Four New Classes Added to Curriculum for Church Schools

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 11 November 2014

Rather than focusing on only one book of scripture for an entire semester, the new cornerstone classes will draw from the teachings found in all of the standard works.

Article Highlights

  • Students entering a Church-owned university or institute beginning fall 2015 will have new requirements to graduate, including four new “cornerstone” courses.

Students entering a Church-owned university or institute beginning fall 2015 will have new requirements in order to graduate, Church leaders announced on November 2. The changes will include four new “cornerstone” courses created to enhance the religious education of thousands of young adults.

Officially announced during a Church Educational System devotional for young adults on November 2, discussion about the new courses began nearly two years ago.

“These new courses are intended to be cornerstones of your religious education experiences,” Elder Paul V. Johnson, a member of the Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, said during the broadcast that originated from the Ogden Utah Tabernacle. “They are centered in the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets.”

These changes come amid a list of recent changes in curriculum for the Church. In October of 2012 changes in the youth curriculum for the Young Women and Young Men programs were announced. A change came to the seminary curriculum earlier this year, and a change to the adult curriculum is said to be in the works.

Although the same number of credit hours will be required for graduation, incoming students will need to take the four new cornerstone classes.

“The Church Board of Education and the boards of trustees for BYU, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, and LDS Business College have approved four new courses, which will be offered beginning in the fall of 2015,” Elder Johnson said.

This change to religious education comes as an opportunity to “build on what they already know” and is in response to the expanded knowledge of the student body.

“Many of our students have already had extensive personal and family study in the scriptures,” said Chad H. Webb, administrator for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. “They have gone through seminary and have served missions and they have a pretty good foundational understanding of the scriptures after studying them sequentially. The intent is to build on that previous gospel study experience.”

Although the same number of credit hours will be required for graduation, incoming students will need to take the four new cornerstone classes—Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel, Foundations of the Restoration, The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon, and The Eternal Family. These classes will make up 8 of the 14 religion credit hours needed to graduate.

“All current BYU students will be under the present requirements,” said Brent L. Top, dean of religious education at BYU. “Incoming freshmen beginning fall semester 2015 will need to choose the new courses to complete their cornerstone requirements. Further details will be forthcoming as they are approved by the university.”

The required classes will base their study in the scriptures—the Old Testament and New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—and draw from the words of prophets. For new students, current classes will still be available to take as elective credit, but rather than focusing on only one book of scripture for an entire semester, the new cornerstone classes will draw from the teachings found in all of the standard works.

“We anticipate that these new required courses will promote deep scripture study,” he said. “In some ways, they may lend to more in-depth scripture study than in the broad survey-type courses of the past. We will continue to offer traditional classes focusing on the sequential study of the scriptures. One of the purposes for this new curriculum is to provide greater opportunity and flexibility for students.”

One main reason for the change is to have students study across all of the standard works. According to the website education.lds.org, the hope is that the new classes will help individuals build on their previous experiences and assist them in applying gospel principles in ways that are relevant to their current circumstances.

“As the scriptures become one in a young person’s hand, they are going to understand the scriptures better and they are going to love the individual scriptures even more,” said Brother Webb. “There is power in studying the scriptures together. The scriptures are woven together, and as they grow together there are insights and understanding and strength that come from a study across all the standard works.”

The class Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel will focus on the Savior’s premortal, mortal, and postmortal ministry, drawing from key scriptural sections in all of the books of scripture.

One key component to the Foundations of the Restoration class will be a study of the Doctrine and Covenants, but “there are other important events in Church history and teachings of modern prophets that will also be included to help them understand the breadth of the Restoration,” Brother Webb said.

The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon class will focus on the key sermons and doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon.

“Most of our students know the history; they know the key events and people of the Book of Mormon, so we’ll build on that previous study and knowledge to be able to focus on the sermons and doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon,” Brother Webb said.

The class titled The Eternal Family will be very doctrinally based, focusing on the “plan of salvation, words of living prophets, and the doctrine of Heavenly Father’s family and earthly families,” said Brother Webb. It will be rooted primarily in the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” as well as words of living prophets and the scriptures.

The major emphasis of the courses have been determined and approved by the Church’s Board of Education, but the development of the curriculum—the selection of scripture blocks, experiences, and time allotment—will come from the instructors teaching the course.

“There are some things that have been decided, but we would be unwise not to benefit from the experience of hundreds of really great institute and religion professors,” Brother Webb said. “We want to have this unified direction in what we are doing and at the same time benefit from the expertise of our professors and their experience and thinking and allow for the Holy Ghost to fulfill His role in the process of preparation and teaching these classes.”

Brother Top looks at these changes as an opportunity to increase and improve gospel scholarship. Drawing from a CES devotional titled “A Reservoir of Living Water,” given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles several years ago, Brother Top spoke of different ways individuals can study the scriptures.

“They are all important and valuable, some at different times in our lives,” he said.

The first is sequential; the second is to look at the doctrines and concepts taught in the scriptures. Then the third—perhaps the deepest—level is to see the relationships and connections throughout all of the standard works.

“This was an intriguing concept to us at BYU,” he said. “In religious education we’ve been talking for five years or more on how we can better meet the needs of students. We’ve discussed many ideas and talked about how to incorporate new ideas into classes and ways to strengthen and improve our teaching.”

Brother Top said that with the change in missionary age and increased expectations in the seminary program, educators realized that their students would come to BYU and religion classes with a stronger foundation in the scriptures.

“Based on our discussions and research, we developed and have been offering three experimental classes: Foundations of the Restoration, Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel, and Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon. As part of our ongoing interaction with Seminaries and Institutes, we shared what we learned from teaching those classes and the students’ experience. Those experiments are the basis of three of the four classes now being developed.”

Since the changes will be implemented next year, educators from all of the Church-owned universities and institute programs are in the process of course development for the new curriculum.

For more information about the changes visit education.lds.org.