New Global Education Initiative Announced at Training Broadcast for Seminary and Institute Teachers

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 15 June 2016

Seminary and institute teachers listen to a special musical arrangement via video at the conference introducing the new Doctrinal Mastery program in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 14, 2016.  Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • The Global Education Initiative will bring many more people into the institutes.
  • The new Doctrinal Mastery initiative will facilitate questions and honest searching.

“The Lord is inviting us to do new things. He is directing us to change the way we work, to do better and be better than ever before.” —Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy

A new global initiative in the Church Educational System will bring education to Church members around the world “in the Lord’s way,” announced Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, during the 2016 Seminaries and Institutes annual training broadcast held in the Conference Center Little Theater on June 14.

“The Lord is moving with great power in the earth to make education available to many more of His children and to strengthen learning and teaching of all kinds in His kingdom,” he said. “We are on a path into the future that will take us into new spiritual and educational terrain. The Lord is inviting us to do new things. He is directing us to change the way we work, to do better and be better than ever before.”

View the entire broadcast.

More than 50,000 instructors and their spouses from 150 countries listened—in the Conference Center or via online streaming—as Church leaders addressed topics facing Church Educational System employees and youth of the Church today. In addition to Elder Clark, Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, and Chad H Webb, administrator for Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, spoke.

In a prerecorded roundtable discussion, Church leaders shared insights on the recently announced Doctrinal Mastery program. The panel included participation from Elder Clark; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President; Brother Webb; Tom Valetta, curriculum developer; Sister Heidi H. Weed, a seminary principal; and Dan Hedlund, a seminary instructor.

New Global Education initiative

During his remarks, Elder Clark announced a new initiative and encouraged seminary and institute instructors to “be better and do better than we have ever been or done.“

With the focus on educating the rising generation more deeply and more powerfully than in the past, Elder Clark spoke of the Lord’s invitation to learn of Him and become partakers of “His divine power.” It is that power that will take the Church Educational System into the future.

“Now in June of 2016, we can see a little further into the future of Church education, and with greater clarity and understanding, than we could last August,” Elder Clark said. “I want to share with you what we have been given of the Lord since that time and what it means for all of us.”

Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy, speaks at the conference for seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, speaks at the conference for seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brother Chad H. Webb, administrator, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, introduces the new Doctrinal Mastery program to seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

With a desire to ”reach out much more broadly across the Church to offer many more members the kinds of educational opportunities“ available through the Church Educational System, Elder Clark spoke of the discussions the executive committee of the Board of Education for the Church has had over the past few months.

Beginning last fall, the group discussed ways to provide opportunities for education to members of the Church, wherever the Church is organized. From these discussions has come a new initiative—the CES Global Education Initiative.

“Eventually, initiative opportunities will include religious education as an essential and foundational part of every program we might offer,” Elder Clark said.

The CES Global Education Initiative will provide educational opportunities to students around the globe through coordinating between different Church programs at an accessible cost. Elder Clark walked instructors through four guiding principles of the new initiative.

First, education. “Education—the struggle for perfection—is a spiritual experience and is essential for building the kingdom of God and establishing Zion,” Elder Clark said. “The inclusion of religious instruction, gathering experiences, and a spiritual focus to online learning will be essential.”

Second, Elder Clark said that the Global Education Initiative will be a collaborative, system-wide effort, involving all Church Educational System institutions.

“We will partner with Self-Reliance Services, the Missionary Department, and other Church departments as appropriate and will build as much as possible on resources, courses, and programs that already exist,” he said.

Third, instruction will be delivered online and in local gathering activities at institutes and meetinghouses.

“Instruction at local educational providers, including local technical schools, colleges, and universities, combined with religious education at a local institute, is an important part of this initiative.”

And fourth, “students will access programs through their local Church units, guided by priesthood leaders, supported by CES and Self-Reliance Services. This pattern ensures that Area Presidents, Area Seventies, stake presidents, and bishops and branch presidents make this initiative part of their ministry. When that happens, the work takes place under the direction of priesthood keys.”

Seminary and institute teachers sing at the conference introducing the new Doctrinal Mastery curriculum in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

The new initiative has important implications for instructors, directors, and administrators in the seminary and institute programs, Elder Clark said.

“Your role in this initiative is essential,” he said. “First and most important, religious education is the foundation of every program we offer. The objectives of the initiative are all gospel-centered, and therefore the teaching of the gospel is critical.”

The Global Education Initiative will bring many more people into the institutes, and seminaries and institutes will have responsibility for the implementation and management of the secondary education programs in the initiative.

“In very important ways, the initiative allows us to focus on the under-served and the struggling,” he said. “The Savior has called upon us to seek out His lost sheep. Through the initiative and through your efforts, we will do this both temporally and spiritually.”

Seminary and institute teachers listen to a panel discussion about the new program in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Create a sense of place

During her remarks, Sister Marriott spoke of the importance of creating a classroom where students feel “a sense of place.”

