New Scripture Mastery Better Aligns with Basic Doctrines

  By Suzanne Young, Seminaries and Institutes staff writer

  • 24 September 2013

Scripture mastery requires students to locate, understand, apply, and memorize 25 scriptures during each of the four years of seminary. The required passages were revised this year. 

Article Highlights

  • Scripture mastery lists were revised to align better with basic gospel doctrines.

“The goal in changing the scripture mastery was not just changing the references; it was to align the references to the basic doctrines.” —Chad Webb, S&I administrator

Seminary students will be working to “master” a revised set of scripture passages this year as part of an effort to align the scripture mastery program with basic Church doctrines.

Scripture mastery requires students to locate, understand, apply, and memorize 25 scriptures during each of the four years of seminary. First introduced to the seminary program in 1963 as “scriptures to be memorized or underlined,” the program has evolved over the past 50 years.

This year students will find seven new passages and one modified passage in the Book of Mormon scripture mastery list. A total of 34 verses have changed from the old scripture mastery lists.

“We thought scripture mastery could be a support to the study of the basic doctrines instead of a separate program,” said Chad Webb, administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, explaining the reason for the change. “The goal in changing the scripture mastery was not just changing the references; it was to align the references to the basic doctrines,” he said.

According to theSeminary website, the basic doctrines of the gospel are:

The idea to update the scripture mastery lists was first mentioned in 2008 and then taken more seriously in 2010 when the first committee was formed, Brother Webb explained. The process started with a team from the Curriculum Department evaluating the current scripture mastery passages and looking for ways to align them more closely with the basic doctrines.

Tom Valletta, division director of Curriculum Services in S&I, was a member of the first committee. “We were focused on connecting the scriptures with basic doctrines,” Brother Valletta recalled. “We looked for scriptures that could change lives, scriptures that could be memorable.” 

The committee worked hard to come up with the best list possible and gave their recommendations to Brother Webb. From there, Brother Webb, Randall Hall (retired associate administrator of S&I), and Brother Valletta continued to meet extensively to perfect the list.

Brother Valletta explained the procedure: “We met together dozens of times over a couple of months prior to finalizing them.” Once they had come up with the first finalized list, Brother Webb met with multiple auxiliaries including the Sunday School presidency, Young Men presidency, Young Women presidency, and the Missionary Department to get their feedback.

After discussing the suggestions from these departments with Brother Hall and Brother Valletta, the three of them continued to meet and perfect the list of scripture mastery passages. They spoke with teachers, administrators, and different groups before sending it to the Church Board of Education for further scrutiny.

“It was in a lot of hands,” said Brother Webb. “After that, it went to the [Board of Education], who approved it but made a few suggestions. Two references were changed based on the BOE recommendations.” The Church Board of Education oversees and directs all matters in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and includes members of the First Presidency, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, Sister Linda K. Burton, and Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson.

So how did the committees decide which scriptures were worthy to make the cut for the new scripture mastery?

Brother Webb and Brother Valletta agreed that aside from scriptures that teach the basic doctrines, they were looking for scriptures “that could say it [the basic doctrines] clearly, simply, memorably.” Brother Valletta said when he was examining scriptures he would ask himself, “Are they memorable? Which ones most effectively and quickly take students to the core doctrine?”

It was a difficult task, and both Brother Webb and Brother Valletta acknowledged the fact that leaving out certain powerful scriptures was inevitable simply because there wasn’t room. “There are a lot of wonderful verses, and you can’t put them all in there,” said Brother Webb.

To those who are unhappy or concerned about some of the scripture mastery choices, Brother Webb expresses his encouragement: “If a teacher or a student has a favorite scripture that is not a scripture mastery, they can certainly memorize it and make it a part of who they are. Any scripture can become their most treasured scripture even if it’s not a scripture mastery.”

As for Brother Valletta, he admitted that not all of his favorites made the cut, but he shared his thoughts on being a member of the committee. “It’s strengthened my testimony of the council process and how inspired our leaders are,” Brother Valletta said. “It was inspiring to be part of that group because you could see how the Lord is taking care of the seminaries and institutes through very well prepared and inspired men.”