The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon, Take One

One big change resulting from the new CES and BYU Religious Ed curriculum will be that, instead of two classes on the Book of Mormon, now only one will be required; here is its description:

A study of the doctrine taught in the prophetic writings, sermons, and themes of the Book of Mormon, with emphasis on Heavenly Father’s plan and the central role of His Son, Jesus Christ. (cite)

Since so many teachers will need to develop new classes, I thought it would be interesting to think about what those classes might look like. So I’ve invited a few people to respond to the question “If you had 26 one-hour class sessions in which to teach the rising generation about the Book of Mormon, what would you teach?” and I hope to post their responses (which may be in different formats) in the future. (If you would like your approach included, please email me at my first name at Here is the syllabus developed by Nick Frederick, an Assistant Professor in Ancient Scripture at BYU:

Sep 3 Syllabus and Intro to Class

8 Types and Patterns I: The Old Testament
Reading: Genesis 1-3

10 Types and Patterns II: The New Testament
Reading: Genesis 1-3 [Ed. — not a typo. Nick explains: “I wanted them to go back and read Genesis 1-3 a second time after the discussion in class.]

15 Fathers and Sons—2 Nephi 2
Reading: Daniel K. Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve.”

17 Fathers and Sons—2 Nephi 2 Cont.

22 Fathers and Sons—2 Nephi 3-4
Reading: Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 44-57.

24 Fathers and Sons—Alma 5
Reading: S. Kent Brown, “Alma’s Conversion: Reminiscences in His Sermons.”

29 Fathers and Sons—Alma 36

Oct 1 Fathers and Sons—Moroni 7
Reading: Monte S. Nyman, “Hope, Faith, and Charity.”

6 Fathers and Sons—Alma 42
Reading: H. Donl Peterson, “The Law of Justice and the Law of Mercy

8 To the (Mostly) Righteous—Ether 12
Reading: Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon, 254-261.

13 To the (Mostly) Righteous—2 Nephi 9
Reading: Robert J. Matthews, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ in 2 Nephi 9.”

15 To the (Mostly) Righteous—Mosiah 2 (Journal #1-4 Due)
Reading: John A. Tvedtnes, “Tribal Affiliation and Military Castes.”

20 To the (Mostly) Righteous—Mosiah 4
Reading: Reading: M. Catherine Thomas, “Benjamin and the Mysteries of God.”

22 To the (Mostly) Righteous—Mosiah 18 and Alma 7 (Exam 1 in Testing Center)
Reading: “David A. Bednar, Conference Address, April 2014

27 To the Wayward—Mosiah 15
Reading: John W. Welch, “Isaiah 53, Mosiah 14, and the Book of Mormon.”

29 To the Wayward—Jacob 2
Reading: Brant Gardner, “Second Witness,” 483-489.

Nov 3 To the Wayward—Alma 11

5 To the Wayward—Alma 12
Reading: Robert J. Matthew, “The Probationary Nature of Mortality.”

10 To the Wayward—Alma 13
Reading: Robert L. Millet, “The Holy Order of God.”

12 To the Wayward—Alma 32
Reading: Adam S. Miller, “You Must Needs Say that the Word is Good.”

17 To the Wayward— Alma 34
Reading: Rodney Turner, “The Infinite Atonement of God.”

19 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 12-14 (Journals 9-12 Due)
Reading: John W. Welch, “The Temple Context and Unity of the Sermon at the Temple.”

24 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 12-14
Reading: Krister Stendahl, “The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi.”

26 No Class–Thanksgiving

Dec 1 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 15-18
Reading: Robert L. Millet, “The Praying Savior: Insights from the Gospel of 3 Nephi.”

3 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 19-21
Reading: Victor Ludlow, “The Father’s Covenant People Sermon: 3 Nephi 20:10-23:5”

8 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 22-25
Reading: Aaron P. Schade and David R. Seely, “The Writings of Malachi in 3 Nephi: A Foundation for Zion Past and Present.”

10 The Savior’s Sermon—3 Nephi 26-28 (Journal #13-16 Due)
Reading: Andrew C. Skinner, “Jesus’s Gospel-Defining Discourse in 3 Nephi 27:13-21: Doctrinal Apex of His New World Visit.”

