How does a memory champion memorize the Bible? Listen as Ron White (2x USA memory champ) shares incredible tips and techniques that anybody can use to memorize the Bible faster and easier. Learn how memory champions think about memorization and get answers to the most common questions related to Scripture memory.
Follow along with all the Bible Memory Goal YouTube videos!
Here are some of the resources mentioned during the interview with Ron White:
- Ron White’s YouTube Channel: This is Ron White’s official channel where he shares useful videos about memory training.
- Brain Athlete Website: Visit Ron White’s official website where you can enroll to different memory courses.
- Ron’s Bible Memory Course: Interested to learn more about Ron’s memory techniques? He has a Bible memory course that you can take!
Interview Transcript: Ron White
Josh: Ron White is a two-time USA memory champion and a memory coach who has his own YouTube channel that’s been seen by over 25 million people. You’ve likely been one of them. He’s going to go through and share with us a bunch of great tips and techniques that are going to help you memorize Scripture faster and easier. And one of the first questions I wanted to ask him is based on his experience competing in these type of memory events, the people who win this event, including himself, do they all use the same kind of technique or are there different techniques used based on different people?
Ron White: So, I was getting interviewed at the USA memory championship after I won. And I was first place, (next to me) was the guy who’s second place, then the guy on the third place. Well, the reporter went to me first, and he said, how’d you do it? I said, well, I use a technique called mind palace where I visualize a room and then I take whatever I wan to remember, I see it as a picture, and I imagine it in these places. And the reporter goes, that’s fascinating!
Then he went to the next person, the number two guy, and he said, how’d you do it? He said, well, I use a room where I have pieces of furniture, and then whenever I want to remember, I visualize it as a picture and I see it in these rooms. And the reporter goes, that’s fascinating! And I’m like, that’s what I said!
And then he went to the third-place guy, he’s like, how’d you do it? He’s like, well, I use a room, and I have pieces of furniture in the room. And so, primarily, yes, this is the go-to, especially for something like words or numbers or a deck of cards. Names and faces is a little different technique, but this is what most people at a very high level at a memory tournament are using.
Josh: Yeah. So, when you went about and memorized, I saw somewhere that you memorized the US constitution word for word, which is something like 4,700 words. I don’t remember how many exact words exactly. So when you used a mind palace to memorize that, is that something where you are placing like a set number of words at every location?
I remember at one point you were talking about doing Bible memory and putting verses and doing more just like a thought or an image that prompts you to remember, “therefore, since we are in Christ,” or something like that, instead of necessarily doing an image for every single word. So how did you go about doing that for something like word for word US Constitution?
Ron White: Yes, I did. So the US Constitution is 4,543 words. And depending if you went into the Bill of Rights or something, you could probably get around 4,700. But the way I did it was a mind palace, and I had about 300 locations, I guess. The way I created the mind palace is there’s an area of town that I know really well in Fort Worth, and I just went for a walk around that area of town.
I had my cellphone, and I took a picture of that trash can and took a picture of that lamp, I took a picture of that door, then I walked in the door of the store with my camera right here as discreet as I could. I took a picture of the coat rack, I took a right, took a picture of the chairs over here, took a picture of that, etc. And so I walked around this area of town. I’m walking in and out of stores, in and out of restaurants, walking down the street. It’s the historic area of Fort Worth known as the stock yards.
And then I put it in a PowerPoint presentation. I put it in 200 slides in a PowerPoint. And then I just kind of memorized the route. Then I took the text of the constitution, and I put, the first line that says, “all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in the Congress of the United States.” That’s article one, section one’s first sentence. So I had this route in a PowerPoint and I actually went on Upwork.com. I uploaded my PowerPoint, and then I uploaded the Constitution. But I went in a Word document, and I went though the Constitution and put the breaks in myself.
