Monday, October 10, 2011

Stratford Ontario, Scripture Memorization and Me

My wife and I have a nearly annual habit now of heading east to Stratford, Ontario for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The festival runs from April through October and this year included a dozen plays, including four Shakespeare plays several musicals and some smaller works. We saw two plays: Twelfth Night and Camelot (Shakespeare wrote the first, not the second).

Twelfth Night was of particular interest to me since the last time I saw it was with my daughter in Taipei. She had bought us tickets for a visiting company’s performance. The sales clerk assured her it would be in English, since there would be Mandarin subtitles. Well, the touring company was from Russia, and the performance was in Russian. We don’t speak Russian, so we relied on our best recollection of the story as we watched what amounted to a ballet of Twelfth Night. (By the way: a spectacular ballet; the performance was delightful even though we couldn’t understand the words.)

So this time I was excited to actually hear the words, too! And we were not disappointed. Stratford’s productions have always been top notch. They are innovative and engaging; performances are by top actors in North America (Brian Dennehy was a featured guest this year, though his performance as Toby Belch was great, it was not the highlight of Twelfth Night).

What is fascinating in Shakespeare, however, is the text. The words are delicious to hear and they combine to tell complete and complex stories that entertain, instruct and move an audience (but first and foremost entertain!).

I studied Theatre History in my college days, and have learned my share of roles. Memorizing a part is challenging, but also exciting as actor and character form a bond through the text. Memorizing Shakespeare is more challenging because each word carries such importance (every playwright would believe his words carry importance, and many do, but none like Shakespeare’s).

So as I watched these great actors perform great theatre, I thought also of Elder Scott and his counsel to us to memorize scriptures. Just as a play or poetry takes on new meaning when spoken out loud, so do the scriptures. Just as a character’s words come to life in the mouth of an actor, so can scriptures come to life in our mouths as we memorize and give voice to them.

Elder Scott 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.

I’m memorizing seminary scripture mastery verses with my son this year. We practice them on the way to seminary in the car each morning. And I find the words coming back to me through the day. At least a part of my head is filling with divine direction and heavenly teaching. And those words come to me in quiet moments reminding me of who I am and who my Father is.

I can only hope it’s happening for my son, too.

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