If you want to see a chapel filled with smiling faces, watch the congregation as a graduating Primary child shares an Article of Faith they’ve memorized. We all appreciate this achievement and many of us recall memorizing them when we were in Primary, too.
It’s wonderful to commit our Articles of Faith to memory, to be able to share them with anyone who asks, “What do you believe?”
And yet most of us have a poor opinion of our memorizing skills. We meet Muslims who know the entire Quran, actors who still recall every line of dozens of plays they’ve performed, and members who can recite, verbatim, Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision.
How do they do it? First, let’s back up and agree that memorizing is a great thing. Not only is it a fantastic way to keep our gray matter vibrant and working, but it makes the lines we memorize ours. Like poetry we memorized in school, memorized scriptures are forever a part of us, something no one can take away. We can draw upon them whenever we like. And they bring us joy. Elder Richard G. Scott once said, “When scriptures are used as the Lord has caused them to be recorded, they have intrinsic power that is not communicated when paraphrased.”
So memorizing scriptural passages-or even single scriptures-should be something we work on to bring the scriptures even more deeply into our hearts. We can reflect upon them when we are alone, or use them to teach others. Seminary students have a “scripture mastery” collection of 100 verses that they can bring to mind in countless situations where they need to resist temptation, explain the restored gospel, or remember their priorities. Like an arsenal of weapons against the adversary, these scriptures are valuable tools for living in a harsh world. Even Christ used scriptures to combat Satan, and to put the Pharisees in their place. Having one spring to mind at the right time can be a tremendous help in dating, parenting, marriage, school, or the workplace.
Turn to the Articles of Faith in your standard works, right after Joseph Smith – History. It might surprise you to realize you actually have an entire page of scripture already memorized! How did you do it? By taking it apart into smaller components.
Next time you’re singing a hymn, close the hymn book and you’ll see that you’re probably able to sing without looking at the words. How did you do it? By putting it to music and by singing it again and again.
Consider how much you have memorized from the temple ceremonies. How did you do it? By sheer repetition.
Think of times in your life when you can remember precisely what someone said, good or bad. How did you do that? By attaching intense emotions to the moment.
How many advertising lines and jingles do you know? Countless ones, right? How did you do it? By hearing them over and over.
Each of these techniques- breaking down the section into smaller parts, putting it to music, hearing it, attaching great emotion to it, and simply repeating it-are all proven ways to help you memorize. You can listen to scriptures as you drive in your car. You can put a scripture to music in your head. You can think of a real-life application for the scripture that you care passionately about. You can read the same line over and over and over until your brain sees a photocopy of it. You can make flash cards, have someone test you, or make it into a family game. You can jot a scripture on your calendar or post it on your bathroom mirror. You can keep one in your wallet for moments when you have to wait, and can work on it.
Two important tools to aid in memorization are sincerity and prayer. When we deeply love the Lord and want to learn his words, our motive is stronger and our determination greater. Then, when we pray for his help to achieve this righteous goal, we will find it less difficult than we thought it would be. He will help us understand the content and the message along with the wording. It will become a part of us.
Yes, memorization comes more easily for some. But at any age we can set a goal of memorizing one scripture a month. Imagine knowing twelve scriptures by this time next year. Imagine being able to bring them to mind at times when we need comfort and reassurance. Picture the empowerment of knowing God is always there for us. Think of being able to use them when we’re asked to substitute in Primary, or when we’re teaching a young child in our home. No memorized scripture is wasted; all contain wisdom and value, and will come to mind when we need them. We did it before, and we can do it again.
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