New BYU Religious Ed and CES Curriculum

According to this letter posted on William Hamblin’s blog, big changes are afoot.


There is no perfect way to teach the gospel, but the way in which it is taught makes an enormous difference. It looks like this new approach basically jettisons teaching the Old Testament (see update below), except for instances where it is interpreted to teach about Jesus Christ, and replaces it with a course called “The Eternal Family.” Because the courses have not yet been developed, it remains to be seen how this will all play out, so while I reserve judgement to an extent, I have the following concerns:


1. The family might be eternal, but teachings about it are not. Compare this article about the family published in the Ensign with this article. You’ll see that they are virtually opposite in content while identical in form. (More analysis of them here.) That’s only a forty-year difference in correlated church teachings, but they present inverse views of family structure. My concern with a BYU/CES class called “The Eternal Family” is that it will permanently bake in current views of family–views that are, in some cases, more reflective of the culture than of eternal principles.


2. The scriptures are not univocal or completely consistent. They record different opinions, concerns, viewpoints, and even different theologies. The theology of Job pushes back against Deuteronomy. Jonah pushes against Joshua. Luke and Matthew push against Mark. To teach them topically ignores this, which means that it ignores parts of the scriptures. If, for example, we just mine the Book of Mormon for what it has to say about the resurrection, we might miss the fact that one of the things that it says is that knowledge of the resurrection has not been universal or complete (see Alma 40). Other topics developed and changed throughout history, and it would be a shame to miss that development, partially because it would train us not to expect that development in our own day and thus leave us less prepared to cope with, for example, changed church teachings about the role of persons of African descent.


In an example near and dear to my heart, we have not one canonized account of the life of Jesus Christ, but four, and they are very, very different. To mash them up is horrible–I teach this by asking students to imagine their four favorite foods, and then to imagine them blended together. Still appetizing? I don’t think so! It is no exaggeration to say that when we slice and dice and blend the scriptures, we lose the scriptures. The distinct voices in which they speak to us are gone, replaced by a homogenized voice that can easily tell us more about the viewpoint of those who did the homogenizing than the scripture itself.


3. One real challenge facing the church right now is that easy access to information leaves young (and, sometimes, not so young) LDS in a faith crisis when they learn, for example, that the rest of the world, including most of the Bible-believing world, believes that most of Isaiah was written after Lehi left for the New World. These issues require careful thought and consideration and, at the very least, LDS need to be aware of them from a friendly source before encountering them from a hostile source. It seems to me that this new curriculum, by moving away from the study of whole texts and towards the study of topics, will leave students even less prepared for encountering these sticky issues. So at this point, this isn’t a silly pedantic argument among the bible dorks, but an issue with implications for keeping people within the fold.


4. The Old Testament is a rich treasure house of spiritual wisdom–in many cases having absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ in any direct sense. It pretty much breaks my heart that someone could go through four years of BYU or CES without encountering this material. There is an important talk from President Packer where he explores how the demands of life and leadership are such that, if a church leader doesn’t learn the doctrine before he is 30ish, he won’t ever learn it. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that we just pretty much decanonized the Old Testament for all practical purposes. This loss makes me want to weep.


Update: I didn’t realize that OT is not currently required, so I should have phrased the above differently: I still have major concerns regarding the use of the OT solely as a sourcebook for prophecies about Jesus (and thus my concern about, in effect, decanonizing it), but apparently I should have been weeping long before today! In comparing the old requirements with the new ones (per the letter linked above), it looks like only one Book of Mormon class will be required, so that the new “Eternal Family” class replaces the second Book of Mormon class. 


5. It just isn’t possible to really understand the scriptures without understanding their background and context. Each individual book has a different historical setting, author, audience, cultural setting, etc. You can’t understand any particular verse without understanding this background. So to survey isolated verses without a firm grounding in the background means you are only looking at the tip of the iceberg–which means you have no idea of the depth of what you are looking at, no sense of its true dimensions.


6. Scripture study is a skill. It requires certain tools. If these are not taught at BYU/CES, where will they be taught?


7. We’re currently dealing with the fall-out from a generation raised on sanitized history and the impact of their (usually Internet-related) encounters with “warts and all” history. The church has wisely realized that this collision does no one any good and that the sense of betrayal and deception that it creates can do more damage than whatever the underlying issue was. I suspect that someone who passes “The Eternal Family” and then reads Genesis on her own will have precisely the same feelings of betrayal and deception (see: Genesis 38). Have we not learned our lesson?


It sounds like, from that letter, that there was significant opposition to this move by some of the professors in the BYU-Provo Religious Education department (“the concerns and important issues that had been articulated by the Religious Education faculty at BYU-Provo” and “the opposition by many of the Rel Ed faculty at BYU”). It also sounds like these concerns, from those who know the field best, were shut down in the name of “supporting the brethren.” It gives me comfort to know that some in Religious Ed do not support this move and will hopefully continue to provide their students with the context and background necessary for them to really understand the scriptures. And perhaps they can work in contextualized readings into the new courses. And it looks like the “institutional options” part of the letter indicates that teaching contextual courses will still be possible in some circumstances, and that they will do their best to make the courses as contextual as possible under the circumstances. Nonetheless, this is a great loss to the church and I mourn it.

84 comments for “New BYU Religious Ed and CES Curriculum

  1. A whole class on the Family? Seriously?

    Will this include a section on how to woo your brother’s widow? How to seduce your wife’s handmaiden? How to marry a married woman?

  2. How very disappointing. Perhaps this is an overreaction on my part, but this move makes me much less enthusiastic about sending my kids to BYU.

  3. Perhaps the title could be amended to “The Changing Eternal Family.” That would make it easier to update the curriculum as family structure continues to broaden as we go through the 21st century.

    A topical focus may seem like a step backwards. But: (1) By unstandardizing the scriptural backbone of the courses, it may allow some faculty members to actually build more scriptural rigor into their particular courses. (2) If the entire BYU Ancient Scripture dept voted against it, it must be a good thing.

  4. Yeah, my eyebrows were going up, up, up, as I read through the course descriptions, and then I saw that they’ve essentially replaced the Old Testament with a class worshipping the family unit. My goodness. I wonder if they’ll include a section on historical and eternal polygamy?