Cause here’s the question, how much do you put on one piece of furniture? So my answer to that is, as much as I can, but as little as I can. And what I mean by that is, the more you can put on one piece of furniture, the less furniture you’re going to have to use. And that’s ideal. But also the more you put on one, the greater chance for confusion. So it’s a fine line I walk. So I would, no more than one sentence. No more than one sentence, unless it’s a short sentence. And so be it. If that’s the sentence, yeah you’re going to want to put more than one sentence. But the key for me is, so I did the breaks. A sentence or a phrase, and I put the Word document, then I hired somebody. I said hey, put this sentence under the first slide. It has to be in order. Put this under the second one.
I could’ve done it, but I wanted somebody else to do it cause they can do it quicker. So then I had this slide created, where I saw the picture, and then I saw the text under it, right? And I even printed that out into like a book. I went to a FedEx office and had it printed out into a book you could fold. And then I just went to this area of town, right? And I carried my book around with me, and I would just sit on a park bench there, and I didn’t necessarily walk around and look at each one, but I was in the area and it just focused me. And I sat on a park bench in that area, and I flipped through the book looking at the picture, then looking at the words.
Now, when you look at the words, I don’t turn every word into a picture, not “the” and “and”. I don’t do every word because it’s not necessary. Let’s just take “And for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” I would put that on one location. “For God so loved the world,” I would have an image of God hugging the world, right? But I don’t have the number four. I don’t have somebody golfing in the background saying fore! I don’t have God sewing the world, you know? I don’t have an image of him sewing the world. I would just have him hugging the world. But here’s the critical thing. So let’s say my location is over here. I would look at the location, see the picture in my of God hugging the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son,” so now I see him with a present and he’s handed me a present, right? He’s giving, and inside the present is Jesus.
So I’m creating the picture in my mind, but here’s the important thing. As I look at the location, and you don’t have to literally look at it. You can just close your eyes and look at it in your mind. I say the verse. I don’t say the image. I say the verse to get in my natural memory.
And one more important thing that I would say on this. When you’re trying to do this, there’s something called an active recall and a passive recall. And here’s what I mean by this. When reviewing, look away. Don’t just read It again. This does two things. If you’re just reading it again, you could be tricking yourself into thinking that you know it. And you’re not knowing it, you’re just recognizing it. Oh yeah, I recognize that. But the second thing is, when you look away, you’re actively engaging your memory in the recall. You’re actively engaging your brain in the recall, and that’s going to make it stronger.
Josh: I think that’s great. And I do think one of the important parts of this, and I’ve watched another one of your video where you talk about how long does it take you to memorize something? And one of your points was, it really depends on a couple of things. And really, one is the strength of your base knowledge. Your base knowledge being your ability to have created those memory palaces and maybe associating numbers with images. And so, is establishing a base knowledge worth the effort? And really, you don’t even have to do anything too special. You can just walk around your own city with a camera to create those memory palaces Is that right?
Ron White: You know, it’s the story of a wood chopping contest. There’s an old man and a young man. And the young man, strong, 27 years old, just muscular whatever. He gets his axe and he’s out there chopping down the tress. And the old man slowly gets his ax out. He starts sharpening. Everybody’s like, what? Stop sharpening your ax. This guy’s winning! He’s been cutting for an hour and you’re over here sharpening your ax for an hour.
Old man’s just sharpening his ax for an hour, but when he gets done sharpening, it is the sharpest ax you ever saw. And then he starts chopping. And because the kid’s ax is dull, and the old man’s ax is sharp, he just cleans up the forest and wins the wood chopping contest.
And it’s so true. If somebody would take, if they want to memorize a book of the Bible or a group of verses, if they would take two days or one day and build a mind palace, and get this mind 50 or 100 locations, and know it down cold, one or two days, yeah it’s going to take one or two days, but that one or two days is when you’re sharpening your saw. Somebody else can go off memorizing and you’re going to pass them. But then you start using the mind palace. You’ll surpass anything you could’ve done.
I memorized 4,543 words when I memorized the Constitution. I memorized everybody who does in the war in Afghanistan, 2,400 people ranked first name, last name. It’s 7,500 words in order. It was more difficult than memorizing the Constitution because it’s just names. It’s random. But here’s the point I’m getting at. There’s no way I could’ve done that without a mind palace.
