The BYU-Idaho religion faculty have adjusted their teaching for the new Teachings of the Book of Mormon class starting Fall Semester 2015.
November 2014, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced there would be a change to course curriculum for CES schools and institutes. The change included a new doctrinally-based series of classes, mainly Teachings of the Book of Mormon.
“The faculty worked last semester and through the summer in terms of creating a curriculum, aligning it with the goals and vision of the First Presidency and the Twelve,” said Ross Baron, a religion faculty member who is teaching the new course and a stake president on campus.
He said instead of taking a narrative approach by following the storyline of the scriptures, they have moved the focus to the doctrines and principles within the verses of scripture.
“The storyline is great, the context is super important, but it is the doctrine that changes lives,” Baron said.
Before Fall Semester 2015, students were required to take Book of Mormon I and II to graduate. During the new catalog year, students are only required to take Teachings of the Book of Mormon.
Jewell Young, a junior studying special education K-12 and who is taking the course, said although he likes the new course, he liked that the previous Book of Mormon courses went into depth about doctrinal concepts.
“I liked in Book of Mormon I and II how it’s separated and you spend more time on the stories and what they are actually teaching, instead of really general topics,” Young said.
In the previous Book of Mormon classes, the scriptures are taught in order from 1 Nephi through Alma 29 for Book of Mormon I and Alma 30 through Moroni for Book of Mormon II, according to the BYU-I 2012-2013 course catalog.
“I took Book of Mormon part one before I left on my mission, and I’m taking this after,” said Emily Owsley, a sophomore studying exercise physiology. “I like how this is the bigger picture of the Book of Mormon, why we have it and the basic principles that we have there.”
Owsley said people are able to understand how to live the gospel when they know the doctrine better.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior,” said President Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in the November 1986 Ensign.
Baron said that in the process of creating a new course in such a short time, they encountered some issues, including switching from a narrative, how they have taught it for years, to the new style that requires them to move throughout the Book of Mormon every class period.
Baron said another challenge of creating the new course was deciding which doctrines to focus on each day for the semester and how long to spend on each topic.
Regardless of the challenges, Baron said the instructors are already seeing results.
He said he has been approached by students who have felt the course is making a difference in their lives, even though classes have been in session for four weeks.
“This class is powerful,” Baron said. “It’s exciting, and if you come prepared and eager, it will strengthen you.”