  5. Doesn’t this point to differing opinions amongst the powers that be? Those in charge of Rel Ed & CES are opting for application-focused, content-light, top-down teaching rather than a more historically accurate, thoughtful, context-based discussion. Those writing the essays are more in the latter camp. So that leaves me wondering if CES opposes the scholarly, transparent approach of the church’s new essays. And if so, won’t there be an issue with the curriculum not matching up to the essays?

  6. I’m really hoping that these four emphases don’t become the new SS curriculum: Christ and the Everlasting Covenant, Teaching and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon, Eternal Family & Modern Prophets, and Foundations of the Restoration

  7. Well, Old Testament was never required, as Book of Mormon and New Testament were. And all these classes will still be available (and some still required for the ANES majors.) But I anticipate the numbers of those classes being taught will decrease significantly, since 10,000 incoming freshmen will sign up for “The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon,” instead of “Book of Mormon”.

    Excellent post, Julie, right on. BYU should be modeling engagement with the scriptures and this is a move away from that.

  8. Posting what I did on FB (so unoriginal): Too much to answer here at once. Don’t have time or energy but to say a quick word or two. Please ignore the idea that the scripture courses are going away. They aren’t. They will still be among the electives (at some institutions a scripture course of a student’s choice will be part of the required 14 credits or, in some cases, substitutes for the new required courses.). Part of the idea with some of the new curriculum courses is to actually slow down, give greater time to certain chapters (rather than trying to cover everything), give students ability to actually read more carefully, while not forgetting context, etc. The Foundations of the Restoration course is designed cover major events (first vision, book of Mormon translation, establishing the Church) revelations, (heavily weighted with sections from Doctrine and Covenants) and the like. All this with the idea of going more deeply into foundational events and revelations, addressing issues, helping students be more source critical. (This is too brief an explanation, but all I have time for. I worry about everyone turning so negative at the beginning, imagining the worse, and, therefore poisoning everything without even knowing what it is

  9. As you say, Julie, Dean Top’s letter definitely leaves the impression that a substantial number of the faculty members in Religious Education were opposed to this change. This is perhaps the most troubling thing about all of this to me. I have been in higher ed a long time, as both a faculty member and an administrator. I have never seen a curricular change mandated by middle management, senior administration, or the Board of Trustees end up as anything other than a disaster. I can think of no circumstance in which any university official would, in curricular matters, do well to overrule the collective wisdom of the very people hired to be the experts in a particular subject matter. This is largely the point of hiring people to be experts in a subject matter.

  10. So is there any inclination that this same type of teaching is what is going to be the replacement in Gospel Doctrine Sunday School Classes?

  11. What saddens me is the first paragraph on the second page (and I’m not talking about the misuse of ‘comprise’ or lack of Oxford comma):

    “One of the things that makes BYU a unique university in all the world is a Board of Trustees comprised of prophets, seers, revelators and inspired leaders of the Church. We need to trust that inspiration and honor their sacred responsibility”.

    Half the reason many of us feel like we’re in religious pickle is because the Prophetic Directive has been invoked in areas that it’ll later be revoked from.

  12. “This is largely the point of hiring people to be experts in a subject matter.”

    A BYU faculty told me years ago, “we don’t teach the scriptures. We teach the Gospel.” To the extent that that is true (or at least intended to be the case by The Powers That Be), scriptural experts aren’t the ones making the call, but the Gospel experts, i.e. the prophets and Apostles in Salt Lake City.

    If you accept that kind of reasoning about Religious Education, then it makes perfect sense, I suppose.

  13. Please temper your responses. You may inadvertently be further breaking hearts already pierced with deep wounds.

  14. I’m with Keith here (#10). Book of Mormon has been the only required scripture course, and at a breakneck speed. They won’t be doing away with scripture study, but enhancing it. These new courses will allow depth — not the shallowness worried about in most comments above — without the requirement to cover it all. I just don’t think we all got a lot out of that 50 minute class on the entire book of Deuteronomy — or 35 for those of you worried we will lose it from Sunday School. And my understanding is that scripture classes are not going away, but these are the new “required for graduation” classes (BofM was the only required before, except in Rexburg where they also have a required family course). Did the survey courses ever provide the depth that some here think we are losing?

    I also agree with Keith’s optimism that this is part of the response to the openness to discuss of challenging issues in history and doctrine. There has been a big push recently from CES to do so, and I’d be really surprised to see that go backward rather than forward. (They are definitely not opposed to the new essays …)

    Let’s don’t panic yet. Or criticize what we haven’t seen. The outlines aren’t even written yet. Change is always hard, but often brings new opportunity as well. This just might breathe new life to religion classes and the institute program Churchwide.

  15. I sincerely hope that Trevor and Keith are correct, and if some of the good folks in Rel Ed have a strong hand in designing the new courses, this might well be an improvement in some ways. But I am still deeply worried.

    I see part of the genius of Mormonism as stemming from its balance of prophets, scripture, and personal revelation, which allows three fallible ways of knowing to augment and strengthen each other. It looks to me like this move may seriously undercut the role of scripture (as scripture, speaking in its own voice, not as prooftexts carefully curated by intermediaries) to do its job in balancing out the other two legs of the stool. That makes me nervous. Mormons have nothing good to say about those people in past ages who kept the scriptures away from the masses; let’s not go down that same road today.

  16. Agree completely, Julie. I’m particularly worried about the indoctrination that may be the focus of a yearlong course on the family. Will students feel comfortable criticizing some of the outdated (to put it charitably) statements of past prophets and apostles about the family?

  17. There’s always the temptation to proof text. (That’s also true, by the way, in a sequential study of the scriptures.) But one can study topically, thematically, looking for types and patterns, while still putting chapters and passages in context without reading sequentially (but remembering the sequence). So one could study resurrection, for instance, as found in the Book of Mormon, teasing out who says what and the context in which it’s said–which letter, which sermon,spoken to which people, when and where. That’s still possible to do, while letting scripture work as scripture, without proof texting. Granted that one could potentially create unity of thought that may ignore differences (and that’s the temptation with a thematic study) but one could also, having read the various sermons and letters, end up with a more nuanced view–Nephi says this, Jacob this, Alma this, in their various contexts, bringing out similarities but also differences. There is a gospel taught In the scriptures, which is more a witness and way of living than philosophical principles or theology, and it will worthwhile to look for that gospel, noting who and where and how it’s been taught.

