Lost Scripture Mastery


The Church Education System of the LDS Church reworked the Scripture Mastery Lists in the middle of 2013, retiring many old scriptures and adding new ones to the list. The old Scripture Mastery lists had been in use for over two decades; they're remnants from a much different time and perspective for the LDS Church which has in the intervening years seen a number of distinct changes in attitude and situation since then. In the world, we've had 9/11 and the fall of America as the international ideal. The CHurch has continued to grow in number, reaching a record number of recorded membership of over 14 million, though active membership remains much, much lower, with the number of people in the United States who self-identify as Mormon remaining constant since the turn of the twenty-first century, and the rate of growth, while still positive, continues a deceleration begun since the mid-1990s. And the rise of the Internet has had a massive impact on world governments, culture, and business and the Church as well has been deeply impacted by the availability of information. A return of high-quality Church historical research has reminded many of the Camelot years of Church Historian Leonard Arrington, but this time around the historians have been a mix between member sod the Church and non-members both writing with a hope for an accurate reconstruction of the past without polemic intent. The 2012 US President Election saw the nomination for the Republican Party of Mitt Romney, previously the Governor of Massachusetts and also previously a Stake President for the Cambridge/Boston area with family ties to many famous Church leaders of the twentieth century. The attention given to Romney's religion brought a lot of favorable and not-so-favorable facts about the Church to the public's perspective and whether or not Romney's run for the White House was a net positive or a net negative for the LDS Church still remains to be seen.

At the beginning of 2013 I started a series where I looked at the Scripture Mastery lists from within their context in an attempt to strip away incorrect assumptions and interpretations and to see how well the scriptures meant to be memorized by LDS youth made us of the ancient materials from within their own contexts. The result was, somewhat unsurprisingly, a very mixed bag with some scriptures being used pretty much as their ancient authors would probably have wanted them to be read and others being used in a context that would have been extremely foreign and alien to a follower of Jesus in the first century.

So I was very pleased (and surprised) to see that a new list was made for all four years of Seminary scripture study. However, upon further review some of the decisions behind the new formulations made very little sense. Some of the new scriptures were just as problematic in their context as the old ones, and some of the old problematic scriptures had been left behind in the new lists.

The lookout for the new lists has changed subtly, though as I renew my explorations for the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) list we'll see that these scripture mastery lists are still primarily tools for LDS youth to use in a defensive, apologetic manner in discussions with others not of their faith and not as tools to overcome the emotional difficulties of young adulthood. All the same, I welcome this change and applaud the intentions of CES.

But the changes are still better than what we had, for the most part. To explore why, I'm also planning a shorter exploration of the dropped scriptures from the Hebrew Bible list and why, at least from my personal perspective, these scriptures were axed from the official lists. Some of them have been dropped to get rid of some laughably bad proof-texting (e.g., Jeremiah 16:16). Others appear to have been dropped because they were more effective against an older, evangelical opposition to the LDS Church that has largely been replaced by a more secular humanist opposition (e.g., Exodus 33:11). And finally, some appear to have been dropped because the doctrines and perspectives of the LDS Church itself have fundamentally shifted during the interim between the formulation of the previous list and the 2010s (this reason especially is what I believe lies behind the dropping of Daniel 2:44-45 and Deuteronomy 7:3-4).

So as I get ready for my study of the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible Scripture Mastery List, I'll spend a bit of time going over the dropped scriptures, along with my own reasoning as to why they were dropped. It won't be a single scripture per post, most of the time, as sometimes the reasons are probably going to be pretty small, but I plan to at least cover, even if only in a small mention, each of the soon-to-be forgotten scriptures than over an entire generation of LDS youth were taught were so important that they deserved memorization. For some, it is sad to me that they will quickly be dismissed back into the seldom-read pages of the Christian Bible, and for others I say good riddance.

I look forward to your own comments, rebuttals, and opinions on this, so please come on back over the next few days as we look at the following scriptures from the Hebrew Bible:

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