Latter-day Saint educators at church universities and in seminaries for high school students should center their teaching around five core themes, the church commissioner of education told them Friday during an international broadcast.

“I hope you will allow these messages to influence both your curriculum and the way you teach and minister to your students,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert, who is also a General Authority Seventy.

The commissioner shared five themes he said have been emphasized for young adults by President Russell M. Nelson and the apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Teachers should help students learn to:

  1. Know their divine identity.
  2. Draw on the power of Jesus Christ and their covenants.
  3. Let God prevail, and follow his prophet.
  4. Teach truth with love.
  5. Take charge of your testimony.

Elder Gilbert described the five themes as prophetic and said, “If I were leading the ‘Teachings of the Living Prophets’ course next semester, these themes would anchor the syllabus regardless of the specific course.”

His message to professors, teachers and instructors was broadcast to 150 countries and translated into 40 languages.

Another speaker shared changes to the church’s Seminary program for teenagers, “a movement away from rigid standards to individual goals” that help students develop intrinsic motivations for studying the gospel.

Elder Gilbert referred to church leaders’ statements as he spoke briefly about the five themes he shared.

“Know them,” he said. “Incorporate them into your teaching and your curriculum. More importantly, integrate them into the way you respond to questions and minister to the needs of your students.”

“Quite literally,” he added, “you have the future of the church in your classes.”

Dare to be different

Know your divine identity

Elder Gilbert quoted President Nelson’s May 2022 talk to young adults.

“I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant,” President Nelson said. “I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace or take priority over these three enduring designations: child of God, child of the covenant and disciple of Jesus Christ. Any identifier that is not compatible with these three basic designations will ultimately let you down.”

Draw on the power of Jesus Christ and your covenants

Elder Gilbert said President Nelson has used a pattern to describe present-day challenges followed by a promise that turning to the Savior will help people through them.

“When I first recognized this pattern,” he said, “I thought that the reference to Jesus Christ meant that if I anchored my testimony on the Savior, I could withstand the trials that were coming in the last days. But increasingly, I also believe that President Nelson is calling us to be like the Savior.”

Let God prevail and follow his prophet

Elder Gilbert said President Nelson’s 2020 challenge to church members to let God prevail was similar to the prophet conducting an interview with the entire church and asking six questions:

  • “Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? 
  • “Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? 
  • “Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? 
  • “Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? 
  • “Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? 
  • “Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”

Teach truth with love

President Nelson and the apostles teach truth with love, even when they know they will be criticized, Elder Gilbert said. It’s an example that young church members should follow, he added.

He shared the five ways to teach truth with love that President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, shared last year during a talk at Ensign College, one of the church’s five colleges and universities:

  • Avoid overly contentious settings
  • Love others and find common ground, even when we disagree
  • Hold to truth, even in our outreach to others
  • Be a light to the world
  • Stay anchored in Jesus 

Take charge of your testimony

Latter-day Saint educators should help young church members learn to take charge of building and maintaining their testimonies of Jesus Christ and his church, Elder Gilbert said.

He said teachers can show students a pattern for following a prophet that will be helpful: Pay attention when a prophet repeats a teaching and pay even more careful attention when he makes a plea.

President Nelson repeated his May 2022 plea to young adults during his last general conference address in October 2022.

“I plead with you to take charge of your testimony,” President Nelson said. “Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with the false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.”

Elder Gilbert said taking charge of one’s testimony includes faithfully addressing one’s questions. He noted that the Seminaries and Institutes website has a page devoted to “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” that includes a pattern for asking questions.

Church leader says BYU will remain ‘a religious university with a religious purpose’

Changes to Seminaries and Institutes

Seminary students no longer will be assessed individually. Instead, assessment will be a group review process, said Chad Webb, administrator of the church’s Seminaries and Institutes of Religion since 2008.

The reading requirement will also change, Webb said.

Students no longer will be required to read from the year’s assigned book of scripture on 75% of a term’s days. Instead, they will be assigned selected scriptural passages, and then teachers will ask them “to set an additional intrinsically motivated personal reading goal with high expectations for upward growth. These personal goals should reflect a student’s abilities and acknowledge individual effort and progress,” Webb said.

“I also realize that a movement away from rigid standards to individual goals will require more time and attention from you,” he said, “but what could we do that would bless our students more than to help them create a personal daily habit of scripture study that is motivated by the right reasons.”

Webb also announced two other changes:

The objective statement for the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program has been updated to say: “Our purpose is to help youth and young adults deepen their conversion to Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.”

The change is that it refers to deepening conversion rather than to understanding and relying.

Finally, Webb said Seminaries and Institutes is retiring its instructor handbook, “Gospel Teaching and Learning,” and instead will rely on “Teaching in the Savior’s Way.”