“Scripture Mastery Activities,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)
“Scripture Mastery Activities,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
This section provides some ideas you can use to assist students in mastering key scripture passages. As you assist and encourage students to develop these skills, you are helping them to become self-reliant in their study of the scriptures. Students can use these mastery skills throughout their lives to better locate, understand, apply, and memorize passages in the scriptures. Teaching ideas for each element of scripture mastery are listed below. Using a variety of these types of activities can help students to more successfully master scripture passages.
Marking scripture mastery passages can help students remember these passages and locate them more quickly. Consider encouraging students to mark these key passages in their scriptures in a way that sets them apart from other passages they mark.
Memorizing the names and order of the books in the New Testament can help students locate scripture mastery passages more quickly. The following are some examples of activities that can help students become familiar with the books in the New Testament:
Find the Table of Contents—Help students become familiar with the table of contents in the Bible to help them locate the books in which scripture mastery references are found.
Sing a Song—Substitute the words of a familiar hymn or primary song with the names of the books of the New Testament. Teach the song to your students (or use the song “The Books in the New Testament” [Children’s Songbook, 116–17]). Have students sing this song periodically throughout the year to help them remember the names and order of the books in the New Testament.
Use First Letters—Write the first letters of the books on the board (M, M, L, J, and so on). Have students practice saying the names of the books that correspond with each letter. Repeat this activity until they can recite names of the books from memory.
Book Chase—Call out one of the books in which a scripture mastery passage is located, and have students open their scriptures to any page in that book. Time how long it takes the entire class to find each of the books. This activity could be repeated to allow students to become more proficient at remembering and finding the books in the New Testament.
As students learn the location and content of scripture mastery passages, the Holy Ghost can help them recall scripture references as needed (see John 14:26). Key words or phrases, such as “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5) and “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–23), can help students remember the content and doctrinal teachings of each passage. The following methods can help students associate scripture mastery references with their content or key words. (You may want to save activities that involve competition, racing, or being timed for later in the year, after students have demonstrated that they know where the scripture mastery passages are located. Such activities will then help reinforce what they have learned.)
References and Key Words—Encourage students to memorize the references and key words of each scripture mastery passage listed on the scripture mastery cards. (Scripture mastery cards can be ordered online at store.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. You could also have students create their own sets of scripture mastery cards.) Give students time to study the cards with a partner and then quiz each other. Encourage students to be creative in the ways they study together and quiz each other. As they become more proficient with the scripture mastery passages, you might invite them to use clues that involve context or application of doctrines and principles from the passages. The person being quizzed could respond verbally or in writing.
Scripture Mastery Cards—This activity could be used to introduce or review a set of scripture mastery passages. Select a number of the scripture mastery cards, and prepare to distribute them among your students. (Be sure to have multiple copies of each card so more than one student receives the same scripture mastery passage. You may want to have enough cards for each student to have two or three different passages.) Pass them out to the class. Allow students time to study the scripture mastery passage, the reference, the key words, the context statement, the doctrine or principle, and the application ideas on each card. Call out some clues from the cards (for example, words from the scripture mastery passage or the key words, context, doctrine or principle, or application). Students who have the associated card should stand and say the scripture mastery reference aloud.
Scripture Chase—Use clues to help students practice quickly locating passages in their scriptures. For clues, you could use key words, context statements, doctrines and principles, and application ideas from the scripture mastery cards. You could also make up your own clues. Scripture chase activities in which students race to locate passages can help them actively engage in learning scripture mastery passages. When using scripture chase activities to help with scripture mastery, do it in a way that does not cause hurt feelings or offend the Spirit. Help students avoid treating their scriptures irreverently or being overly competitive. Also consider having students compete against a standard rather than each other. For example, students could race against the teacher, or you could have them race to see if a certain percentage of the class can find a particular passage in a specified amount of time.
Story Chase—Give clues by making up scenarios that demonstrate the relevance of scripture mastery passages to everyday life. For example, as a clue for Matthew 28:19–20 or Philippians 4:13, you could say, “Daniel is eligible to serve a mission and feels like it is his priesthood duty to do so, but he is worried that he does not have enough knowledge to teach the gospel well. He also worries that it will be difficult for him to talk to strangers. As he prays for assurance, he remembers that after Jesus Christ was resurrected, He charged His Apostles to ‘Go … and teach all nations’ and that the Lord would be with them always. Daniel also thought of Paul’s words, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’” As students listen to the scenarios, have them locate relevant scripture mastery passages in their scriptures.
Quizzes and Tests—Provide students with opportunities to test their memory of scripture mastery passages. Clues could include key words or scripture references, quotations from passages, or scenarios that illustrate the truths taught in passages. Quizzes and tests could be given verbally, on the board, or on paper. After students have taken a quiz or test, consider pairing high-scoring students with students who have lower scores. The higher-scoring student could act as a teacher to help the student with the lower score study and improve. As part of this effort, the pair could also set a goal to achieve a higher combined score on the next test. Consider creating a chart or bulletin board to display students’ goals and recognize their progress.