If I could make one change to this syllabus, it would be to ensure that there is at least some mention of women and their stories. I’d condense the seven class sessions devoted to “Fathers and Sons” down to six and replace one week with “Women in the Book of Mormon,” where I would cover 1 Nephi 5, Alma 19, and Alma 50. Outside reading could include Camille Fronk’s “Desert Epiphany,” Camille Williams’ “Women in the Book of Mormon,” and Carol Lynn Pearson’s “Could Feminism Have Saved the Nephites?”  (ETA: and “Nephi and His Asherah.”) I also think that it is wise for students to be exposed to criticisms of the Book of Mormon; they will almost certainly encounter these later in life and it is better to hear about them from a friendly source first. Therefore, I’d probably cut one of the “To the Wayward” sessions in order to make room for “The Translation of the Book of Mormon,” which would use the new essay “Book of Mormon Translation” as outside reading. It probably makes sense for this to be the first class session. I would also discuss “The Isaiah Problem” at this point. And given the time constraints, I’d probably cut 3 Nephi 12-14 (since it is likely to be covered in the new NT class) and spend at least some time on 1 Nephi, particularly Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions. That said, I really like the variety of outside readings here.

What are your thoughts on this approach to the Book of Mormon?

21 comments for “The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon, Take One

  1. The Fathers and Sons theme is so off-putting. Seven lessons? Is there no other themes that could be more gender friendly in that section? I think the Book of Mormon is richer than that.

  2. EmJen, all of those sections involve a father teaching a son key doctrines of the gospel. I think it’s simply a way for him to organize his content. (It kinda drives me crazy when gender becomes such an issue that we can’t just talk about what is there without it being offensive. These doctrines that were taught from father to son apply to us all and I suspect that is what he is teaching e.g., I own the Fortunate Fall by Dan Judd and it has nothing to do with focusing on a father and a son. It’s about the fall and the atonement.

  3. Challenge: In 60 seconds or less, name ten people from the Book of Mormon who are neither fathers nor sons of another father or son in the Book of Mormon.

  4. I’m not disputing the fact that this is how it is set up, I’m disputing the idea of organizing it this way. If it were instead seven or even six lessons on “Mothers and Daughters” would you not be worried that some of the male students would be more inclinded to tune it out?

    And John, that’s such a sad challenge.

  5. Sariah, Nephi’s sisters (nameless but included), Abish, Lamoni’s wife, The mothers of the Stripling Warriors, Ishmeals wife and daughters – again nameless, but included. Alma the Younger’s Mom. The wives Jacob spoke to. The mothers of Nephi, Sam, Mosiah, the four sons of Mosiah… need I go on.

    Yes there were fathers and sons, but there were amazing women, too. I see EmJens point – can we just call it doctrine – not list it as Father/Son.

    For interest in this, long before bloggernacle, etc. I always wondered about the unspoken women in the stories. I wondered who Mormon’s wife was, where was she in the end, did her son Moroni miss her? I know its not written but it is an important part of the story, because often “their mother’s taught them” and that is important.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing, Nick. I, too, appreciate the wealth of additional assigned readings here. But I agree with EmJen. I’d favor a more inclusive approach for that section. Parents, or call it Legacy of Faith.

    It’s an interesting approach to organize so much of the semester by the contexts of the chapters’ being recorded– to the (mostly) righteous, fathers and sons, etc. — and not just by themes like “repentence.” I think it has promise. It’s always a balancing act between helping students realize the context of the text, and emphasizing “Heavenly Father’s plan and the central role of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

    It pains me that the books of Mormon and Moroni would be casualties of the single semester approach. I would include a session on the transmission/translation of the Book of Mormon, and introduce the voices of Mormon and Moroni.

    Also, it might help students identify how the BoM sections link to the chosen themes if sections of class meetings were listed under a theme, e.g. “To the Wayward,” while individual class meetings were titled with a key, relevant quotation from the assigned reading, e.g. “Salvation cometh to none else”– Alma 11.

    I think that a strength of the BYU Book of Mormon offerings has been the ability of each teacher to teach in a way that brings out their passion for and testimony of the text. I hope that continues.

