Elder Scott, in his recent Conference address, extended a call to greater devotion of our scripture. This devotion, in his life, seems, in part, to have emerged from the practice of memorizing scripture. Within Mormonism memorizing scripture is tightly bound with seminary and the experience of Missionaries. The practice is often geared toward establishing as truth a particular doctrine or concept through a specific verse from the standard works. The ability to do this well seems to have become the Latter-day Saint definition of a ‘scriptorian’. As such, I fear this association has lead some to conflate the practice of memorization with the act of proof-texting but this is not necessarily the case and it under-appreciates the religious value of this form of devotion.
Elder Scott correctly suggests that the process of memorization allows us to develop a different relationship with a text. Although he notes the attendent familiarity that comes with this practice he did not emphasis the alienation that also occurs. Memorization makes those same oft-read verses seem somehow strange. The words start to move as we intonate them differently and as we recite them over and over again. We get a sense of their revelatory multiplicity and with that persist to uncover the other insights and truths that might be found there. Not only do the words change but we are altered (or at the very least become more malleable) in response to this linguistic uncertainty. It is in these spaces of openness that God can speak to us. I believe that memorization is one way to approach God and to seek his voice.
However, this is not to suggest that we must purchase ourselves a set of the scripture masteries and go to work; although that is probably not a worthless endeavour. Instead we should return to those texts which have become foundations of our faith and we must excavate them anew through memorizing whole chapters, sermons and passages. How might our approach to the natural world and all forms of life change if we memorized each creation narrative? How might our sense of discipleship alter if we memorised the sermon of the mount or King Benjamin’s address?
To be sure, these are not easily accomplished. It would require affection, time and care; in short, it would require devotion. Elder Scott invites us to demonstrate our devotion to scripture; a devotion which involves more than reading daily or even studying particular concepts. It is a form of religious practice that opens to us the possibility of change through the word of God.