The Joy of Memorization!

Mention "memorization" these days and you have already put your audience to sleep. But I really love it. Of all the ways to learn material, none is more black-and-white, more either-you-know-it-or-you-don't than memory work. That works well for my all-or-nothing personality. I don't mean to devalue critical thinking skills. In fact, memorization can actually free up brain space for higher level thinking.
I have always leaned heavily on memorization, from my childhood, through college, and even now. You know those college exams - maybe high school too, I wouldn't know - that had essay questions, where the professor would give you four or so essay questions on a study guide, three would be on the test, and you would need to respond to two of those? Well, I would write out and memorize detailed outlines for each of these questions so as to leave nothing to chance (I considered B+ a failing grade). It wasn't that I lacked the ability to think critically, I simply preferred to do that thinking in advance. If the test was in a foreign language, say Russian, I would take it a step further, writing out a complete answer to each essay question and then memorizing it word for word. It was peace of mind, in my book. Strange, I know. I never claimed to be normal.

But it wasn't always for tests and classes. I also enjoyed memorizing scripture verses and other literature that spoke to my heart. As a teenager, I chose to memorize the Declaration of Independence for my own personal benefit. That wasn't easy, but has been totally worth the effort. That document and my memory of it are precious to me. There is a certain level of familiarity that can only be achieved by committing a text to memory. Before I left on my LDS mission, a friend and I determined to memorize 100 of our favorite scripture passages. These, we agreed, were to be over and above the 100 assigned "scripture mastery" verses we had learned for seminary. We chose passages that truly spoke to our hearts, some being many verses long. I can't tell you how much those verses have blessed my life. I am humbly grateful for the privilege of knowing them. I still have a small spiral notebook that contains my chosen verses.

So naturally, since I have enjoyed and found so much use for memorization, I wanted to pass that love on to my little son as soon as I could. The first things Wesley memorized were the Articles of Faith. We began when he was two and a half. I did not realize such a small child could memorize, silly me, so we began with the goal of familiarity. Imagine my surprise when, in thirteen weeks, he had them all down! Here he is, one day shy of three years old, reciting the Thirteenth Article of Faith. (If you are unfamiliar with the text, you may not quite understand his 3-year-old pronunciation, sorry. Hopefully it is cute anyway.)

We continue to memorize poetry, scripture verses, definitions for parts of speech, lists, and whatever else we find useful. Some of our memory work is religious, some is not.

Come to find out, there are actual brain benefits to memory work, even if you aren't neurotic like me! Here's a piece I found that lists 10 benefits for memory work:

So go ahead, get out that poem, or favorite passage of scripture, or historical document, or whatever it is you want to memorize and do it! It is worth it!

Here are some of my personal memory goals, maybe you can get some ideas:

Words to all LDS Hymns, one hymn at a time, of course :)

The Family - A Proclamation to the World

The Living Christ

Paul Revere's Ride (finish what I started, I love this poem!)

The US Constitution and amendments

The Declaration of Independence (review)

I'm sure I will think of more just as soon as I click the "publish" button on my blog. :) Please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments. I can always use fresh ideas!

Happy memorizing!


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