  7. I see your point, EmJen. I don’t love the section title, but my point is that it *does* reflect the dynamic that is a very real pattern in the Book of Mormon. In my opinion, the pattern of ‘father to son’ is not something to run from or apologize for.

    This may also be an unfair thought question, but if a book reflected a significant pattern of mothers teaching daughters important principles (in a way that was not ‘equal’ but real and true to the text) would you object to having that reflected in a class outline?

  8. Nick Frederick asked me to post this comment from him:

    “Hi Everyone–a little clarification about the course. It is specifically a course devoted to studying sermons and discourses in the BM. Therefore the content and topics were limited to that specific lens. My choice of “fathers and sons” as a theme was not meant to represent what I felt was important to the exclusion of women and their place in the text, simply a recognition that the BM records several very important sermons in the context of a father’s words to his sons. If Mormon had included, say, a discourse delivered by Alma to one of his daughters (assuming he had them) would most certainly have been included. I included Jacob 2 in the course specifically to deal with the topic of women in the BM, and while I chose to have my students read Gardner’s commentary in order to contextualize polygamy in Mesoamerica, I spent about five minutes specifically discussing Carol Lynn Pearson’s insightful article and recommending that my students take the time to read it. One of the challenges of this new course will be finding lenses through which to view the BM text that bring to light significant ideas and important doctrines without laying aside too much of what makes the BM such a wonderful text of scripture. I welcome any thoughts or insights on how best to accomplish this and thank Julie for creating this forum–“

  9. I appreciate the clarification in #9 … you (generic “you”) can’t ignore your audience if you expect to reach and move them, and your half-female audience in this day and age is going to be uncomfortable even with this explanation. It doesn’t have to be that way. The route of transmission may be father to son, but the all-important element is that gospel doctrines were transmitted from one generation to the next. A heading of “Fathers to Their Children” or “To the Rising Generation” or “Passing the Testimony” or anything like that would serve the same purpose without alienating a significant share of the audience. It isn’t a matter of finding some way to give equal time to women, but of not inadvertently telling women that these sermons aren’t relevant to us.

    I really do like the section “To the Wayward.” “Wayward” is the cliche’d adjective now associated with Corianton, whose story for generations has been narrowly synonymous with unchastity. This outline recognizes the many ways we go astray and the broad scriptural message of recognizing sin and repenting of it, which of course points directly to the Savior and the atonement which is supposed to be one of the central emphases of the new course. That’s really well done!

  10. “your half-female audience in this day and age is going to be uncomfortable even with this explanation”

    Very much so, including the increasing number of young returned sister missionaries. I personally know young women who would take one look at this syllabus and drop the class. This might have been fine in previous generations, but not now. It’s 2014. A teacher of young people who isn’t aware of how deeply this treatment could disturb students, both male and female — how it could be the final nail in the coffin for some of them — needs to take a good long look at his motivations for choosing this framework.

    And throwing five minutes of Carol Lynn Pearson at the students is more or less the equivalent of Mitt Romney’s binders full of women.

    I’m not going to be nice like Ardis and add a compliment, although I do appreciate Professor Frederick sharing this syllabus and inviting discussion, but I will say that I like Guinevere’s “Legacy of Faith.” Some of the changes we can make are oh so small but can have such great impact on those to whom we are called to minister.

  11. Putting a discussion of women’s issues on the same day as a discussion of polygamy may make sense logically, but it could be a bit difficult emotionally. I love that God says he listens to women in Jacob 2, but it’s in the context of their hearts breaking because of the (polygamous) actions of their husbands. Not really a good moment for those Nephite wives. If you’re wanting to uplift your female students, give a nod to the 4 witnesses of Mary, the mother of Christ, in the Book of Mormon (Nephi, K. Benjamin, Alma, & King Lamoni), or the fact that we actually know something of King Lamoni’s wife and Abish, women of the generation later venerated as the mothers of the stripling warriors. Those stories actually make women feel like they matter on an individual level.

    I personally don’t have as much of a problem with the sermons listed as Fathers and Sons – I suspect its more of a descriptive/categorical thing. I kind of like the idea of playing up the parental-child connection as a setting for the doctrine. It may be off-putting to some girls, but it wouldn’t have bothered me.