  18. Keith and Trevor, I think what many of us (maybe I’ll just speak for myself) are concerned about is job and hiring concerns. This shift may appear to move away from scripture focused to topic focused which leaves those who academically studied the scriptural text and hope to gain employment teaching those scriptures concerned about the number of employment posts. You have stressed that the old classes will still be electives but electives don’t calm the concerns because electives don’t have enough class attendance to effect hiring. Some may feel that the balance is shifting from what was once 50/50 academics vs. CES to 25/75 in favor of CES thus decreasing the number of posts for PhDs in ancient scripture. Perhaps these concerns are unfounded but at the outset that is a concern. The letter does say that Ancient Scrupture will teach the Book of Mormon class but we know that that class can be taught by either the ancient Scripture side or the Church History side.
    Another concern: we’ve always heard rumors about BYU’s accreditation status due to their religion courses. Are these classes moving towards or away from better accreditation? My suspicion is that they would be moving away from accreditation concerns. But surely that was considered before making the decision.

  19. My previous post unfairly grouped Church History professors with the broader group of CES teachers. My intent was to say that it may feel like the pendulum is swinging in favor of CES over academics in general whether ancient scripture or church history.

  20. Alan, in the Proposal the “Institutional options” it says Book of Mormon 121-122 can substitute for the Book of Mormon Course, The Gospels (New Testament 211) for Jesus and the Eternal Gospel. Plus a scripture course (OT, NT, Pearl of Great Price, D&C, etc.) is likely to be a required elective. That is, of the 3 elective courses, one must be a scripture course. There will be just as much need for scholars with PhD’s in relevant fields such as ancient scripture, church history, etc. as there is now. The need will be just as great, if not more so–and that includes the new courses, where, among other things, the teacher can help provide perspective, scholarship, context, etc.

  21. I actually think that the identity of the professor is far more important than the structure of the curriculum. I’d prefer survey courses but topical courses focused on intensive exegesis of short passages could be far better than anything I had a BYU. I rather doubt the sky is falling.

  22. The Eternal Family = homophobia formalized in the curriculum. They’re not taking marriage equality lying down.

  23. No, the sky is not falling. It has been on the ground for quite some time–BYU grads with their hours and hours of RelEd remain ignorant compared to the students who go through my one semester course. I thought that there was little that could be done to further stultify genuine study of scripture than to use the KJV. But, I think this will do the trick.

  24. “My concern with a BYU/CES class called “The Eternal Family” is that it will permanently bake in current views of family–views that are, in some cases, more reflective of the culture than of eternal principles”

    Like what? If anything, Valerie Hudson’s article appears to be more enlightened than the 1973 article.

  25. Will the ‘Eternal Family’ course include any information about our Mother in Heaven, or will be there just be a segment titled ‘We Don’t Know’ followed by blank pages? Because up to this point, our track record is pretty sparse.

  26. It doesn’t sound like that huge of a change to me. I took exactly one BYU religion course that taught me how to actually study the scriptures. It was a 1-credit intensive Late Summer Honors course with Jim Faulconer my freshman year. I still have the Keys to Scripture Study booklet he gave us, and it has more concrete ideas for effectively studying the Scriptures than the rest of what I’ve learned at Church and BYU put together.

    The rest of the my religion classes were just rehashed Seminary. Although I did manage to take Islam and the Gospel, Judaism and the Gospel, and World Religions, which were decent surveys of other religious traditions, so my religious education at BYU wasn’t a total waste.

  27. The letter suggests the parties consulted about the new curriculum were the faculty, administrators, and the Board (i.e., senior LDS leaders). I suspect students and women were left out of any consultation. I get a similar impression reading the new essays on polygamy, which seem more or less tone deaf as to the concerns of younger LDS and women. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the changes will be negative or ineffective, but does support the bubble theory they keep denying. In terms of institutional process, it sure seems like they establish and maintain a bubble.

  28. A new FPR post links to and comments on this post, noting that the LDS priesthood and RS manuals are the epitome of decontextualization.

    So while the BYU religion faculty and many commentators here lament the growing unconcern with decontextualizing scripture, it seems that LDS leaders are embracing it. This is a problem. The FPR post also notes that decontextualization increases the scope of action of current leaders, so it is entirely natural that they pursue that approach. This, too, is part of the problem. [I’m not arguing against scriptural contextualization, just the idea that the existing religion curriculum achieved it.]

  29. I took a family class from Matthew Richardson at BYU–and it was one of the better religion courses I took there. Emphasis was on how to have a strong marriage and family life. It was more of a practical skills class than a religion class. If the new class is anything like the one Richardson taught, I have absolutely no concerns about it.

    I also wonder if part of the reason they’re changing course here is due to some of the stuff that’s been taught by certain old school religion professors in recent years. I have a great deal of respect for the majority of the religion professors I knew at BYU, but there are some exceptions. Ten years ago some OT professors were spending days on anti-science matters, and a few were certainly teaching false doctrines in their classes (Randy Bott, for example). The old OT student manual didn’t help things much, either–it took a very literal approach to the entirety of the OT. I hope this new approach leaves that kind of stuff behind.

  30. By the amount of complaining here, I must have been super lucky in my choice of BYU religion professors and classes. While my freshman BOM classes were more devotional than academic, I took both halves of the NT from former Classics professor Eric Huntsman and both halves of the OT from Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein. For D&C, I took both halves from historian Steven Harper who’s also an editor of the JSPP. Academics all around and I really enjoyed my BYU religion study experience.

    I think all of this is an overreaction to a letter that we have received out of context. But that’s what the internet’s all about right?

  31. JaredVDH, I’ve seen a lot of “my Religion classes were terrible, so what difference does it make?” I think your comment shows that it makes a difference. A great Eternal Marriage class is never going to replace the skills and knowledge acquired through a great New Testament class. Under the former system where *everyone* had to take at least one NT class, at least some were getting great classes. Now, a greatly reduced number will do so, simply because far fewer students will be taking NT and so far fewer sections will be offered.
    (I’m assuming that, say 10% of NT classes were awesome. If that’s 10 awesome classes per semester, that’s 300 students getting a great exposure. But reduce the # of NT classes, assuming the same 10% awesomeness ratio, and it’s 30 per semester.)

  32. #12 post by Edwin

    re: Sunday School curriculum

    From what I’ve read recently, teaching in SS, Relief Society, and Melchizedek Priesthood will be changed beginning in 2015 (with a larger overhaul in 2016) to more fully mirror the Come Follow Me Youth Curriculum, and its approach.

