All Bright and Beautiful: Multiple Intelligences

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module, facilitators will:

  • Recognize Gardner’s nine Multiple Intelligences.
  • Understand the relationship between the Multiple Intelligences and learning styles/preferences.
  • Use a variety of methods and approaches to facilitate Sabbath School lessons.


Traditional intelligence tests are based on individuals’ performance on cognitive tests in language, math, and science skills. These tests don’t take into consideration peoples’ abilities to perform a variety of tasks. According to these tests, there is only one way to be intelligent. Depending on their scores, individuals are assigned I.Q. (intelligence quotient) ranking: the higher the scores, the more intelligent they supposedly are. 

In contrast, the theory of Multiple Intelligences developed by a psychologist, Howard Gardner of Harvard University, addresses nine different ways.

1. Visual/spatial intelligence:"picture smart." These individuals have the ability to represent the spatial world internally in their minds; to understand the nature of space and place; to create mental pictures of ideas.

Moses possessed this intelligence. Even though he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num. 27: 12-14), he persevered because he could envision Canaan, and he was determined to take his people as far as he could take them.

2. Verbal-linguistic intelligence:"word smart." They possess the ability to use language and words skillfully—to process linguistic information.

The fourth chapter of Exodus records God asking Moses, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. . . . So he shall be your spokesman to the people” (verses 14-16). Aaron possessed verbal-linguistic intelligence.

3. Logical-mathematical intelligence: "number and logic smart." They possess the ability to understand cause-and-effect relationships and sequential, quantitative information. They can solve math problems easily and prefer to see things in a logical order.

Two examples: Matthew, a tax collector, was sitting at the tax office when Jesus said to him, “Follow me” (Matt. 9:9). Jesus called Zacchaeus, also a tax collector, to come down from a tree (Luke 19:1-10).

4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence:"body smart." These people possess physical skills and have proficient use of their bodies. They are very coordinated and have bodily strength and flexibility. They enjoy sports and game competition.

A biblical character who quickly comes to mind is Samson, who easily broke the bindings of the men of Judah as they tried to deliver him to the Philistines (Judges 15).

5. Musical intelligence: "music-rhythm smart." In 1 Samuel 16:21, 22, we are told of how David became Saul’s armourbearer. He “found favor in [Saul’s] sight.” David is an example of a person who is especially responsive to sound and tonal patterns and appreciates composing and performing.

6. Interpersonal intelligence: "people smart." They interact well both verbally and non-verbally with people. They are perceptive of others’ feelings and moods and have keen insight to determine what motivates others.

A keen observer of people, Queen Esther was able to help dismantle the death plot against King Ahasuerus (Esther 2:22). She risked her life, twice, by going to the king, unannounced, to intercede for her people and save their lives (Esther 4 and 8:5, 6).

7. Intrapersonal intelligence: "in touch smart." These persons know themselves very well. They do much self-reflection. In touch with their own moods and emotions, these individuals have a clear sense of direction; therefore, they set for themselves achievable goals.

Ruth was a wonderfully intrapersonal woman. After being urged many times by her mother-in-law, Naomi, to return to her home after the death of her husband, Ruth stood firm and determined to stay with Naomi. She realized that she would be better off staying with and helping Naomi, and, by the end of the story, we can see the blessed results of her wisdom.

8. Naturalistic intelligence: "environment or nature smart." They are comfortable in the outdoors. They can recognize and identify all varieties of plants and rocks. They easily identify nature’s sounds and textures.

John the Baptist felt totally at home in the “wilderness.” Read Luke 3:2 and Matthew 3:4. Need I say more?

9. Existential intelligence: "wondering or deep-question smart." They contemplate “deep” things, i.e., Why am I here on Earth? What is my purpose in life? What is truth? What is beauty? They are divergent thinkers who are able to deal with questions that many other people would rather not think about.

In 1 Kings 3:9 Solomon prayed for wisdom, “an understanding heart.” This existentially intelligent king won favor with God (verse 10).


Howard Gardner makes the following assertions:

  • All individuals possess these Intelligences, though some demonstrate greater gifts in some areas than in others.
  • With guidance and encouragement, most people can develop any one or all of these Intelligences.
  • The Intelligences work together.
  • People may exhibit ability within each Intelligence in a variety of ways.

And Then?

There are several implications which go hand-in-hand with the suggestions given in last month’s learning styles/preferences module:

  • Present subject matter through a variety of activities.
  • Help members to value and share their individual strengths (Intelligence).
  • Encourage collaboration, or group work.
  • View intellectual ability broadly and recognize all Intelligences.
  • Provide opportunities for authentic learning, for application of the Sabbath School lessons.
  • Facilitate lessons to promote understanding.
  • Respond to the Creator’s edict to facilitate “with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:28, NIV).

Dorothy J. Patterson
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Self-Assessment 7
  • List your class members and their obvious Intelligences.
  • What specific things can you do to incorporate members’ special abilities in next week’s lesson?
  • How can implementation of your knowledge of multiple Intelligences increase the effectiveness of your class sessions to strategize how to use the principles of the Sabbath School lesson for members’ personal growth and their community outreach?