“How do we create a place where the world drops away and is not with us?” she asked. “We consistently put something better—the Spirit—in its place. We imbue the classroom with truth and honesty—two virtues missing on the worldly stage. Students’ honest searching for truth can be rewarded in your classroom with solid, spiritual understanding that stays with them as they walk back out into the world.”

Looking to the Savior’s example, Sister Marriott spoke of the places the Savior taught during His ministry. Whether it was on a hillside, within a home, near a well, beside a field, from a boat, or in a private upper room, the Savior “chose places not of the world to teach His followers.”

“You, seminary and institute teachers, can do the same—right within the walls of your classroom, be it at Church, in a school building, or in your own homes,” she said. “Yes, they will enter your classroom with a wide variety of attitudes. I ask you, how will they leave?”

Teachers have the opportunity to facilitate a connection to the Spirit and powerful truths that relate to the lives of the students. Although having fun in class can be a draw for youth, class time must not be light-minded, Sister Marriott taught.

Mark Smith listens during the conference for seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

“Only doctrinal truths of Jesus Christ have saving power—and Heavenly Father wants His children saved,” she said. “We work under His power and direction.”

Helping students understand the “daily reality of Christ’s redemption should be uppermost in our minds and the minds of the students,” she said.

“When they feel that He will help them overcome the world’s darkness, hope and spiritual connection pour into their lives,” she said. “Your classroom can be a place of connection. They will learn, with mind and heart, that He will guide them on the way. He will bind up our wounds and He will do it sooner rather than later, if they, the youth, will open up and trust Him.”

Sister Marriott spoke of appropriately opening up to students, sharing personal experiences with “no pretend perfection.”

“This authenticity will be a welcome gift to your students, and they will then have a pattern for applying the true gospel to their own challenges as you do,” she said.

Using the Savior as an example, Sister Marriott spoke of the creation of the earth as a pattern for creating a “divinely designed” classroom environment. Faith, spiritual planning, loving and orderly effort, strict obedience, and an understanding of what Heavenly Father’s children need to grow and prosper are ways a teacher can pattern their classrooms after “the Lord’s way.”

Preston Merchant sings with others in the conference for seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

“It’s your space,” she said. “I like to think that in the best classrooms there really is no empty space. From wall to wall and floor to ceiling it is full of love and acceptance, built on faith in the Savior’s Atonement and teachings.”

The new Doctrinal Mastery initiative will facilitate questions and honest searching.

“Some students’ questions or tone may sound adversarial,” she said. “Love them right where they are and let them know you appreciate their honest searching. When we don’t know the answers we say, ‘I don’t know, but I still want to talk with you.’ And then work with the students, respectfully and prayerfully, to find the best answer available.

“However, all spoon-feeding of gospel answers must stop! Teachers, please toss your spoon in the trash and hand your student a shovel! They need to dig for answers too.”

Doctrinal Mastery

In the most recent “Evening with a General Authority” devotional for seminary and institute personnel, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the need to protect students from worldly influences that would weaken their faith. (See related article.)

“He encouraged us to help them to follow the Lord’s pattern for discovering truth and to help them in their efforts to find answers to their questions,” said Brother Webb. “To respond to this need, he announced that the [Church's] Board of Education recently approved an initiative called Doctrinal Mastery, which he referred to as ‘inspired and timely.’”

Detailing the purpose and elements of Doctrinal Mastery, Brother Webb said the new initiative will help students deepen their understanding of true doctrine and build their faith as they think about and answer questions.

Sister Neill F. Marriott and her husband, Brother David C. Marriott, talk with Shelly Jordan, left, after the conference in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

“The same need we are addressing for our youth through Doctrinal Mastery exists among our young adults,” he said. “However, in institute, teachers are not being asked to implement the Doctrinal Mastery program. This need will be met through the Cornerstone classes as institute teachers incorporate the principles associated with Doctrinal Mastery.”

Brother Webb walked listeners through the basics of the new initiative, starting with the topic “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” which includes three fundamental principles—acting in faith, examining concepts and questions with an eternal perspective, and seeking further understanding through divinely appointed sources.

“After learning patterns for acquiring spiritual knowledge, students will then be given the opportunity to apply those principles as they study the nine doctrinal topics outlined in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document and used in the Come, Follow Me curriculum,” he said.

Within each doctrinal topic, key statements of doctrine have been identified and are supported by scripture references to be used in teaching and reinforcing the statements of doctrine. Reviewing exercises and case studies will help students apply them to their own lives.

“Teach truth. Teach it with kindness, but teach it clearly and with pure testimony. Teach the gospel as it is taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets of God. Teach them that an honest search for truth requires effort. Complex questions cannot be answered with superficial answers.”

Seminary and institute teachers gather to learn about the new Doctrinal Mastery program in the Conference Center Little Theater in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.