  33. Ben S., your math doesn’t really work. If academic NT courses are what you’re calling “awesome”, wouldn’t most of the faculty teaching the “non-awesome” NT courses migrate to the new course on Christ in all of scripture?

    If all the doom and gloom actually comes to pass, wouldn’t the percentage of “awesome” NT courses actually increase, since the only ones teaching it would be the ones who wanted to teach it in the first place?

  34. Even if all the New Testament classes rise in quality, the number of them being taught is going to be greatly reduced. I should have left the math out of it, as I suppose it’s not the % that matters but the number of students being reached.

  35. After reading your post, I reflected on how alarming it is to me that so few of the Church members with whom I have spoken have shown any interest, let alone concern, for what is being taught in and out of the Church Educational System and in “Church schools”, let alone how the material is being taught. Members naively assume that because God is perfect, so is His Church. And without consistently issued reminders that the exact contrary is true, there is room for the erroneous belief that everything the Church does, says, creates, destroys, disseminates, indoctrinates, changes, redacts, and rearranges is true; from the methods to the means to the ends. The Church is no more perfect than any of its members and in my branch, there is no understanding of this, to say nothing of the idea that not everything spoken by a General Authority is the mind and will of the Lord at all times and in all things and in all places wheresoever and upon whatsoever they might speak.

    So when curriculum changes are *gasp* endorsed by a board which is made up, in part, by Apostles, it seems to cross the minds of few that the changes, in general and specific, may not be inspired, may not be needed, may not be necessary, might not be what the Church actually needs. I’m not saying that either way is the case, but a group of fallible beings, even inspired ones, cannot hope to make more perfect decisions today than the inspired group who created and endorsed the Kirtland Safety Society during the early days of our Church.

    As for the actual content of the curriculum. I’m all for making sure that basic doctrines come first. But too little has, officially and otherwise, been said about what comes next. Too few know that the purpose of foundational doctrines is not to lay in the ground forever like the cornerstone of the temple at Far West, but that they are to be built upon. Other doctrines must follow. Which doctrines? That is up to each individual to discover and the Lord. Lorenzo Snow learned a truth before the Prophet Joseph Smith publicly revealed it. Is that still possible? If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then it must be. If the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone (according to John Taylor, I believe), what must go between? What are the “in-between” doctrines? Those are the most neglected.
    In perpetually returning to beginnings, we forget the middle and end. For those of us who are closer to understanding the latter two, the former is already a given, already accepted, and the constant repetition of it without reference to or inclusion of following the courses they chart is an injustice to doctrine, an injustice to knowledge, and an injustice to the spirit and intelligence of all God’s children.

    The scriptures, while containing the fullness of the gospel, does not contain every doctrine of the gospel. This is clear to those who have read them. It contains the doctrines necessary for our salvation, but has anything in the history of mankind been built to do only what necessary? Has philosophy stopped because everything necessary for a foundational understanding of ideas has been lain? No. As long as thoughts exist, progression therein must exist also. Some stay within the ever-changing official teachings of the Church. Some venture outside for various purposes. I personally think that until members of the Church to treat their very lives like the scriptures they are taught to revere; until they realize that their day-to-day experiences can bring as much revelation and light to them as did Nephi’s to him, Noah’s to him, Joseph Smith to him, and I daresay, in a measure, as Jesus’ did to Him.

    When the teachings of the scriptures are viewed as gateways to gospel knowledge, they are as wings that can take us to glorious heights and as trumpets that can sound to immeasurable depths. But when they are mined, along with the words of prophets in the latter-days, for only those truths which are correlatable in nature, they become shackles. They not only shackle us, but they shackle the truths we can learn when they are viewed in this manner.

    The Church is filled with so many changes in doctrine that one scarcely knows where to begin. If I become a CES teacher, as I hope to be, I want my students to know that the very manuals I teach from, along with the scriptures they are expected to study, are no more the final word in truth than I myself am. They must, absolutely must, seek and search for themselves if they are ever to realize the treasures of knowledge, both hidden and in plain sight, which wait for them in the scriptures and in their expanded gospel studies.

    It is interesting to note that some GA’s talk of “studying the gospel” whilst others speak of “studying the scriptures”. For myself, I have studied the gospel many more times while not engaged in studying the scriptures. The scriptures form the foundation but, as I said earlier, there are many materials designed to be laid upon them.

    And ultimately, is the foundation more important than the rest? Is it really? I think not. A foundation is not a building. We should absolutely build upon the rock of the gospel, but when “the gospel” is limited to be what it so often is taught in the Church as being, it is hard to find where rock ends and sand begins. Having the Spirit is so crucial to know truth from error and for those who are trained to see both, the world is a marvelous thing. I am no better than anyone else, but I know that when we neglect to care about what our youth are being taught, we will find that they not only understand the gospel differently, but only understand fractional pieces of the gospel in summation.

    I loved your post. All of it. Context in scriptural studies cannot be neglected. We must teach who these people actually were, how they actually lived, what they actually thought. And we must admit that scriptural texts do not provide all details we wish they would when it comes to understanding both the gospel and the lives of those who have striven to live it as they understand it. When we teach our children that Nephi’s words are more inspired because they are contained in the scriptures than our words, when we teach them that only the teachings of GA’s that are recent, current, and included in official publications are correct, we create a doctrinal Frankenstein whose ramblings, roamings, and damages may never be calculable.

    Of course the Lord will correct all things in due course. He will straighten out Prophets, Apostles, 70’s, Stake Presidents and Bishops alike. But in the mean time, we do a disservice to teach that the interpretations and teachings now are the interpretations and teachings prevalent in every dispensation of the gospel and that any other interpretation of the gospel is erroneous, uninspired, heretic, pick your label. If we are to teach the true, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we cannot set up solely ourselves, the Church, the Prophets, or the scriptures as the light to which we must adjust our spiritual eyes. We must tune all these in accord with the living Spirit of God, which gives utterance whenever people seek after truth, and we must cut out those parts which are not true. If it is not appropriate to do it officially, than we must do it otherwise, for to favor falsehoods above truth is always in error.

