Doctrinal clarification statement brings insight to BYU classes

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Discussions in classes at BYU may change to benefit from a new doctrinal clarification announcement regarding race and the priesthood released in December 2013.

The news release, which clarified views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on race and the priesthood, is part of an evolving series of statements and clarifications the LDS Church is releasing.

“When statements like these come forward, I think it informs our discussions and adds a kind of texture to some of the discussion areas we explore as a class,” said Robert Freeman, professor in the Department of Church History and Doctrine and associate dean of religious education at BYU. “It is certainly a blessing to have this additional resource … and I am not hesitant to use it in my classes.”

Dana Pike, professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture and associate dean of religious education, expressed the importance of using these additional resources when possible.

Pike said he believes it is important for students to make themselves aware of these new statements. He encourages them to bring questions and concerns to class for discussion before diving into the planned lecture.

“I expect these statements will be accessed and utilized by professors teaching a variety of courses,” Pike said. “We assume our faculty will use this content in their courses whenever it applies to their subject to further inform their classroom discussions.”

According to the associate deans of religious education, time is always limited in the classroom and there is always a vast amount of material to cover. Despite time constraints, the hope is that professors will begin to implement these new statements in their course material to expound upon and clarify sensitive topics.

Race and the priesthood has been an engaging topic since the statement was released. These statements are not exclusive to religion classes. New statements from the LDS Church are quickly finding their way into other subjects, such as history.

“As an African American history teacher, this topic of race and the priesthood has come up in the classes I teach,” said Rebecca de Schweinitz, associate professor in the Department of History. “Students were often troubled by the Church’s past and by the lack of clarity surrounding this issue.”

De Schweinitz discussed students’ appreciation, as well as her own, toward being able to have this statement as an additional resource. She has observed students for the last eight years who have had a lot of questions and misunderstandings about the myths that the statement once and for all puts to rest.

“The chance to be able to talk about these kinds of issues in a safe environment seems to be really important to students,” de Schweinitz said.

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