  12. “I appreciate the clarification in #9 … you (generic “you”) can’t ignore your audience if you expect to reach and move them, and your half-female audience in this day and age is going to be uncomfortable even with this explanation.”

    I think this notion is absolute hog-wash. It does not sound like a single one of the female students at the BYUs I know. Think – to read Moroni 7 and not be inspired because the professor prefaced the chapter with the lecture “fathers to sons”! To insist that the professor side step the structure and content of the text itself because you fear the students will “tune out” unless baby stepped through a more “relatable” version is insulting to the youth of this generation. Have you so little faith in the intelligence and spiritual maturity of the women at BYU?

    That is an opinion. But lets see if we can ground the question in fact. I’ve just put this on Facebook and tagged 30~ women attending one of the BYUs with the following message:

    Please take a look at this proposed syllabus for a Book of Mormon class. Would you take it? If not, why not? (Answer this question before reading the comments on that post please).

    I’ll post back tomorrow with the results.*

    *Yes, this is entirely unscientific, and so forth. Don’t think this topic is worth the time needed to set up a RCT. I encourage you to set one up if you dislike/dispute the results.

  13. Great idea for a series. My only addition is that any syllabus that doesn’t include Jared Hickman’s recent Ameriindian Apocolypse reading is incomplete. Absolutely one of the best things written about the BoM with an absolutely fascinating potential take on the troubling issues of race in the Book of Mormon. I believe a Dialogue verison of the article is in the works but in college I would require the American Literature version even though it is challenging because it shows how the BoM can be written about so wonderfully for an outside audience.

  14. T. Greer,

    No one is saying that female students won’t be inspired by Moroni 7 but many will roll their eyes when 8 entire weeks of the class is organized around and couched in terms of fathers and sons is off-putting and tone def, especially at a time when the church is under pressure to show that malecentrism isn’t embedded everywhere they look. Because as wonderful as I am sure Nick is, I think it is more than fair to ask him to rethink carefully why 1/4 his entire course is “organized” simply “for convenience” around male to male relationships (granted in an incredibly male centered book where we have to count “unnamed women” just to get more than you can count on one hand). In this one instance you may think it is complaining, but the problem is that the church is so often organized around and for men. It gets wearing over the years and Ardis is right that the younger generation of women not only are sensitive to this but aren’t going to keep putting up with it simply because it is “convenient” for men.

    I recommend you read Carol Lynn Pearson’s “A Walk in Pink Moccasin’s” if you want to better understand this issue. The fact that Julie is asking for a single solitary session out of 26 focused on women is so telling of just how little women can often expect in our culture. It doesn’t need to be this way and the church is making some wonderful changes to make it less this way. Why fight against the progress by being dismissive?

  15. And T. Greer can I propose a slight alteration to your survey. WIthout an alternative syllabus to choose from the results will be unclear. What I would recommend is to ask them to choose between this syllabus and one that changes the “Father/Son” thing to something more gender neutral and ask “When choosing your BoM class at the Y which would you prefer”. That would make the results more meaningful.

  16. I appreciate the way the this syllabus balances context vs topical study. I think many of us feared that culturally based topics like family and happiness would be written into the text in a way that spun it so that our modern topics would trump the intent of the writers. I like how he focuses on sermons and teachings while clearly identifying the audience (the wayward, almost righteous, a son, etc). Of course I wish there were more instances where the audience was women but it’s not professor Fredericks fault there aren’t and I’m glad he’s not overextending himself to talk about what might have been said or thought or felt by the women who unfortunately only had a few verses written about them. I think a more appropriate route would be an elective on women and religion or maybe a GE. I’m sure I would have had a double standard and said yes to more women inclusion but less about happiness talk or whatever other modern topic appeared to be favored had he gone that route. I’m very encourage that the students will learn to think critically about the BofM and learn to value outside sources in their study.