    But we must always be humble also. It is a strange balance we who teach and study the gospel must strike. We must be willing to accept but not overstep. We must see beyond ourselves but not always go to the edge of our vision. We must know when to step forward and backward. We must know what to include and when to include it. But just as it is a disservice to lie to a child who asks where babies come from, so it is a disservice to lie to an investigator or member who asks if Joseph Smith married women who were already married. We must not apologize for truth but seek to understand it. We must know when to answer questions and when to direct the askers to the Source for answers. We must read the addresses in General Conference not just for inspiration, but also to know and understand current trends in gospel understanding. And we must acknowledge our own assumptions and lay them out for all to see so we are not accused of being hypocrites. For Jesus called people several people names, and “hypocrites” was one of His favorites.

  36. This curriculum looks to me like a clear sign that the church leadership views BYU religion classes as primarily devotional, not academic, because they appear to be making them even more devotional than they already were. They seem to be concerned with millenials leaving the church at high rates, and believe that devotional classes will do more to address that than theological, academic, or critical studies classes would. I can’t really blame them.

  37. While I’m not thrilled at this news, the church hasn’t (yet) gone completely thematic in its approach to the scriptures. I was in one of the pilot stakes for the new Sunday School curriculum. Assuming they don’t change much, the lessons are very much like the current lessons–not great, but not thematic. The change was not in content but in a stronger emphasis on in-class discussion and invitations extended by the teacher.

    That said, I feel like getting good scripture study tools out of BYU religion courses was already hit-and-miss. The best (contextualized) course I ever took was from Wilford Griggs. If Griggs were still teaching, I’m sure he could pass along all the right tools, even in a thematic course on the gospels. There are lots of other faculty who weren’t teaching scripture study tools before this. So is the frustration that students aren’t going to get the tools they need, or do they need lots of time with a particular text to get well-contextualized content (and maybe some text-specific tools)?

  38. Much ado about nothing. If memory serves, it actually leaves the same number of electives after these required “cornerstone” courses. BYU religion courses have always been more devotional in nature, with many sections taught by athletic coaches and professors outside the academic disciplines.

  39. My concern with this is illustrated by a conversation I recently had with a new BYU graduate who had just moved into our ward. I was teaching a University course on Family Diversity and shared that our class had had a family of two dads (married to each other) and two of their five children do a presentation on ‘Gay Marriage’. The new ward member commented on how ‘the research’ shows what a negative impact it is for children to be raised by same-gender parents. I tried to gently explain that the research showing those results was done by BYU faculty. The over-whelming outcome of all other research is that there is minimal, if any, negative impact. BYU faculty may teach concepts on the family through a unique lens. Any instructor needs to be cognizant of their own bias and avoid letting it influence their teaching. The problem is if that bias is encouraged.

  40. Jo7nes,

    How many teachers of Family Diversity courses do not support gay marriage? Have you met any? Is each careful to avoid letting their own bias influence their teaching and research? What is the purpose of a family diversity course in the framework of the university curriculum? Is there a hidden curriculum? Will religious views on family formation and structure be allowed? How will religion be treated in this course or will religious beliefs be treated as irrelevant to the discussion?

    The Eternal Family and Modern Prophets course will not be a family science or sociology course. It will be a devotional/doctrinal course. BYU faculty will teach this course through a Latter-day Saint lense. Religious viewpoints are expected and encouraged.

  41. Whose context matters? These new courses seem more like rap music where you sample and expand on the tradition.

    Those opposed to it seem not just to like ancient history but to be ancient history.

  42. “Have we not learned our lesson?”

    It appears CES has not. I recall in the formative days of the JS Papers there was a strong effort by the dept of religious education at byu to take over the project. Just imagine where that would have gone.

  43. This reminds me of Thomas Jefferson who was so troubled by certain portions of the Four Gospels (primarily the miraculous stuff) that he deleted them—literally, with a razor blade and scissors. By cutting and pasting what remained, he was able to create a pleasing, unified scriptural account of the Savior’s life. If he pretended that the inconsistencies and implausibilities in the New Testament really weren’t there after all, then all of the pieces would fit together nicely and Christ would appear just the way Jefferson thought He should.

    BYU seems to be saying: “If we simply ignore the sources of our cognitive dissonance—like higher criticism, anachronisms, contrary archaeological evidence, doctrinal inconsistencies, and contextualized study—and simply focus on the feel-good, homiletic stuff, then everything will be okay.” I suppose the next logical step would be to canonize the General Handbook of Instructions. Or has that been done already?

  44. FarSide,

    I vaguely get the sense that you find this process absurd or undesirable, but from your words, I’m not sure if that is true or why you feel that way, if it is true.

    It would seem to me that the General Handbook means something to us.

    Isn’t a continuous cut and paste progress?

  45. What happens to students who have spent even more time being taught that The Family is not just culturally, but doctrinally the center of Mormonism when they find themselves still single 5 or 10 years after graduation? My sense is that they will have even less incentive to stay than they currently do, and we’re not doing all that well holding onto single members now.

  46. Kristine (54) My two daughters are in that boat. All the friends are living their eternally happily ever after and my girls – well – you know, maybe the next life. The other group of disappointee’s on eternal family are the divorced. We were just getting past that struggle – will we u-turn and break those hearts anew?

    I like the word “disappointee’s” I made up. Very Shakespearean of me. :)

  47. That is a fun, if sad, word Carrie.

    People get frustrated with prophets and families as defined, but the Guide to the Scriptures is quite inclusive in it’s definition of both. Perhaps a citation in GC would help?

    “As used in the scriptures, a family consists of a husband and wife, children, and sometimes other relatives living in the same house or under one family head. A family can also be a single parent with children, a husband and wife without children, or even a single person living alone.”

    “A prophecy consists of divinely inspired words or writings, which a person receives through revelation from the Holy Ghost. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). A prophecy may pertain to the past, present, or future. When a person prophesies, he speaks or writes that which God wants him to know, for his own good or the good of others. Individuals may receive prophecy or revelation for their own lives.”

