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50 YEARS OF SCRIPTURE MASTERY: A Behind the Scenes Look at the New Scripture Mastery

18 Sep

This article is a repost from si.lds.org, but since a lot of the people that follow this blog and may be interested in this topic will never see it there I have decided to repost it here. Enjoy!

Scripture Mastery was first introduced to the seminary program in 1963 as “scriptures to be memorized or underlined”. It has evolved over those 50 years, but is still dear to the hearts of seminary teachers, graduates and students all over the world. With the release of the new Book of Mormon scripture masteries this Fall, teachers, parents and students are wondering who made these changes and why.

The idea to update the scripture masteries was first mentioned in 2008 by Chad Webb, Administrator of S&I of Religion, and then taken more seriously in 2010 when the first committee was formed. Brother Webb explained, “We thought scripture mastery could be a support to the study of the basic doctrines instead of a separate program. The goal in changing the scripture mastery was not just changing the references, it was to align the references to the basic doctrines.”

The process started with a team from the curriculum department reevaluating the current scripture masteries 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, along with 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 masteries. They spoke with teachers, administrators and different groups before sending it to the Board of Education for further scrutiny.

Brother Webb described the process, “It was in a lot of hands. After that, it went to the BOE [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?

Aside from scriptures that teach the basic doctrines, Brother Webb and Brother Valletta agreed that 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 that 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 shared with us his thoughts on being a member of the committee. “It’s strengthened my testimony of the counsel process and how inspired our leaders are,” Brother Valletta continued, “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.”

Related Links:

Master Key Scripture Passages [Gospel Teaching and Learning 2.7]

ScriptureMastery.LDS.org (Online Learning Tool)

100 Scripture Mastery Passages Table

Downloads – Cards and Audio File for Each Book of Scripture

Scripture Mastery [Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual]

  • Consistency, Expectations, and Methods
  • Scripture Mastery in the Curriculum
  • Suggested Approaches for Scripture Mastery
  • Activities (Ideas to Help Student Identify, Understand, Apply, and Memorize)
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