Defining words and phrases in scripture mastery passages (or helping students to define them) will help students understand the meaning of the entire passage. When such definitions are critical to understanding the doctrines and principles in a passage, you may want to suggest that students write these definitions in their scriptures. Review meanings of words and phrases as you review scripture mastery passages.
Identifying the context of a scripture passage can help students better understand the meaning of the passage. Context includes information concerning who is speaking to whom and why, the setting of the passage (historical, cultural, and geographical), and the question or situation from which the content of the scripture passage arose. For example, the Lord’s teachings in John 3:5 are part of a conversation between Jesus Christ and a sympathetic Pharisee named Nicodemus who had come to the Savior by night to ask about His doctrine. The Lord told Nicodemus that unless we are “born again,” we “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Confused, Nicodemus asked how an old man could be born again. John 3:5 contains the Lord’s answer to Nicodemus’s question. Knowing this information can help students understand more clearly what questions the Lord was addressing when He declared that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” As you teach lessons that include scripture mastery passages, emphasize the context surrounding those passages. Additional activities like the following can also help students understand these key passages:
Identify Context—Write the following headings across the top of the board: Speaker, Audience, Purpose, and Other Helpful Insights. Divide students into groups, and assign each group a scripture mastery passage. Invite them to discover the context of their assigned passages by identifying information that corresponds to the headings on the board. Have them write their findings on the board. Then ask each group to explain the context of their assigned passages and how this information affects their understanding of the truths in each passage. To add another dimension to this activity, you might want to challenge the class to guess the scripture mastery references based on the descriptions on the board before each group explains what they have written.
Analyzing involves identifying doctrines and principles found in scripture passages. It also includes helping students understand how these truths are relevant to them. This can lead to deeper application of doctrines and principles in their lives. The following activity can help students analyze scripture mastery passages:
Write Clues—As students become more familiar with scripture mastery passages, invite them to create questions, scenarios, or other clues that illustrate the doctrines and principles taught in the passages. These could be used to quiz the class.
Having students explain scripture passages deepens their understanding and improves their ability to teach doctrines and principles from the scriptures. The following are two methods that can help students learn to explain scripture mastery passages:
Key Words and Phrases—Invite students to read the same scripture mastery passage on their own and identify a word or phrase they think is especially important to the meaning of the passage. Then invite a student to read the passage to the class and give emphasis to the word or phrase he or she has chosen. Ask the student to explain why that word or phrase is important to understanding the passage. Invite a few other students to do the same. Students may choose different words or phrases for the same passage. As class members hear these different points of view, they can gain deeper understanding of the passage.
Prepare a Devotional—Give students opportunities to use scripture mastery passages as they prepare and present devotionals at the beginning of class. Help them prepare to summarize context, explain doctrines and principles, share meaningful experiences or examples, and testify of the doctrines and principles in the passages. You might also suggest that students consider using an object lesson to explain the ideas in the passages.
Help students understand and gain a spiritual witness of the doctrines and principles taught in the scripture mastery passages. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “A true teacher, once he [or she] has taught the facts [of the gospel] … , takes [the students] a step further to gain the spiritual witness and the understanding in their hearts that brings about the action and the doing” (“Teaching by Faith” [address to CES religious educators, Feb. 1, 2002], 5, si.lds.org; see also Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings , 92). When students feel the truth, importance, and urgency of a doctrine or principle through the influence of the Holy Spirit, their desire to apply that truth in their lives grows. Teachers can help students invite and nurture these feelings of the Holy Spirit by giving them opportunities to share experiences they have had with living the gospel principles found in scripture mastery passages. This will help students better understand the truths taught in the scripture mastery passages and ensure that these truths are written in students’ hearts. The following activity can help students feel the importance of the doctrines and principles taught by scripture mastery passages:
Listening for Scripture Passages—Invite students to listen for scripture mastery passages in talks and lessons at church, in general conference addresses, and in discussions with family and friends. Periodically invite students to report on which passages they have heard, how the passages were used, what truths were taught, and what experiences they or others have had with the truths that were taught. Look for opportunities to testify (and to invite students to testify) of the truths taught by scripture mastery passages.
The scripture mastery passages and the Basic Doctrines were developed together and are intentionally aligned for the benefit of students. (Scripture mastery passages are shown throughout the Basic Doctrines document.) When students learn and express the doctrines and principles contained in scripture mastery passages, they will also be learning and expressing the Basic Doctrines. And as students learn to express the Basic Doctrines in their own words, they may rely on memorized scripture mastery passages to help them. Giving students opportunities to teach doctrines and principles of the gospel using scripture mastery passages can increase their confidence in themselves and in their knowledge of the scriptures. When students teach and testify of the doctrines and principles found in scripture mastery passages, they can also strengthen their testimonies. Encourage students to use scripture mastery passages to teach and explain the gospel in class and in conversations with friends, family, and others.