  48. Here is how I see it:
    1. I believe that our church leadership want to avoid the problem of intellectualizing the scriptures. They don’t want the main object of our gospel discussions to focus on the meaning of a particular word in Greek or Hebrew. They wish to make sure that we don’t miss the main point of the scriptures. This is a highly laudable goal. However they appear to believe that we must strip scripture of all context in order to do this. This turns the scriptures into a quote-book. Stripping a scripture of it’s context removes much of the meaning, and increases the chance of “wresting” the scriptures. Consider this quote about wresting the scriptures from Marion G Romney. The context of this quote (!) is a 1979 Religious Symposium at BYU. President Romney was talking about Jesus’ interactions with those in his community who didn’t understand His message:

    “With humiliating directness He admonished [them to] … ‘Search the scriptures, … for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me’ (John 5:39). Had they understood the scriptures they would have accepted the prophecies of Moses and the prophets concerning the promised Messiah and would have recognized in Jesus their fulfillment.
    “This incident from the life and teachings of Jesus graphically distinguishes between searching and wresting the scriptures and reveals the awful consequences of wresting them. Searching them for the purpose of discovering what they teach as enjoined by Jesus is a far cry from hunting through them for the purpose of finding passages which can be pressed into service to support a predetermined conclusion. “Behold,” said Alma, “the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction” (Alma 13:20).”

    My point here is one that has already been made in the comments stream here: that treating the scriptures like a quote-book can seriously undermine the true intent of the scriptures, fails to encourage careful study of scriptures, and can be prone to “wresting.”

    2. My second point is closely related to the first point, and that is our church leadership strive to ensure that our clergy are not a special class. We don’t encourage, or in some ways even want, a “clergy” that sees the scripture in a fundamentally different way that the “parishioners” I believe that in some religious traditions that the clergy understands and believes in the Bible in a very different way that the believers that they lead. There is a “classism” of sorts that goes on here, and the clergy may actually have less faith than their own followers. Again, the goal is to stay away from make our scripture study one of scholarly study and more one of dedicated devotion. This is a good goal, but I don’t think that the way to achieve that goal is to purposefully dumb-down the scriptures, or to hide unseemly problems such as inconsistencies and uncertainties from our membership. Scripture study, like anything else, is related to effort. Here is the smallest example: In Exodus 9:12, in reference to the contest between Moses and Egypt, it says that “the LORD hardened the heart of pharaoh…” This is not a mis-translation. It appears to be in the earliest versions of Exodus. We can either ignore this scripture, call it a mis-translation, or we can discuss and consider what the writer of Exodus was trying to convey.

    3. My third point is simply that we have too much scripture! We can’t master it, and certainly can’t read all of it regularly. Can’t we slow down more? Think of how edifying our Gospel Doctrine classes could be if we spent two months on Job and 6 months or more on Isaiah. Same for 2nd Nephi or Mormon. It could be wonderful: a careful detailed analysis of what is being said will build faith and testimonies, even as problems are exposed and discussed. We pride ourselves as being people of the Book, and yet we skim the surface of the scriptures like a rock skipping across the lake. The rock may not even get entirely wet. We need to immerse ourselves in scripture and we do this by slow detailed study.

  49. I once took an upper-division course on the history of Christianity at Utah State, taught by dept. head prof. Norm Jones. He related that in a conference of professors of Christian history, he was asked what it’s like teaching all those Mormon kids. His reply was that (and I paraphrase, because this was 14 years ago) “well, unlike everywhere else, they’ve read the source materials.” I hope that with this change in the BYU/CES curriculum, that remains the case.

  50. Full disclosure: I teach literature at BYU.

    I don’t see this as a drastic change. I see it as the next logical step in a decades-long shift from anything resembling religious studies within academia to a more devotional approach to studying scripture. Frankly, I learned more about studying the scriptures in my literature courses than I ever did in my religion classes at BYU. Sure, BofM, NT, D&C reinforced what I (mostly) already believed, but it was my literature degree that taught me about exegesis and placing a given text in its socio-historical and cultural context. Having said that, I have a friend who is a new faculty hire in RelEd and he intimated this summer that one purpose of the Foundations in the Restoration course is to help inoculate the younger generation. He already teaches a “Top 10 Tough Issues” in his D&C courses.

    But the concerns are legitimate. Where will LDS kids learn to really study the scriptures as text and not just as reinforcement of Mormon doctrine?

    Two steps forward and one step back, I think.

  51. I was thinking about all these posts on the new curriculum and wondering if it wouldn’t be stultifying to spend an entire semester on the Proclamation to the Family, particularly for the former Young Women who already spent a significant portion of the Personal Progress program learning the ins and outs of the document.

    Instead of a semester on the topic, couldn’t a class be expanded to something like “The Gospel in Modern Society” or “Prophetic Guidance in Our Time”? (Someone else will have to brainstorm a better name.)

    That would leave plenty of time, a week, perhaps even a month, on the Proclamation on the Family. The class would also have time to explore:

    * member-missionary work in the age of social media

    * planning a lifetime of temple service and family history

    * involvement in the community (volunteer work, outreach efforts, political involvement, addiction recovery programs, emergency preparedness)

    * the Church’s anti-poverty and social programs (PEF, Pathway, clean water and newborn and vaccine campaigns)

    * etc.

  52. I am teaching early seminary this year and am finding the section by section format tedious and difficult. This is because there is little context or narrative in the text. Yes, the manual has some information and yes, I try to bring as much additional narrative as I can. My thought is that the Doctrine and Covenants should be taught with rich video dramatization and readings from source documents and such, punctuated by the revelations.

    The 30-50 year old age bracket seems to be struggling with the correlated history we were taught growing up compared to the abundant information available on the internet. Seminary is giving teachers room to correct this for the rising generation through the Gospel Topic essays.

    I hope they leave the Old Testament as the topic of study for next year. It provides many opportunities to introduce concepts that might be critical to the faith of future generations of church members (e.g. utter fallibility of prophets, non existence of some scriptural characters, scientific conflict with scripture, etc).

  53. Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I’ve always been taught, in my almost 60 years in the Church to get the best out of each, to listen to the Holy Spirit give to me new understanding each time I read or study them. They don’t always agree, or present in the same fashion. There is alot of “homogenizing” that has to take place. And there is alot of room for different “understandings”.

    The same is true of our General Authorities. One will use an example pointing to negative consequences, while another will see a positive lesson coming from a similar situation. One will elevate a layman as an instructor and then debase an intellectual one in the same talk. Yet, because of both, he received some of the sweetest revelations of his life. There is still alot of homogenizing to do after every general conference!

    So, I think my bottom line is that we all need to seek our own level of understanding, check it with the Lord, and then move on to the next topic of study. Look for every situation to learn, to feel of the Spirit of the Lord, to share our blessings with others and to bow our heads humbly. Then when the sword of justice swings overhead, it might miss us.