I will say one thing on when you’re memorizing Scripture or text or anything, this is what’s going to happen inevitably. For example, the guy I’m teaching to memorize the Bible right now, he was having a problem. Every time he would say a text, he would always leave out “increase greatly.” And so I said, man, do this. “IG,” think of Instagram and add that to your image. And here’s the point I’m getting at. If you keep leaving out a specific word, you need to create a picture. If the word is “increased greatly,” I think Instagram. If it was “greatly increased,” I would’ve though of GI, GI Joe.
Josh: That’s great. So, a couple more specific questions about memory palaces. So I’ve used memory palaces and absolutely love it, and I’ve honestly only don it for mostly shorter books. So let’s say, the book of Titus that has three chapters or the book of Galatians that has six chapters or something like that. And I’m honestly a little bit frightened about jumping into something like the book of Luke, which has over a thousand verses in it. Not because I think it’s too much, but because I don’t know if I have one memory palace that could fit all of those places in one, or maybe I’m just not giving myself enough credit.
But like, if you’re thinking about, okay, I’ve hot to have a huge memory palace to be able to hold on to a book the size of Luke or a text that just is incredibly long, do you string together palaces or would you prefer to have one large palace? Let’s say just you walking around Fort Worth again, or do you have some other way that you would approach that?
Ron White: If you’re going to have a thousand locations, I don’t thing that I would personally be able to find one mind palace, but it’s just so not necessary as well. When I memorize everybody who died in the war in Afghanistan, 7,500 words. I used 2,400 locations because that’s how many people there was and each person needed their own location. It would’ve just been too cluttered.
So what I did, the first thing that I did is I got out a journal, and I wrote out 50 buildings that I knew really well. My house, my friend’s house, my cousin’s house, my mom’s house, my sister’s house, the Barnes and Nobles in downtown Fort Worth, the Texas Rangers baseball stadium, a restaurant that I was familiar with, my friend’s office. So I wrote all these out, and I made 50 locations in each one of them, and that gave me my 2,500.
You don’t have to, they don’t even have to be in the same are of town. They didn’t have to be in the same country. In one scenario, I’m at a ballpark, and the Rangers, where the Texas Rangers play. I go all around the ball park, and I end there. And then the next thing is in Afghanistan, the base I was stationed at in Afghanistan, then I run around that mind palace. And then I jump from the base in Afghanistan to Arlington, Texas. So it just made sense to me. They don’t have to be linked in any way other than you know the order.
Josh: The way that you would link them, yeah. And then would you ever reuse one of your memory palaces or once you use it for that thing, it is only for that thing?
Ron White: Well, this was the question the guy asked me yesterday. He’s memorized the first 18 chapters of Genesis, so far, word for word. It’s unbelievable. And he’s like, okay Ron, I’m going to restart reusing mind palaces now. And I’m like no, I don’t think you are. That’s so dangerous.
Now here’s the deal. The mind palace that I used for the Constitution or the Afghanistan soldiers, I could reuse it right now to memorize the book of Genesis or the book of Proverbs. No confusion. Because I’m not going to be saying, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Article one, section one, all legislative powers.” My brain’s not going to get confused and start quoting the Constitution, but if you’re with the same topic, Genesis or Bible verses, for your own, sanity, build another mind palace because the data’s so similar, you’re going to confuse it.
When can you reuse it for Scripture again? I would say in a year when you know it down cold. You don’t even have to think about your mind palace, but as long as you’re still thinking a little bit abut your mind palace to remember the Scripture, I wouldn’t use it for another Scripture.
Josh: Great. And this is like a related question, but there are a number of people that are in out community right now that are memorizing the Bible in multiple languages, whether that’s their native language, English, and then the original language, Hebrew or Greek, or they’re doing it in two current common languages, English and Spanish, say, as an example In those cases, one of the questions they’ve been asking me that I honestly don’t know a good answer to is, would it be advisable for them to place the same verses in the same locations using those two different languages? Or do you think it would be much better, as you’re saying, to avoid confusion, to maybe separate those out and put them into two completely different mind palaces?