Present a Message—Assign students to prepare three- to five-minute talks or lessons based on scripture mastery passages. Have them prepare in class or at home. In addition to the scripture mastery passages, they could use other resources to help them prepare, such as scripture mastery cards, the Topical Guide, the Guide to the Scriptures, or True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference. Each talk or lesson should include an introduction, the scripture mastery passage, a story about or an example of the principle being taught, and the student’s testimony. Students could volunteer to present their messages in class, in a family home evening, or to their quorums or classes as part of their Duty to God or Personal Progress efforts. If students present their talks or lessons outside of class, consider inviting them to report on their experiences.
Missionary Role Play—Prepare a number of cards with questions an investigator might ask that can be answered with the help of scripture mastery passages (for example, “What do members of your church believe about Jesus Christ?”). Invite pairs of students to come to the front of the class to answer a question chosen from the cards. To help students understand how missionaries might answer similar questions, you could suggest a few effective teaching methods, such as (1) stating the context of the scripture passage, (2) explaining a doctrine or principle, (3) asking questions to find out if those they teach understand or believe what has been taught, (4) sharing experiences and testimony, and (5) inviting those they teach to act on the truth that was taught. Ask the class to give feedback on what they liked about how each companionship answered their question.
Testify—Invite students to look through the scripture mastery passages and choose one that contains a doctrine or principle of which they can testify. Invite them to testify of the truth they have selected and share experiences that led them to be able to testify of it. As students share their testimonies, the Holy Ghost will confirm the truth of the doctrines or principles of which they are testifying. Their testimonies may also inspire others to act in faith.
Note: Opportunities for students to share their testimonies should be voluntary. Students should never be forced to share their testimonies or be made to feel that they must profess knowledge they don’t feel they have. In addition, some students are reluctant to share their testimonies because they mistakenly think that they need to open with “I want to bear my testimony …” or that their expression of testimony must be accompanied by a display of emotion. Help students understand that when they testify, they can simply share doctrines or principles they know to be true. Sharing testimony can be as simple as saying “I believe this to be true” or “I know this is true” or “I believe this with all my heart.”
Suggesting ways that students may apply the doctrines and principles contained in scripture passages (or inviting students to think of ways) gives them the opportunity to learn by exercising faith.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 64).
Give students opportunities to share and testify of the experiences they have had with applying doctrines and principles. The following is one way to encourage students to apply scripture mastery passages in their lives:
Set Goals—Based on the application section of the scripture mastery cards, invite students to set specific goals to better live the principles found in scripture mastery passages. Have them write their goals on a piece of paper to carry with them as a reminder. When appropriate, invite students to report on their successes.
Memorization of scripture passages can deepen understanding and enhance a student’s ability to teach the gospel. When students memorize scriptures, the Holy Ghost can bring phrases and ideas back to their memory in times of need (see John 14:26; D&C 11:21). Remember to adapt memorization activities to the abilities of your students.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged the memorization of scriptures when he said:
“Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change” (“The Power of Scripture,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 6).
Each of the following activities could be repeated several days in a row at the beginning or end of class to help students achieve long-term memorization:
One-Word Race—Challenge the class to say a scripture mastery passage one word per student at a time. For example, when helping students memorize Matthew 5:14–16, the first student would say the word ye, the second student would say are, the third student would say the, and so forth until the entire passage is completed. Time the class, and give them multiple tries to achieve a target time. As you repeat this activity, consider shifting the order of students so they have to say different words.
First Letters—Write on the board the first letters of each word in a scripture mastery passage. Point to the letters as the class repeats the passage with you, using their scriptures as needed. Repeat this activity until students feel confident in their ability to recite a passage with only the help of the first letters. You may want to erase a few of the letters each time students recite the passage. This will gradually increase the challenge until students can repeat the passage without using the first letters.
Wordstrip Puzzles—Write, or have students write, the words of a scripture mastery passage on a lined piece of paper. Cut the paper in strips, leaving lines of the scripture intact. Cut some of the strips shorter to include just a few words of the passage on each. Mix up the paper strips and give them to pairs or small groups of students. Challenge students to arrange the paper strips in order, using their scriptures as a guide. Have them practice until they no longer need to use their scriptures. After they have finished, ask them to recite the passage aloud. You could also time students to see which group can put the strips in the correct order the fastest. Or you could time the entire class to see how long it takes for all of the groups to complete the puzzle (as the first groups finish, let them assist the slower groups).