  17. Julie, don’t know if you are taking submissions from non-scholars on outlines for the Class, but here is my shot in the Dark:

    The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon
    1. Doctrine we have because the book exists

    a. The is a God; He Loves us; He is involved in our lives today and can give us wisdom through the Holy Ghost (Joseph receives the Book)
    b. He has a Son Jesus Christ who is very important (the Title Page)
    c. He has a Church with Priesthood Authority to lead it (the Book infers the primacy of the Church)
    d. We are meant to walk by Faith (the debate of authenticity)

    2. What the Book Says: Jesus is the Christ (Doxa)

    a. The Affirming Teachings (Teachings that affirm the Biblical Record)

    i. Jesus is the Messiah (An Affirmation of his Divinity and Sonship)
    ii. Christ’s life purpose was to bring forth the Atonement (The Infinite Atonement, its universal nature for male, female, bond or free, etc.)
    iii. the Resurrection (The Reality and Realness of the Resurrection)
    iv. the Miraculous Birth (Mary, Lehi/Nephi’s Vision)
    v. the Sermon on the mount (The Affirmation of the Beatitudes and Commandments here)

    b. The Shocking Teachings (Teachings that go beyond the Biblical Record)

    i. Christ known pre-mortally (The Delta between prophecies of Christ in the Bible and the Old Testament, the difference between prophecies being fulfilled and filled full of meaning)
    ii. The Theology of the Fall and It’s Relationship to the Atonement (Opposition in all things, the fortunate fall, Sin and Death)
    iii. The Gethsemane Event & the Compassionate Atonement (The Bleeding from Every Pore, the Taking on of all afflictions to enable succoring of the people)
    iv. Christ in America (The Visit and how this locks up any debate of Christ’s divinity)
    v. Christ as founder of the Church, Ordinances, and Priesthood Authority (Revisiting the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon and examining Deltas)

    3. The Way (Praxis)

    a. Non-Doctrines- The Gospel of Prosperity, Racial Division, The hopelessness of sexual sin, the evil of socialism, anything about feminism or sexual orientation (A review of commonly held misconceptions from the book of Mormon)
    b. Faith = Power unto Deliverance (How Faith calls us to live a certain way examples from Nephi to Mormon of how people were given divine aid as they exercised faith in the Lord)
    c. God and the Problem of Evil (A revisit of 2nd Nephi 2 and the Alma/Amulek witness of the burning faithful)
    d. Dialogic Revelation (Moroni 10, Moroni 7, A discussion on Terryl Givens concept of Dialogic Revelation)
    e. Our Duty of Service to the Poor and Needy (The Book of Mormon’s explicit call to people of Faith to care to those in need, even going so far as to say their own answers to prayer are dependent on their care of others. Tie into blessed are the merciful…)
    f. Children, Accountability and Parenting (The Doctrine of the Small Children not needing Baptism, the importance of Mothers and Fathers in the Book of Mormon. )
    g. Being Zion and Covenant Living (The Attributes of Zion in the Book of Mormon, particularly 4th Nephi, The theme of Covenant making in the Book of Mormon)

  18. Everything included in Prof. Fredericks’ syllabus looks wonderful and informative. I say this having read several of the the readings listed for the course. I would like to have more of the readings include contributions from the Apostles & Prophets of the Church.

  19. “. It doesn’t need to be this way and the church is making some wonderful changes to make it less this way. Why fight against the progress by being dismissive?”

    @rah #15- My comments were not directed at Julie’s original suggestion, which I’m fine with, so much as some of the stuff other commenters added later (e.g. “I personally know young women who would take one look at this syllabus and drop the class.“). I feel like that describes an incredibly small number of real students at any of the BYUs; few would be so discouraged by a title to drop a class entirely, and even fewer would allow it to deprive them the spiritual blessings that might come from a serious study of the sermons mentioned above. That is what my test was aimed to get at–would people really stay away from the course because it had “father to sons” too many times in the syllabus?

    I’m disappointed to say I’ve had a pretty low response rate (7 people). 5 said they would take it without reservation; 2 of these read the thread and agreed that it would be a good idea to add a Mother/Daughters section. The two that did not want to take it explained their reasoning as thus: “this looks too hard. I want my religion classes to be spiritual.”

    Make of that what you will. But that second reaction, I suggest, is likely to be far more common than objections on feminist grounds.

  20. Will there still be a class that addresses the scholarly work on the background of the Book of Mormon as an ancient writing, e.g. Nibley and FARMS 101? If you can’t get that at BYU or Insitute, where will you even know about it?

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