  54. Dear Julie, I grew up in the era when the Patriarchal oder in the home was taught as an eternal principle. Dr. Barlow’s teaching from 1973 then, expresses almost exactly how I look upon the subject today. Equally yoked at home, equal in authority, but I recognize that failure in my home is on my shoulders, not my wife and not my children (pre adulthood).

    However, in light of the political correctness sweeping the society of our country in general, I actually wish that you would not link to older doctrinal articles such as Dr. Barlow’s. They may be deemed “no longer relevant or in tune with the current teachings of the Brethren” and may be taken down and “lost” from the archives.

  55. Why such negativity???? It is super unappealing and frankly a bit nauseating.

    I think ALL of the new courses sound interesting and enlightening. I will definitely encourage my kids to take them. I 100% support our priesthood leaders in choosing these topics.

    It seems to me that both of those concepts as you mentioned above – 1. Fathers presiding and leading in the home and 2. Equal partnership in marriage – are not mutually exclusive nor are either of these new or different. Both ideas are taught very clearly and in the same way in “The Family a Proclamation to the World” and not reflective of “culture.”

    I think that throughout the scriptures we learn by many passages that the Lord is no respecter of persons and that the teacher is no greater than the learner. I believe that a man leading in the home does not make him better in the Lord’s eyes than his wife. Just an observation.

    Bytheway, I sent my kids to BYU in order to learn the importance of “following the brethren”, but I have unfortunately discovered that much of BYU is just waaaaaay too “intellectual” and “enlightened” for such dated things. It is sad to me how much of the BYU community has become removed from the church which funds it.

    I am not sure I want my younger kids to attend BYU because of the attitudes toward my church which are reflected there.

  56. Susan, the leaders can hear from us. They may even welcome it. Heavenly Father hears from us. Or when ‘the leaders have spoken, the thinking is done?’ No, they even disagree amongst themselves and don’t think less of one another because of it.

  57. The curriculum changes were highlighted before the devotional today. I won’t complain about the courses if none are being eliminated.

  58. There may be no perfect way to teach the gospel, but one thing is sure, criticizing the prophets and apostles who are called by God to lead his church is not the way to go. I trust their inspired guidance. I am not impressed by the pseudo-intellectual murmurings of those who oppose them.

  59. Susan and Carolyn, if you claim to be following everything that the scriptures and the brethren say, then you should follow their repeated counsel to question the things that they say, mull it over in your mind, discuss it with others, and figure out for yourself if it is the right thing. The Times and Seasons bloggers are going about things the right way. Simply discussing the issues openly, even entertaining the possibility of disagreement with the brethren on issues related to policy, procedure, and doctrine, and then attempting to propose what they believe are more effective methods of helping the church retain and strengthen members and add to their ranks. I find it rather odd that it is the infallibilists (even if you claim to believe that the brethren are fallible, you treat them as if they are infallible) who sow the seeds of discord far more than questioning Mormons. You’re the ones heaping the epithets of ‘pseudo-intellectual’ upon middle pathers and questioners. Be grateful that the T&S moderators even tolerate your comments. For if one goes on an infallibilist blog such as Meridian Magazine or Millenial Star and posts something with even a mere hint of constructive critique of what the brethren say and do, their comments are removed and they are barred from commenting.

  60. I’m not presuming to speak for the T&S moderators. But based on my own personal experience of years of reading this blog, as well as other LDS blogs and websites, T&S appears to have the greatest amount of tolerance for the widest array of comments. If there is a free speech zone in the bloggernacle on matters Mormon, it is T&S. You should take this as a compliment, not get defensive about it. But I digress (as do you).

  61. @Alison Moore Smith – What priesthood leaders am I saying I support? Well – according to the announcement – the Church Board of Education and Board of Trustees “approved” this change. This includes the CES commissioner Paul V. Johnson who made the announcement at the last CES fireside. I also support the church Board of Education who include the First Presidency of the church, three apostles, Elder Hallstrom who is a member of the presidency of the seventy and who spoke at the fireside where the change was announced, and Bonnie Oscarson and Linda Burton. However, I am guessing that the church called or employed the service of teachers and leaders with a wide variety of experience and backgrounds to come up with ideas for classes and curriculum that would help college students have a stronger and more informed testimony of the restored gospel that then our leaders could approve.

    @Jill – Of course church leaders can hear from members – I never said they couldn’t. But when someone wants to publically complain and criticize, they can receive a public refutation or disagreement. As I said in my initial statement. I LIKE the new courses. I think they sound excellent. I am glad they are now required. This is my opinion. I also strongly disagree with the statement of the author of the article that doctrine on the family is being changed. I disagree. I firmly believe that this is untrue.

    @Steve Smith – family member of Julie M. Smith? If so, you should really let her fight her own intellectual battles. Just sayin’ …….

    I hardly claimed some type of “always” following “everything” the scriptures and brethren say. Seriously??? Who has that level of spiritual capacity????????

    But I will admit to a firm and heartfelt and even passionate devotion and love of the brethren who lead our church and when people want to openly, publically what I believe to be erroneously criticize policy that is approved by my “brethren”, I will give my opinion on that. I think that when someone writes an article, they should expect some honest feedback and it’s not always going to be in agreement with the article. If Sister Smith doesn’t want honest disagreement, perhaps she should consider not criticizing church policy in a public forum. Again, just sayin’. And Steve Smith if you have no issue with discussing policies openly, then you should have no issue with me saying openly that I find it in poor taste for someone to openly write on the internet regarding the BYU religion department:

    “It also sounds like these concerns, from those who know the field best, were shut down in the name of “supporting the brethren.” It gives me comfort to know that some in Religious Ed do not support this move and will hopefully continue to provide their students with the context and background necessary for them to really understand the scriptures.” -Julie M. Smith

    And Steve Smith you and the author of this article might want to consider that “those who know the field best” are actually PROPHETS AND APOSTLES. I mean, what “field” are we talking about??? “No man taketh this honor unto himself.” Hebrews 5:4

    I definitely see a situation here where people think their degree gives them some sort of knowledge that prophets don’t have or get. I DISAGREE. I live in a state where religion is sold as a commodity by people with degrees in divinity. Trust me, we are soooooooo blessed to be led by true prophets.

    @Jonathan Green – You may not agree with my comments, but I do appreciate that you did not shut them down. Thanks!

