Hello, readers! Today we have a newsworthy guest post by Matthew:

Last month, in the 2023 S&I [Seminary & Institute] Annual Training Broadcast (in which CES Commissioner Clark Gilbert cited scripture twice and President Nelson twelve times), it was announced that the requirements for seminary graduation would change.[i] S&I Administrator Chad Webb explained that “moving forward, in order to receive course credit toward graduation, seminary students will be required to read selected passages from the book of scripture in each term.”[ii]It used to be that in order to graduate, seminary students had to read the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and generous portions of the Old Testament (300+ chapters). That apparently was much too much to ask, so in 2021 S&I changed the reading requirement to “read in the book of scripture for the course of study 75 percent of semester calendar days.”[iii] Technically, a student could read a chapter a day, or even a verse a day, to meet the new standard.

I was happy to hear that they were going back to specified readings, but in a recent seminary training meeting I finally saw the “Seminary Required Reading Blocks” that students must complete in order to graduate (reproduced below from a screenshot).

Students are encouraged to set goals to read more, but the bottom line is that they can graduate from seminary having spent only two or three hours per semester actually reading the scriptures on their own. And then we send these scripturally illiterate 18-19 year-olds into the world as missionaries. Don’t these same high school students have to take real math classes? Or science or English or history? But as far as religious education goes, we’re treating them like 10 year-olds.

The list is rather odd. Three chapters from the Torah is all students need to read from the OT in the first half of that year? (Not even Exodus 20?) We keep insisting that we are “The Church of Christ! The Church of Christ!” but we don’t care enough about Jesus to require our teenagers to read even a single gospel? Students don’t need to read D&C 20? For the Book of Mormon, no Alma 36? Not even the entirety of 2 Nephi 9? Who approved this?

Sadly, it’s all of a piece with our continuing insistence on the King James Version (with similar archaic English in our Restoration scriptures and the sacred language of prayer), which is genuinely difficult for modern Americans to understand and enjoy. It sometimes seems as if our leaders don’t really want the Saints to read the scriptures—much like how we used to caricature the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages—or they would at least let young people read the New International Version, which has been widely adopted by other conservative Christians.[iv] We talk about the scriptures, we bear testimony of the scriptures, we carry them around religiously, and we listen to podcasts, but we don’t actually read the scriptures in careful, sustained, serious ways.

In the 20th century, Latter-day Saints turned away from biblical scholarship, and in the 21st century, we are turning away from scripture itself. Sunday school is now every other week instead of every week; the Come Follow Me manuals focus on just a few verses and include almost no information about biblical languages, history, or literary features; the scripture reading required in BYU Religion classes and elsewhere in Institute classes is less than it was before 2015. In the push for simplicity and unity with Come Follow Me, much has been lost. Seminary students do not receive any instruction on the CFM readings that come in the summer months. Primary used to be a place where children could spend the entire year learning the parables and other stories about Jesus and the Old Testament prophets (as is age appropriate for developing scriptural literacy), but this year, in 2023, 3-7 year-olds will be marched through the Pauline Epistles, General Epistles, and Revelation from August through December. How much will they get out of those lessons?

It’s possible to think of oneself as a child of God with only the knowledge one gains in Primary, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers little for people who have served missions, married in the temple, and now want to become adults of God—apart from opportunities for local service (which are not inconsiderable). A religion that has no path or models for continuing intellectual/spiritual development faces an uncertain future, and serious scripture study is one of the main avenues for that sort of spiritual maturation.[v]Without a solid foundation in the word of God, and continuing guidance and encouragement for a deeper study of scripture, it will be difficult to keep young people engaged and committed through the course of their lives.


[i] Clark G. Gilbert, “A Prophet in the Land: Current Prophetic Emphases to Young Adults.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/broadcasts/s-and-i-training/2022/01/13gilbert?lang=eng

[ii] Chad H. Webb, “Messengers of the Good News.”

[iii] Sydney Walker, “Updates to Seminary Graduation Requirements Encourage Daily Scripture Study,”Church News (March 4, 2021). The article quoted S&I Associate Administrator Adam N. Smith as saying (somewhat inaccurately for the OT), “In previous years a seminary student would need to report that he or she had read the entire Standard Works—Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price—throughout their four-year seminary experience in order to graduate.”

[iv] Note also that these students have continuous, immediate, free access to the NIV on their phones at biblestudytools.com or biblegateway.com.

[v]In Kirtland, even after remarkable outpourings of revelation and new scripture, Joseph Smith and other early Saints put forth great effort to find and hire a qualified teacher so they could study Hebrew in a regular academic, laborious way. I would like to be proven wrong, but I doubt there is anyone among the current First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, or General Authority Seventies—all of whom have had much more education than the Prophet Joseph—who has studied even a semester of Hebrew or Greek.