Ron White: I’ll tell you what I would do but I’ll also answer it in a good way. A friend of mine, Anthony Metivier, he’s a memory guy, and he did a video on this once, and this question, a memory palace. Can you do this with the memory palace? And his response was, it was a really great response. He said, why are you asking me? This is not a situation of ultimate truth where if I say you can do it, you can. And if I say you can’t, you can’t. He said try it. Try it and see if it works for you. Now, I thought that was great cause everybody’s mind works different, try it and see if it works.
But the real question is, what would Anthony do? What would I do? And that’s a fair question to ask. I would not do it. And the reason I would not do it, I think that’s too much data on one piece of furniture. If you’re going to memorize one verse, it just gets too cluttered, in my opinion. I like to keep it clean. I like to keep it simple. I like to avoid confusion. And all of that says to me, if you’re trying to put another verse that says the same thing in another language, number one, it’s going to be too much data on that piece of furniture. And number two, I think it’s going to be a little confusing. If I was doing it, I would have an entire house that’s the words in English, and then I would have another entire house that was it in Spanish or whatever.
Now, I will say this, maybe you’re not memorizing an entire chapter. Maybe you’re just memorizing verses here and there and you want to know them in each language. In that scenario, I would use the same house. I would use English version in one piece of furniture, and use another version on the furniture immediately following it. But it would be different locations.
Josh: Yeah, that makes sense. Well I’ve got one last question for you and then we’re going to close up here. If you’ve recognized as you’ve worked with people like this gentleman you’re talking about who’s memorizing Genesis, are there any common, let’s say pitfalls or any common tips that you end up giving to somebody that is trying to memorize Scripture, extended portions of Scripture, whether that’s chapters or entire books, is there anything else that you can add in here that you would want to share with somebody who’s in the process or just getting started into that?
Ron White: I think one of the biggest pitfalls when you were memorizing large amounts of anything, is not allocating enough time for review. When in 2010, somebody asked me, it was a guy who was a TV producer. We we’re going to do a TV show on the History channel. And he said, here’s the idea for the History channel show. We’re going to put you at the Washington Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. You’re going to have a tent. You’re going to sleep outside the Vietnam Memorial right there in that tent. And the premise of the show is you’re not leaving the tent until you have the entire 60,000 person Vietnam wall memorized. How long will it take you to memorize it?
And here’s my naïve answer. I said, okay, well at the USA Memory Championship, I memorized 155 names in 15 minutes. So, if I extrapolate that out times four, 15 minutes times four would be an hour. So in an house, I could probably do about 500 names. In two hours, I could do a thousand names. Okay, so in a day, I could do this. I’m like, okay, I think I could do it in two weeks. I think I could do it safely in two weeks.
They’re like, you’re serious? I’m like, yeah, I’m serious. I’ll have the whole Vietnam wall memorized in two weeks. Well, what I was not allocating in my formula in my head was the time for review. Day one, you memorize 50 names. Day two, you need to review the 50 names before you add the next 50. Day three, you need to review the hundred names before you add the next.
So on some days when I memorized the Afghanistan wall, which is 10% of the data, and it took me 10 months. So that shows you how wrong my answer was. I was not allocating time for review. I’ll answer it this was directly, and I’m sorry if I’m long-winded. But the guy I’m coaching, he said, Ron, if I want to memorize the whole book of Genesis, is it fair to say I could do five verses a day? I said, right now it is, yes. Five verses a day right now is doable. He’s like, what do you mean right now? I said, well right now, you’re memorizing five. Tomorrow, you got 10, then you got 15.
Eventually, you’re going to get to some days where you’re going to have 300 verses memorized and you’re going to need to spend two or three days doing nothing else but review. So review is crucial. Allocate enough time for it.
When you’re reviewing, look away, don’t read the data. Id you find you have trouble spots or words, create images for those specific words. If you still have trouble with it, make the image more vivid and clearer. If you’re still having trouble with it, read it again. If you’re still having trouble with it, make sure you’re understanding it. Sometimes when you understand what the Scripture is saying, and you maybe read the chapter to get, oh, now I understand what it’s saying. That’s going to help your memory as well.
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