  62. Susan, Julie was not writing in poor taste. Many BYU Religion Professors (who are members in good standing and very much support the brethren) expressed reservations on the new curriculum based on their experience with the pilot courses. This has been reported by reliable sources. Please do not insinuate that she is suggesting the BYU Religious Education department is in any way disloyal to the leadership of the church.

  63. Susan, I have no relation to Julie Smith.

    You disagree with the post not necessarily because of the merits of Julie’s argumentation, but because it appears to be a position that is a different from what the brethren are taking. In saying that the 1st presidency and the Q12 know the field best, you are treating them as infallibles, which actually runs contrary to their teachings. This is an oxymoron that you don’t seem to understand. There is no mandate that we agree with everything they say or that we cannot have public discussions about the merits of their position. They strongly discourage blindly following them without questions and personal thought. And this is what makes your disagreement with the OP completely invalid. A more valid disagreement would be, “the curriculum change is positive because it addresses x issues and the old curriculum had x problems.” So let’s have a discussion centered around merits and put an end to this “how dare you take a position that might be different from that of the brethren” sort of nonsense. Julie clearly supports the LDS church and wants to see it thrive. Her issue with the curriculum change is that she fears that it will not be as conducive to such thriving.

    “I definitely see a situation here where people think their degree gives them some sort of knowledge that prophets don’t have or get”

    Who is doing this? Besides, the brethren are extremely well educated people themselves. Many hold Master’s degrees, JDs, MBAs, and PhDs from some of the most prestigious universities in the US. I wish that more LDS people would simply treat the brethren as what they are promoting themselves to be: spiritual guides who make approximations at truth, but who are fully capable of getting things wrong and engaging in ineffective practices.

  64. Mary Ann @ 72. Your mistake in assuming that Steve Smith is a family member of Julie Smith is one anyone could make, but your comment that he should let her fight her own intellectual battles shows that you aren’t that familiar with her work, either here or elsewhere. Julie is formidable in her own right and could hang with anyone. Just sayin’. HA!

  65. ” “those who know the field best” are actually PROPHETS AND APOSTLES. I mean, what “field” are we talking about??? “No man taketh this honor unto himself.” Hebrews 5:4″

    Susan, serious question. What do you think this field is? Can you offer a definition before I respond to your comment? I don’t think you and Julie share anywhere near the same idea of what we’re talking about. So I’d like to hear yours.

  66. Steve Smith should also not presume to speak for M* moderators, nor guess at their motivations.

  67. Terry, I didn’t make that comment, but I agree with you.

    Susan, to strongly disagree that the doctrine on the family has changed is to deny the power of prophetic revelation. The Family Proclamation is a statement of what our current leaders believe most accurately conveys our positions on the family. If Joseph Smith had made this statement in 1830, we would have very little mention of our pre-existence and the premortal council, as that was not revealed to him until years later in coordination with the publication of the Book of Abraham. The concept of heavenly parents (meaning the inclusion of a possible female participant) would definitely have been left out until many decades later. Without Wilford Woodruff, we wouldn’t be claiming that family units would remain together forever, because he was the one that revealed the direction that we should seal ourselves to our own ancestors as opposed to adoptions into the families of prominent church leaders. If we were to go with Brigham Young’s concept of family, he’d proclaim that plural marriage was a vital part of the doctrine, integral to the plan of salvation and our exaltation. The Old Testament includes directions on Levirate marriage (where a man is obligated to married the widow of his dead brother) which is what Julie Smith was referencing in Genesis 38 – the actions of Tamar (you know, pretending to be a prostitute so she could be impregnated by her father-in-law) were deemed righteous by Judah because of that doctrine. Are you suggesting that the brethren would take the same position if a woman did that today?

  68. Ivan W., again, speaking from personal experience. You M* guys are constantly coming over to T&S, promoting hero worship, and yelling “how dare you call yourself Mormon and express an unorthodox opinion online” to the permabloggers, and your comment stays (even if it arouses a controversy that turns discussion away from the OP). But if anyone goes over to M* and engages in even the slightest reasoned critique of any official policy, position, doctrine, etc., the comment is deleted and the commenter banned. I’ve experienced this first hand.

  69. Steve Smith: You are wrong. But this is a threadjack, and your misrepresentations/distortions of what goes on at M* are common “wisdom” at T&S, so I’ll avoid going down this path.

  70. Mary Ann @78. You’re right. My bad on the ID, but Julie is someone I always read (even if its about graveyards of all things).

  71. Anyway, shouldn’t we study the scriptures mainly outside BYU or Church or CES?
    Almost all of what I learn is found outside the walls of the Church and it will continue to be this way and it is meant to be this way.
    Now this does not mean I can’t be edified or feel the spirit at church, on the contrary.

  72. I have to say that, based on my own experiences with CES at BYU, I thought the announcement sounded excellent. Quite frankly, I found the religious instruction incredibly lacking in the time I was at BYU from 1999-2002. I think it’s worthwhile to keep in mind the intended audience of this instruction-young people who I would hazard to guess in many cases are still learning to separate what they believe versus what they were always taught and gaining testimonies of their own.

    All I can remember from my Book of Mormon courses, which were taught by ancient scripture faculty, was being babbled at in Hebrew by one of them. Perhaps now I would find he was talking about etymology and meanings and whatnot, but at eighteen, all I got out of it was he was talking to me in a language I didn’t understand and I got nothing out of it (and while I can’t speak for today’s youth, compared to the cohort I grew up with, I certainly seemed to have an above average understanding of both the gospel and the scriptures). However, my New Testament course was taught by a Poli-Sci professor and I felt was full of the spirit and actual learning. To this day, I remember clearly the lesson he taught about the un-Christlike behavior of some of his neighbors when some non-LDS people moved in. I was far more impressed with the real world application of gospel principles than I was with hearing Hebrew.

    Obviously it’s been a fair amount of time since I’ve been there. Perhaps deep scripture study is the norm now instead of the very shallow instruction and feel-good journaling I felt I got out of most of my CES instruction. However, I suspect that my experience is far more the norm and that what I felt I got out of my New Testament class was probably more what the intent of this instruction is. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree that studying the scriptures is important, and understanding the context can be very essential for true understanding. However, judging by how poorly many of us are doing at living the gospel, though (and I include myself in this), I think a fair point could be made that we do need those lessons on applying it to our lives. I think that can be especially important for the intended audience, especially since it comes at a time when many of them are leaving home for the first time.

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