friend’s question about God?
What happened as Lauren examined her friend’s question with an eternal perspective?
What do we know about Heavenly Father, His plan, and the teachings of the Savior that could help us look at this question differently and find answers based on eternal truth?
Why is it helpful to examine questions and concepts with an eternal perspective?
There are three skills involved in examining questions and concepts with an eternal perspective:
Identify limited or worldly assumptions about a question or concern.
Identify and analyze the eternal premises and doctrine at the foundation of the issue.
Identify the true conclusion or rephrase the original question in a way that reflects the eternal truths discussed.
Invite the teachers to consider a few doctrinal, historical, or social questions or concerns they have recently heard about the Church. Write one of these questions or concerns on the board.
What worldly or limited assumptions are associated with this question or concern?
What gospel truths from the plan of salvation, the scriptures, the teachings of modern-day prophets, and the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document can address these limited assumptions?
What is a true conclusion you identify after examining limited assumptions compared to eternal premises? Or, how can the question or concern be rephrased to reflect these gospel truths?
Write the rephrased question or concern on the board.
Divide the teachers into groups, and invite them to discuss how acting in faith and seeking further understanding through divinely appointed sources add insight to resolving questions or concerns.
After sufficient time, regroup and ask the teachers to share any final impressions. Invite them to determine what they will do to apply the principles or practices they learned during this practice activity.
Feel free to repeat this activity for each of the three skills individually with other questions or concerns.
Purpose: To help teachers locate appropriate sources and practice the skill of seeking further understanding through divinely appointed sources when addressing gospel questions or concerns.
Activity: Invite the teachers to consider a few doctrinal, historical, or social questions or concerns they have recently heard about the Church. Write several of these questions or concerns on the board.
What divinely appointed sources might help a student gain further understanding if they have these questions or concerns?
Note: Make sure to emphasize the role of prayer, scriptures, and the words of prophets from general conference addresses as the most important divinely appointed sources for seeking truth.
Direct the teachers to the “Gospel Topics, Essays, and Other Resources” page at doctrinalmastery.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. This resource is designed to help teachers and their students locate appropriate sources as they seek additional understanding. Briefly overview the resources listed on this web page, and then spend a few minutes highlighting a few of them in greater detail.
Which of these resources might best address the questions or concerns written on the board?
Invite the teachers to use the listed resources to address the questions or concerns written on the board.